When the area now known as Bryant Park was incorporated into the grid system of New York City, it was set aside as a potters field.
As the city grew and the need for fresh water increased the Croton Reservoir was completed on the site in 1842. The city’s water-supply system was “one of the greatest engineering triumphs of nineteenth-century America, and widely considered an integral part of the first supply of fresh water carried by aqueducts into the city from upstate New York.” Edgar Allan Poe was known to walk around the Reservoir when he lived in the Bronx.
Once the new and larger reservoir was built in Central Park, The Crystal Palace was built on the land in the 1850s which hosted a world’s fair-type exhibition. “Notable exhibits included mineral resources of the U.S., the newest precision steam engines, and the largest crocodile ever captured. United States President Franklin Pierce delivered a speech at the opening ceremony on July 14, 1853.”
The land, known as Reservoir Square, was used as an Union Army encampment during the Civil War.
In 1884, Reservoir Square was renamed Bryant Park to honor recently deceased Romantic poet, longtime editor of the New York Evening Post, and civic reformer, William Cullen Bryant, a statue of whom sits on the easternmost edge of the park behind the magnificent Beaux-Arts main branch of the New York Public Library which opened in 1911.
The park was most recently renovated in the late 1980s. The improvements included new entrances for increased visibility from the street, enhancements to the formal French garden design, improvements to the paths and lighting. The Bryant and Gertrude Stein monuments were renovated, and the restrooms were repaired. The park reopened in 1992.
The Bryant Park Hotel – also known as the Radiator Building – was built in 1924 by the American Radiator and Standard Sanitary Company, a heating manufacturer. The company selected Raymond Hood, one of their radiator cover designers to design the new building. The 21-story building is comprised of black bricks, which symbolize coal, and is trimmed in gold to symbolize fire. The exterior is decorated in carved allegories that depict the transformation of matter into energy. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 and was sold to the hotel’s developers in 1998. The Bryant Park Hotel opened in 2001.
While I was out and about, I came across these two pieces of public art.
The first is a statue named “Daphne” that is part of the “Doggy Bags” public art installation by Will Kurtz which uses recycled plastic shopping bags as the primary medium of the art.
Will Kurtz is a New York artist who practiced landscape architecture for 25 years before he began his sculpture practice. He has taught at a number of art schools. His work has appeared in solo and group exhibitions in venues worldwide, including New York City, Switzerland, and Thailand.
The second is a collection of ink drawings by the one-line artist known as Sir Shadow. According to his website, Sir Shadow his writing and work is called “Flowetry, which is the act of positive thinking in action.” He says, “This is my contribution towards life and my immortality. This gives me the right to live my moments in peace and harmony.” Sir Shadow says his purpose is to help others grow and glow.