At the lower end of Broadway there is a small circular public square, enclosed with an iron railing, and ornamented with a fountain in the centre. This is known as the Bowling Green, and is the first public park ever laid out in the city.
The first fort built by the Dutch on Manhattan island covered a good part of the site of this square. In 1733 the Common Council passed a resolution ordering that “the piece of land lying at the lower end of Broadway fronting the fort, be leased to some of the inhabitants of Broadway, in order to be inclosed to make a Bowling Green, with walks therein, for the beauty and ornament of the said street, as well as for the recreation and delight of the inhabitants of this city, leaving the street on each side fifty feet wide.” In October, 1734, the Bowling Green was leased to Frederick Philipse, John Chambers, and John Roosevelt, a trio of public spirited gentlemen, for ten years, for a Bowling Green only, and they agreed to keep it in repair at their own expense. In 1741 a fire swept away the fort, and afforded a chance of improving the park, which was done. A change for the better was brought about in the neighborhood by the establishment of the grounds, and substantial houses began to cluster about it.
A few years before the Revolution, the Colonial Assembly purchased in England a leaden statue of King George the Third, and set it up in the centre of the Bowling Green, in May 1771. The grounds at this time had no fence around them, as we learn from a resolution of the Common Council, and were made the receptacle of filth and dirt, thrown there, doubtless, by the patriots as an insult to the royalists. As the troubles thickened, the people became more hostile to the statue of King George, and heaped many indignities upon it, and after the breaking out of the war, the unlucky monarch was taken down and run into bullets for the guns of the Continental army.
After the close of the Revolution, Chancellor Livingston enclosed the grounds with the iron fence which still surrounds them, and subsequently a fountain was erected on the site of the statue.