Nosy Neighbor: Why are there horses at Duane Park?

Ok, so I am the nosy neighbor, but I have been wondering for a while: why the horse heads on the fence at Duane Park? Enter the Friends of Duane Park, who have this all recorded on their website. When the park was designed by Calvert Vaux in the late 1800s, there was a horse trough at the western side of the park. It was eventually swapped out for a drinking fountain for humans in the ’40s, and then that was eventually removed as well. The park was renovated in 1999, which is when the iron horses’ heads made their debut.

In 1886 the newly-elected reformist mayor, Abram Hewitt, proclaimed that all New York City parks should be more like Central Park or Prospect Park in Brooklyn: places to wander amid greenery. Following that lead, the park superintendent, Samuel Parsons, Jr., chose Calvert Vaux to re-do many of the city’s small parks, including ours. It was a reasonable choice, as Vaux was famous for his work with Frederick Law Olmsted on both Central and Prospect parks. He would go on to design the outrageously picturesque Jefferson Market Courthouse (now Library) in the middle of the West Village, the centerpiece of the Jeff Bridges/Robin Williams movie “The Fisher King.” Vaux must have scratched his head over how, in 92/100ths of an acre, to fulfill Parson’s instructions to “create a feeling of quiet and restfulness by having pathways that meander.” Told to provide “seclusion and a sense of quasi ownership,” Vaux drove pathways through all three sides of the triangle and planted the remaining land with “green grass…a few shrubs along the fence, and a small flower bed” — a postage stamp-sized Central Park. In addition, there was a horse trough at the west end.

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1 Comment

  1. Great share!
    thank you