William Hahn, Union Square, New York, 1878
After the Museum moved into Glenview in 1924, the collecting focus broadened to include art, particularly in two related areas: the beauty of the landscape that inspired the Hudson River School painters and the lives of Westchester residents. Much of Westchester’s development depended on its connection to New York City. James B. Colgate, who had an estate in Yonkers just south of Glenview and commuted to Wall Street, owned William Hahn’s Union Square. His daughter, Mary, who lived on Ravine Avenue when the Museum moved to Glenview, donated this painting in November 1925.
Hahn gives us insight into the hustle and bustle of New York’s Union Square over 100 years ago. In front of the peaceful park, filled with well-dressed figures strolling leisurely, the less fortunate newsboys are struggling to snatch their stacks of the Daily Evening News from the horse van. Colgate lived along the Hudson River surrounded by manicured gardens, but during the weekdays he would have often passed scenes of busy New York street life like this. The view through Union Square is looking north, and the steeples of St. Paul’s Methodist Episcopal Church and Calvary Episcopal Church can be seen up Fourth Avenue.
This painting also has special interest for us. The large building at the far side of the park is the Everett House Hotel, where John Bond Trevor and his family, who lived in Glenview, would rent an apartment for the winter to be near Manhattan social events. Colgate was Trevor’s business partner and may have also stayed at the Everett.
Union Square was a favorite of the Museum’s second director, H. Armour Smith, who led the institution from 1937 to 1953. He had it displayed at the 1939 New York World’s Fair and, in 1942, curated as part of the exhibition William Hahn: Painter of the American Scene, which was accompanied by a booklet about the artist that featured an essay by the director.