Photo by LARRY WOODCOCK
Union Square in Manhattan is a neighborhood that when most people are here, they immediately think of the Marketplace that is open year round, four days a week.
The now-famous Union Square Greenmarket began with just a few farmers in 1976 and has now grown to include over 140 farmers with bakers and fishermen from as many as five different states.
But, it is much more then that. It is a historical landmark, a popular meeting place, and also serves as an important intersection for the 14th Street subway line and Broadway.
Its name is not derived from labor or federal unions, but denotes a union of two principle thoroughfares of Manhattan.
Union Square and the surrounding streets in the 1830’s was an affluent community with high priced homes and notable merchants like Tiffany & Co.
Originally, a fountain was built in the center to receive water from the Croton Aqueduct in 1842. Now, it is famous for its equestrian statue of president George Washington. The statue was unveiled in 1856 and was the first American equestrian sculpture cast in bronze.
The square includes several other statues including one of President Abraham Lincoln. It became a national historic landmark and added to the Register of Pistoric places in December of 1997.
“Sweet fourteen,” also known as Engine 14, sits at 14 East 18th Street between 5th Avenue and Broadway. It is another example of a turn of the century firehouse with its architecture, which is no longer seen today.
Built in 1894, it was one of legendary fire department Architect Napoleon Lebrun’s last 42 designs. Much less ornate then his previous firehouses, it was modeled to resemble a town house to fit in with the neighborhood style.
Nonetheless, it is a reminder of a long forgotten era of beauty and style that is no longer captured in an era of modern and contemporary design. The city’s first theater district known as the Rialto was located in and around Union Square in the late 1800’ s, but over time, the theater district moved to its current location due to cheaper rents and larger real estate.
Union Square has seen its share of demonstrations over the years including the first Labor Day celebration in the United States on September 5, 1882. It has also been a gathering point for many political rallies and radicals either making speeches or demonstrations.
The park itself opened in July of 1839 and later in 1929 was demolished to make way for an underground concourse for the subway. Alterations made in the 30’s and then major renovations in the 80’s returned the park to its current look.
Gramercy Park, located on 20th and 21st Streets between Park and Third Avenues, is part of the Gramercy Park Historic District. The small fenced-in park is the only private park in New York City. Only people living around the park have a key for access, which they pay an annual fee for.
In the center of the park is a statue of one of the areas most famous residents, Edwin Booth. Booth was one of the great Shakespearean actors of the 19th century and was the brother of John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln.
In September of 1966, the neighborhood was designated a historic district and added to the U.S. Register of Historic Places mainly for its wide array of architecture and pristine aesthetics that date back to 1844.
Besides a beautiful firehouse, there is a beautiful neighborhood with many historic sites and architecture. Engine 14 is one of the original companies in the long storied history of the FDNY. This house was organized on October 6, 1865, with this location being their only home.
That firehouse was replaced and rebuilt by the current one in 1894. The company has had eight line of duty deaths in their history.