The name Andrew Haswell Green (1820-1903) is unfamiliar to most New Yorkers, yet he was extremely important to the history of both Central Park and New York City. The Greens of “Green Hill” were among the most prominent families in Worcester, Massachusetts, tracing their ancestry back to Thomas Green, who came to America in 1651. Andrew Green moved to New York in 1835. He was admitted to the bar in 1844 and practiced law with his mentor, Samuel Tilden (1814-1886), who became Governor of New York in 1874 and the Democratic presidential candidate in 1876, losing to Rutherford B. Hayes (1822-1893).
Green spent most of his life in public office. He was a member of Central Park’s Board of Commissioners during its existence from 1857 to 1871, where he served as president and comptroller. He also served from 1855 for six years on the Board of Education (three as president); and in 1871 he was appointed New York City Comptroller during an emergency precipitated by a fiscal crisis.
During the years that Central Park was under construction (1857-1873), Green had serious disagreements with its designers, Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) and Calvert Vaux (1824-1895), over fiscal and political matters concerning the Park. Nevertheless, it was Green who saw the brilliance of the Greensward Plan (Olmsted and Vaux’s name for their award-winning design for Central Park) when other commissioners were willing to dismiss it. It is because of Green’s support and protection of the Greensward Plan that so much of Central Park is true to its original design. In January 1858, he was the first commissioner to offer a resolution to extend the Park from 106th, its original northern boundary, to 110th Street.
Green also played an important role in the formation of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, the Central Park Menagerie (the Zoo), and the New York Public Library. In 1868 he recommended that the many unincorporated areas and municipalities of southern Westchester (the Bronx), Kings, Queens, and Richmond (Staten Island) counties be consolidated with Manhattan to form the five boroughs of a greater New York City. After making repeated requests to the legislature, his vision was realized when, as president of the Consolidation Inquiry Committee, he helped draft the Consolidation Law in 1895, which was enacted in 1897 and took effect on January 1, 1898.
On November 13, 1903, Green was fatally shot while entering his house on Park Avenue and 40th Street by a man who mistook him for someone else. On May 11, 1929, a bench in Central Park was dedicated to Andrew Haswell Green, the “Father of New York City.” Five trees representing the five boroughs of New York were planted next to it. The bench was originally placed on the site of Mount St. Vincent’s Academy, on the East Drive at 104th Street. When the composting operation was created in the early 1980s, the bench was moved to the site of Fort Fish, at East 106th Street, a fortification during the American Revolution and the War of 1812, and now a knoll overlooking the woodland ravine in Central Park
Andrew Haswell Green Details
- Sculptor: John V. & M.V. Van Pelt
- Description: Memorial seat
- Materials: Tennessee pink marble
- Dimensions: H: 4'11" W: 12'5" D: 2'7"
- Dedicated: 1928
- Donor: Gift
- Inscription: 1820 IN HONOR OF ANDREW HASWELL GREEN 1903/DIRECTING GENIUS OF
CENTRAL PARK IN ITS FORMATIVE PERIOD / FATHER OF GREATER NEW YORK,
THIS EMINENCE WAS/NAMED H. GREEN HILL / THESE FIVE SYMBOLICAL TREES
WERE PLANTED / AND THIS SEAT WAS ERECTED
ORIGINALLY AT E. SIDE OF EAST DRIVE, MOVED C. 1976 TO W. SIDE OF
EAST DRIVE AT 104TH ST.
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