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Union Square Park: The Very Center of Cannabis Business in New York City

Union Square Park, a patch of green amid Manhattan’s concrete jungle, stretching from 14th to 17th streets. It’s more than a spot to enjoy your lunch; it’s a historical tapestry, woven with tales of political upheaval, social movements, and, you guessed it, cannabis.
Union Square Park in 1870
Union Square Park in 1870

Early History of Union Square Park

Union Square Park, located in the heart of Manhattan, is a four-acre park that encompasses the entire block bounded by 14th and 17th streets, and Union Square East and West. It was first used as a public space in the late 1700s and it was officially designated as a public park in 1815. The park was named Union Square because it was the union of Broadway and The Bowery, the two main thoroughfares of early New York City.

Union Square Becomes Official

During the 1800s, Union Square Park underwent several major changes and improvements. In 1839, it was officially renamed Union Square, and in 1872, the city began a major redesign of the park, which included the construction of a new playground, the first of its kind in the city. The playground was designed to provide a safe and fun place for children to play and was a popular attraction in the park.

Early Cannabis Pioneers

Union Square Park was also a favorite location for Fitz Hugh Ludlow, who wrote “The Hasheesh Eater” in 1857 and was one of the first recreational experimenters of cannabis in New York City. He was known for his vivid descriptions of the effects of cannabis and his advocacy for its use as a recreational drug. Union Square Park was one of his favorite locations to consume cannabis and he frequently visited the park to experience the effects of the drug.

In his book, Ludlow describes how he would often visit Union Square Park and sit on a bench to smoke cannabis, describing the park as a “magic garden” where he could escape the stresses of everyday life and enter into a world of “strange and wonderful” experiences. He wrote about how the park’s serene atmosphere and natural beauty were enhanced by the effects of cannabis, making it a perfect place to enjoy the drug.

Fitz Hugh Ludlow
Fitz Hugh Ludlow

More Than Just Cannabis Activities

Ludlow’s descriptions of his cannabis experiences in Union Square Park were not only a reflection of his personal experiences but also a representation of the broader cultural attitudes towards cannabis use in the mid-19th century. At that time, cannabis was not yet criminalized, and it was widely consumed as a recreational drug.

The park was also a popular spot for leisure activities, such as strolling, picnicking, and even ice-skating during the winter months. The park was also a popular spot for political rallies, including speeches by abolitionists, suffragists and other political figures.

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Union Square Park as a Center of Political and Social Activism

Union Square Park has long been a center of political and social activism in New York City. Throughout its history, the park has served as a gathering place for people to come together and protest for various causes, including workers’ rights, civil rights, and anti-war protests. 

Anti-War Protests of the ’60s and ’70s

In the 1960s and 1970s, Union Square Park also played a significant role in the counter-culture movement, which was characterized by an anti-establishment attitude and a rejection of traditional societal norms. This movement included the use of cannabis as a symbol of rebellion and nonconformity, and Union Square Park became a popular location for people to gather and consume cannabis.

As the movement grew, so did the number of people consuming cannabis in the park, and this led to the increased police presence in the area. The police crackdown on cannabis use in Union Square Park and the surrounding area was a reflection of the broader societal attitudes towards cannabis at the time, which were largely negative.

Despite the police crackdown, the counter-culture movement continued to thrive in Union Square Park, and it served as a symbol of resistance against the establishment. The park also continued to be a popular location for political rallies and protests, including the anti-Vietnam War protests, which were some of the largest and most significant protests in the city’s history.

Modern Protests and Action

In more recent years, Union Square Park has continued to be a center of political and social activism. In 2011, the park was one site of the Occupy Wall Street movement, a series of protests against economic inequality and corporate greed.

Throughout its history, Union Square Park has served as a powerful symbol of the people’s right to free speech and peaceful assembly. It has been a place where citizens can come together to demand change and to fight for their rights and beliefs. Union Square Park is a reminder that activism and social movements are integral parts of the city’s past and present, and that the park will continue to be a gathering place for the community to come together and fight for their rights.

Protest in Union Square
Protest in Union Square

Cannabis Industry in Union Square

The Union Square Lamp Company

Union Square has a long history with the cannabis industry, dating back to the late 1800s. The Union Square Lamp Company (USLC) was founded by Josiah Lamp in 1881, and it specialized in providing high-quality cannabis accessories at affordable prices. The Original Smoking Lamps, designed by Josiah Lamp, became a great success in Union Square and across the United States. However, the USLC fell into ruin after Josiah Lamp’s death in 1922.

Fast forward to 2021, with the legalization of cannabis in New York State, the cannabis industry started to grow again. In 2023, the Union Square Travel Agency, opened at 835 Broadway, the location of the old USLC lamp factory. This brought the cannabis industry back to Union Square, reviving the legacy of the Union Square Lamp Company.

Union Square Lamp Factory Floor
Union Square Lamp Factory Floor

The Union Square Travel Agency

The Union Square Travel Agency, like the Union Square Lamp Company, is dedicated to providing high-quality cannabis products and accessories to the community. The dispensary offers a wide variety of products, including flowers, concentrates, edibles, and topicals, as well as accessories such as pipes and vaporizers. The dispensary also provides educational resources and consultations to help customers make informed decisions about the products they purchase.

The legalization of cannabis has also led to increased economic activity in the area, with more people visiting the dispensary and the surrounding businesses, such as restaurants and shops. This increased economic activity has also led to the creation of new jobs in the area, including positions in retail, hospitality, and other service industries.

Union Square has a long history with the cannabis industry, and it continues to be a destination for cannabis enthusiasts. The Union Square Lamp Company and the Union Square Travel Agency are both examples of how the cannabis industry can evolve and adapt to changing times while staying true to its roots.

835 Broadway, New York City
835 Broadway, New York City

Union Square Park has always been a vital and dynamic part of New York City’s history, culture and community. The park has been a center of political and social activism, a cultural hub, and a location for cannabis culture for over a century. It has been the site of many important events and protests that have shaped the city and the nation. The park has also been a cultural hub, hosting a wide variety of cultural events and performances, and it has been home to the Union Square Greenmarket, one of the oldest and largest farmers’ markets in the city.

The park’s connection to the cannabis industry goes back to 1881 with the founding of the Union Square Lamp Company, and it continues to this day with the opening of the Union Square Travel Agency cannabis dispensary. The park has also been a popular spot for cannabis enthusiasts to gather and consume cannabis, whether they are tourists or locals, and whether they are cannabis enthusiasts or simply looking to try it out.

Union Square Park is a place where the community can come together to enjoy the park’s beauty, to participate in cultural events, to learn about and access cannabis products, and to engage in activism and social movements. It is a reminder that the park will continue to be a gathering place for the community and a symbol of the city’s history and ongoing activism.

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