Gilded Age New York Parks and Recreation Podcasts Skyscrapers

It Happened at Madison Square Park: The Heart of New York During the Gilded Age

So much has happened in and around Madison Square Park — the leafy retreat at the intersections of Broadway, Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street — that telling its entire story requires an extra-sized show, in honor of the Bowery Boys 425th episode.

Madison Square Park was the epicenter of New York culture from the years following the Civil War to early 20th century. The park was really at the heart of Gilded Age New York, whether you were rushing to an upscale restaurant like Delmonico’s or a night of the theater or maybe just an evening at one of New York’s most luxurious hotels like the Fifth Avenue Hotel or the Hoffman House.

The park is surrounded by some of New York’s most renown architecture, from the famous Flatiron Building to the Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower, once the tallest building in the world.

The square also lends its name, of course, to one of the most famous sports and performing venues in the world – Madison Square Garden. Its origins begin at the northeast corner of the park on the spot of a former railroad depot and near the spot of the birthplace of an American institution — baseball.

The park introduced New Yorkers to the Statue of Liberty … or at least her forearm and torch. It stood silently over the bustling park while prize-winning dogs were championed at the very first Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show nearby, held at Gilmore’s Gardens, the precursor to Madison Square Garden.

Today the region north of the park is referred to as NoMad, which recalls life around Madison Square during the Gilded Age with its high-end restaurant and hotel scene.

Tom and Greg invite you on this time-traveling escapade covering over 200 years of history. From the days of rustic creeks and cottages to the long lines at the Shake Shake. From Franconi’s Hippodrome to the dazzling colonge fountains of Leonard Jerome (Winston Churcill’s grandfather).


This episode’s title pays homage to one of favorite books about park history — It Happened On Washington Square by Emily Kies Folpe.

Madison Cottage, courtesy NYPL
Franconi’s Hippodrome, 1853, courtesy NYPL
Dedication of the Worth Monument in 1857. In the background you can see the development of the surrounding area
Leonard Jerome….
… and the Jerome Mansion. In the distance is the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church.
The former Gilmore’s Gardens, renamed Madison Square Garden
Rain on Madison Square, painting by Paul Cornoyer
Courtesy NYPL
Madison Square 1936 , photo by Berenice Abbott
Northern pool in Madison Square Park. Photo by Greg Young
Looking down at the Metropolitan Life Tower and the Flatiron Building. Photo by Greg Young
The park features a tree from James Madison’s Virginia plantation.


A Block in Time: A New York City History at the Corner of Fifth Avenue and Twenty-Third Street / Christiane Bird
The Flatiron: The New York Landmark and the Incomparable City That Arose with It / Alice Sparberg Alexiou
The Grandest Madison Square Garden: Art, Scandal, and Architecture in Gilded Age New York / Suzanne Hinman
Incredible New York: High Life and Low Life from 1850 to 1950 / Lloyd Morris
Liberty’s Torch: The Great Adventure to Build the Statue of Liberty / Elizabeth Mitchell
Madison Square: The Park and Its Celebrated Landmarks / Miriam Berman
Madison Square Garden, 100 Years of History / Joseph Durso


Worth Square: Madison Square’s cemetery for one
Madison Square Snow Show: The first-ever film of a New York City blizzard
The Fifth Avenue Hotel: Opulence, glamour and power on Madison Square
When the Statue of Liberty left her arm in Madison Square
The Arches of Madison Square Park
The lights of Madison Square: A Christmas tree at night
Let’s go see the horses at Madison Square Garden!


1 reply on “It Happened at Madison Square Park: The Heart of New York During the Gilded Age”

I really loved this episode, which makes sense as I usually have a preference for stories about specific places in New York. Plus Sidestreets completed the experience about the area around Madison Sq. Park.

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