Thursday, July 8, 2010

The History of Tomorrow

I am an over-zealous blogger today. But it's too hot to do anything else.

Tomorrow I'm going to take myself on a field trip to my favorite park. I'm going to sit in the park and think about history because I'm a nerd. Let me tell you why. (Why I'm going to the park, not why I'm a nerd. That's a secret.)

The park I'm going to is called Bowling Green. It's the oldest park in New York and probably the smallest. You may know it because it has that really ugly statue of the Wall Street Bull which I visited a while back at 3a.m. for a quick ride:

Here is some background on the park, with a little help from Wikipedia. It is the original site of the Dutch fort of New Amsterdam and it served as cattle market between 1638 and 1647 and parade ground. In 1675, the Common Council designated the "plaine afore the forte" for an annual market of "graine, cattle and other produce of the country". In 1677 the city's first public well was dug in front of the old fort at Bowling Green. In 1733, the Common Council leased a portion of the parade grounds to three prominent neighboring landlords for a peppercorn a year, upon their promise to create a park that would be "the delight of the Inhabitants of the City" and add to its "Beauty and Ornament"; the improvements were to include a "bowling green" with "walks therein". The surrounding streets were not paved with cobblestones until 1744.

I really like the part about how it was leased for a peppercorn a year. I'm guessing they really didn't need the peppercorn, it was more of a formality. Kind of like the commercials where they tell you to lease a car and only put a penny down.

Anyhoo, the park was the delight of the inhabitants of the city, where they would go and push hoops around with sticks and other early American forms of entertainment. Maybe some of them would sit in the park and drink their flagons of ale and view the 4,000 pound gilded lead statue of King George III which had been erected in August 1770.

People didn't like this statue very much. In 1773 the city had to pass anti-graffiti laws and installed a cast-iron fence, (which is still there today and my favorite part of the park.)

Then on July 9, 1776, after the Declaration of Independence was read to Washington's troops at the current site of City Hall, (which is about a 5-10 minute walk away) the local Sons of Liberty rushed down Broadway to Bowling Green, where they knocked over the statue. and ripped off the cast-iron crowns that topped sections of the surrounding fence as well. Here my friend Wiki helps me with the description.

According to folklore, the statue was chopped up and shipped to a Connecticut foundry to be made into 42,088 patriot bullets-at 20 bullets per pound (2,104.4 pounds). The statue's head was to have been paraded about town on pike-staffs-but was recovered by Loyalists and sent to England. Six pieces of the lead statue are preserved in the New-York Historical Society; one in the Museum of the City of New York as well as two in Connecticut (estimated total of 260/270 pounds); The event has been depicted over the years in several works of art, including an 1854 painting by William Walcutt and a 1859 painting by Johannes Adam Simon Oertel.

So tomorrow, July 9th 2010 I'm going to go sit in that park and think about what happened there 234 years ago. Surprisingly (or not?) the parks department has no event planned to commemorate this anniversary, which is apparently less important than events such as "Hip Hop Kids Secret Agent 23 Skidoo" (???) and Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre. If anyone reading this post would like to join me in my sitting and thinking about history, you're more than welcome. If my printer wasn't out of ink I was going to make little pamphlets to hand out so other people know why it's an important day.

I was wondering if anyone else would go there tomorrow because of the anniversary and I imagine that if anyone does, it will be really nerdy people dressed in 18th century military uniform and I will have to avoid them and their body odor. And whatever concoction of Old English and New York accent they come up with to sound "authentic" (which is always about as unauthentic as you can get if my experience of historic role-players serves me correctly.)

I'll post what happens tomorrow when I get home. Hopefully sans stinky nerds.

No comments:

Post a Comment