In our recent post about plaques in New York City that are lost or just plain wrong, we revealed one last plaque that marked the site of the first “Battle “of the Revolution. On July 4th, we thought it would be fitting to commemorate this lost spot on what is now Gold Street in downtown Manhattan.
Gold Street was named after Golden Hill, named golden bergh by the Dutch, when Manhattan was still hilly downtown. According to Robert Sullivan in his book Rats, in 1770, British soldiers attacked the unofficial leader of the colonial masses, Isaac Sears, over a marker called the Liberty Pole, which the British resented for its message of freedom-mongering. A skirmish ensued between the British and the Liberty Boys on what is now Eden’s Alley.
For historians, this first “battle” of the American Revolution is sometimes also classified as a riot, depending on whom you ask. What’s for sure is that blood was shed even though nobody died, with confirmations of slashings and beatings. Two months later, the Boston Massacre took place.
Around 1898, a plaque was put up on a building to commemorate the site of the Battle of Golden Hill. The building was demolished and the plaque was discovered a few blocks away in 1918, where it was no longer on the site of the battle at all. At some point after, the plaque disappeared, the building demolished, and traces of Golden Hill gradually lost both in collective memory and in the geography of Manhattan. Robert Sullivan writes in his footnotes for Rats, “I feel strongly that there should be a plaque marking Golden Hill. A plaque may not sound like much given the trend toward audiovisual and computer-driven historical tools that are ‘interactive,’ but a plaque marks a place, which is important.”
Read more about lost and incorrect plaques related to Revolutionary War figures like Nathan Hale and Alexander Hamilton.