A patch of green in-between skyscrapers

A patch of green in-between skyscrapers

On Wednesday, July 22, at 12:30 p.m., you are in for a treat in Bryant Park at the Reading Room series of the NY Public Library with Robyn Carr,  Kristan Higgins, Elizabeth Hoyt, Beverly Jenkins, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Meredith Wild. (If it’s rainy they will be inside the library).

Brooklyn, New York is a great place to grow up, with all that access to New York City and its parks. Next week I am going to the Romance Writers of America conference, where? New York City of course, with thousands of other writers. Some of who are going to be speakers in Bryant Park, the announcement is the opening of this blog. Reminding myself of its location, I found all this history, that well, I didn’t know. Most would agree, when you live in the tri-state area, you take it all for granted.

Bryant Park fountain

Bryant Park fountain

The location, known at the time as Reservoir Square, besides being a nearby neighbor of the now gone, Croton Distributing Reservoir, the park was the site of the 1863 draft riot and where, it was called in 1863, the Colored Orphan Asylum, burnt down. That’s a tidbit in my book, Indigo Sky. More than a tidbit, it’s an important part of my story, when my characters try to escape the burning building with the orphans in tow.

Bryant Park Carousel

Bryant Park Carousel

From Wikipedia, here’s the scoop about the history of Bryant Park. It’s a 9.603-acre privately managed public park. It is located between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and between Forty and Forty-second Streets in Midtown Manhattan. The New York Public Library forms the Eastern boundary of the park with its main entrance on Sixth Avenue. Bryant Park is located entirely over an underground structure that houses the library’s archives, which were built in the 1980s when the park was closed to the public and excavated; the new library facilities were built below ground level while the park was restored above it.

table area

Table and sitting area

In 1686, when the area was still a wilderness, New York’s colonial governor, Thomas Dongan, designated the area now known as Bryant Park as a public space. George Washington‘s troops crossed the area while retreating from the Battle of Long Island in 1776. Beginning in 1823, Bryant Park was designated a potter’s field (a graveyard for the poor) and remained so until 1840, when thousands of bodies were moved to Wards Island.



The first park at this site opened in 1847 as Reservoir Square. It was named after its neighbor, the Croton Distributing Reservoir. In 1853, the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations with the New York Crystal Palace, featuring thousands of exhibitors, took place in the park. The square was used for military drills during the American Civil War, and was the site of some of the New York City draft riots of July 1863, when the Colored Orphan Asylum at Fifth Avenue and 43rd Street was burned down by an angry mob.

William Cullen Bryant

William Cullen Bryant bronze statue

In 1884, Reservoir Square was renamed Bryant Park, to honor the New York Evening Post editor and abolitionist William Cullen Bryant. In 1899, the Reservoir structure was removed and construction of the New York Public Library building began. Terrace gardens, public facilities, and kiosks were added to the park.

Ice skating in Bryant Park

Ice skating in Bryant Park

The construction of the Sixth Avenue Elevated railway in 1878 cast both literal and metaphorical shadows over the park, and by the 1930s, the park was suffering from neglect and was considered disreputable. The park was redesigned in 1933–4 as a Great Depression public works project under the leadership of Robert Moses. The park was temporarily degraded in the late 1930s by the tearing down of the El and the construction of the New York City Subway‘s underground Sixth Avenue line.

On October 15, 1969, a rally attended by 40,000 people was held in Bryant Park as part of the nationwide Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam. By the 1970s, Bryant Park had been taken over by drug dealers, prostitutes and the homeless and was considered a “no-go zone” by ordinary citizens and visitors. From 1979 to 1983, a coordinated program of amenities, including book and flower markets, cafes, landscape improvements, and entertainment activities, was initiated by a parks advocacy group called the Parks Council, brought new life to the park.

Numerous events are hosted on the Great Lawn at Bryant Park. The Bryant Park Summer Film Festival, begun in the early nineties and now sponsored by HBO, brings a very large crowd into the park on Monday evenings during the summer. Various free musical performances are sponsored by corporations during the warm weather months, including Broadway in Bryant Park, sponsored by iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel Media + Entertainment) and featuring performers from current Broadway musicals, integrated with content provided by event sponsors.

For you perusal, again, here’s the location of Bryant Park, located between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and Forty and Forty-second Streets, Midtown Manhattan, New York City. I’ll see you there on July 22, at 12:30 p.m.

For more bits and pieces:

Did you know that in 1863 a fee of $300 would exempt a man from the draft?


About gailingis

Gail Ingis a tough blonde from Brooklyn, writes history and romance. Gail’s early days began and ended with writing, drawing and music. After graduating from the New York School of Interior Design with a BFA in Interior Architecture and Design and Master’s studies in Architecture and Design Criticism at The New School (Parsons), she worked in interior design and architecture, and founded a school of Interior Design. She resides in Connecticut with her scientist-writer husband. Currently, she sits on Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum Board of Trustees, and serves as the curator of art exhibitions. Prior to her debut as an author, she illustrated a book for Deborah Galiley, "Seeking Paradise" that can be found on Amazon. Also a professional artist, her varied paintings are an extension of her illustration work in design. Gail spent long days and nights dallying in Coney Island, the inspiration for her project of beach and boardwalk scenes. She is a member of the Connecticut Chapter of Romance Writer’s of America and a member of American Society of Interior Designers.
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  1. aliceakemp says:

    Very interesting blog, Gail. And impressive credentials. WOW. I love NYC, too. Went to Katharine Gibbs Secretarial School in 1960, and if I hadn’t been engaged to marry, I would have stayed. Very sad to miss RWA this summer. Am writing this from a hospital bed, having had a repair surgery yesterday for my right hip. Will be certain to make the time to visit Bryant Park when RWA goes to NYC again. Going to get your novel now. Thanks

  2. aliceakemp says:

    And it appears your book is not out yet. Rats. Will watch for it–Indigo Sky.

  3. gailingis says:

    Chuckle. Thanks Alice. My book has an October 2015 release date. I am eagerly awaiting my book cover . . . Thank you so much for stopping by. Let me tell you that hip surgery was the savings grace for me. I was crippled, not walking. After the first night after surgery, it was a piece of cake, pardon the cliche. My right hip, the one that was used up, gave me my life back. Much quicker recovery than my shoulder surgery, and much less painful. Good decision Alice. God bless.

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