Sakura Park Highlights | TopView

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 two acres, Sakura NYC smaller than many other NYC parks, but great use of the space allows for amenities like a children’s play area, a performance pavilion often used by the Manhattan School of Music, as well as a beautiful stone Japanese tori, or lantern, which was donated to the park in 1960 by the city of Tokyo.

Land for Sakura Park NYC was initially purchased by the City of New York in 1896 from John D. Rockefeller and was intended to be an extension of nearby Riverside Park, also known as Claremont Park. The plot of land featured lush, rolling terrain inter-laid with curving paths and perfectly positioned benches overlooking the Hudson River.

The cherry tree donation, a gift from the Committee of Japanese Residents of New York, was scheduled to coincide with the 18-day Hudson-Fulton Celebration in 1909. This celebration took place over the course of nearly three weeks, during which NYC residents and guests celebrated two key moments in New York history: the first was the 300th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s discovery and exploration of his namesake river and the second was the 100th anniversary of Robert Fulton’s first steam-powered boat demonstration on the Hudson River just 200 years later. This 18-day celebration was filled with many events throughout the city, one of which was supposed to be the cherry tree donation, but as fate would have it, the steamer carrying the original Japanese cherry trees was lost at sea.

A replacement shipment was sent and in 1912, the trees were gifted to Sakura Park NYC as well as Riverside Park. Their placement adjacent to Grant’s Tomb in New York commemorates the former President’s diplomatic visit to Japan in 1879. To supplement the Japanese cherry trees, Sakura NYC also planted Ginkgo and Styrax Japonica, giving the park a distinctly Japanese character.

The monument to General Daniel Butterfield (1831-1901) was built in 1918 in Sakura NYC. The artist, Gutzon Borglum (1867 – 1941), who also designed Mount Rushmore, created the bronzed Butterfield sculpture to depict the Civil War hero standing on top of a rock, arms crossed and hat cocked. Butterfield was a major-general in the Union army and chief of staff of the Army of the Potomac, but his best-known accomplishment is the composition of the military bugle call named Taps, which is played at service member funerals and military memorial ceremonies.

The beautiful ten-foot tall stone Japanese tori, one of Sakura Park NYC’s top attractions, was officially dedicated on October 10, 1960. The dedication was attended by Crown Prince Akihito, who later became Emperor of Japan, as well as Princess Michiko. The tori, which is a common fixture in traditional Japanese gardens, is made from Japanese rock and bears an inscription that 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.” Japan’s Crown Prince and Princess returned to Sakura Park NYC in 1987 to personally re-dedicate the lantern in a ceremony hosted by Mayor Edward I. Koch.

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



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This page was edited by Steven Thomas