A Video Tour with Bridget Barbara: New York City’s Bowling Green and the Statue of King George III

The bronze Charging Bull sculpture is not the only iconic statue to have stood at the southern tip of Manhattan. In 1770, a large gilded equestrian statue of King George III was erected just a few feet away in New York’s oldest park, Bowling Green.

But what had begun as an exhibit of appreciation and esteem for the King was, by the mid 1770s, nothing more than a glimmering display of the tyranny the colonists felt they could no longer endure. On July 9, 1776, right after the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence in New York City, the statue was torn down in a furor of anti-monarchic sentiment. Surprisingly, and incredibly, physical remnants from that historic day still exist. The wrought-iron fence that stood around the Green in 1776 still stands, and fragments of the destroyed statue have survived to be viewed at various museums.

Though the statue only stood for six short years, its creation and destruction were a microcosm of the fluctuating relations between Britain and the colonies. To peer into the display case holding the horse’s tail at the New-York Historical Society feels almost unreal. To be able to touch that fence and see the rough surfaces left after colonists sawed off its ornamental crowns, is to literally have history in your hands. These metals, fence and fragment, were eyewitnesses to events that shaped a nation over 200 years ago, and yet here they are, just as they were then, ready to be rediscovered by history-savvy passersby.

 

 

 

 

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6 Comments

  • Excellent piece, very compelling! By any chance do you happen to know the former location of the tavern where the (symbolically) spiked King’s head was briefly on display?

  • Bridget, this was terrific. I was delighted by your enthusiasm. To add to the story, in April 1776, 11-year-old James Noyes visited his stepfather, Gold Selleck Silliman, in the city where Silliman was on duty with Connecticut troops. “Jemmy” wrote to his grandparents a few days later, “I saw the kings statue, and he sat on a great Horse, both covered over with leaf Gold; and the King had one bullet hole through his cheek, and another through his neck, and they talk of running his Majesty up into Bullets for he and his horse are made of lead.” So the king had received a few knocks and been eyed for destruction for a while before the toppling.

  • Dear Bridget, That was a neat video, especially in our present time of removing statues. Also, I thought I recently read where someone in New England had found the hand from the George the III statue.

  • Bridget,
    Wonderful presentation on a very interesting tidbit of history! Huzzah indeed! Look forward to more of your fascinating and enlightening video tours! This little journey is a great pleasure! Thank you!

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