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New York in New York County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Reservoir Square

 
 
Reservoir Square Marker image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, July 8, 2018
1. Reservoir Square Marker
Inscription.  
In 1847, a former potter’s field became a public park…

As far back as 1686, New York City’s colonial governor, Thomas Dongan, designated the land that is now known as Bryant Park as public property. At the start of the Revolutionary War in 1776, after being routed by the British in the Battle of Long Island, General Washington’s troops raced across Manhattan, traversing the future site of the park.

The city established a potter’s field on what is now Bryant Park, in 1823. Many small parks and squares in American citied once served the same function. As the city grew and surrounded the burial grounds, these open spaces were often converted into public parks. The potter’s field was decommissioned in 1840 to enable construction of a new reservoir on adjacent land.

The Croton Distributing Reservoir was finished in 1841 and opened to the public a year later. An engineering marvel of its time, the reservoir was a man-made lake, four acres in area, surrounded by fifty-foot-high, twenty-five-foot-thick granite walls designed in the Egyptian Revival style. Along the tops of the walls were public promenades, offering breathtaking
Inset image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, July 8, 2018
2. Inset
“Croton Engineering Department prepared reservoir plans and designs.”
views. The facility was an integral part of the first supply of fresh water carried by aqueducts into the city from upstate new York. In 1846, the city designated the area to the west of the reservoir (formerly a potter’s field) as a public park. Known as Reservoir Square, the land was largely unattended until funding came through for a full-scale renovation in 1870. The lot was transformed into a Victorian greensward whose allure would grow as the site became increasingly more central to city life.

During the Civil war, the Union Army held military drills in Reservoir Square. Shortly after that, in the immediate vicinity of the park, the Civil War draft riots raged, and the “Croton Cottage”, a nearby establishment offering billiards, entertainment, and refreshments to visitors of the reservoir promenades, was torched.

In 1884, Reservoir Square was renamed Bryant Park, to honor the recently deceased poet and editor, William Cullen Bryant. By the end of the century the reservoir was obsolete and slated for demolition. The city selected the site for its new public library.

In one of the early proposals for a library on the site (1891), architect Ernest Flagg drew up plans for an enormous, fantastic structure that would have extended from Fifth to Sixth Avenues, with small amounts of parkland left open on the north and south sides. The park would
Inset image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, July 8, 2018
3. Inset
“The water “is full of tadpoles and animalculae,” wrote one observer.”
not take on an individual identity until the turn of the century, and the construction of the New York Public Library.
 
Erected by Bryant Park Organization.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Parks & Recreational Areas.
 
Location. 40° 45.191′ N, 73° 59.004′ W. Marker is in New York, New York, in New York County. Marker can be reached from West 40th Street near between Fifth and Sixth Avenues when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: Bryant Park, New York NY 10018, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Buildings Overlooking Bryant Park (a few steps from this marker); American-Standard Building (within shouting distance of this marker); The Engineers Club (within shouting distance of this marker); Bryant Park Today (within shouting distance of this marker); Monuments in Bryant Park (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Early Bryant Park (about 300 feet away); Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain (about 400 feet away); Benito Juarez (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in New York.
 
Also see . . .  Croton Distributing Reservoir. Wikipedia entry. (Submitted on August 13, 2020, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York.) 
 
Additional comments.
Inset image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, July 8, 2018
4. Inset
“Fifth Avenue looking south with a view of the reservoir’s pedestrian promenades.”
1.
The denouement of Caleb Carr's novel, The Alienist, takes place atop the reservoir.
    — Submitted August 13, 2020, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York.
 
1850s lithograph showing the Croton Reservoir and The Crystal Palace image. Click for full size.
By Unknown, unknown
5. 1850s lithograph showing the Croton Reservoir and The Crystal Palace
A remnant of the reservoir in the foundation of the South Court of the New York Public Library. image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, April 22, 2016
6. A remnant of the reservoir in the foundation of the South Court of the New York Public Library.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on August 13, 2020. It was originally submitted on August 13, 2020, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. This page has been viewed 73 times since then and 4 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on August 13, 2020, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York.
 
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Mar. 8, 2021