January 2004 - Capital Project of the Month
ABINGDON SQUARE PARK
Designer: George Vellonakis
Specifications: Susan Coker
Electrical: Gary Aime
Structural: Reza Mashayekhi
Mechanical: Avinash Patel
LOCATION: Abingdon Square Park , a .222 acre triangular park is in Manhattan , bounded by Eighth Avenue , Bank, Hudson and West 12 th Streets.
SURROUNDING LAND USE: Abingdon Square Park lies on the Western and Northern edges of Greenwich Village , in the midst of a mixed-use residential and commercial area of low and mid-rise apartment buildings, brownstones, storefront boutiques, restaurants and grocery stores.
SITE HISTORYAbingdon Square Park shares its lineage with some of Greenwich Village 's earliest European landowners and social figures. One prominent New York landowner, Sir Peter Warren, began his careeer in the British Navy as a volunteer in 1717 and rose to the rank of vice-admiral after an impressive tour of duty in such locales as the African coast, the Baltic Sea , the West Indies , and North America , where he fought in the French and Indian War. By 1744, he had returned to New York and purchased a three hundred acre farm in the area known as Greenwich . Warren estate, as the property came to be known, extended north along the Hudson river from what is now Christopher Street to about West 12 th street, and was bounded on the east by Minetta Brook and Bowery Lane (now Broadway). Sir Peter and his wife Susannah De Lanky lived in a manor house with a large formal garden in the area now bounded by west 4 th , Bleeker, Charles, and Perry Streets.
Their eldest daughter Charlotte married Willoughby Bertie, the Fourth Earl of Abingdon, and a share of Warren estate was part of her dowry. Her portion included the land that came to be known as Abingdon Square . In 1794, the New York City Council changed most British names and designations of streets and parks in order to reflect American independence. Nonetheless, the name of Abingdon Square was preserved, because the Earl and his wife had sympathized with the American patriots, and he had argued in Parliament against British policy in the colonies.
The Goodrich Plan of Manhattan drawn in 1872 depicts Abingdon Square as a trapezoidal parcel between Eight Avenue and Bank, Hudson, and Troy (later West 12 th ) Streets. On March 4, 1831 , the Common Council resolved that the grounds of Abingdon Square should be "enclose as a public park" and appropriated $3000 "for the expense thereof." The City acquired the parcel on April 22 and enclosed it with a cast iron fence in 1836. About fifty years later, Mayor Abram S. Hewitt promoted a citywide effort to improve public access to green spaces. Parks superintendent Samuel Parsons Jr. and consulting architect Calvert Vaux collaborated on a new design for Abingdon Square . The iron gatepost at the West 12 th Street entrance may have been introduced at that time. "Abingdon Square has been so long crowned with fine trees that a winding walkway ending in a little plaza, and bordered by a few shrubs and little bedding was all that could be satisfactorily done," wrote Parsons in 1892, "shrubs and flowers would not thrive in such deep shade."
Nonetheless, school children planted a garden plot at Abingdon Square Park in 1913 and "took entire charge of the garden, raising the flower from seed." In 1921, twenty thousand spectators gathered in and around the small park to hear former and future Governor Alfred E. Smith present the Abingdon Square Memorial (also known as the Abingdon Doughboy) in memory of local men who fought in World War I. Created by sculptor Philip Martiny, this monument was restored by Parks' monument crew in 1993. The flagstaff was dedicated by the Private Michael J. Lynch Post No. 831 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in 1933.
In 1988-89 the West Village Committee raised funds for the restoration of the perimeter fence and the pruning of the park's Image of Abingdon Square Circa 1980London Plane Trees. Volunteer from the community planted and maintained three garden plots, which include shrubs, perennials, and a cherry tree. In the intersection to the south of Abingdon Square formerly stood an octagonal bandstand and comfort station, which was removed to make room for Bleecker Playground (once known as New Abingdon Square ).
PURPOSEThe purpose of the Reconstruction of Abingdon Square Park is to reconstruct this important historic park with a design sympathetic to its location in the Greenwich Village Historic District.
The design intent for Abingdon Square Park is to preserve, restore and reconstruct a gardenesque park setting, that will emphasize the important park features and reflect the Greenwich Village Historic District. The design will preserve the 1836 perimeter cast iron fence and circa 1890's entry posts. The design will include other historic 19 th century park features, including items such as benches, post and chain, gravel walkways edged with bluestone curbs, and cast iron light poles to restore the park's historic integrity.
The southern tip will be redesigned using the World War I Memorial as a beacon to the park. In addition, this design will provide a renewed sense of place and will introduce a new entrance to the park. The historic perimeter fence and 12" granite curb will be restored and replicated along Hudson Street to expand the park. Ornate entrance posts and gates will provide elegant gateways leading to graceful sweeping paths with benches. The central contoured lawn will become a prominent feature with the addition of a new granite fountain. These park features and ornamental plantings will create a special place for both local residents and all New Yorkers.