Christopher Park

ChristopherPark.jpg
New York, NY
United States
Christopher Park

Situated on a triangular parcel at the intersection of West 4th, Grove, and Christopher Streets, this park in Greenwich Village was the site—along with the adjacent Stonewall Inn—of the beginning of the gay rights movement in New York City. Formerly occupied by Sappokanican Indians, in the 1630s the land was developed as a tobacco farm by Dutch immigrant Wouter Van Twiller and later made into smaller plots. Between the 1780s and 1820s the population of Greenwich Village surged and the land was subdivided into irregularly sized and shaped blocks. A massive fire in 1835 prompted the creation of open space; the 0.19-acre parcel was enclosed with a wrought-iron fence, trees were planted, a brick walk was installed, and Christopher Park was dedicated in 1837. In the mid-1880s, Calvert Vaux and Samuel Parsons, Jr. further developed the setting by planting privet hedges and arranging benches along the walk. In 1936 a statue by sculptor Joseph Pollia of Union General Philip Henry Sheridan and a flagpole commemorating the 11th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment were erected. Ushered by the construction of the adjacent subway line and station in 1910, the area experienced rising tensions along socioeconomic, ethnic, and political strata. In 1969 police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay establishment. This event prompted six days of subsequent rioting and protesting, galvanizing gay activism.

In 1983, responding to its neglected condition, the Friends of Christopher Park and landscape architect Philip Winslow rejuvenated its condition. Trees and shrubs were planted, flagstone walkways were constructed, and lampposts, benches, and a gate were renewed. George Segal’s sculptural assemblage Gay Liberation, designed in 1982, was installed in 1992. Christopher Park, the Stonewall Inn, and the surrounding streets were listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1999 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2000.