Honoring the Lyons family
Their Land Became Part of Central Park. They’re Coming Back in a Monument.
Julia Jacobs, October 20, 2019, The New York Times
In Central Park, about a mile from land that was once home to Seneca Village, a mostly black community forced out by the park’s creation in the 1850s, the city is planning a privately funded monument to a revered black family from that time.
The new addition to New York’s landscape, honoring the Lyons family, is part of the de Blasio administration’s push to diversify the city’s public art and recognize overlooked figures from its history. The Lyonses were Seneca Village property owners, educators and dedicated abolitionists, running a boardinghouse for black sailors that doubled as a stop on the Underground Railroad. The monument will include the figures of Albro Lyons, Mary Joseph Lyons and their daughter Maritcha Lyons, who was significant in her own right as a teacher, suffragist and racial justice activist.
“We traverse towns and cities across this country, and we’re often unaware of the history and the artifacts literally beneath our feet,” said Michelle Commander, an associate director and curator at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. The city brought the idea for the monument to the center earlier this year and gained its support.
“This is a positive step in recognizing the history and cultures that have been covered up in the service of having Central Park,” she said.