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nyc remembered by Suzanne Clary




Who came up with the idea for our first park in New York City? At which park can you find the oldest man-managed meadow in all of New York State? You’d be surprised at the answers as we take you on a path through Rye and New York history. From the 18th century to modern times, one renowned family recognized the power of verdant views to refresh and inspire; in fact they were the first to formalize designs for both the oldest park in Manhattan – Bowling Green; and the oldest man-managed meadow in New York State – located at John Jay’s ancestral home in the city of Rye. From the 1700s to the 1900s, these two deliberately articulated spaces provided fresh green havens outside the havoc of noisy urban and even suburban streets. Most remarkably they still serve that function for the public today



as dedicated parkland. Visitors to the Jay Estate can sit in wicker chairs on the mansion’s veranda and revel in the sight of red-tailed hawks careening above ancient horse chestnut trees or just get lost scouting for the movement of newborn wild turkey poults in the tall stands of Indiangrass. The ¾ mile vista to Long Island Sound is incredibly serene. No doubt Manhattan counterparts are feeling the same way as they use binoculars to spot the aeries of peregrine falcons overlooking Bowling Green or enjoy playing ten-pins with the NY Chapter of Lawn Bowlers. According to the NY City Park website, “Bowling Green Park, the first official park in New York City, was established in 1733 and named by a resolution of the Common Council on March 12 of that year: “Resolved, that this Corporation will lease a piece of land lying at the lower end of Broadway, fronting to the Fort, to some of the inhabitants of the said Broadway in order to be inclosed to make a Bowling-Green thereof, with walks therein, for the beauty and ornament of said street, as well as for the recreation and delight of the inhabitants of the city, leaving the Street on each side thereof 50 ft. in breadth.” The green was leased at an annual rent of one peppercorn to none other than John Jay’s father, Peter (1704 -1782) and two of John’s uncles. These three were awarded the privilege to design and improve the park with grass, trees, and a wooden fence and most famously a field to play “the sport of bowls” (a game more closely related to bocce) and anecdotally, the Dutch nine-pins immortalized in Washington Irving’s tale of “Rip Van Winkle.” For all that Peter Jay did to create a beautiful park in the 11 years, by the time the lease was up, two of his children had been blinded by smallpox after an epidemic in the city. With another child, John, on the way it was prudent to move out of the city and Peter purchased 250 acres in Westchester County from one John Budd in 1745. Young John, born on December 12 of that same year undoubtedly grew up playing games of “bowls” in Rye, perhaps while his grandfather Auguste watched with pleasure, remembering what it was like to play with his own son in Manhattan. This country seat at Rye had to have been an easy sale. The property ran from the Old Pequot Path or King’s Highway (today’s Boston Post Road) to the Sound and provided water access with a dock. But the most striking feature of the Jay estate had to have been its view back in time. The Jays took possession of a 10,000-year-old, man-managed meadow. At the time Peter Jay purchased the land he was looking back at a wide open Siwanoy hunting ground and settlement with piles of shell middens that testified to the plenty of oysters and clams being seined in the harbor. Within the month he made the additional purchases of land to increase the estate to 400 acres plus, and secured a 23 acre parcel called “Hen Island” on top of that. This green oasis nurtured the spirit of one of our greatest patriots and he returned here throughout his life and storied career. From

Profile for Weston Magazine Group

the upper east side magazine 53, weston magazine group publisher of 14 upscale & sophisticated hyper-local regional luxury lifestyle maga...

the upper east side magazine 53, weston magazine group publisher of 14 upscale & sophisticated hyper-local regional luxury lifestyle maga...