Monday, July 28, 2008

Madison Square Park, Manhattan

(All photos click on to enlarge)

Historic Madison Square Park is the vibrant center of Manhattan's Flatiron District offering flourishing gardens, lush lawns and cultural programs for all ages. Located on 6.2 acres between 23rd and 26th streets and Fifth and Madison avenues, the park has become an oasis for those who live and work nearby.

The area known as Madison Square Park has existed as an urban public space since 1686. Named for James Madison, fourth President of the United States, Madison Square was formally opened as a public park in 1847.

Below is a statue honoring Chester A. Arthur, the 21st President of the United States of America, 1881 - 1885.

A monument to James Glasgow Farragut the first Admiral of the United States Navy. One of his famous battle quotes is ""Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!" from the Battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War.

In the late 19th century, Madison Square was the focal point of one of Manhattan's most elite neighborhoods. Society's most fashionable residences and hotels, including the luxurious Fifth Avenue Hotel, bordered the park. Novelist Edith Wharton was born to a well-to-do New York family nearby on West 23rd Street. Tycoon Leonard Jerome, the grandfather of Winston Churchill, built the most elaborate mansion alongside the park at Madison Avenue and 26th Street. The neighborhood surrounding the park also flourished as a bustling commercial district, home to wonders like Barnum's Hippodrome, the first and second Madison Square Gardens, the daringly narrow Flatiron Building and the Metropolitan Life Insurance Building.
A view of the Flatiron Building from the park.

An elegant ornamental fountain added to the park in 1867.

Soon after the creation of New York City's first Department of Public Parks in 1870, the square was re-landscaped by William Grant with Ignatz Pilat, the department's chief landscape architect and a former assistant to Frederick Law Olmsted in the design of Central Park. The park incorporated both formal and pastoral elements with well-defined walkways and open lawns similar to the park plan we know today.

A plaque commemorating a tree from the Virginia estate grounds of President James Madison, planted in 1936 in honor of the first centennial of the naming of Madison Avenue.

A view of the Madison homestead tree.

A reflecting pond. At noontime portable tables and chairs are placed around this structure so that New Yorkers can enjoy the park and dine outside.

Despite its prominent location and cultural significance, by the 1990s the park had fallen into disrepair. The park's asphalt was cracked and broken, its grassy lawns eroded and sparsely planted. The eight prized monuments were in decay. The historic plan and formal character were overwhelmed by visual clutter. Insufficient lighting and confusing signage gave the park an unsafe and disorienting feeling. The City Parks Foundation took the lead in organizing the Campaign for the New Madison Square Park, the precursor organization to the Madison Square Park Conservancy. The campaign raised six million dollars for capital renovation of the park, including $2.5 million in private funds from corporate leaders, such as Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, New York Life Insurance Company, Credit Suisse First Boston, Rudin Management, and Union Square Hospitality Group. The Madison Square Park Conservancy has also raised $4 million for a permanent fund to help support maintenance of the park.
A children's playground is located in the park, and it is well used by parents, nannies and babysitters. The park also has a "Exploration Station" which hosts many free self-guided activities that transform the park into a learning laboratory where children explore through play and discovery. There are five themes: Art in the Park, Science & Nature, Stepping Through Time, Park Patrol, and A Playground Adventure.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:30 am there is free entertainment events for children, such as storytelling, puppet theater, musical performances, and much more!
A statue of William H. Seward who was a New York Sate Governor, State Senator, and served as Secretary of State. During his administration, the United States purchased the Alaska Territory from Russia for $7,200,000.00. Derided by critics as "Seward's Folly," this purchase became one of Seward's greatest legacies.

Some of the many pretty flowers in bloom in the park.

A statue of Roscoe Conkling, a politician from New York who served both as a member of the United States House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. He was the leader of the Stalwart faction of the Republican Party.

The "Eternal Light Flagpole," dedicated on Armistice Day 1923 and restored in 2002, which commemorates the return of American soldiers and sailors from World War I.

This is how New Yorkers allow their dogs to run free without leashes. They find a "dog run" such as this one called Jemmy's Run in Madison Square Park.

A few of the glazed ceramic sculptures by Richard Deacon in the park as part of a temporary display. Enlarge the photo below to more about this artist and his exhibit.

During the summer months the Madison Square park Conservancy hosts many free concertsand literary readings in the park. In the photo below you can see the stage up and the musicians doing a sound check for that evening's performance by Phoebe Snow.

This is the famous Madison Square Park "Shake Shack" a permanent food stand serving burgers, hot dogs, frozen custard, beer, wine and more, year round from 11 AM to 11PM!
As part of the ongoing renaissance of the historic park, famous restaurateur Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group partnered with the Madison Square Park Conservancy to launch Shake Shack in Summer 2004. Designed by architecture firm SITE Environmental Design, Shake Shack blends harmoniously with the park and its surroundings. If you want to eat on a budget and enjoy the park atmosphere this is the place to do it!

You can actually watch the Shake Shack customer lines on their roof top web cam!

If you are interested in learning more about historic Madison Square Park and local neighborhood you can read Miriam Berman's "Madison Square, The Park and its Celebrated Landmarks."
Source for italicized quotes


Dee Dee said...

Wow Pat...I cannot begin to tell you how much I am enjoying this visit to New York and the park is just lovely place. I love that you are sharing all the history connected..fascinating really...the flowers are so pretty...Interesting the purchase of Alaska from Russia for that amount......would be much costlier today :) Best wishes...Dee Dee

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

Pat, you sure know how to pack a post full of interesting things. I've looked at photos and even watched the web cam to see how long the line was...long!

Anonymous said...

I enjoy looking at your photos with the background music you provide for us. Love it! Lots happening at the park.


Joanne Kennedy said...

What a fun day! I would love to go there and hit up the shake shake then go listen to some music.

I loved seeing how New York dogs run free.

You sure do have some lovely parks there. I've never been to this one.

It's so fun looking at the tree that our President stood under and looked at so many years ago.

Seems like the older I get the more I enjoy the history about things.

Don't you love blogging. Now you can play tourist in your own city. Makes you look at things through new eyes.

I never thought about how when I showed things here in CA it's like we are doing a Coast to Coast tour. How fun.

Only your posts are So much more fun to visit. I don't give the history and details like you do.

I loved looking at the web cam. It says it's 86 there today. We are a bit warmer. In the upper 70's. We have been so blessed with nice weather these past few weeks. But, I know the heat wave will be here soon. YUCK.


Diane@A Picture is Worth.... said...

I have to agree with Joanne K., that history is so much more interesting now than it used to be to me.

You did a wonderful job on this post...I'm sitting here thinking how much I would love something like that close by to take Connor to next week when he stays with me a few days before school starts!

NYC can be proud of this park!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

It looks so quintessentially New York!

Marina Capano said...

Pat! I love your post, and I love Manhattan!!!! what beautiful place! I will go to soon! I love its!
visit me anytime, I have pictures about Buenos Aires for sharing with you!

Mel said...

mmmmmmmmmmmmmm - Shake Shack ! (a la Homer Simpson!)

Mel :)

steviewren said...

I was just wondering if this is the park where the finally of You've Got Mail, with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, was filmed. Your pictures of the park look amazingly similar.

Rue said...

Now I want to go to the Shake Shack! How fun :)

Love touring with you!


Beverly said...

Another lovely tour, Pat. While I was contemplating how much I would enjoy readings, I was smiling to myself thinking how much my husband would enjoy Shake Shack.

Kathy said...

What a lovely park Pat, I love the Flatiron building and the Shake Shack, there is still along queue there even now haha. hugs Kathy.
Pat how easy is it to get around NYC? (without a car)

Mel said...

Hello again!

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I WILL post some pics of the scrapbook loft - that's a good idea!

Just wanted to thank you for your most recent link to the Times. I teach Oral Interpretation classes at the University of Texas at Arlington and it is like pulling teeth to get my kid's (Juniors and Seniors) to read. This will be a GREAT article to discuss in class this fall.


Pat said...

Dee Dee -- I guess Seward was a forward thinker

Vee -- The Shake Shack is pretty popular! It's affordable and the custard ice cream is yummy.

Paz -- thanks! Yes. I loved this park, it was pretty and full of people enjoying it!

Joanne --so true! I's learning so much about NYC myself doing these blogs ad it's fun to see it all with New eyes.

Diane -- I loved all the activities they had for children and the many children that were there enjoying it all.

Pamela Terry & Edward -- yes it is! Thank goodness it was restored.

Marina -- I'm going to your blog now to see Buenos Aires!

Mel -- lol!

Steviewren -- no YGM was filmed in Central Park --I sent a few interesting web sites to you about that film.

Rue & Beverly -- that Shake Shack is a winner! Always has long lines.

Kathy -- there are taxi cabs galore, buses and subways, and NYC is very walk able! Lots of transportation! It's better NOT to have a car as parking lots are very expensive and street parking is hard to find!

Mel -- I thought that article was fascinating! I'm glad it will be useful to you. It's an interesting debate.

Darius T. Williams said...

Wow - these are some GREAT photos. Reminds me sooo much of the time when I lived in Jersey City and I'd mosey on over the NYC for some sights and tastes. Thanks for the memories!


Mrs. B said...

Hi Pat! The park looks wonderful! I'd love to sit there with a snack and watch the people go by! Love all the statues and monuments. So glad to hear it was saved from disrepair!

"JEANNELLE" said...

I really enjoyed this post and the previous one, touring with you in New York City. This farm girl never thought a city could be beautiful, but your photos show me I am wrong about that.

The history info is fascinating, and I love the statues. And how doe that flatiron building stay standing up?! Cool!

Simply beautiful posts!

Cori G. said...

HI Pat,
Do you know if that's the park that was featured in the movie "You've got mail"? It's so beautiful that it's hard to imagine the city allowing it to fall into ruin. Thanks for the tour.
:) Cori

Susie Q said...

Gosh but I enjoy your posts and this one was a hge hit with me. One of my favorite places in NYC!
You are such fun...and the best guide NYC has! You could make a fortune at this! : )

I love that web cam!


LOUISE said...

Everyone has heard of it, but not everyone has seen it. Now I have, and I can't believe there is any more to know after your tour Pat! Such a fantastic place for all ages to spend their time, and a great place for dogs too. Wasn't there a Shake Shack in Grease? x

Anonymous said...

The park looks very beautiful. Unfortunately the idea of doggy parks hasn't yet caught on in the UK. I wis it had- a lot of owners want to let their dogs off lead safely without the risk of a bike crashing in to them or the possibility of their dog chasing a cat into the road. There are still people who don't poop scoop, so there is some hostility between park users and dog owners. It's a shame especially as England's fields and green spaces are having to be used increasingly for housing.

It's so lovely to explore NY with you and for you to show the details that are easy to miss. I love the history too. Thanks Pat.

Jeanne said...

Pat, I am so behind in my comments and I need more time to catch up with all your great posts I have missed. I love you park photos and history. four of my sisters and me of course, spent a week in Manhattan about three years ago. We stayed in a condo, Garden something. It was the most wonderful vacation. We saw all the sights we could fit in plus two Broadway shows. Mamma Mia and Movin On. We were in the audience of the Today show. Five sisters in the big apple. We wore matching black shirts with the number of our birth sequence on the shirt. I will have to post a picture of us soon.

I am going to try the eggplant recipe. I love eggplant anything.

See you again soon.


Tracy said...

What a splendid park! It's been many years, way too long, since I last visited NYC, and didn't get to this park--must do! All the variation, sculpture, floral & greenery are exciting--your post brings the dynamic alive. Thanks for sharing! Happy week ((HUGS))

Alex said...

Pat, you always make it enjoyable to read your blog. I love learning something new about New York. The park is beautiful and that fountain...I want to run and jump in it! :)

Little Cat said...

waoh! wonderfull parc, really!!!

Barb said...

Hi Pat,

Oh, I love Manhattan. So many interesting facts and I just love all the pictures. It is like my virtual vacation.

hugs to you,

Dana said...

I just get goosebumps, Pat, from your photos and words. I fell so in love with NYC the time I visited--you make me feel like I am right in the midst of it all again for a bit. The tour of the park was wonderful---I also enjoyed the flat iron building and surrounding area on the previous post. Your reference to "looking up" is so true! The architecture is just amazing. I recall one of our Gray Line Tour guides saying something like no matter where you look in NYC, you are looking at history. And YOU, my dear Pat, are helping to bring all of that NYC history to us. I do appreciate you and I am also thankful to call you one of my favorite blogging buddies.

Lisa B. said...

Great park! I would have loved to hear Pheobe Snow there!!

M.Kate said...

snI love that FLATIRON building..its so intriguing and diffirent! One day Pat...I'll be there for sure :D

Susan said...

WOW! I followed a link over here from PinkPurl and I am soo happy I did. I love your blog. The photos are just beautiful. I am so anxious to visit NYC! My husband and hope to visit next Autumn ('09) for our anniversary trip.

Going back to read more!

Naz said...

That was a super fantastic tour~!! The music fit perfectly as I toured the sights of NY.
I'll be coming back for more.