In 1847, after the construction of a wondrously grand edifice, the Croton Reservoir, on the present site of the present Library, Bryant Park became a public park. During the Civil War, the Union Army held military drills in Bryant Park and shortly after that, the Civil War Draft Riots raged in the immediate vicinity of the park.
In 1853-54, New York's first "world's fair", the Crystal Palace Exhibition, took place on the site of Bryant Park. The remarkable iron and glass structure erected to house the fair, remained standing until 1858, when it burned down.
The Park was named after William Cullen Bryant, the poet and newspaper editor who was an early advocate of public parks in the city, and is now managed and funded privately by the Bryant Park Corporation, founded in 1980 by a group of prominent New Yorkers, including members of the Rockefeller family. THe park is also used for fashion shows and other large-scale media events.