In Central Park Lake near the northern side of Bow Bridge is a small island. This tiny patch of tall grass and rock sits less than 100 feet off shore and has no name, except for a few exciting days nearly a century ago, when it was known as Thibodaux’s Island.
As the summer of 1912 dragged on, West Side merchant Bartholomew Thibodaux was really feeling the heat. Upset over a property tax hike recently levied on his 75th street grocery store, Thibodaux dreamed of moving to a place where he could live by his own means and make his own rules like America’s founding fathers did.
So on the morning of July 18th, Thibodaux declared his independence – from America.
With his trusty Irish Setter Felix at his side, Thibodaux rowed a rented boat to the tiny island in Central Park’s Lake, where he unloaded a tent and some supplies and then set fire to the boat. Thibodaux then claimed the island as his own, a sovereign nation free from “the evil tyrants who hate upper Westside grocers.”
After he had pitched the tent and set up camp, Thibodaux addressed the curious onlookers who had gathered on the shoreline, reciting a long list of rules for his petite country. Some of the highlights were:
– All Citizens of Thibodaux’s Island shall live tax free.
– 30% of Thibodaux island (roughly 10 square feet) will be protected wetlands.
– No mail delivery on Saturday.
– The national anthem of Thibodaux’s island is Alexander’s Ragtime Band.
A short time later Felix was named Prime Minister of the island and a small party was held to celebrate his landslide victory in the elections.
As the morning turned into late morning, the curious onlookers moved on and the police arrived to evict Thibodaux from his “newer world.” Drunk with power and half a case of cooking sherry, Thibodaux ordered Felix to declare war on America, but his Prime Minister decided to swim ashore to chase a squirrel.
Bartholomew Thibodaux was arrested for trespassing on park property, destruction of a rental boat, and starting a rogue nation without the proper building permits. He never spoke to Felix again.