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Saint Nicholas Park
The land for St. Nicholas Park was acquired in part by condemnation for the Old Croton Aqueduct in 1885-86. New York State laws of 1894 and 1895 authorized the creation of a public park to be known as St. Nicholas Park. Additional property was assembled in 1900-06, and park construction began in 1906. Like Harlem’s other "ribbon parks," St. Nicholas was built on a rugged mass of rock, following the steep and irregular topography of northern Manhattan. Landscape architect [and Parks Commissioner] Samuel Parsons was responsible for the design of the rustic park, of which he said a "dominant note must be followed with a harmonious treatment, a high hill made higher, a rugged slope more rugged, a deep valley made deeper, thus invariably following nature’s lead." The development of the park and the completion of the elevated rapid transit line made this area of Harlem a fashionable residential district at the turn of the century.
The name for the park was taken from the adjacent Harlem streets, St. Nicholas Terrace (to the west) and St. Nicholas Avenue (to the east). These streets honor New Amsterdam’s patron saint, whose image adorned the figurehead of the New Netherland that brought the first Dutch colonists to these shores. St. Nicholas of Myra is also known as the patron saint of children, sailors, bankers, pawnbrokers, travelers, and captives‧'as well as the inspiration for Father Christmas or Santa Claus. Legend claims that he gave his considerable inheritance to charity and often made secret and anonymous gifts to the desperately needy. He served as bishop of Myra in Asia Minor in the 4th century and was venerated as a holy man. St. Nicholas’ relics are enshrined in the Italian town of Bari. Numerous churches around the world bear his name, including one of the first churches established in the colony of New Amsterdam.