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Many Layers of History at 8th Avenue and 13th Street: Jackson Square Park

Jackson Square Park. Photo courtesy of NYC Parks.

This post is part of a series about Village blocks that correspond to calendar dates.  

Once again, another August date corresponds with a Village intersection.  Jackson Square Park is located at 8th Avenue and 13th Street, and has had an interesting and varied life as an unimproved public rallying place, a classic Victorian viewing garden, a children’s playground, and finally the park we all know today.  In honor of today’s date we are taking a look at this unique piece of public space.

Before the colonial era, the land where Jackson Square is now located was the site of two native footpaths.  By the late 18th century, the footpaths had evolved into roads. The city acquired the land in 1826.

1892 rendering of the park. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Until 1872 the area was simply an open intersection of streets, acting occasionally as a gathering place for political and civic rallies.  When and why the site came to be called Jackson Square is unclear, but most likely it was named after former president Andrew Jackson.  In 1887, Mayor Abram S. Hewitt promoted a citywide effort to improve public access to the parks and squares that were entirely enclosed by iron fencing. A new design for Jackson Square was also designed by architect Calvert Vaux and parks superintendent Samuel Parsons Jr.  In an 1892 Article, Parsons described the area as “a great bouquet of brilliant flowers and leaves.”  He went on to note, “The neighborhood of this park is respectable but populous, and it is wonderful on a warm evening to see the dense masses of people that crowd the park benches and smooth asphalt walks.”

Jackson Square at night with holiday lights.

In 1913, Parks gardeners planted a new school garden plot at Jackson Square and left its upkeep to the “little farmers” in the neighborhood. The park then went on to have renovations again in the 1930’s and a capital reconstruction project in 1990, the latter of which saw the installation of the park’s iconic cast-iron fountain.

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