Friday, April 30, 2010

☞ WALK: The Marcus Garvey Park Mystery Gates

The lovely entrance gates at today's Marcus Garvey Park's north entrance, at 5th Avenue and 120th Street, would have been set up during the days when the park was known by its neighborhood's namesake. When we first moved to Harlem, we were always confused when reading about Mount Morris Park because we never saw a park uptown that had that name. Anyways, more confusing to many who have noticed the gates are the prominent initials BH that are embossed into the cast iron medallions. A reader had asked about these letters, and we could not find any answers. Does anybody have the history on the mysterious initials? Photo by Ulysses


  1. Had a good time looking this up. Could it be the following: Mount Morris Square (later known as Park) was put together by land taken over by the city owned by the Benson family around 1839.
    The Benson farm was the site of the former Harlem Trotting Course, a race track extending from 120th and 134th Streets between Madison and Fifth Avenues.
    "BH" could be Benson Harlem race track.

  2. I was once told by a neighborhood historian that the gates were purchased (salvaged?) from the old Bellevue Hospital. Makes sense to me.

  3. They do look similar to the one's at Bellevue shown in the 1958 photo from life magazine:

  4. Hi Y'all, I am the reader who originally asked Ulysses about the 'BH' gates at the Park and I agree with you all who say its from the Entrance to Bellevue Hospital. I asked the people at other NYC History blogs but have yet to hear from them.

    The 'BH' gates were in a cavernous storage space under the Triboro Bridge where there is a whole lot of old archetectural memorabilia (statues, monuments, ancient lamp posts, etc). So it makes sense that maybe the city salvaged the gates from there and put them on the Park.

    Thanks to you all

  5. Been here in Mt Morris area for decades. Those gates were there when I was a small child in the forties. That's a long time before Bellevue was renovated.

  6. It’s wonderful to have an answer or answer[s] to this mystery. I like all the answers. It’s driven me nuts for the longest.

    I’m going with the Bellevue theory. That’s our hospital and my son was born there.

  7. Bellevue Hospital, the third comment is correct!

  8. Here's the real deal. In the mid 1950s, a gate removed from Bellevue Hospital (with the initials BH cast into the ironwork) was installed between the south Fifth Avenue entrances of the park. The gate, which remains closed, occupies a segment that was originally cast iron perimeter fence.
    Valerie Jo Bradley
    Marcus Garvey Park Alliance

  9. I've been reading throught this blog and am amazed at the how and why of human thinking.
    First "Old timer" wrote about the Benson family that owned the land before it bacame Mount Morris Square around 1839. In those days a prominent family would have errected Gates and likely BH stands for Benson House.
    Then there is the link to the Time life shots of the Belvue Hospital gates from 1958 and are quite different. Then Old Timer tells that those gates were there in the 40's predating the renovation work at Belvue. Regardless of Ms. Bradley's repeating the same wrong information she was told at some point. I'm going to stick with my guess that it stood for Benson House and was the original gate to the Benson Farm.
    Christopher Grande
    MGP Neighbor since 2003.

  10. Christopher, If you go to the Parks Dept. archives, you will find photographs of the park before the current gates at 120th and 5th Ave. were erected. The information I quoted came from the Parks Dept. historic archives. There was no Benson House erected on the property. The park was created before there was housing in the area and there were no fences erected. -Valerie Bradley Resident since 1980

  11. Old Timer, please site reference to Benson family. I recently read the definitive history of Harlem and do not recall that name playing a prominent role in the area. Obviously the park was named for the Morris family who owned the Morris mansion and a lot of property in the area in the 19th cent. However, if you look at the gates in person ( the original post had them on the north side, someone else later corrected, they are on the south side) they certainly are not 19th cent. Someone else said they were there in the 40's. I'm not sure thet're even that old but be that as it may, I think the Bellevue Hospital scenario seems the most likely. Maybe they were moved from there before the Bellevue renovation which apparently happened later than that.