New York City Hall. Photo by franklyfrank
Today, controversial bill Intro 775, which may limit the effectiveness of the NYC Landmarks Law, goes to hearing in the City Council Chambers at City Hall. This got us thinking: while most New Yorkers know of City Hall, a landmarked building completed in 1811, fewer visit or know the history of the city’s main government building. Here are 10 of our favorite secrets about City Hall:
10. On the Site of City Hall Was Once the Notorious Bridewell Prison
The Bridewell on the west side of City Hall was a combination workhouse, jail and prison. Named after the prison in London that was converted from the palace of Henry VIII, New York City’s Bridewell was so important, it was labeled on the Commissioners’ Plan for 1811 that laid out New York City’s street plan.
Its most notorious reputation came from during the American Revolution, when it was a British controlled prison. Construction on Bridewell began in 1775, a year before the Revolution, and the British didn’t bother to finish the prison. Prisoners reported that there were no panes in the windows to keep out the cold and conditions were likely similar to those in the sugarhouse prisons nearby. An almshouse and a barracks, whose archaeological remnants are partially below the Tweed Courthouse, were also located in what is now City Hall Park.