“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
New York in New York County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)

Thomas Paine Park

Foley Square


—1.88 acres —

Thomas Paine Park Marker image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, January 9, 2019
1. Thomas Paine Park Marker
This park in the heart of New York City’s civic center is named for patriot, author, humanitarian, and political visionary Thomas Paine (1737-1809). The land that is now Thomas Paine Park was once part of a freshwater swamp surrounded, ironically, by three former British prisons for revolutionaries. One of them was The Bridewell, the infamous detention center where many inmates died from wind and cold exposure while awaiting sentencing. After the war, the area went through more hard times. In the 19th century it was one of the most notorious slums in the country: Five Points, a community of predominantly Irish immigrants. After calls for reform, the City acquired and condemned most of the unsafe buildings between 1887 and 1894.

The City acquired this site, located between Lafayette, Worth, and Centre Streets within what is now called Foley Square, on August 5, 1913 and transferred title to Parks on March 19, 1930. Before this acquisition, it was known simply as “Courthouse Plot” because of its proximity to several State and Federal court buildings.

In 1977, through the initiative of City Council President Paul O’Dwyer, the Council renamed the parcel at New York’s center of law and justice Thomas Paine Park. In 2000 several adjacent streets were eliminated to unite the parcels that make up Foley Square.
Thomas Paine Park image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, January 9, 2019
2. Thomas Paine Park
The marker is on the left lamppost.
Following this renovation, Thomas Paine Park was officially integrated into Foley Square and rededicated.

In 2013, George Edwin Bissell’s sculpture of Abraham de Peyster (1657-1728), former New York City mayor (1691-1694), was reinstalled in the park. The relocation of this sculpture, which was originally cast in 1896, to this downtown park is particularly apt given its historical associations to early Dutch settlement and later immigrant arrivals. On July 8, 2014, the 357th anniversary of de Peyster’s baptism, the sculpture was rededicated in the presence of more than two dozen de Peyster descendants, city officials, and the Netherlands Consul General.

The park’s namesake, Thomas Paine, was an Englishman from Thetford in County Norfolk. He spent his early years committed to justice in Britain, speaking out for social equity and lobbying for higher wares. In 1774, at the urging of Benjamin Franklin, then colonial ambassador to Britain, Paine immigrated to Philadelphia. He became a close associate of Franklin, the other founding fathers, and the Marquis de Lafayette. His writings profoundly influenced the course of the American Revolution and the creation of the United States government.

Paine published the unsigned pamphlet Common Sense on January 10, 1776. It advocated rising up in arms against Britain, and many of its ideas are echoed in the
Thomas Paine, c. 1791 image. Click for full size.
Laurent Dabos (from Wikipedia), circa 1791
3. Thomas Paine, c. 1791
(Oil painting by Laurent Dabos)
Declaration of Independence. His description of a representative government became the basis for modern democracy anchored by a written constitution. Paine’s sixteen American Crisis essays boosted morale during the darkest days of the Revolutionary War. For his service to the fledgling nation, New York State later gave Paine a 277-acre farm in New Rochelle, new York.

His most famous work, Rights of Man (1791), was written after the French Revolution and proposes that government is responsible for protecting the natural rights of its people. Many of Paine’s ideas were strikingly far sighted. He advocated for the abolition of slavery, defended freedom of thought and expression, and proposed an association of nations to avert the spread of conflicts.

In 1802, Paine returned to America, where he was the guest of President Jefferson, to whom he recommended the Louisiana Purchase. Paine tried to settle down on his farm, but his declining health led him to move to Manhattan in 1804. He died in Greenwich Village on June 8, 1809. His remains were buried on his New Rochelle farm. It was not until several years after his death that dedicated friends and biographers began to remind the public of Paine’s contributions to American freedom and democracy.

“My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.”
Thomas Paine, Rights
Abraham De Peyster statue, by George Edwin Bissell image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, January 17, 2014
4. Abraham De Peyster statue, by George Edwin Bissell
near the northwest corner of the park
of Man
Part Two (1792)

Erected by NYC Parks.
Location. 40° 42.884′ N, 74° 0.171′ W. Marker is in New York, New York, in New York County. Marker is on Centre Street near Worth Street, on the left when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: New York NY 10007, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Foley Square c. 1800 (a few steps from this marker); Foley Square c. 1880 (within shouting distance of this marker); Abraham De Peyster Statue (within shouting distance of this marker); New York County Court House (within shouting distance of this marker); Foley Square Before 1600 (within shouting distance of this marker); African Burial Ground (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Sacred Tradition, Sacred Ground (about 400 feet away); Africans in Early New York (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in New York.
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker. The site of Thomas Paine's death in Greenwich Village
Categories. Parks & Recreational AreasPatriots & Patriotism
Credits. This page was last revised on January 25, 2019. This page originally submitted on January 11, 2019, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. This page has been viewed 38 times since then. Last updated on January 23, 2019, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on January 11, 2019, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York.   3, 4. submitted on January 23, 2019, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. • Andrew Ruppenstein was the editor who published this page.
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