Keith Haring Sculptures near Battery Park

There’s so much to see in Battery Park that visitors may not realize the other treasures that are located nearby. Once you start exploring the surrounding streets, however, you will find all sorts of delights. Across the street from the park, at 17 State Street, there are two large, brightly-painted aluminum sculptures by famous New York City artist Keith Haring. Haring’s work is very distinctive, making it easy to identify. These two pieces are titled Untitled (Two Dancing Figures) and Untitled (Figure Balancing on Dog). It’s interesting to view the sculptures from various perspectives, as you notice different details.

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Want more information about the sculptures and Keith Haring’s tragically short artistic career. The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council has this description on their website. If you’d like to see the sculptures firsthand, take the 4 or 5 train to the Bowling Green station, the J or Z trains to the Broad Street station, the R train to Whitehall Street station, or the 1 train to South Ferry (make sure you are on one of the first five cars for the 1 train).

Canyon of Heroes

Visitors to lower Manhattan may notice some unusual granite markers embedded in the sidewalks along Broadway. Those granite markers looks like this:

November 13, 1951 – Women in the Armed Services

The further you walk, the more markers you will see – and they are located on both sides of the street. Each marker lists a date and a person or group of people. But why are they here? The answer is actually located above, on the street corner signs along this path. The stretch of Broadway from the tip of Manhattan, known as the Battery, to City Hall is known as the Canyon of Heroes.

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But what qualifies someone to be included in the Canyon of Heroes, you might ask? All someone needs to do is be the guest of honor at one of New York City’s ticker tape parades. One of the earliest parades along this route was on October 28, 1886, celebrating the dedication of the Statue of Liberty, but ticker tape parades really got their start when American troops began returning home after World War I.

Here’s the granite marker for the start of the Canyon of Heroes. (As you can see from the edge of the photos, some of the sidewalk vendors end up blocking some markers.)

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In all, there have been more than 200 ticker tape parades, and every one has been commemorated with a granite marker. Approximately 130 of those took place during a 20-year period between 1945 and 1965. During that time period, heads of state of many countries were honored with parades. It’s interesting to see some of the names of those heads of state today. Although they were known as allies of the United States, some of these heads of state had mixed records when it came to democratic government or human rights issues. The markers show a wide range of international leaders from all over the world.

Here are just a few of the markers for heads of state.

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October 17, 1949 – Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India
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April 7, 1952 – Juliana, Queen of the Netherlands, and Prince Bernhard
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June 1, 1954 – Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia
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November 4, 1955 – Carlos Castillo Armas, President of Guatemala
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June 29, 1959 – Dr. Arturo Frondizi, President of Argentina
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July 5, 1960 – Their Majesties the King and Queen of Thailand

There are many other markers as well, commemorating milestones in terrestrial and outer space exploration, sports figures and teams, famous cultural figures, and more. Here are some additional examples of some of those markers.

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July 7, 1952 – U.S. Olympic Team Send-Off to the Helsinki Games
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July 11, 1957 – Althea Gibson, Wimbledon Women’s Champion
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October 3, 1979 – Pope John Paul II
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June 20, 1990 – Nelson Mandela, African National Congress Leader
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October 29, 1996 – New York Yankees, World Series Champions

Interested in learning more about the ticker tapes parades commemorated in the Canyon of Heroes? This website has more information about them, as well as several historical parade photos and even a podcast.

Update to this post (1/14/2018): One of the most controversial markers on the Canyon of Heroes route is this one for Marshal Petain of France. Petain received his ticker tape parade in 1931 because of his reputation as a hero of World War I, but that reputation was tarnished by his role as a Nazi collaborator during World War II. In recent months, the mayor of New York City had a commission consider whether some controversial markers and monuments across the city should be removed; this marker was one of those under consideration. Ultimately, the commission determined that the marker should not be removed (or any of the other markers on the route), but that signs should be posted to add context for the controversial names on the route and the signs labeling the route “Canyon of Heroes” (see the second photo above) be removed.

October 26, 1931 – Henri Phillippe Petain, Marshal of France

Interested in reading the Commission’s full report on this and other controversial monuments? You can find it here.

Battery Park: More Than Just the Portal for the Statue of Liberty

When most people head to Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan, they are looking for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. But Battery Park is also a destination in its own right. If you take the time to explore it, you will find numerous treasures to reward your efforts.

As you wander around the paths at the south end of Battery Park, not far from the Staten Island Ferry’s Whitehall Terminal, you will find the Seaglass Carousel. Personally, I think there is something magical about any carousel – they bring us back to those innocent childhood years. But I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that the Seaglass Carousel is in a class by itself. First, the building is reminiscent of the spiral of those extra-special shells you might find on an exotic beach, with the shape of a nautilus.

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Then, once you peer into the glass windows, the form of the carousel is even more captivating. Imagine riding along on softly colored, sea glass-inspired fish and other sea creatures – in fact, you are almost cacooned within the the ride. I could watch the carousel figures go around for hours, but it is even more special to ride it and be in the midst of it. The tickets are $5 each, but for a return to childhood they are entirely worth the price. (Or, if you are still a child, it’s also worth it!) I have to say, there were more adults than children riding it on the day that I visited, and I was one of those riders.

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After riding the carousel, you should explore the rest of the park as well. There’s a nice walk along the Hudson River, where you will likely see a seagull (or two, or three, or more …), as well as the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in the distance.

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Near this part of the park is the East Coast Memorial. The Memorial consists of 8 towering granite walls, inscribed with the names of the American servicemen who lost their lives in battle in the Atlantic Ocean during World War II.

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At the far end of the East Coast Memorial is this powerful bronze statue of an eagle, created by sculptor Albino Manca.

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Between the East Coast Memorial and Castle Clinton is my favorite of all the monuments in Battery Park, titled “The Immigrants,” by sculptor Luis Sanguino. This monument includes portrayals of several representative immigrants to the United States. Every time I see this monument, I am struck by its power. If you visit the park, make sure that you explore the monument from all angles, as it is truly an amazing work of art. The monument was donated by Samuel Rudin, in honor of his parents who came to the United States in the late 19th century.

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The heart of the park is Castle Clinton. Castle Clinton has served many roles since its construction in the early 1800s, ranging from military fort to entertainment center, immigration station (prior to the opening of Ellis Island) to an early home to the New York City Aquarium. Today, Castle Clinton is a National Monument and the place from which ferries travel to the Statue of Liberty to Ellis Island.

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There are many other memorials located throughout Battery Park, and I won’t discuss all because I don’t want to spoil all surprises. But here are a few more of my favorites, just to give you a sense of the variety of themes and styles. I really like the uniqueness of the New York Korean War Memorial. The concrete surrounding the memorial is stamped with the names of the countries that fought together during the Korean War, along with each nation’s casualty numbers.

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There is also Fritz Koenig’s sculpture, titled “The Sphere,” which spent more than 30 years in the plaza outside of the World Trade Center until being moved to its current site as a temporary memorial to the 9/11 victims in 2002. Nearby, an eternal flame burns in memorial to those whose lives were lost on 9/11.

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There is something very compelling about the American Merchant Mariners Memorial, designed by Marisol Escobar. If you look closely, you will see that the one man is rescuing another from the water.

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Nearby is Pier A, originally built in the 1880s, but now hosting a restaurant and visitor’s center.

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Outside of Pier A is an interesting collection of globes with an environmental message.

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Don’t forget to look down in this part of the park. One of the interesting aspects is that you can see previous locations of the shoreline and piers in the 19th century, before landfill extended the parameters of Manhattan.

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Finally, if you look north from Battery Park at this point, you will see One World Trade Center, also known as the Freedom Tower. It’s a beautiful view, but also a poignant one after viewing the 9/11 Memorial, “The Sphere,” only a short time before.

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How do you get to Battery Park? You can take the 4 or 5 train to the Bowling Green station, the J or Z trains to the Broad Street station, the R train to Whitehall Street station, or the 1 train to South Ferry (make sure you are on one of the first five cars for the 1 train). (Here’s the entrance to the Bowling Green station, on the edge of Battery Park, below – isn’t it cute?)

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