William Jenkins Worth may be the only person of note buried in the middle of Broadway. The spot is marked by a 51-foot granite obelisk that spears the sky where Fifth Avenue, Broadway and 25th Street intersect. It is north of the Flatiron Building, adjacent to Madison Square Park.
The Worth Monument was dedicated in 1857, making it the second-oldest major monument in a New York City park. (The statue of George Washington in Union Square Park was dedicated a year earlier.) Designed by James Goodwin Batterson, the founder of Travelers Insurance Company, it is the final resting place of a military man who distinguished himself during three wars and also served as commandant of the corps at West Point. Major General Worth, a native of Hudson, N.Y., who originally thought he might become a merchant in Albany, served during the War of 1812, the Seminole Wars and the Mexican War.
The monument itself rests on a base surrounded by an ornamental cast-iron fence whose pickets are replicas of Worth’s Congressional Sword of Honor, an award predating the Congressional Medal of Honor, which wasn’t introduced until the Civil War. In 1941, a black marble service building went up on the north side of the monument to house the main water valves of the Catskill Aqueduct, a function it no longer serves.
When Worth died of cholera in 1849, he was temporarily interred at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. On Nov. 25, 1857 — a date commemorated as Evacuation Day, the day British troops left New York during the Revolutionary War — a processional that included 6,500 soldiers escorted Worth’s remains to the Flatiron District. A relic box was placed in the monument’s cornerstone. Its contents include copies of all the city’s newspapers, a Colt revolver, an article about George Washington and two copper pennies from 1787 and 1812. Although Worth namesakes include Fort Worth, Tex.; Worth Street in Manhattan, and the former Worth telephone exchange, there is probably no truth to the story that the inclusion of the pennies gave rise to the expression “putting in your two cent’s worth.”