On Wednesday, July 22, at 12:30 p.m., you are in for a treat in Bryant Park at the Reading Room series of the NY Public Library with Robyn Carr, Kristan Higgins, Elizabeth Hoyt, Beverly Jenkins, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Meredith Wild. (If it’s rainy they will be inside the library).
Brooklyn, New York is a great place to grow up, with all that access to New York City and its parks. Next week I am going to the Romance Writers of America conference, where? New York City of course, with thousands of other writers. Some of who are going to be speakers in Bryant Park, the announcement is the opening of this blog. Reminding myself of its location, I found all this history, that well, I didn’t know. Most would agree, when you live in the tri-state area, you take it all for granted.
The location, known at the time as Reservoir Square, besides being a nearby neighbor of the now gone, Croton Distributing Reservoir, the park was the site of the 1863 draft riot and where, it was called in 1863, the Colored Orphan Asylum, burnt down. That’s a tidbit in my book, Indigo Sky. More than a tidbit, it’s an important part of my story, when my characters try to escape the burning building with the orphans in tow.
From Wikipedia, here’s the scoop about the history of Bryant Park. It’s a 9.603-acre privately managed public park. It is located between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and between Forty and Forty-second Streets in Midtown Manhattan. The New York Public Library forms the Eastern boundary of the park with its main entrance on Sixth Avenue. Bryant Park is located entirely over an underground structure that houses the library’s archives, which were built in the 1980s when the park was closed to the public and excavated; the new library facilities were built below ground level while the park was restored above it.
In 1686, when the area was still a wilderness, New York’s colonial governor, Thomas Dongan, designated the area now known as Bryant Park as a public space. George Washington‘s troops crossed the area while retreating from the Battle of Long Island in 1776. Beginning in 1823, Bryant Park was designated a potter’s field (a graveyard for the poor) and remained so until 1840, when thousands of bodies were moved to Wards Island.
The first park at this site opened in 1847 as Reservoir Square. It was named after its neighbor, the Croton Distributing Reservoir. In 1853, the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations with the New York Crystal Palace, featuring thousands of exhibitors, took place in the park. The square was used for military drills during the American Civil War, and was the site of some of the New York City draft riots of July 1863, when the Colored Orphan Asylum at Fifth Avenue and 43rd Street was burned down by an angry mob.
In 1884, Reservoir Square was renamed Bryant Park, to honor the New York Evening Post editor and abolitionist William Cullen Bryant. In 1899, the Reservoir structure was removed and construction of the New York Public Library building began. Terrace gardens, public facilities, and kiosks were added to the park.
The construction of the Sixth Avenue Elevated railway in 1878 cast both literal and metaphorical shadows over the park, and by the 1930s, the park was suffering from neglect and was considered disreputable. The park was redesigned in 1933–4 as a Great Depression public works project under the leadership of Robert Moses. The park was temporarily degraded in the late 1930s by the tearing down of the El and the construction of the New York City Subway‘s underground Sixth Avenue line.
On October 15, 1969, a rally attended by 40,000 people was held in Bryant Park as part of the nationwide Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam. By the 1970s, Bryant Park had been taken over by drug dealers, prostitutes and the homeless and was considered a “no-go zone” by ordinary citizens and visitors. From 1979 to 1983, a coordinated program of amenities, including book and flower markets, cafes, landscape improvements, and entertainment activities, was initiated by a parks advocacy group called the Parks Council, brought new life to the park.
Numerous events are hosted on the Great Lawn at Bryant Park. The Bryant Park Summer Film Festival, begun in the early nineties and now sponsored by HBO, brings a very large crowd into the park on Monday evenings during the summer. Various free musical performances are sponsored by corporations during the warm weather months, including Broadway in Bryant Park, sponsored by iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel Media + Entertainment) and featuring performers from current Broadway musicals, integrated with content provided by event sponsors.
For you perusal, again, here’s the location of Bryant Park, located between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and Forty and Forty-second Streets, Midtown Manhattan, New York City. I’ll see you there on July 22, at 12:30 p.m.
For more bits and pieces: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bryant_Park.
Did you know that in 1863 a fee of $300 would exempt a man from the draft?