Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bryant Park's 1934 Moses Renovation

This post also appears on the Bryant Park Blog.

Over the years, Bryant Park has undergone numerous physical transformations. Some temporary, such as Citi Pond at Bryant Park -- which, to the delight of ice skaters, opened last Friday, October 29 -- and others more permanent, such as the 1934 renovation of the park headed by then Parks Commissioner Robert Moses.

Assisted by consulting architect Aymar Embury II, and landscape architect Gilmore D. Clarke, Moses transformed the grounds of Bryant Park from a Victorian greensward to a French Classical landscape very similar to today’s design.

Bryant Park, circa 1930
Before Moses set to work, Bryant Park was laced with winding paths, broken up by small clumps of trees, and lined with wood and cast iron benches, common elements in Victorian Era landscaping. The paths encouraged park visitors to meander, while the trees provided shade as well as an air of mystery to what lay directly ahead on the path. The benches supplied a bit of ornamentation as well as seating for patrons.

As part of the Moses Renovation, the Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain was moved from the east end of the park, directly in front of the William Cullen Bryant monument, to the west end at 41st Street and 6th Avenue, where it sits today on what we call the Fountain Terrace. 

Construction in Bryant Park, May 1934, before the fountain was moved to its present location. Prior to 1934, it was located on the east end of the park, just behind the New York Public Library. Photo: NYC Parks Department

Taken in June 1934, this photo shows the present location of the Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain on the west side of the park. Photo: NYC Parks Department
An expansive lawn was added in the center of the park space. London Plane trees were planted along allĂ©es lining two sides of the lawn’s perimeter, which was also bordered by a stone balustrade.

The park re-opened to the public on September 14, 1934.

Mid-1930s postcard showing the park after the Moses Renovation.
To learn more about Bryant Park’s history, before and after the Moses Renovation, click here.

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