Madison Square in New York City

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Madison Square is formed by the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway at 23rd Street in the New York City borough of Manhattan. The square was named for James Madison, fourth President of the United States and the principal author of the United States Constitution.

The focus of the square is Madison Square Park, a 6.2 acre (2.5 hectare) public park, which is bounded on the east by Madison Avenue (which starts at the park's southeast corner at 23rd Street); on the south by 23rd Street; on the north by 26th Street; and on the west by Fifth Avenue and Broadway as they cross.

The park and the square are at the northern (uptown) end of the Flatiron District neighborhood of Manhattan. The use of "Madison Square" as a name for the neighborhood has fallen off, and it is rarely heard. The neighborhood to the north and west of the park is NoMad ("NOrth of MADison Square Park") and to the north and east is Rose Hill.

Madison Square is probably best known around the world for providing the name of Madison Square Garden, a sports arena and its successor which were located just northeast of the park for 47 years, until 1925. The current Madison Square Garden, the fourth such building, is not in the area. Notable buildings around Madison Square include the Flatiron Building, the Toy Center, the New York Life Building, the New York Merchandise Mart, the Appellate Division Courthouse, the Met Life Tower, and One Madison Park, a new 50-story condominium tower.

Madison Square can be reached on the New York City Subway using local service on the BMT Broadway Line ( trains) at the 23rd Street station. In addition, local stops on the IRT Lexington Avenue Line ( trains) and IND Sixth Avenue Line ( trains) are one block away at Park Avenue South and Sixth Avenue, respectively.

Early New York

The area where Madison Square is now had been a swampy hunting ground, and first came into use as a public space in 1686. It was a Potter's Field in the 1700s. In 1807, "The Parade", a tract of about 240 acres (97.12 hectares) from 23rd to 34th Streets and Third to Seventh Avenues, was set aside for use as an arsenal, a barracks, and a drilling area. There was a United States Army arsenal there from 1811 until 1825 when it became the New York House of Refuge for the Society for the Protection of Juvenile Delinquents, for children under sixteen committed by the courts for indefinite periods. In 1839 the building was destroyed by fire. The city's Parks Department designated the area immediately around the monument as a parklet called General Worth Square.

Worth's monument was one of the first to be erected in a city park since the statue of George III was removed from Bowling Green in 1776, and is the only monument in the city except for Grant's Tomb that doubles as a mausoleum.


With the commercialization of the neighborhood, elite residents moved further uptown, away from Madison Square, enabling more restaurants, theatres and clubs to open up in the neighborhood, creating an entertainment district, albeit an upscale one where society balls and banquets were held in restaurants such as Delmonico's. Nearby, huge dry-goods emporia such as Siegel-Cooper in the Ladies' Mile district brought daytime crowds of shoppers. No longer primarily residential, Madison Square was still a thriving area.

Madison Square Park was relandscaped in 1870 by William Grant and Ignatz Pilat, a former assistant to Frederick Law Olmstead. The new design brought in the sculptures that now reside in the park. One notable sculpture is the seated bronze portrait of Secretary of State William H. Seward, by Randolph Rogers (1876), which sits at the southwest entrance to the park. Seward, who is best remembered for purchasing Alaska ("Seward's Folly") from Russia, was the first New Yorker to have a monument erected in his honor.

Other statues in the park depict Roscoe Conkling, who served in Congress in both the House and the Senate, and who collapsed at that spot in the park while walking home from his office during the Blizzard of 1888, after refusing to pay a cab $50 for the ride; Chester Alan Arthur, the twenty-first President of the United States; and Admiral David Farragut, who is supposed to have said "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" in the Battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War. The Farragut Memorial (1881), which was first erected at Fifth Avenue and 26th Street and moved to the Square's northern end in 1935, was designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens (sculpture) and architect Stanford White (base). Other park highlights are an ornamental fountain added in 1867 and the Eternal Light Flagpole, dedicated on Armistice Day 1923 and restored in 2002, which commemorates the return of American soldiers and sailors from World War I.

Madison Square continued to be a focus of public activities for the city. In the 1870s, developer Amos Eno's Cumberland apartment building, which stood on 22nd Street where the Flatiron Building would eventually be built, had four-stories of its back wall facing Madison Square, so Eno rented it out to advertisers, including the New York Times, who installed a sign made up of electric lights. Eno later put a canvas screen on the wall, and projected images on it from a magic lantern on top of one of his smaller buildings on the lot, presenting both advertisements and interesting pictures in alternation. Both the Times and the New York Tribune began using the screen for news bulletins, and on election nights crowds of tens of thousands of people would gather in Madison Square, waiting for the latest results.

In 1876 a large celebration was held in Madison Square Park to honor the centennial of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and from 1876 to 1882, the torch and arm of the Statue of Liberty were exhibited in the park in an effort to raise funds for the building of the base of the statue.

Madison Square was the site of some of the first electric street lighting in the city. In 1879 the city authorized the Brush Electric Light Company to build a generating station at 25th Street, powered by steam, that provided electricity for a series of arc lights which were installed on Broadway between Union Square (at 14th Street) and Madison Square. The lights were illuminated on 20 December 1880. A year later, 160 ft "sun towers" with clusters of arc lights were erected in Union and Madison Squares.

The building that replaced it was a Beaux-Arts structure designed by the noted architect Stanford White. White kept an apartment in the building, and was shot dead in the Garden's rooftop restaurant by millionaire Harry K. Thaw over an affair White had with Thaw's wife, the well-known actress Evelyn Nesbit, who White seduced when she was 16. The resulting sensational press coverage of the scandal caused Thaw's trial to be one of the first Trials of the Century.

Madison Square became known as "Diana's little wooded park" after the huge bronze statue of the Roman goddess Diana by Augustus Saint-Gaudens that stood atop the 32-story tower of White's arena – at the time it was the second-tallest building in the city.

The Garden hosted the annual French Ball, both the Barnum and the Ringling Brothers circuses, orchestral performances, light operas and romantic comedies, and the 1924 Democratic National Convention, which nominated John W. Davis after 103 ballots, but it was never a financial success. Down the block to the west, on the southeast corner of Broadway and 23rd Street, with the address of 5 East 22nd Street, is the Madison Green condominium apartment tower. While not architecturally notable, the building is significant as one of the first signs that the area was rebounding. The 31-story building was first announced in the mid-1970s, but was not constructed until 1982. On the other side of the Flatiron Building from Madison Green, at the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street, is Henry J. Hardenbergh's Western Union Telegraph Building, one of the first commercial buildings in the area. It was completed in 1884, the same year his Dakota Apartment Building was finished.

See also

  • 23 skidoo
  • Flatiron Building
  • Flatiron District
  • Madison Square Park Conservancy
  • Madison Square North Historic District
  • Met Life Tower
  • NoMad
  • Rose Hill, Manhattan
  • Berman, Mirian, Madison Square: The Park and Its Celebrated Landmarks. (2001)
  • Mendelsohn, Joyce. "Madison Square" in , p. 711-712
  • Patterson, Jerry E. Fifth Avenue: The Best Address (1998)

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