Peter Stuyvesant

  • Sculptor: Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney
  • Pedestal: Noel and Miller
  • Dedicated: 1936
  • Medium and size: Bronze (7.3 feet), granite pedestal (4 feet)
  • Location: Stuyvesant Square, between 16th and 17th Streets, west of Second Avenue
  • Subway: L to 1st Avenue

Stuyvesant

Stuyvesant’s Image

For a couple centuries, Americans’ ideas of Peter Stuyvesant were based on his portrayal in Knickerbocker’s History of New York, anonymously published by Washington Irving in 1809 as a satire on self-important histories. In 2004, Russell Shorto’s fascinating The Island at the Center of the World began to sweep away misconceptions. A few of his comments on Stuyvesant:

Now Stuyvesant could lead. He could turn his attention to matters of genuine importance. And so he did, moving with ferocious competence. Had a lesser man been given the commission to strengthen the Dutch hold on their North American territory, the English would have swept in decades sooner than they did, and the Dutch imprint on Manhattan Island would have been too faint to make a difference to history. The problems that literally surrounded the colony were considerable and they had been allowed to fester. Stuyvesant had stepped into a chess game in which his predecessor had been an inferior player who had committed his resources into one ill-conceived strike while ignoring attacks from other areas. Stuyvesant assessed the threats, ranked them in order of priority, and went to work. ... – Russell Shorto, The Is land at the Center of the World

Stuvesant’s Homes

Stuyvesant’s official residence was White Hall, near the southern tip of the island at Pearl and Whitehall Streets, more or less where the Whitehall subway station (N and R trains) is.

Great House

Above: White Hall

Stuyvesant’s farm, or bouwerie (after which the Bowery is named), stretched from 5th St. to 17th St. and from 4th Ave. to the East River. He’s buried at St. Mark’s in the Bowery (131 East 10th St., at Second Avenue).

Stuyvesant plaque

Above: Plaque over Stuyvesant's vault at St. Mark's (photo: Wikipedia / Beyond My Ken)

The bouwerie passed to his descendants. In 1836 Peter Gerard Stuyvesant (co-founder of the New York Historical Society and one of the richest men in America at his time) sold 4 acres of the farm to the city. In 1850 it opened as the park called Stuyvesant Square, where the sculpture of his ancestor Peter Stuyvesant now stands. The cast iron fence surrounding the park is one of the oldest in New York City.

Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney

Whitney (1875-1942) was born into the prominent New York family founded by Cornelius Vanderbilt. She trained with James Earle Fraser (see Theodore Roosevelt) and others. Her first major commission was the Titanic Memorial in Washington, D.C., 1914. During and immediately after World War I, she designed a number of memorials, including the Washington Heights - Inwood War Memorial, 1922 (Broadway and St. Nicholas Avenue, between 167th and 168th Streets).

A leading promoter of progressive American art, she was the founder of the Whitney Museum of American Art (1931), whose core collection of 500 pieces the Metropolitan Museum had refused to accept as a gift. The Whitney Biennial is one of the contemporary art world’s most prestigious exhibitions.

Aside from the Inwood War Memorial, Manhattan has her Stuyvesant, 1936. The Bronx has the Untermeyer Memorial (Woodlawn Cemetery). 

Cross References

Copyright (c) 2013 Dianne L. Durante