The Pastoral In Our Neighborhood: Madison Square Park and Union Square Park

It is interesting to reflect on the history of our own Baruch College campus, and what the neighborhood was like for those first scholars who made their way to school each day. Whether by foot or horse-car they would pass a neighborhood just beginning to come alive with houses, stores and parks.

Omnibus in Madison Square. ca. 1875 Museum of the City of New York

Omnibus in Madison Square, ca. 1875. Museum of the City of New York

The park closest to the college was Madison Square Park, which opened three days after the Free Academy, on May 10th, 1847. The site where it sits, 23rd to 26th streets between Fifth and Madison Avenues had been a potter’s field, a parade ground and a House of Refuge for delinquent boys and girls, before it was transformed into a park.

Public Squares, Parks, and Places in the City of New York, 1852. New York Public Library

Public Squares, Parks and Places in the City of New York, 1852. New York Public Library

Also within walking distance of the college was Union Square Park, eight blocks south of Madison Square. Union Square Park was not known for its pastoral settings, but instead for its early roots as a location where protests, demonstrations and celebrations could take place. Tracing its history to 1815, when it became a public commons, it has played an important role in New York City history.

Union Park, NY (East Side), date 1801-1886. New York Public Library

Union Park, New York (East Side) Date 1801-1886. New York Public Library

To fully explore the history of these two iconic New York City parks, please see our new on-line exhibit at the following link:

Online Exhibits