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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Brief History of Hanover Square

Yesterday, Queen Elizabeth's whirlwind trip to New York included a stop to cut a ribbon at the British Garden at Hanover Square in the Financial District. The garden is a memorial to the British citizens who died in New York on 9/11 and has become a primary destination for British royals in recent years. (See Prince Harry and Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.)


During New York's British colonial period (1664-1776), many streets of the old city were either named or renamed after the British royal family and by the time of the American Revolution, we had a Queen Street, Duke Street, King Street, and Crown Street. When George I, the Elector of Hanover, ascended to the throne in 1714, this small square was named in his honor.

In 1776, the British captured the city and made it their command center. During the war, George III's son, Prince William Henry, was a midshipman in the British navy and he came to New York in 1782, in part to rally American colonists to the British cause. The Americans, sensing that the 16-year-old prince would make an excellent bargaining chip, approached George Washington with a plan to kidnap William Henry. Though Washington approved the plan, (it "merits applause" in Washington's words), the British soon found out and posted bodyguards around the prince. Though not originally in the line of succession, Prince William Henry became King William IV in 1830 upon the death of George IV, making him the only British monarch to have lived in New York.



After the Revolution, the Americans stripped the streets of Lower Manhattan of their British names: Queen Street and Dock Street both reverted to their Dutch names (Pearl and Stone streets, respectively) and Crown Street became Liberty Street. However, a few British names remained. For example, Thames Street, just south of Pine Street (formerly King) got to keep its name and Hanover Square, though de-mapped, never lost its appellation. The square was officially re-mapped in 1830--the same year as former resident King William IV's accession. Coincidence?


By the 1830s, Hanover Square was known to most people as Printing House Square and it was here in December 1835 that New York's worst fire broke out. You can read more about it in our blog post from last year.


 * * *


Read more about the colonial and Revolutionary New York in
Inside the Apple: A Streetwise History of New York City.


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