Memorial Gore

Memorial Gore

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This Williamsburg park, located at the intersection of Bushwick, Maspeth, and Metropolitan Avenues, serves as a memorial to the soldiers of this neighborhood who died in World War I.

“Gore” refers to a small triangular park. It is another piece of public park nomenclature that derives from apparel; such small parks are also called “vest pocket parks.” In the garment world, a gore is a triangular piece of material inserted into clothing (it can also apply to sails, or anything else made of fabric), to widen or change its shape. “Gore” has its origins in the Old English word “gara” meaning “corner.”

Williamsburg was once part of the Dutch town of Boswijck (or Bushwick). Captain James Kidd was a frequent visitor — he came by to see his friend Jean Meserole, the area’s first European settler — and Dutch, French, and Scandinavian farmers arrived in the late 1600s with their slaves. In 1802, Richard Woodhull, spurred by the idea of creating a residential suburb of Manhattan, began a ferry service from today’s Metropolitan Avenue to Corlear’s Hook across the East River. He purchased 13 acres of land surrounding the ferry and named the area Williamsburgh in 1810, after Colonel Jonathan Williams, the original surveyor of the site.

Although Woodhull went bankrupt one year later, Williamsburg became a viable alternative for Manhattan workers. Noah Waterbury built the neighborhood’s first distillery in 1819, and David Dunham began operating a steam ferry in 1827. Under Dunham’s direction, the village of Williamsburgh was incorporated that same year. By 1852, Williamsburgh’s population had grown to 31,000, and it was chartered as a city. The City of Brooklyn annexed Williamsburgh three years later, and dropped the “h” from its name.

The City of Brooklyn purchased this site on October 23, 1894, for $2,500, a huge sum at that time for such a small plot of land. The World War Memorial, Memorial Gore’s centerpiece, was sculpted by the Piccirilli Brothers and dedicated on December 5, 1920. The Board of Aldermen changed the name of this triangle from Woodpoint Park, named for the nearby street, to honor those who died in World War I on December 13, 1921. The fifteen-foot triangular shaft tower is topped by a marble ball, which in turn serves as a perch for bronze eagle. This ball-and-eagle design can also be seen at the Woodlawn Heights War Memorial (1925) in the Bronx.

The Piccirillis, known for their stone carving, came to New York City in 1887 from Massa, Italy, and soon distinguished themselves in the United States as experts in their field. From 1901, when Attilio Piccirilli won the commission for the Maine Monument (1913) at Central Park’s Merchants Gate, an original work, until the 1940s, the Piccirillis’ stone-carving skills figured prominently in major sculptures in New York and elsewhere. The brothers’ most famous work, the heroic statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial (1922) in Washington D.C., was enlarged from the seven-foot plaster model designed by Daniel Chester French (1850–1931) and carved out of twenty-eight five-ton blocks of Georgia marble. French reportedly considered the Piccirillis his favorite carvers. Another prominent monument executed by the Piccirillis is the Firemen’s Memorial (1912) in Riverside Park at 100th Street, in Manhattan.

Memorial Gore is a Greenstreets site. Inaugurated in 1986 and revived in 1994, Greenstreets is a program that plants trees and shrubs in formerly barren squares, triangles and traffic medians. In 1999 Mayor Giuliani funded a $20,000 renovation of Memorial Gore which added new sidewalks and pavement. A yardarm flagpole stands in the park as well and Council Member Kenneth K. Fisher is funding a $50,000 renovation to the site that will provide new play equipment with safety surfacing and new fences.

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