Exploring Elizabeth Street Garden: Nolita’s Little Gem

Throughout the summer and early Fall I’ve tried to stay outside as much as possible, and New York City has offered up many treasures for me to explore further. One of my favorites is the Elizabeth Street Garden. The Elizabeth Street Garden is unique. I’ve found many beautiful gardens in the city’s public park system, and others that are local community gardens. But the Elizabeth Street Garden is of a different type altogether. Although there are many trees, shrubs, and flowers throughout the garden, the main draw is the sculptures and other architectural details salvaged from torn-down buildings over the years. (Some are evidently reproductions as well.)

The site of the Elizabeth Street Garden has a long history as a public space, tracing back almost 200 years to its time as a public school’s open space. Eventually, the school closed and apartments and other businesses were constructed on the school property, but the open space remained. The property became overgrown, and in 1990 the owner of the Elizabeth Street Gallery leased the space and began using it to display some of the gallery’s sculptures. The garden became a beautifully landscaped space, and it was eventually open to the public during limited hours. Unfortunately, in the past few years local residents have learned of the lot’s inclusion in an urban development plan. The garden’s supporters have organized to find a way to protect the garden for the future, but if something doesn’t change the space will likely become a housing development for senior citizens on limited incomes.

The garden is a magical place, a little wild and eclectic. There’s something delightful to see anywhere you look, and plenty of places to sit down in the shade or sun, depending on your preferences, and enjoy the sights, eat a picnic lunch, or read a book. The Elizabeth Street Garden is a neighborhood space. You’ll find parents pushing their babies in strollers, employees of nearby businesses taking their lunch break, and the occasional wanderer (like me) seeking a peaceful oasis in the middle of the city.

If you want to visit the garden, it is located on Elizabeth Street between Spring Street and Prince Street in the Manhattan neighborhood of Nolita. This website shows its open hours. If traveling by subway, the closest stations are the 2nd Avenue Station (F train), the Spring Street Station (6 train), the Prince Street Station (R or W trains), or the Broadway-Lafayette Station (B, D, F, or M trains).

A Winter Walk Through Riverside Park

During the winter, we spend so much time inside avoiding the cold weather, but this year New York City’s winter has been relatively mild. (At least until this week – right now it’s bitter cold, and we have a chance of a late blizzard on Tuesday with 12 to 18 inches of snow!) When the weather cooperates, I try to get outside as much as possible. Recently, we’ve had some really nice days, and I decided to head to a park to take a long walk. Although many people think of Central Park in Manhattan – or maybe Prospect Park in Brooklyn – when they consider New York City parks, there are many other beautiful parks. This time, I chose Riverside Park on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Riverside Park is a great choice for a long walk. The park is long and narrow, stretching along the Hudson River from 129th Street to 72 Street. There are paved trails that undulate through the trees, giving visitors multiple options and views. There are also a number of children’s playgrounds and a skate park for skateboarders. You’ll also see public monuments and sculptures  dotting the landscape periodically. (Note: These monuments follow no coherent theme, which somehow makes discovering each one even more interesting!) Because of its location, you won’t see nearly as many tourists as you’ll find in Central Park. Riverside Park is truly a neighborhood park, and you’ll see people walking their dogs, teaching their children to ride bicycles, or jogging.

Today, we are on a hunt for public monuments. Let’s see what we find as we walk almost 60 city blocks from end to end. One of the first things we come across is the General Grant National Memorial, the tomb where Civil War general and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant is buried. (We previously visited the Grant Memorial, and you can find pictures of the interior here.) We’re approaching Grant Memorial from the back side, but we’ll turn around and look at it again from the front once we go by. In the background, there’s the tower of the Riverside Church. We’ll visit it another time.

As we continue to approach Grant Memorial, I realize that the black iron fence above encloses a tree and this plaque. Here’s what the inscription says:

This tree is planted at the side of the tomb of General U.S. Grant, ex-President of the United States of America, for the purpose of commemorating his greatness by Li Hung-Chang, Guardian of the Prince, Grand Secretary of State, Earl of the First Order, Yang Yu, Envoy Extraordinary and Minter Plenipotentiary of China, Vice President of the Board of Censors, Kwang Hsu, 23rd Year, 4th Moon, May 1897.

One last view of Grant’s Memorial before we move on, as well as a photo of one of the eagles guarding the entrance:

As we continue walking, we’ll start seeing more monuments – although none are on the scale of the Grant Memorial. At 116th Street and Riverside Drive, we find this monument erected by the Women’s Health Protective Association, which was celebrating its 25th anniversary in 1909. The monument was sculpted by Bruno Louis Zimm, and it contains a drinking fountain that can be used in warmer months.

At 113th Street we notice this monument to Louis Kossuth, a key figure in the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. As I researched more about this monument, I learned that it was financed by Hungarian Americans living in New York City and was originally dedicated in 1928. Unfortunately, the original monument was poorly constructed, and it had to be redone only two years later. It’s a striking monument, with Kossuth looming over a soldier and peasant below.

Next to Kossuth’s monument is this simple, modern monument to the participants in the 1956 Hungarian Revolution against that nation’s Communist government. This monument was erected only last year by the Hungarian American Memorial Committee, in honor of the 60th anniversary of the uprising, and the designer was Hungarian architect Tamás Nagy.

The round concrete platform seen above is really special. The caption reads: “Constellation of stars as symbols of hope, visible in the night sky over Budapest on October 23, 1956, when the first shots of the Revolution were fired.” (Although one news story about the monument stated that the sky was actually overcast on that night in 1956, and therefore the stars would not have actually been visible to the revolutionaries.)

Only a block further, we find this statue of Samuel J. Tilden, a governor of the State of New York during the 19th Century. Tilden’s statue was sculpted by William Ordway Partridge. (Tilden also ran for President in 1876. He won the popular vote but lost the electoral college by one vote!)

We continue walking. At 106th Street and Riverside Drive, we see a statue of General Franz Sigel. The statue’s sculptor was Karl Bitter. In my research, I found that Sigel had an interesting life. Sigel, who was born in Baden in modern Germany, fled his home country after leading an unsuccessful revolution in 1848. Eventually, Sigel came to New York City, where he was a teacher, journalist, and co-founder of the German-American Institute. Later, Sigel moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where he served in the Union Army and helped protect Missouri from Confederate attack. By the end of the war, he had been promoted to Major General. After the Civil War ended, Sigel moved back to New York City and lived here until his death in 1904, serving as editor of two periodicals. I liked this photo of Sigel’s statue, but particularly the second view of his horse.

At 100th Street, we stumble upon the Firemen’s Memorial, which was dedicated in 1913. H. Van Buren Magonigle designed the monument, and artist Attilio Piccirilli created the sculptures. (The statues on either end of the monument are named “Duty” and “Sacrifice.” At the base of the monument, there is also a memorial tablet to the horses who pulled the early fire engines.

One of my favorite statues is found at 93rd Street and Riverside Drive: Joan of Arc, dedicated in 1915. Unusual for the time period, the statue is the work of a woman artist, Anna Hyatt Huntington. It’s striking from any angle.

Just four blocks south of Joan of Arc is the second largest monument in the park: the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, designed by sculptor Paul E. Duboy and architects Charles and Arthur Stoughton. Dedicated in 1902, the monument honored soldiers and sailors who fought in the Civil War.

Finally, at 76th Street and Riverside Drive, we discover the Robert Ray Hamilton Fountain. The fountain, which was designed by architectural firm Warren & Wetmore (more famous for Grand Central Terminal), was dedicated in 1906. Two things in particular make the fountain interesting. First, the fountain was intended to be a drinking fountain – for horses. And second, Robert Ray Hamilton was a great-grandson of the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, Alexander Hamilton.

Well, that’s the end of today’s walk. For those who wish to visit Riverside Park in person, the closest subway lines are the 1, 2, and 3 lines. Just get off at stops between 72nd and 125th Streets, and then it’s just a short walk west to the park. (Note: Not all trains stop at every station.) If you want to see the monuments I’ve featured here, stay on the path than runs parallel to Riverside Drive, as most monuments are located along the edge of the park or in park medians that divide the roadway at various points.

Although it’s not Monday yet in the United States, it’s Monday elsewhere at this point – and so I think this is a good walk for Jo’s Monday Walks! Have you checked out Jo’s blog? If you haven’t, I know you will enjoy it.

Strolling Through Central Park

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As much as New Yorkers love the hustle and bustle of the city, sometimes we just need a place to recharge our batteries. For me, one of those places is Central Park. One reason why I enjoy Central Park so much is that it is different every time I go. As the seasons change, the trees and flowers change too. Around a corner may be a musician I’ve never heard before or a statue I’ve not noticed previously. There’s always a new path to take. Or, if I want to sit on a bench and watch the world go by, the park is the perfect location for people watching.

During a recent walk through the southern portion of Central Park, I enjoyed the last remnants of Autumn. Although many leaves had already fallen to the ground, the trees still had enough color to make the park picturesque. This was true even though it was a blustery, overcast day.

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I like to explore the park without a plan in mind, choosing paths on a whim and trying to find small treasures I’ve never found before. There are also numerous rock formations that are fun to climb on. They provide a different perspective of the park and surrounding areas.

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Of course, Central Park is also known for its ice skating rinks, which are now open for the season. Here’s a photograph of people skating at the Wollman Rink, located at the southern end of the park. The buildings along 59th Street overlook the location.

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The southern end of Central Park also has some intriguing buildings to explore. First, there is the Chess and Checkers House, located on top of a small hill. Inside the Chess and Checkers House, you can check out chess or checkers pieces and play on the permanent boards located outside. Unfortunately, the day I was there it was a little cold for outdoor checkers! On the weekends, there is also space available to play games inside.

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Nearby is the Dairy, built in 1870. In its early days, it offered milk to the city’s children; now, it hosts a park information kiosk. The Dairy’s ornate gingerbread trim makes it picturesque.

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A third building is located near the Chess and Checkers House as well: the building housing Central Park’s vintage carousel.

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There are quite a number of statues scattered across Central Park, and on this visit I went looking for a few of them. The first one I found was Indian Hunter, an 1866 sculpture by John Quincy Adams Ward. I think it made for a striking photograph, especially with the chartreuse green of the trees behind it.

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Near a statute of Christopher Columbus I stumbled upon a musical performance by a group called the Good Morning Nags. The band has a great sound, somewhat a cross between bluegrass, folk, and rock. (Their Facebook page calls it American roots rock.) A number of people had stopped to listen, and I did too for a couple of songs. It was quite a treat.

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A short distance behind the band was another John Quincy Adams Ward statue, this one of William Shakespeare.

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Another sculpture that caught my eye was Christophe Fratin’s Eagles and Prey. Fratin created the sculpture in 1850, and it was brought to Central Park in 1863. (The Central Park website states that this statue is the oldest known statue in any New York City park.)

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Before I left that day, I decided to head to the Bethesda Terrace and fountain. A series of steps leads downwards to the terrace and fountain, overlooking the Lake. There are beautiful stone details everywhere you look, including some charming and quirky stone carvings.

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Here’s a good photograph of the fountain, with the Lake in the background. You can rent rowboats at the nearby Boathouse if you wish to go out on the lake.

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The interior of the terrace has interesting architectural details. The ceilings are covered in beautiful tiles, and the walls display lovely colored frescoes.

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There was one final bonus as well–A singer, part of a group known as Infinity’s Song, was singing at the bottom of the steps. She had a full, rich voice, and she accompanied herself on the guitar. Her performance made for the perfect end to this particular park walk.

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There never an end to the adventures that can be had in Central Park–I’m sure I’ll have additional posts about other park walks in future posts. Stay tuned!