Tompkins Square Park in Alphabet City – Part 1

The single most dominant feature of Alphabet City has to be Tompkins Square Park.  It is most definitely a park with a past.  Back in the 80’s, it was filled with the homeless and was a major drug market.  In 1988, a riot erupted and served as a rallying point for a lot of the politics of the day and echos of it still seem to be present.

It’s located between Avenue A and Avenue C.  Here’s where I ran into it, coming from St. Mark’s Place.


In a word, the park is…unremarkable.  It’s moderate sized and it has some wonderful elm trees scattered throughout it.


Another thing it has a lot of are fences.  Lots and lots of fences.  Maybe it’s something arising from Tompkins’ history as a rallying point of protests and the like (fencing makes it harder for very large groups to act in concert) or maybe it’s protection for the trees and grasses (the population density in the area is very high).  Whatever.  For the most part, if you’re in Tompkins Square Park, you’re not gonna be walking on the grass very much.

A little after entering the park, I saw a sculpture that I had to check out.  It’s the Temperance Fountain.


That’s “temperance” as in no alcohol.  The fountain was a gift from a man by the name of Henry D. Cogswell and was given to provide an alternative beverage (cold water) to the Lower East Side during the late 1800s.  Cogswell had made his fortune in the California Gold Rush of 1849 and spent a lot of his money in support of the Temperance Movement.

The figure on the top is Hebe – the water carrier, at least according to a nearby sign.  But that’s rather odd.  The Greek mythological character of Hebe was a cupbearer who served nectar and ambrosia to the Greek gods; and we know what a bunch of rowdy debauchers those guys were.  Another way of saying it:  they weren’t temperant in the least.


Explore posts in the same categories: Greenwich Village, LES, Manhattan, Wanderings

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