The diminutive oval of Bowling Green, at the foot of Broadway, is the city's oldest park. Its story goes back to the beginning. When the Dutch came to Manhattan Island in 1626, they built Fort Amsterdam, which stood where the new U. S. Custom House now stands, and the Green was the Plaine reserved as a drill ground in front of the fort. A hundred years later in 1732—this was in British times—the plot was by resolution of the Corporation leased "to some of the inhabitants of the said Broadway, in order to be enclosed to make a Bowling Green thereof, with walks therein, for the beauty and ornament of said street, as well as for the recreation and delight of the inhabitants of the city." Thus the park got its name. But it has been the scene of more exciting events than the most warmly contested game of bowls.
In 1765, on the evening of the day when the Stamp Act went into effect, the indignant citizens gathered here, and using the wooden fence of the Green for fuel, burned the Lieutenant-Governor in effigy. When the act was re-pealed in 1766, the people showed their rejoicing by bonfires here, and afterward ordered from England an equestrian statue of King George III., which was set up in the center of the Bowling Green; and the park was enclosed with an iron fence, which had been imported from England at a cost of £800.
July 9, 1776, after listening to the reading of the Declaration of Independence, the people came down to the Green, threw the statue from its pedestal and dragged it through the streets. Then, since it was leaden and represented much useful ammunition, it was shipped to Litchfield, Connecticut, where it was melted down and run into bullets, 42,000 of them, for Patriot use; and it is recorded that in subsequent engagements 400 British soldiers were killed with these bullets. The posts of the iron railings of the Green were ornamented with crowns, which were broken off that July night; and thus mutilated, the railing is here to-day. The statue which now adorns the park is of Abraham de Peyster, an ancient worthy of Manhattan, of whom most of us would never have heard if he had not had a descendent, John Watts de Peyster, of the seventh generation in direct descent, to erect this monument in his memory.
At Bowling Green we are in the midst of one of the most import-ant business centers of the city. To the south, occupying an entire square, is the new U. S. Custom House. The Produce Exchange is just across the street, and on either side of Broadway tower the immense office buildings. Those on the right are the Welles and the Standard Oil; on the left the Washintgon, Bowling Green, Columbia, Aldrich Court and Empire. The Standard is the home of the Standard Oil Company. The Washington was built by Cyrus W. Field, founder of the Atlantic Cable Company. The Bowling Green, of Byzantine architecture, should be visited for the magnificent marbles of its en-trance hall; at the further end of the hall a screen of stained glass quaintly pictures the old-time bowling on the green.
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