BACK OF THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY IS BRYANT PARK
This attractive little spot occupies the remaining half of Reservoir Square belonging to the city and lying between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets. It was formerly the distributing reservoir for the first Croton Aqueduct. The Public Library now stands on the site of the Egyptian-like structure well remembered by many of our citizens. In the 50's it came into brief prominence as the site of the famous Crystal Palace—the first of what we now call "World's Fairs." All the foreign countries sent fine exhibits and it helped greatly to make New York much better known in Europe. It was a huge sensation and made its exit in a great fire that was even more spectacular.
The park is named after the well-known poet, William Cullen Bryant, whose home was at 34 West 16th Street. He was at that time one of the owners of the Evening Post, originally established by Alexander Hamilton. There is a statue of him by Herbert Adams on the east side.
During the Civil War, Union troops were encamped here and the disgraceful Draft Riots began with an attack on the colored Orphan Asylum nearby, at 43rd Street and Fifth Avenue.
But the most interesting object in the park is the imposing bust of Washington Irving, heroic size, for many years New York's First Citizen.
Irving, who first gained European recognition for American letters, was born in William Street. He was an ardent New Yorker and his whimsical History of New York, which set two continents laughing, sells today as freely as the day it was published. It is now a classic. The present-day New Yorker places him along with Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius or Homer in point of antiquity, yet he was a trustee of the old Astor Library and largely instrumental in securing the gift to the city from Mr. Astor, and was president of the commission formed to create Central Park.
When he went to England in the midst of the War of 1812 he was at once cordially welcomed by Sir Walter Scott and his friends, not merely as a fellow craftsman of distinction, but as an American genius above the petty decisions of Cabinets regarding peace or war.
We see him once more in the falling shadows of a closing day. It is in the garden of a friend's house in sunny Spain—and beyond are the storied columns of the ancient Alhambra. Two little girls are on his knee, to whom he is telling strangely fascinating tales. Childish laughter breaks upon the quiet scene. In the retired little English village of Hants still lives one of these little girls. Today, as ex-empress of a half-forgotten empire, its people once more in the van of European civilization, does Eugenie Marie de Montijo recall the days of merry, carefree childhood and that cultured, gentle scholar from old New York? Probably not. A recent letter to the writer from Her Majesty's Lady-in-Waiting regretted that the war work of the Empress precluded any literary contributions at present.
Other statues in the Park are of Dr. J. Marion Sims and a memorial fountain to Josephine Shaw Lowell, social worker and philanthropist. In the Republican Club on 40th Street, opposite the park, is a collection of rare prints and maps of old New York. The Engineers' Club is on the same street. It has a most imposing building.
"The Little Church Around the Corner" is a familiar name for the Church of the Transfiguration, on East 29th Street, near Fifth Avenue. The story goes that when in 1871 Joseph Jefferson endeavored to arrange for the funeral of George Holland, a brother actor, at a church on Madison Avenue, the pastor said that he could not hold burial services over the body of an actor. "But," he added, "there is a little church around the corner you can go to." "Then all honor to the little church around the corner," replied Jefferson. "We will go there."
From that time the church and its rector, Rev. George H. Houghton (who died in 1897), were held in affectionate regard by the theatrical profession. Many actors have been buried from the church, among them Lester Wallack, Dion Boucicault and Edwin Booth. There is a memorial window given by the Players (the actors' club), in loving memory of Booth.
No mention of the Avenue would be complete with-out reference to that wonderful organization, the Y. M. C. A. During the great war work its offices were in the Ziegler Building, corner 43rd Street, but it had two other auxiliary buildings nearby on Madison Avenue. All their work was directed from this vicinity and the whole world knows the gigantic tasks they accomplished.
The Headquarters of the Red Cross were also on the Avenue, at 38th Street.
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