When the New York Party Shuttle tour pases by Madison Square Park, not only are our customers treated to the history of the park, but they also have a fabulous view of the Empire State Building. Located in what is now known as the “Flatiron District,” Madison Square Park boasts one of the most impressive collections of historic buildings from the 19th century, a true reflection of New York’s “Gilded Age”
Madison Square Park in Manhattan
Named after President James Madison (1809-1817), this park was officially designed as a public space in 1847. At that time, the area was mostly residential, but from 1859 onwards, the area soon became the hub of New York’s “social scene” with the opening of the nearby Fifth Avenue Hotel.
The park boasts a rather eclectic collection of statues, including Senator Roscoe Conkling, who froze to death during the great blizzard of 1888, the Civil War admiral David Farragut, former President Chester A. Arthur (who succeeded the assassinated President James A. Garfield, and thus became the first president since George Washington to take the oath of office in NYC), and the William H. Seward monument, (former New York Governor and Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State).
Between 1876-1882, the right arm and torch of the Statue of Liberty was displayed in the park to raise funds for the construction of the as-yet-unrealized pedestal. And as if that were not enough, many believe that Madison Square Park is the birthplace of baseball since Alexander Cartwright formed what is believed to be the first baseball club, the New York Knickerbockers, in 1845.
By the turn of the 19th century, the shift had swung to office locations and many insurance companies decided to settle here and have remained to this day.
The Metropolitan Life Tower was completed in 1909. It was added to the original 1893 headquarters and its design was based on the campanile at St. Mark’s Square in Venice. Topping out at 51 stories, it held the title of world’s tallest until the completion of the Woolworth Building in 1913.
In a bid to regain the title, another Metropolitan Life Building was planned. Known as the North Tower, this massive Art Deco tower, which resembles a fortress, was originally intended to soar to a height of 100 stories, Unfortunately, work came to a halt in 1932 when the Great Depression intervened and the building reached a height of only 29 stories before the work was halted, never to be completed. The fact that this building has 30 elevator banks serves as a constant reminder of those grandiose plans.
At the corner of Madison Avenue and 26th Street stands yet another imposing structure, the New York Life Insurance Company. Built on the site of the first two Madison Square Gardens (yes, two versions were built on this site). New York Life is easily recognizable by its octagonal gilded spire, which has become the very symbol of the company. Erected in 1928, this building was designed by noted architect Cass Gilbert.
And probably the most famous building of this grouping would undoubtedly be the Flatiron Building (originally The Fuller Building), New York’s oldest skyscraper. Due to its distinctive shape, it remains one of the most photographed buildings in New York.
Madison Square Park is one of our customers’ favorite stops on our New York Tours.