Nestled in the shade of two large London Plane trees in the northeast corner of the park is a statue of the great Czech composer Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904) who spent almost 3 years as director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York and composed some of his most enduring works including “The New World’ symphony. The symphony, which had its premiere in Carnegie Hall in December 1893, incorporates not only Czech folk music but African American spirituals and Native American themes as well.
During his short stay in America, Dvorak, his wife and six children lived at 327 East 17th Street, opposite where his statue now stands. In the early 1990s, the building was designated a city landmark but the decision was quickly rescinded and the building demolished in 1991. Artifacts and memorabilia from Dvorak’s years in the city, including a marble mantelpiece from his home, period furnishings and a commemorative plaque that was once affixed to the facade of his house, are now exhibited in the Dvorak Rcom at the Bohemian National Hall on the Upper East Side.
The statue, created by celebrated Croatian-American sculptor Ivan Mestrovic, was given to the New York Philharmonic in 1963 which commissioned the New World Symphony but it was not displayed until it was relocated to Stuyvesant Square Park in 1997 by the Dvorak American Heritage Association in cooperation with the NY Philharmonic and Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association. It’s fitting that this park is its permanent home.