Untapped New York has uncovered the secrets of a lot of the major “squares” in New York City, including Times Square, Herald Square, Union Square, and Washington Square Park, among many others. Next up is Madison Square, alongside Madison Square Park. The park, named for James Madison, the fourth president of the United States, has been an urban public place since 1686 but officially became a public park in 1847 when the area was a bustling, trendy shopping district.
On August 11 at 12 p.m., Untapped New York Insiders are invited to join our Chief Experience Officer Justin Rivers for a virtual talk, during which he will reveal the secrets of Madison Square Park. Did you know that the park was home to some of the most famous art installations in New York’s history, including the torch of Lady Liberty? Discover the story behind the monument to New York City’s first public Christmas Tree. Uncover a historic tree in the park with a special history rooted in the park’s name. Learn about the park’s role in the invention of baseball. Hear about a hidden mausoleum right next to the park which is one of only two in the whole city. The event is free for Untapped New York Insiders (and get your first month free with code JOINUS). Without further ado, here are our top 10 secrets of Madison Square.
Talk the Secrets of Madison Square Park
1. The first versions of Madison Square Garden were in the square
Today, we know that Madison Square Garden is located on the West Side of Manhattan in Pennsylvania Plaza. However, the “World’s Most Famous Arena” had its origins right here in Madison Square. The block northeast of Madison Square Park (between 26th and 27th Streets) was the site of the first and second Madison Square Gardens (there were four versions in total). Madison Square Garden originated in 1873 when P.T. Barnum started hosting his circus in an obsolete railroad depot north of Madison Square, owned by Commodore Vanderbilt. He made it the site of his “Great Roman Hippodrome” every year, and the first arena officially became a reality in 1879. In fact, the circus kept the first (and financially poor) Madison Square Garden building stable.
However, structurally speaking, the building could not stay up, and it was demolished in 1889. To avoid missing more than one show season, a second Madison Square Garden Building was built at the same location, designed by famed architect Stanford White. Workers built it around the clock so that just a year later, in 1890, the building was completed (and was the second tallest building in the city) until it was closed in 1925. The second Madison Square Garden was no stranger to notoriety, though. White actually built himself a seduction lair inside the building and was later shot to death on the roof. White’s apartment was inside the Madison Square Garden tower, making it an easy target for his murderer, Henry Thaw, who was jealous because of a love triangle. The third version of Madison Square opened in 1925 but at 49th street and 8th Avenue.