Madison Square Park is a popular draw in New York City for both residents and tourists alike. But visitors enjoying their Shake Shack and view of the Flatiron Building have little idea that a human body is interred in a monument across Fifth Avenue from the west side of the Park at West 25th Street and Fifth Avenue. Inside the 51-foot obelisk lie the mortal remains of General William Jenkins Worth, one of only two monuments in New York that also serve as mausoleums. The other is the much more famous Grant’s Tomb uptown.
General Worth fought in the War of 1812 and against the Seminoles in Florida, but made his name in the Mexican War of 1846-1848. He commanded at the Battle of Monterey, and is said to be the first American to make an amphibious landing, when he jumped from his boat during the attack on Veracruz. When Mexico City fell, it was Worth who climbed to the top of the National Palace and replaced the Mexican flag with the Stars and Stripes.
When Worth died of cholera in San Antonio in 1848, he wasn’t quite the household name that Grant was, but when his remains were transported to New York for re-interment in 1856, the ceremony was marked by a procession to Madison Square Park accompanied by some 6,500 soldiers and a speech given by Mayor Fernando Wood.
The mausoleum is located on a small traffic island bordered by 25th Street, Broadway, and 5th Avenue. The monument was designed by James Goodwin Batterson, whose pedigree also included being one of the builders of the Capitol and Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. It features plaques commemorating Worth’s principal battles, a bronze relief of the General himself astride his horse, and a relic box placed in the cornerstone.
The monument hasn’t escaped the attention of some conspiracy theorists. Downtown from Madison Square Park is another obelisk, located in the churchyard of St Paul’s on lower Broadway. It was erected in memory of Thomas Addis Emmett, an Irish attorney and Freemason who immigrated to New York in 1804. Uptown in Central Park is the better-known Cleopatra’s Needle, a 3,500-year-old gift from Egypt, given to the U.S. in 1879. According to the theory of the obelisks, if you draw a straight line between the Emmett and Cleopatra’s Needle, it will pass directly through the Worth Monument (the General had been a Freemason, too).
Whether the obelisks have anything to do with the Illuminati or Freemasons seems unlikely. But the Worth Monument remains one of New York’s largely un-noticed landmarks, one that thousands of people pass by every day without knowing there is an old soldier lying inside.
Know Before You Go
The monument is located in the small pedestrian area just west of Madison Square Park, just below 25th Street