The General Worth Monument—a gravesite in the middle of Broadway

The small pedestrian island bordered by 25th Street, Broadway, and 5th Avenue—where people regularly enjoy views of the Flatiron while reading, talking, sunbathing, or having a light snack—is actually a burial ground. The body of General Worth, hero of the Mexican War of 1846-1848, rests in peace under the obelisk.

Most find their final resting place laying side-by-side in cemeteries. But New York has two notable exceptions. Ulysses Grant, the Civil War hero and two-term US president, rests (along with his wife) in a mausoleum uptown called Grant’s Tomb, while General Worth’s body lies in a grave under the obelisk at the corner of 25th Street and Broadway.

Worth, who died of cholera in 1849, was initially buried at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. On Nov. 25, 1857—Evacuation Day, which commemorated the departure of the British in 1783—his remains were escorted with great fanfare to his final resting place in the Flatiron District in what is now known as one of the grandest funerals in New York City history. General Worth was a military hero who had fought in the War of 1812, the Second Seminole War, and most notably the Mexican–American War. General’s name is honored in many places across the country like Fort Worth, Texas; Worth Street in Manhattan; Worth County, Georgia; Lake Worth, Florida; and village of Worth, Illinois.

On the front side of the obelisk, General Worth is charging into battle with sword drawn and his horse rearing. Though modest equestrian tribute is rather small, it’s important to put it in context. There simply weren’t many monuments in the city at the time—in fact, only one stood prior to the Worth Monument: the monumental statue of George Washington in Union Square Park (dedicated just a year earlier, in 1856.)

The obelisk is surrounded by a fence of swords—replicas of the Congressional Sword of Honor that Worth received while commanding in Texas—and is topped with helmets similar to the one General wears in the relief. There are cannonballs at the bases, as well as oak leaves and acorns symbolizing courage and valor. Bands around the obelisk list the general’s military victories, with the exception being West Point—a military academy, not a place of a battle. 

The Worth Monument pays tribute to military courage and celebrates the glory of victory, with every symbolic element clearly conveying the message. Only one thing remains unclear: what is a single grave is doing in the middle of Broadway?

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