A recent visit to Madison Square Park was very enlightening. This is a small park from 23rd Street to 26th Street. You know you have reached the park when you see the large statue of William H. Seward. Every time I see it I remember Seward’s Folly – the name for the purchase of Alaska. It is north of the Flatiron building which I do believe is photographed quite extensively by locals and tourists.
Martin Puryear’s “The Big Bling”
1) We had gone to the park to see the new sculpture by Martin Puryear named “Big Bling.” It is 40 feet tall. Another reason I wanted to check this out is that Martin Puryear was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts & Letters in 1992. The Big Bling is in the middle of the park; it was lunch time, and people were gathered on the lawn and on tables, enjoying a beautiful May afternoon.
Madison Square Park is now one of the most active parks in the city, but it is also a historical place. So, I will tell you some things that will blow your mind when you walk to East 23rd Street.
3) Let’s cross the street, to the statue of William H. Seward sitting on a chair at the entrance of the park. It was sculpted by Randolph Rogers. Mr. Seward was also the first New Yorker to be honored with a monument in the city. At a picnic an acquaintance began to talk about this sculpture. He said that Randolph Rogers used the body of Lincoln from the Lincoln Memorial sculpted by Daniel Chester French. I had to get into the conversation since I know that this could not be true. I am a follower of Daniel Chester French and have visited his studio and home, read books on him. As it turns out, there was a rumor that he used the body of his Lincoln sculpture for Fairmont Park in Philadelphia. According to the NYC Parks Department, this rumor is false. So if you ever hear this rumor, don’t believe it.
4) As you walk towards Shake Shack, you will find a sculpture for Roscoe Conkling, a lesser-known politician. He was mayor of Utica, Congressman from Utica and Senator from New York. He received 93 votes for President at the Republican Convention in 1876. His friends wanted his sculpture at Union Square, but this idea was rejected, and they had it built at Madison Square Park. The sculptor was John Quincy Adams Ward, referred to as “the Dean of American Sculptors”.
The Southern Fountain
5) There is a beautiful fountain named after the park, but many people call it the Southern Fountain. The original 19th-century fountain was designed by Ignatz Pilat and William Grant. The one we see today is a reproduction of the corroded original one. If you would like to see pictures of the original, check Gothamist.com .
6) At the north portion of the park, you will find a large monument to Admiral David Glasgow Farragut. This sculpture is considered one of the finest artistic works in the city. It was a collaboration between sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens and architect Stanford White. Admiral Farragut began his naval career at age 12 during the War of 1812, Mexican War and the Civil War. He moved from his home in Virginia to New York, for he supported the Union. His ships were able to wrestle New Orleans from the Confederate control. At the battle of Mobile Bay, he uttered the immortal words “Damn the torpedos…full speed….ahead”. He is one of seven men who remained on active duty until their death. President Grant attended his funeral.
7) The last sculpture is that of Chester Alan Arthur by sculptor George Edwin Bissel. James Garfield chose him as vice-president for the Republican party. After the assassination of Pres. Garfield, Arthur assumed the presidency and is the first president since George Washington to take the oath of office in New York City.
Picture: Courtesy of NYPL Digital Collections
9) Although this is a small park, it has stature as a historical park for it was here that the torch of the Statue of Liberty was placed in 1876, while children of America contributed their pennies for the construction of the base. In 1842 amateur baseball teams used part of the park to play their games.
10) Alexander Cartwright takes the initiative to codify rules and create uniforms. He named his team the New York Knickerbockers. The very first community tree lighting in America happened at Madison Square Park in 1912.
We have given information of all the things that you will find at Madison Square Park and it is always having new art installations. Right now, it is where you will find the Big Bling by Martin Puryear.
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