Get your Fruit, Veggies, and Milk in Tompkins Square Park

Get your Fruit, Veggies, and Milk in Tompkins Square Park
This milk booth was installed in Tompkins Square Park in 1909. Photo courtesy of the New York City Parks Photo Archive.
Pam from Ronnybrook, a dairy based in Ancramdale, NY, carries on the tradition of selling milk in Tompkins Square Park. She also makes time to greet all the neighborhood dogs! Photo courtesy of Henry Bottjer.

Pam from Ronnybrook, a dairy based in Ancramdale, NY, carries on the tradition of selling milk in Tompkins Square Park. She also makes time to greet all the neighborhood dogs! Photo courtesy of Henry Bottjer.

Last weekend, GVSHP, GrowNYC, and the East Village Parks Conservancy teamed up to create an exhibit that explores the history of Tompkins Square Park and its current function as a NYC greenmarket site. Don’t worry if you missed it. The exhibit will pop up again this coming Sunday, October 5 from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM. More details here.

As we researched the history of the park and collected visuals for this event, we came across an interesting find. Tompkins Square Park has a rich history in terms of food and food markets. According to the history of the park provided on the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation website, the site was originally intended for a market.

“The Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 proposed a large market on this land stretching from First Avenue to the East River, but plans for the market never materialized.”

Images we found also showed some interesting ways in which the park was used as a place to sell or grow food over the course of its long history.

This milk booth was installed in Tompkins Square Park in 1909. Photo courtesy of the New York City Parks Photo Archive.

This milk booth was installed in Tompkins Square Park in 1909. Photo courtesy of the New York City Parks Photo Archive.

According to Parks Department Annual Reports—many of which are accessible through Google books—the agency experimented with milk booths as a way to discourage consumption of candy and soda in the early part of the 20th century.

Tompkins Square Park children's garden opening ceremony, 1934. Photo courtesy of the New York City Parks Photo Archive.

Tompkins Square Park children’s garden opening ceremony, 1934. Photo courtesy of the New York City Parks Photo Archive.

Gardens were an important source of food for many Americans during the Great Depression, and East Villagers were no exception. Tompkins Square Park served as the site of a children’s garden beginning in 1934.

A concession stand in Tompkins Square Park. Photo courtesy of the New York City Parks Photo Archive.

A concession stand in Tompkins Square Park. Photo courtesy of the New York City Parks Photo Archive.

As today, New York City parks, including Tompkins Square, featured concession stands. This image from 1934 makes me suspect the offerings were not as healthy as those provided by the Milk Booth or the children’s garden, though.

Acevedo Farm is a participant in GrowNYC's New Farmer Development Project. Photo courtesy of Henry Bottjer.

Acevedo Farm is a participant in GrowNYC’s New Farmer Development Project. Photo courtesy of Henry Bottjer.

For almost 30 years now, a greenmarket has set up shop outside of Tompkins Square Park. Farmers and community come together every Sunday. And it seems the farmers are now as much a part of the community as the many shoppers the market attracts.

Join us for the pop up exhibit this Sunday. And if you are interested in learning more about the history of greenmarkets in New York City, RSVP for a lecture on October 7 by co-founder of the Greenmarket program Barry Benepe.

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Sheryl
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Sheryl Woodruff was GVSHP's Senior Director of Operations until December 2014.

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