Sources conflict as to how this triangular parcel at Broadway, Columbus Avenue, and West 63rd Street became parkland. It may have been acquired from John A. Bunting in 1852, or it may have been acquired as a public place by condemnation in 1868. For many years the site and the parcel to its north were both considered part of Empire Park. The two parcels were eventually separated into two parks. The north portion of Empire Park became Richard Tucker Triangle, and in 1921 the south portion of Empire Park was officially renamed by the Board of Aldermen for Italian poet Dante Alighieri (1265-1321).
Italy's greatest poet, Dante Alighieri was born to a noble Florentine family. After the death of his beloved Beatrice in 1290, he immersed himself in the study of philosophy and Provençal poetry. In 1302 Dante was banished from Florence for his political views and became a citizen of Italy. While in exile, he composed The Divine Comedy, the first vernacular poetic masterpiece. It tells the tale of the poet's journey from Hell to Heaven, presenting a changeless universe ordered by God. Through The Divine Comedy and his many other works, Dante established Tuscan as the literary language of Italy and gave rise to a great body of literature.
The New York branch of the Dante Alighieri Society had intended to erect a Dante monument on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Italian unification in 1912. Carlo Barsotti, editor of Il Progresso (the first Italian daily newspaper in the United States), urged subscribers to contribute towards the creation the statue. He had already raised funds for four other New York City monuments honoring Italians: Giuseppe Garibaldi (c. 1888) in Washington Square, Christopher Columbus (1892) in Columbus Circle, Giuseppe Verdi (1906) in Verdi Square, and Giovanni da Verrazano (1909) in Battery Park. Sculptor Ettore Ximenes, however, did not complete the statue until 1921. The monument was dedicated that year, which was the 600th anniversary of Dante's death. In the early 1990s the Radisson Empire Hotel funded the conservation and repair of the sculpture and sponsored horticultural improvements and public programs in the park.
In 1999 "TimeSculpture" by architect Philip Johnson was installed in the northern point of Dante Park. The work reinvigorates the surrounding geometries of the Lincoln Center area and updates the tradition of sidewalk pedestrian and town square clocks that dot New York City. The bronze sculpture rests on a granite base three-and-one-half feet off the ground-level with the base of the Dante monument and the Lincoln Center Plaza. Prismatic in form, "TimeSculpture" features four clock faces oriented to the west, north, and southeast. The piece was donated by Sonia and Gedalio Grinberg and placed in Dante Park with the cooperation of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and City of New York/Parks & Recreation.