Effingham B. Sutton (1817–1891), a shipping merchant and entrepreneur, was one of the few prospectors who succeeded in building a fortune during the California Gold Rush of 1849. In 1875, Sutton built brownstones between 57th and 58th Streets in hopes of re-establishing a residential community.
By the turn of the century, however, the neighborhood along the waterfront had become neglected, suffering from poverty and blanketed with substandard tenement housing. During this era, the neighborhood was infamous for gangs of street toughs, known as the Dead End Kids, who congregated at the end of these streets before Sutton Parks were built. Stanley Kingsley’s 1935 play about the area, Dead End, inspired several films depicting the area and the gangs.
Sutton’s venture was saved by the arrival of the Vanderbilts and Morgans in 1920, which began the neighborhood’s transformation into a wealthy enclave. Sutton Parks were created in 1938 following the construction of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive, which runs next to and underneath the properties. When the highway was built, some Sutton Place residents lost their access to the East River. The City built private backyards for them in compensation, and three of the five Sutton Parks are between these backyards. Today, the Sutton Parks are a series of five vest-pocket parks along the East River waterfront near Sutton Place. In 1942, Parks took over maintenance and operation of the “Five Parks.” In 1997, an Executive Decree renamed the properties for Sutton. The bi-level design of Sutton Place Park includes a sandbox and playground equipment, as well as breathtaking views of the Queensboro Bridge.
The park and its vistas of the Queensboro Bridge were featured prominently in Woody Allen’s Manhattan (1979). The park contains the Wild Boar statue, which is a replica of the bronze wild boar completed in 1634 by Renaissance sculptor Pietro Tacca (1557–1640) that stands in Florence, Italy. This replica, alternately known as Porcellino, is in fact a copy of a replica. Tacca himself modeled his boar upon a marble statue now displayed in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
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