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