Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Beauty Demolished - Barrett Triangle

   I spent the first three years of my life living in an apartment on Stuyvesant Place.  I went to Curtis for high school.  For much of my life between the St. George Library, Borough Hall and Brighton Heights Reformed Church, I've spent a lot of time in St. George.  One of the most resonant images of that neighborhood for me isn't any of the places I've listed above, but, instead, the statue standing behind the bus shelter.  Until today I don't think I ever knew the area it stood in was called Barrett Triangle.  I vaguely remember reading the inscription on the plinth and seeing the name "Clarence Barrett" but I had no clue to who he was or what made him commendable.

   According to the always useful NYC Parks website, Clarence Barrett was born in Rahway but brought to the Island as a child.  He studied landscape architecture and served as an officer in the Civil War.  He fought during the siege of Mobile and the siege of Richmond.  After the war he became a notable landscape architect and sanitation engineer.  Eventually he entered public service, serving as Police Commissioner and then Superintendent of the Poor.

   In 1915, nine years after his death, this heroic statue (crafted by Sherry Edmindson Fry) was unveiled.  It was presented to the city by his widow.  Do rich, public servants do that anymore?  

   Originally, as you can see in the old-timey pictures below, the noble warrior pointed southish not northish and stood several feet away from where he now stands vigil.  He was also the centerpiece of an attractive bit of hedge-surrounded greenery that served as an additional part of the original entrance to the St. George Library.  I don't remember when the dull, gray addition was pasted on to the building, obscuring the grand doorway and obliterating the stairs, but I have vague childhood memories the stairs (which may be totally made up and I'm just remembering pictures).

   The NYC Parks' page states that in 1945 the statue was moved to its present position and the water fountain on its backside disconnected.  I'm assuming that's when the shelter was built.  As a Curtis alum I admit the shelter is memory-scape but I really wish they'd never replaced the original Barrett Triangle.

     Closeups of the statue.  Pretty cool, huh?


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