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. The granite bricks near the West 85th Street entrance are often erroneously said to be the remnants of a foundation of a building in Seneca Village, but from speaking to the Central Park Conservancy Historian, Marie Warsh, it’s been determined they’re actually from a 1930s sandbox. There are foundations and other remnants hidden much further underground though!
Join us on our next tour of the Secrets of Central Park to discover more. Tickets can be purchased below:
Also, see more quirky NYC facts and discoveries in our “Daily What?!” series.