simple is beautiful
New York Daily Photo: Abingdon Square
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Thursday, 25 October 2007

Abingdon Square

I would not say that Abingdon Square is a "must see" or recommend going out of one's way to visit. There is an interesting article from 1885 in the New York Times bemoaning its condition: "AN ODD BREATHING SPOT; ABINGDON-SQUARE AS IT WAS AND AS IT NOW APPEARS. ONCE THE CENTRE OF WEALTH AND FASHION, BUT NOW GIVEN OVER TO NEGLECT AND DECAY. Among the old-fashioned winding streets which cross each other at all possible angles in the old Ninth Ward is the queerest little square of which New-York can boast. Abingdon-square is the name of this odd little spot. There is a strange dead yet alive look about Abingdon-square which reminds one of a dying tree which, struggling against its fate, still sends forth at some points green shoots." The rest of the article paints an equally grim view of this square - it is vastly improved since that time. I do find, however that the park/square does not have a particularly strong identity, kind of wallowing in an indistinct obscurity. The park was established in 1831 and was part of Peter Warren's 300-acre estate. His eldest daughter, Charlotte, married Willoughby Bertie, the Fourth Earl of Abingdon, and a share of the Warren estate was part of her dowry. Her portion included the land that came to be known as Abingdon Square (the name was preserved, because the Earl and his wife had sympathized with the American patriots, and he had argued in Parliament against British policy in the colonies). The bronze sculpture, Abingdon Square Memorial (also known as the Abingdon Doughboy), was dedicated in 1921 in memory of local men who fought in World War I - twenty thousand spectators attended. In 1988-9 the park underwent a restoration. There is also a greenmarket on Saturdays. This small spot of green in the West Village, bounded by several thoroughfares yet set apart, is a perfect spot to relax, read and people watch ...


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