Churches, Charities and Parks of New York City

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There are over 800 churches in Manhattan and the Bronx, ranging in seating capacity from 200 to 2,000. The Dutch Reformed Church (32 societies) has the oldest church organization in New York. The finest of its churches is the Third Collegiate, at Fifth Avenue and Forty-eighth Street, which owes its ample endowment to fortunate real estate investments. Other handsome buildings of this denomination are the Bloomingdale Church, at Broadway and Sixty-eighth Street, and the Marble Church, at Fifth Avenue and Twenty-ninth Street. Next in antiquity is the Protestant Episcopal Church (94 parishes). Something has already been said of the parent church, Trinity, of the new cathedral of Saint John the Divine, and of Grace Church. This denomination possesses a number of notable buildings, several of which are chapels of Trinity, built and supported out of its endowment.

Saint George's, the Transfiguration ( in Twenty-ninth Street near Madison Avenue). Saint Thomas's, and Saint Bartholomew's are all fine examples of ecclesiastical architecture. The most noted Presbyterian church (71 churches) is that known as the Fifth Avenue, at Fifty-fifth Street. The Madison Square Church and the Brick Church, at Fifth Avenue and Thirty-seventh Street, are among the strongest organizations of the denomination. The John Street Methodist Episcopal Church (62 Methodist Episcopal churches) occupies the site of the first of this denomination in America, and is known as the cradle of American Methodism. The most noted Baptist Church (49 churches) is that at Fifth Avenue and Forty-sixth Street. 

Among the Congregational churches is the Tabernacle, whose trustees, having sold the old church building at Broadway and Thirty-fourth Street, are now building at Broadway and Fifty-sixth Street . All Souls', at Fourth Avenue and Thirty-fourth Street, is the oldest of the Unitarian churches, while the Divine Paternity, at Central Park West and Seventy-sixth Street, holds a similar position among the Universalist churches. There are 114 parishes of the Roman Catholic faith, the Cathedral of Saint Patrick, at Fifth Avenue and Fiftieth Street, being one of the finest church buildings of the city. The oldest of its churches is Saint Peter's, in Barclay Street, which stands upon the site of a chapel built in 1786. The first Jewish synagogue of the city (136 societies) was the Shearith Israel , founded about 1675, and now possessing a beautiful temple at Central Park West and Seventieth Street.

The Temple Emanu-El, at Fifth Avenue and Forty-third Street, the Beth-El, at Fifth Avenue and Seventy-sixth Street, and the Temple Israel, in Harlem, are all fine buildings. Also noteworthy are the temples of the First Church of Christ (Scientist), Central Park West and Ninety-sixth Street, and of the Second Church, Central Park West and Sixty-eighth Street. The Young Men's Christian Association, which for 30 years had its headquarters at Fourth Avenue and Twenty-third Street, has now finished a new house on the same street, west of Seventh Avenue. The association has fifteen branch buildings. That at Madison Avenue and Forty-fifth Street, for railroad employees, was erected by the late Cornelius Vanderbilt. The Young Women's Christian Association has a beautiful home at 7 East Fifteenth Street.

The great number of immigrants landing at the port of New York, the poorest of whom remain in the city, tends to increase the dependent class. The administration of public charities is under a separate department governed by a commissioner, who appoints two deputies and other subordinate officers. New York City differs from other large American cities in that it grants large subsidies to private charitable institutions, the amount spent in this way exceeding that apportioned to public charities. In 1901 the city maintained three alms houses, with 3646 inmates, and 11 hospitals, two of which are asylums for idiots, with 53,991 patients. Nearly all of the city institutions and some of the State and private institutions are located on Randall's, Ward's, and Blackwell's islands, in the East River. Sailors' Snug Harbor, a home for aged seamen, is on Staten Island. This institution derives an income of $250,000 from valuable Broadway real estate, with which it is endowed. The orphan asylums of New York are under private control.

Private charity is active and thoroughly organized; and much has been done to correlate the different agencies by the Charity Organization Society of New York City. The Society has a number of sub-committees in charge of the different districts into which the city is divided. The Brooklyn Bureau of Charities performs a similar function in that borough. Among the more important organizations which give attention to Charitable work are the United Hebrew Charities, Children's Aid Society, Saint Vincent de Paul Society, and the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor. The conditions in the crowded sections of the city have been greatly improved by the work of Social Settlements and similar institutions, of which there are a large number, some denominational, others non-sectarian. Manhattan alone has some 25, the best known of which are University Settlement and the Educational Alliance.

The first proposal to make a public park for New York was about the beginning of the last century. In 1802 some citizens advocated the setting aside for this purpose of twenty acres around the Collect Pond, a sheet of water situated where the Tombs prison now stands, which was used in summer for boating and in winter for skating. The scheme was rejected, on the ground that the proposed park would be too far from the city. Washington Square, at the beginning of the century the Potter's Field, was redeemed about 1840, and a little later Union Square and Madison Square were cleared of squatters and laid out as parks. It was William Cullen Bryant who first proposed to make a large public park in the upper part of the city.

In 1840 he suggested the appropriation of a strip of land known as the Goose Pasture at Sixtieth Street. His plan was to take a section running across the island from river to river. A strip of land was finally appropriated for a public park, but running north and south instead of east and west. Work was begun in 1857. Central Park is now one of the most beautiful pleasure-grounds in the world. it contains 840 acres. About 400 acres are wooded, this area including specimens of nearly every tree and shrub that can be made to grow here. There are nine miles of drives, with thirty miles of foot-paths and other roads; many bridges, archways, and tunnels; several lakes; a large reservoir a mile and a half in circuit; an imposing mall, lined with superb trees; and a large number of statues. 

Zoological and botanical gardens are also among its attractions. On fine days in summer from fifty to sixty thousand persons visit the park. Lawns are provided for free tennis courts, and there is a field for baseball and other games. One of the chief curiosities of Central Park is the Obelisk (see Cleopatra's Needles and Obelisk) presented to the city by the late Khedive of Egypt, Ismail Pasha, which was brought here in 1880.

In Central Park are an equestrian statue of Simon Bolivar, the gift of Venezuela; a bronze statue of Burns, presented by resident Scotchmen: a granite statue of Alexander Hamilton; a life-size bronze statue of Morse, erected in 1871 by the telegraphers of the country; a bronze statue of Sir Walter Scott by John Steele; a bronze statue of Shakespeare by J.Q.A. Ward, unveiled on May 23, 1872, commemorating the poet's birth over 300 years previous; a bronze statue called "The Pilgrim," by Ward, commemorating the landing of the Pilgrims in 1620; an heroic bronze statue of Daniel Webster, by Thomas Ball; and busts of Beethoven, Cervantes, Humboldt, Schiller, and Thomas Moore.

At the entrance to the park at Fifty-ninth Street and Eighth Avenue stands a marble monument to Columbus, a shaft surmounted by a statue, unveiled in 1892. At the Sixth Avenue and Fifty-ninth Street entrance is a bronze statue of Thorwaldsen, erected in 1894 by the Danes of New York. On the Plaza at Fifth Avenue and Fifty-ninth Street is an imposing equestrian statue of General Sherman by Augustus Saint Gaudens. Opposite the Lenox Library, at Seventieth Street and Fifth Avenue, is a memorial to Richard M. Hunt, the architect, consisting of a semi-circular bench with a bronze bust of Hunt, by French, and ornamental figures. 

The most notable statues in other parts of the city are the bronze figure of Peter Cooper, south of the Cooper Union, by Saint Gaudens; the bronze statue of John Ericsson, by J. Scott Hartley, at the Battery; the statue of Farragut by Saint Gaudens, in Madison Square Park; the bronze statue of Garibaldi, in Washington Square, by Turini, presented to the city by the Italian residents ; the colossal bronze statue of Horace Greeley, in Greeley Square, by Alexander Doyle ; the bronze statue of Lafayette, by Bartholdi, in Union Square, presented by French residents in 1876; the bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln, in Union Square, modeled by H.K. Browne, and erected by popular subscription in 1867 ; the equestrian statue of Washington in Union Square, also by Browne; and the colossal bronze figure of Washington, by J.Q.A. Ward, at the entrance of the Sub-Treasury in Wall Street.

The most important park of the city after Central Park is Brooklyn's pleasure-ground, Prospect Park. (For description see BROOKLYN.) The third in interest is Bronx Park, which includes an area of 661 acres on both sides of the Bronx River. It has superb botanical and zoological gardens, opened to the public in 1899. Van Cortlandt Park, north of Kingsbridge, is even larger in extent (1132 acres), but is as yet largely undeveloped. The old Van Cortlandt mansion here, erected in 1784, now serves as an historical museum. There are golf links, grounds for baseball, tennis, and polo, and a lake frequented in winter by thousands of skaters. Pelham Bay Park, on the Sound, near Baychester, is the largest of the New York City parks, containing 1756 acres. It is diversified by lakes and islands, and has a shore line of nine miles. 

These three suburban parks, the Bronx, Van Cortlandt, and Pelham, are connected by a driveway, maintained by the Park Department. On Manhattan Island millions of dollars have been spent in reclaiming and beautifying the strip of land along the edge of the Hudson River from Seventy-second Street to 130th Street, known as Riverside Park, and since 1901 a handsome viaduct and driveway across Manhattan Valley connects the Park with the northern heights. Morningside Park, the bluff at Columbus Avenue, between 110th and 123d Streets, has also been laid out with excellent taste.

The Harlem River Speedway, extending for two miles along the western bank of the river from 155th Street to 208th Street, was completed in 1898. Above Manhattan Island are Crotona and Claremont Parks, in the vicinity of Tremont, and Saint Mary's Park (28 acres) at 149th Street. There are many squares and small parks throughout the city. The playgrounds and recreation piers, of which there are several, should be mentioned in connection with this phase of municipal activity. The Park Department has also under its care a well stocked aquarium (q.v.) in the Old Castle Garden at the Battery.

Website: The History
Article Name: Churches, Charities and Parks of New York City
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: The New International Encyclopedia; Dodd, Mead and Company-New York (1902-1905) 21 Volumes.
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