July in Washington Square Park is filled with sunshine and picnics, but it’s also the month we celebrate the birthdays of Alexander Lyman Holley and Giuseppe Garibaldi! Both the Garibaldi and Holley monuments have been in the Park since the late 1800s and have been there ever since. Enjoyed by millions of people each year, Garibaldi and Holley Plaza—named for both monuments—are home to some of the most notable buskers, performers, and popular lounging spaces in the Park.
Giuseppe Garibaldi was an Italian patriot born on July 4, 1807. He was a central figure in the fight for Italian unification. In 1834, Garibaldi joined the Young Italy Society and fought in the first Republican uprising for independence. When they were defeated, Garibaldi fled to South America and remained there in exile until 1848. Following another Italian campaign, Garibaldi fled to the United States, staying with his friend and fellow Italian exile Antonio Meucci in Staten Island. In 1854, he returned to Italy and successfully fought for a united Italian Nation. He and 3,000+ volunteer forces successfully seized Sicily and Naples, solidifying his status as a military leader in Italy.
The Garibaldi Statue was donated by New York’s Italian-American Society in 1888. The bronze statue with granite pedestal was sculpted by Giovanni Turini, who served in Garibaldi’s fourth regiment during Italy’s war in 1866. Now, the Garibaldi monument oversees the Garibaldi Plaza stage, which hosts hundreds of performers, classes, and events each year.
Alexander Lyman Holley was born July 20, 1832, in Lakeville, Connecticut. A brilliant mind, he was the first student to graduate from Brown University with a degree in engineering and also received a degree in philosophy. His genius and versatile interests helped him receive 15 patents, publish hundreds of articles, and helped him adopt the Bessemer process of steelmaking to the United States. His work reduced steel prices and helped facilitate massive industrial growth.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers, and the American Society of Civil Engineers jointly raised funds to have the Holley monument made and was dedicated in 1890. The bronze bust was sculpted by John Quincy Adams Ward and the Indiana limestone pedestal was designed by architect Thomas Hastings. Today, millions of people come to Holley Plaza to perform, dance, and enjoy the Park.
If you’re at the Park, make sure you say Happy 210th Birthday to Garibaldi and 185th birthday to Holley!