Thursday, October 20, 2011
Growing up at the time and place that I did, there was not much to do as a teenager and very little that was approved by adults. No Starbucks for us. One of the few activities that was considered "good, clean fun" was bowling. Of course, to bring a girlfriend meant no privacy, which is what made it good and clean, but not much fun.
Alternatively, a lover's lane or parking with a girl meant having a driver's license and vehicle, which was not a small achievement. Avoiding police interrogation was another concern in this endeavor. So it was bowling, and as often as I may have gone (I owned my own bowling shoes), bowling always felt like a LAST RESORT. I grew to hate bowling.
But everything gets reinvented, marketed, and repackaged. Virtually nothing is uncool - the uncool becomes cool as people exhaust existing cool. Bowling became very cool in the 1980s, but it goes back much further, with various spikes in interest, even to the earliest days of New York City's founding, when lawn bowling was done in lower Manhattan.
From the New York City Department of Parks website:
Bowling Green is New York City’s oldest park. According to tradition, this spot served as the council ground for Native American tribes and was the site of the legendary sale of Manhattan to Peter Minuit in 1626. The Dutch called the area "the Plain" and used it for several purposes. It was the beginning of Heere Staat (High Street, now Broadway)—a trade route which extended north through Manhattan and the Bronx. It was also the site of a parade ground, meeting place, and cattle market. In 1686 the site became public property and was first designated as a park in 1733, when it was offered for rent at the cost of one peppercorn per year. Lessees John Chambers, Peter Bayard, and Peter Jay were responsible for improving the site with grass, trees, and a wood fence "for the Beauty & Ornament of the Said Street as well as for the Recreation & delight of the Inhabitants of this City." A gilded lead statue of King George III was erected here in 1770, and the iron fence (now a New York City landmark) was installed in 1771. On July 9, 1776, after the first public reading in New York State of the Declaration of Independence, this monument was toppled by angry citizens, dragged up Broadway, sent to Connecticut, melted down, and recast as ammunition.
By the late 18th century, Bowling Green marked the center of New York’s most fashionable residential area, surrounded by rows of Federal-style townhouses. In the first decade of the 20th century, Bowling Green was disrupted by the construction of the IRT subway. The park was rebuilt as part of citywide improvements made in preparation for visitors to the 1939 World’s Fair. Renovations to Bowling Green included removing the fountain basin, relocating the interior walkways, installing new benches, and providing new plantings.
A 1976-77 capital renovation restored Bowling Green to its 18th-century appearance. Publisher and philanthropist George Delacorte donated the park’s central fountain.
Since December 1989 the statue of Charging Bull (1987-89) has been on display at the north end of the park. Its sculptor, Arturo DiModica, says the three-and-a-half-ton bronze figure represents "the strength, power and hope of the American people for the future." It has also been linked to the prosperity enjoyed by Wall Street in the past decade.
The park and surrounding area is beautiful and certainly deserves a visit. Although located far from midtown at the southernmost tip of Manhattan, and once a place for bowling, it is far from a Last Resort :)
Related Posts: Trapped in Paradise, New York Stock Exchange, Federal Hall, Westside Community Garden, Esplanade