Sunday, 15 February 2009


The patch of greenery amongst the towering edifices, is Bryant Park, at the corner of 6th Avenue and 42nd Street. Back in 1686 when it was still wilderness, and part of the hunting grounds of Native Americans, it was designated as public property by New York's colonial governor Thomas Dongan. The city established a potters field (paupers burial ground) on the site in 1823. The site of Bryant Park is in a part of Manhattan that was countryside well north of the populous city until nearly the middle of the nineteenth century.

Ice skating is free in the colder months against the backdrop of the New York Public Library, reckoned to be one of the top architectural highlights in the city.

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 reservoir was drained in 1899 for the construction of the library, which was completed in 1911 and is well worth a visit to view its architectural merits. THe park was redesigned in 1934 with a sunken central lawn, side promenades encircled with a granite balustrade, and reshaped entrances off of Sixth Avenue. Another round of improvements throughout the 1970's and 1980's added restaurant kiosks, outdoor patio seating, outdoor theater capabilities, a formal restaurant, improved landscaping and easier public access.

A delightful children's carousel adds to the attractions.

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.

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