6. City Hall Park Was Home to the City’s First Almshouse
Artifacts unearthed beneath City Hall with buttons from the almshouse. Image by Chrysalis Archaeological Consultants
Before City Hall Park became the bustling green space it is today, it was home to the First Almshouse, one of New York City’s first welfare institutions. Built in 1735, the building stood on the site until 1797, when a second almshouse was constructed in its place.
Its main purpose was to help the poor, including struggling widows or orphans. Not only did the institution provide food, but it also served as a workhouse, where tenants could learn skills to aid them in finding jobs and employment opportunities. Moreover, the site also served as an infirmary.
The Second Almhouse functioned in much the same way as the first building until the residents were moved farther north in the city. Following the transfer, the building was used for several purposes: it came to house the American Museum and the Chambers Street Bank, and was also used as a court and public offices until it was destroyed by fire in 1854.