10. Bryant Park (1847)

Bryant Park was opened the same year as Madison Square Park in 1847 as Reservoir Square but the area was first designated a public space in 1686 by New York’s colonial governor, Thomas Dongan when the area was still a wilderness. Beginning in 1823, the site was designated a graveyard for the poor until 1840, when thousands of bodies were moved to Wards Island. The square was also used for military drills during the American Civil War.

In 1884, the park was renamed after William Cullen Bryant, the editor of the New York Evening Post, who crusaded through the 1840s for the creation of Central Park. Located between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and between 40th and 42nd Streets in Midtown Manhattan, Bryant Park is managed by the private organization Bryant Park Corporation. Bryant Park is located entirely over an underground structure that houses the New York Public Library‘s stacks, which were built in the 1980s.

By the 1970s, Bryant Park had a high crime rate as it was highly populated by drug dealers, prostitutes and the homeless. The Bryant Park Restoration Corporation was founded in 1980 to improve the conditions and rebuild the park. The park was reopened in 1992 to critical acclaim. Today, numerous community programs are hosted by Bryant Park and it is recognized as one of the signature examples of New York City’s revival in the 1990s.

Next, discover several of these downtown parks on our next tour of the Remnants of Dutch New Amsterdam and our Underground Tour of the NYC Subway.