Sakura Park

Location: 500 Riverside Dr, New York, NY 10027

In 1912, more than 2,000 cherry trees were brought to the United States from Japan and planted in New York City parks, and Sakura Park NYC ("cherry blossom" in Japanese) was born. At just two acres, the park is one of New York City's smaller areas, but it features a play area for children, a performance pavilion used by the Manhattan School of Music and a stone Japanese tori donated by the city of Tokyo in 1960.

The cherry trees were to be presented as a gift from the Committee of Japanese Residents of New York as part of the Hudson-Fulton Celebration in 1909. This 18-day celebration, which commemorated the 100th anniversary of Robert Fulton’s innovative demonstration of the steam-powered boat on the Hudson River and the 300th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s discovery and exploration of that river, took place throughout the state of New York. However, the steamer that carried the original delivery of cherry trees from Japan was lost at sea. A new shipment of trees arrived in New York City in 1912 and was planted in Riverside and Sakura Parks. Their placement adjacent to Grant’s Tomb in New York commemorates the former President’s diplomatic visit to Japan in 1879. The cherry trees were supplemented with Ginkgo and Styrax Japonica to add a more Japanese character to the park. Land for Sakura Park was purchased from John D. Rockefeller by the City of New York as an easterly extension of Riverside Park in 1896. Also known as Claremont Park, this land directly east of Grant’s Tomb featured rolling terrain with a curvilinear path system and benches facing the Hudson.

A monument to General Daniel Butterfield (1831-1901) was erected in 1918 in the southeast corner of Sakura NYC. Sculpted by Gutzon Borglum (1867 – 1941), who also designed Mount Rushmore, the bronze Butterfield monument depicts the Civil War hero standing on a rock with his arms crossed and hat cocked. Butterfield, a Union soldier who rose to the rank of major-general and chief of staff of the Army of the Potomac, is best known for composing Taps, the melancholy bugle call performed during military funerals and memorial ceremonies.

A stone Japanese tori, or lantern, was donated to Sakura Park by the City of Tokyo and officially dedicated on October 10, 1960 with Crown Prince Akihito, later Emperor of Japan, and Princess Michiko in attendance. A common fixture in traditional Japanese gardens, this tori was made from native Japanese rock. Its inscription reads: “Presented by the citizens of the Metropolis of Tokyo to the citizens of the City of New York in celebration of the Tokyo-New York sister-city affiliation inaugurated on February 29th, 1960.” In 1987, the then Crown Prince and Princess personally re-dedicated the ten-foot tall lantern in a ceremony hosted by Mayor Edward I. Koch.

If you’d like to visit Sakura Park, just hop on our Uptown and Harlem tour and hop off at Stop #22 Morningside Heights. It’s a short walk from there.

 

This page was edited by Steven Thomas