7. The Site of Tompkins Park Was Originally Meant To Hold a Large Market

During the 17th century, Peter Stuyvesant, the last director general of the New Netherland colony, owned the land that now encompasses Tompkins Square Park. Former Governor of New York (and Vice President of the U.S. under James Monroe) Daniel D. Tompkins later acquired it, and it was soon marked for development as a public square. By 1834, ownership of the property had transferred over to the city, which took on the responsibility of landscaping the site between the years 1835 and 1850. At the time, the land originally consisted of salt marsh and open tidal meadows (“Stuyvesant meadows”) – once the largest ecosystem in Manhattan.

Before Tompkins Square Park opened to the public in 1850, the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 called for an on-site market. The proposed project, which never came to fruition, would have stretched from First Avenue to the East River. Today, little remains of its swampy and muddy past.