Who was Andrew Haswell Green? Say hello to “the most important leader in Gotham’s long history.”

PODCAST EPISODE 300Andrew Haswell Green helped build Central Park and much of upper Manhattan, oversaw the formation of the New York Public Library, assisted in the foundation of great institutions such as the American Museum of Natural History and the Bronx Zoo, and even organized the city’s first significant historical preservation group, saving New York City Hall from demolition.

This smart, frugal and unassuming bachelor, an attorney and financial whiz, was critical in taking down William Tweed and the Tweed Ring during the early 1870s, helping to bail out a financially strapped government.

But Green’s greatest achievement — championing the consolidation of the cities of New York and Brooklyn with communities in Richmond County (Staten Island), Westchester County (the Bronx) and Queens County (Queens) — would create the City of Greater New York, just in time for the dawn of the 20th century.

Kenneth T. Jackson, editor of the Encyclopedia of New York, called Green “arguably the most important leader in Gotham’s long history, more important than Peter Stuyvesant, Alexander Hamilton, Frederick Law Olmsted, Robert Moses and Fiorello La Guardia.”

So why is he virtually forgotten today?

“Today not one New York in 10,000 has heard of Andrew Haswell Green,” wrote the New York Daily News in 2003.

In our 300th episode, we’re delighted to bring you the story of Mr. Green, a public servant who worked to improve the city for over five decades. And we’ll be joined by an ardent Green advocate — former Manhattan Borough Historian Michael Miscione.

LISTEN NOW — THE FORGOTTEN FATHER OF NEW YORK CITY

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Andrew H. Green sits for a family photo, 1873. He would remain a bachelor his entire life.

Martin Green, Mary Ruggles Green Knudsen, Andrew Haswell Green, Julia E. Green, Dr. Samuel F. Green — courtesy Museum of the City of New York

The Greensward plan, by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, was chosen as the winning design for the new ‘central park’ in 1857

New York Public Library

From the late 1870s, the solitary American Museum of Natural History building sits on the spot of Manhattan Square (land just to the west of Central Park granted to Green and the Central Park Commission).

Green in a couple 1870s political cartoon, lampooning his honesty and austerity — in comparison to Boss Tweed and his Tammany Hall cronies.

New York Public Library

“Not a dollar, not a cent, is got from under his paw that is not wet with his blood and sweat.” — Olmstead on Green’s legendary money-managing reputation.

New York Public Library

Green, the ardent salesman of a consolidated metropolis.

Green on the island that was named for him near Niagara Falls in 1898. He chaired the Niagara Falls State Reservation Commission for decades, helping to create the park and preserve the falls.

Andrew Haswell Green’s funeral procession leaving Brick Presbyterian Church, 1903

Museum of the City of New York

Temporary statue of Green created for the city’s Golden Jubilee celebration in 1948, marking the 50-year anniversary of the consolidated city. The men are sculptor Karl Gruppe and NYC Mayor William O’Dwyer.

Michael Miscione

Michael Miscione, Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Mike Wallace, and MCNY President Robert Macdonald (left to right) planting five new symbolic trees — representing the boroughs — at the AHG Memorial Bench in Central park in 1998 to replace the original ones that had died decades years earlier.

Michael Miscione

Tom and Greg with Michael Miscione at the Andrew Haswell Green Bench.

Courtesy Michael Miscione

FURTHER LISTENING:

So many of our past 299 shows touch upon landmarks and institutions mentioned in the show, but start with these five:

Andrew Haswell Green and Dorothy Catherine Draper courted for just a few months and both would remain unmarried for their entire lives. Yet both are critical figures in American history:

The Consolidation of Greater New York was Green’s grand vision, conceived of during his years on the Central Park Commission.

From way, way back in our back catalog, a two part show on the history of Central Park:

The Bronx Is Born: The magnificent idea of consolidation was conceived from Green’s ideas of expansion into Westchester County, into districts that would become known as the Annexed District

FURTHER READING:

The American Museum of Natural History and How It Got That Way by Colin Davey

The Life and Public Services of Andrew Haswell Green by John Foord

The Greater New York Charter by Andrew Haswell Green

Capital City: New York City and the Men Behind America’s Rise to Economic Dominance, 1860-1900 by Thomas Kessner

The Once and Future New York: Historic Preservation and the Modern City by Randall Mason

Two Centuries of American Planning by Daniel Schaffer

The Father of Greater New York: Official Report of the Presentation to Andrew Haswell Green of a Gold Medal Commemorating the Creation of the Greater City of New York: with a Brief Biographical Sketch

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