Thomas Paine Park
Abraham De Peyster Statue
Thomas Paine Park
This impressive bronze statue, created by American sculptor George Edwin Bissell (1839-1920), depicts mayor Abraham De Peyster (1657-1728). Born in New Amsterdam (now known as "Manhattan"), De Peyster came from a prosperous mercantile family. In his youth he spent nine years working on the family farm in the Netherlands, before returning in 1684 to New Amsterdam. He quickly ascended the city's political ladder, occupying almost all of the important colonial offices, including alderman, mayor, member of the King's Council, and acting governor. De Peyster amassed great wealth, and by the end of his life is said to have been one of the city's wealthiest merchants.
In the late 19th century, John Watts De Peyster, Abraham's great-great-great grandson, commissioned this statue. Bissell, whose family ran a marble company in Poughkeepsie, New York, sculpted the piece in his studio in Mount Vernon, New York, and cast the bronze at the E. Gruet foundry in Paris. He also sculpted the portrait of President Chester A. Arthur (1898) located in Madison Square Park, as well as that of John Watts in Trinity Church Cemetery. He depicted De Peyster, spotting a lavish cloak, army boots, and sword in hand denoting his political and military roles in the colonial government.
De Peyster sculpture was originally placed in the center of nearby Bowling Green Park in 1896 at a site once occupied by a state of King George III. Vandalism of the statue required replication of a bronze tassel in 1912, prompted the resetting of the sword in 1939, and an overall conservation effort in 1942. In 1972, park and subway renovations at Bowling Green forced removal of the statue. It was relocated four years later on a new pink granite pedestal (on which the original inscription was transcribed) in Hanover Square. In 1999, the statue was conserved by Parks' Citywide Monuments Conservation program, a public-private initiative, which removed advanced corrosion, repatined the bronze surface and applied protective coverings.
The World Trade Center attacks of September 11, 2001 again brought about the displacement of the de (sic) Peyster sculpture, when in 2003 Hanover Square was redesigned and dedicated to the memory of British victims on 9/11. After a prolonged search for a new home in Lower Manhattan, city officials selected a recessed niche in the northern pathway of Thomas Paine Park, as an appropriate location for De Peyster—resonant in historical associations from early Dutch settlement to later immigrant arrivals. The sculpture was reinstalled there in December 2013, and a bronze marker set in the pavement to identify the subject and artist. On July
3, 2014, the 357th anniversary of de Peyster's baptism, the sculpture was rededicated in the presence of more than two dozen of de Peyster's descendants, city officials, and the Netherlands Consul General.