The only remaining visible foundation from Seneca Village, inside Central Park. Image via City Connections Realty.
Here’s another gem from the book Secret New York: An Unusual Guide: there was once a thriving village called Seneca located in Central Park, between 81st and 89th Street on the West Side. What made this village even more interesting was that it wasn’t a shantytown or slum, like the rest of the settlements which were predominantly Irish. This was a full fledged middle class town with “three churches, wood houses on assigned lots, a natural spring, basement schools, and a population of over 260, mostly African-American. Far from a ghetto, it was a rural refugee from chaos, disease, and bigotry of downtown. It also gave black residents what they needed by law in order to vote: their own land.”
In an early version of eminent domain, the city passed a bill in 1853 authorizing the take over of the land and paid the settlers off. By 1857, when the park officially opened, the settlement was gone. Today, you can see the last remaining visible trace of this settlement across from a children’s playground on 85th Street: a stone foundation.
See more quirky NYC facts and discoveries in our “Daily What?!” series.