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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Amid the Sidewalks of New York: Abingdon Square

British place names have been pretty scarce around Manhattan since that wee unpleasantness of 1776. Abingdon Square, in Greenwich Village, is a happy exception—happy for me, because every time I pass it I think of the town of Abingdon in England, where I spent a year of my childhood. The park is actually named for the Earl of Abingdon, who remained in favor with the city fathers because he'd sympathized with the colonists.

The word "square" may conjure up a cityscape, but since the 1830's Abingdon Square has been a real park, enclosed by an iron fence…

…and thick with representatives of that neglected minority, Chlorophyll-Americans.

Its centerpiece is the Abingdon Doughboy, another of Philip Martiny's Rodin-esque memorials (see Chelsea Park) to the area residents who died fighting World War One.

On a sunny summer afternoon, the heroic kid watches over peaceful Human-Americans taking advantage of the warm weather and dappled shade.

Nearby you'll find the legendary White Horse Tavern, as well as a store quaintly called Abingdon Market and a bona fide cobblestoned street. The park also has a little cousin, the Arthur W. Strickler Triangle, a bench-free and therefore people-free patch of green recently named after the Community Board 2 District Manager, bowtie enthusiast, and defender of the weak. Watch the end of the video especially, for a priceless photo montage set to the Shannon Quartet's also priceless 1920's recording of "The Sidewalks of New York." They sure don't write 'em like that anymore.

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