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British Garden at Hanover Square

Hanover Square

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

The land in and around this park has been used continuously since at least 1637 when it was part of a public street and fronted directly on the East River. By 1730 this area was known as Hanover Square in tribute to the House of Hanover which had acceded to the English throne in the person of George I in 1714. For much of the 18th century, Hanover Square was the center of New York's printing trade and retail business. Local shops sold imported books, clothing, glassware, hardware, and furniture, as well as wine, tobacco, and tea. The Bank of New York moved its headquarters to the square in 1787.

In 1794 the Common Council changed the names of several city streets to reflect the young republic's independence. Hanover Square and Hanover Street were to be incorporated into Pearl Street, but the changes were never enforced, and the names remained intact. An article in an 1815 issue of the Columbian reported that heavy demolition and construction in Hanover Square Apromise much amendment in the convenience and beauty of this city, not unworthy of a growing metropolis, rapidly resuming the first rank in commercial activity and importance in the United States. That year the site of this park was acquired by the City of New York for street purposes.

The Great Fire of 1835 destroyed almost all of the buildings in the area. In time, the area was rebuilt as a commercial and financial center, which it remains to this day. The landmarked India House building (originally the Hanover Bank) is the only surviving example of the many Italianate banks erected in the financial district in the 1850s. Other historic buildings around Hanover Square include 1 Williams Street and 1 Wall Street Court, both built in the first decade of the 20th century. Numbers 3, 5, 7, 10, and 11 Hanover Square are examples of more recent downtown development.

The small triangular parcel known as Hanover Square Park did not receive park jurisdiction until 1952, when it was developed as a sitting area. In the late 1970s the park was thoroughly reconstructed and replanted as part of an overall redevelopment of nearby private commercial properties. The improvements provided new benches, paving, curbs, and hedges and small trees in planters.

In addition to recognizing the completed renovations, the 1979 rededication of the park also celebrated the installation of the over life-size portrait statue of Abraham De Peyster. Born in New Amsterdam, De Peyster (1657-1728) was one of the city's wealthiest merchants. He held almost all of the important offices in the city and colony, including alderman, mayor, member of the king's council, and acting governor. His descendant John Watts De Peyster commissioned sculptor George Edwin Bissell to design the monument, which was dedicated in Bowling Green in 1896. The bronze statue was removed from its original location in 1972 and moved to a new pedestal in Hanover Square Park four years later. In 1999 the sculpture was restored by the City Parks Foundation Monuments Conservation Program. From his lofty perch, the lustrous and illustrious Dutchman surveys the hustle of the Financial District.

The Abraham De Peyster sculpture has been removed from the park to accommodate the redesign of Hanover Square as the British Memorial Garden. It has been temporarily placed in storage until a new location has been determined for its reinstallation.

Updated Apr. 09, 2007

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