10. The many lives of Madison Cottage

Franconi's Hippodrome
Franconi’s Hippodrome. Image in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The Museum of the City of New York published an interesting piece on the evolution of Madison Cottage, which is in today’s Madison Square Park. By the 1840s, a popular roadhouse called “Madison Cottage” occupied the land that would eventually be the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street. The cottage had many functions: a post-tavern, stagecoach stop, cattle exhibition hall, and gathering place for lovers of horse racing.

In 1853, however, it was razed to pave the way for a Roman arena called “Franconi’s Hippodrome,” which featured chariot races, wild animal acts, and other circus-like performances. However, the hippodrome was extremely unsuccessful. In 1856, a huge change occurred: the circus arena was demolished and replaced by the luxurious Fifth Avenue Hotel, which had the first passenger elevators ever and whose guests were considered among the most socially elite in New York City. About fifty years later, the hotel was razed and became the home of the International Toy Center, which is now home to Eataly.

Chester A Arthur Statue Madison Square Park

Talk the Secrets of Madison Square Park

Next, read the Top 10 Secrets of Times Square NYC, The Top 15 Secrets of NYC’s Union Square, The 10 Ten Secrets of NYC’s Herald Square, and The Top 10 Secrets of Washington Square Park.