Rutherford Pl. To N D Perlman Pl., E 15 St. To E 17 St.
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In 1836 Peter Gerard Stuyvesant (1778-1847) and his wife Helen Rutherford reserved four acres of the family farm and sold it for five dollars to the City of New York as a public park. This remarkable gift may have been the most ambitious gesture of Peter Gerard Stuyvesant, the co-founder of the New York Historical Society and one of the richest men in America at his time. A public park in a rapidly expanding city was a priceless amenity. The creation of Stuyvesant Square was the catalyst to the development of an exceptional district within which Stuyvesant’s spirit still thrives.
Stuyvesant Square, originally to be called Holland Square, remained vacant until a 1839 lawsuit by Stuyvesant encouraged the development of the valuable land. Not until 1847 did the City begin to improve the park and erect the magnificent cast iron fence (which still stands as the oldest in New York City). In 1850 the landscape (including two fountains) was complete, and the park opened to the public. The opening of St. George’s Church (to the northwest) in 1856 and the Friends Meeting House (to the southwest) in 1861, attracted more residents to the area around the park. In the latter part of the 19th century, Stuyvesant Square was known as an elegant and engaging neighborhood park.
Stuyvesant Square, like so many other city parks, was extensively rehabilitated during the 1930s. The 19th-century plan was modified by landscape architect Gilmore D. Clarke, and comfort stations and other amenities were built. The park reopened in 1937, looking much as it does today. Further restoration efforts in 1982 addressed the reconstruction of the two 1884 fountains, the preservation of the cast iron fence, and the recreation of the original bluestone sidewalks. Much of the initial vegetation was restored, including lawns, shrubs and flower beds. A few specimens of the original trees, Old English Elm and Little Leaf Linden, still flourish.
Further contributions to the park have included the monuments of Director General (Governor) Peter Stuyvesant (1592-1672) and, more recently, Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904). In 1997 Ivan Mestorvic’s 1963 tribute to Antonin Dvorak, the renowned composer and director of the National Conservatory of Music of America, was relocated from the roof of Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall to the northeast corner of Stuyvesant Square. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s statue of Peter Stuyvesant, ancestor of visionary Peter Gerard Stuyvesant, was unveiled in 1941. The statue represents the spirit of a great leader, the last governor-general of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam. The park preserves the legacy of both men of the Stuyvesant family.