Van Cortlandt Park
Algernon Sydney Sullivan Fountain
This ornamental horse trough and drinking fountain honors jurist Algernon Sydney Sullivan (1826–1887). It is adjacent to the Van Cortlandt Park Golf House and Lake, and was dedicated in 1906.
Sullivan was raised in the southern Indiana River town of Madison. He attended Hanover College in Indiana and Miami University in Ohio. He returned to Madison to study law, and was admitted to the bar in 1849. Sullivan moved up river to Cincinnati, and established a law firm. He married in 1851, but his wife died that year. He subsequently married Mary Mildred Hammond, though the early years of their marriage were racked by financial strife, as Sullivan contended with large debts incurred during the economic turmoil of the Panic of 1856.
By the outbreak of the Civil War, Sullivan had moved to New York, and established a law office on William Street, near Wall Street. Though opposed to slavery and the southern cause, he defended in court the crew of the Savannah, a captured Confederate privateer. Arguing that they be accorded proper treatment as prisoners of war, Sullivan was vilified, and then imprisoned by the Federal government. Strenuous objections from prominent members of the bar and the bench won his release after six weeks, and Sullivan successfully negotiated the exchange of the Savannah’s crew.
A member of the reform wing of the Democratic Party, Sullivan helped lead the fight against the corrupt Tweed Ring, who notoriously controlled municipal government and patronage during the 1860s and early 1870s. He was made an assistant district attorney in 1870, and served with distinction for three years. In 1875 Sullivan became public administrator of New York, a position he held for ten years, which was responsible for the administration of estates. His public service during this era caused supporters to urge him to run for mayor, but he declined.
In 1873 Sullivan organized the firm of Sullivan, Kobbe & Fowler, an immediate success, in large part due to Sullivan’s legal reputation and his connections to industrial leaders. In 1879, he and one of the firm’s partners, William Nelson Cromwell (1854–1948), reorganized the firm under a new name, Sullivan & Cromwell. Though the business prospered, Sullivan dedicated much of his effort to providing free legal services to the poor, and did not himself amass great personal wealth. He continued an active public life while serving as senior partner until his death on December 4, 1887. With more than 350 attorneys, Sullivan and Cromwell is one of the most prestigious laws firms in the financial district and in the United States today.
The American Bar Association said of Sullivan that the law “was his life work and his life love as well . . . adversary and client alike felt the power of his lucid, conscientious, wise advice . . . it is fair to say that no lawyer, however great his fame, was regarded by the bench with greater confidence and esteem.” An Algernon Sydney Sullivan Memorial Committee formed and raised funds of $6,000 to commission a commemorative fountain. Frank Wallis, designer of the 1937 bathing pavilions at Riis Park, was the fountain’s architect.
The monument consists of a ten-foot high granite stele with ornamental pediments, basins on either side, as well as circular bronze relief portraits of Sullivan. These medallions were created by Jonathan Scott Hartley (1845–1912) who also crafted the statue of Swedish-American inventor John Ericsson, which stands at the north end of Battery Park, and the sculpture of Alfred the Great on the New York State Appellate Building, opposite Madison Square Park.
Prior to a restoration from 2001-2003, the monument had been repaired on several occasions. In 1934 missing bronze letters from the dedicatory inscription were recast. In 1949, all the remaining letters were removed, and the inscriptions were etched into the stone. Later the fountain ceased to function for decades, and the basins were filled with concrete. In 2001 and 2002, with support from Sullivan & Cromwell, Parks’ Citywide Monuments Conservation Program conserved and regilded the reliefs, rebuilt the fountain, cleaned and repointed all the masonry and decoration. This work was done in conjunction with a City-funded capital renovation of the lake and the adjacent landscape, completed in 2003.
Updated Apr 12, 2007
Directions to Van Cortlandt Park
Know Before You Go
There are currently 2 service interruptions affecting access within this park.
Van Cortlandt Park
Due to construction at Broadway and West 242nd Street, the entrance near the subway is closed. Please access the park at the stairway adjacent to the public comfort station (Broadway & Manhattan College Parkway). There is an accessible entrance at the end of the block. The barbecuing area at Van Cortlandt Park has temporarily been moved behind the Nature Center. For more information on the progress of this construction project, please visit our Capital Project Tracker page.
Anticipated Completion: Summer 2020
The Putnam Greenway Trail is currently closed for construction. For north-south access, runners and pedestrians can use the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail (enter at Mosholu Parkway & Van Cortlandt Park South), and bicyclists and pedestrians can use Broadway. For more information on the progress of this construction project, please visit our Capital Project Tracker page.
Anticipated Completion: Summer 2020
- NYC PARKS BREAKS GROUND ON BRAND NEW PLAYGROUND IN VAN CORTLANDT PARK
- NYC PARKS BREAKS GROUND ON NEWEST PARKS WITHOUT BORDERS PROJECT SITE—VAN CORTLANDT PARK
- SPRING BREAK: NYC PARKS’ URBAN PARK RANGERS OFFER SCHOOL RECESS FUN FOR KIDS ACROSS THE CITY
- Barbecuing Areas
- Baseball Fields
- Basketball Courts
- Bicycling and Greenways
- Bocce Courts
- Cricket Fields
- Dog-friendly Areas
- Fitness Equipment
- Football Fields
- Golf Courses
- Great Trees
- Handball Courts
- Hiking Trails
- Historic Houses
- Horseback Riding Trails
- Nature Centers
- Outdoor Pools
- Running Tracks
- Soccer Fields
- Spray Showers
- Tennis Courts
- Wi-Fi Hot Spots