City Hall Park - Vintage Images

 

The City Hall Park is a historic triangular area in the Civic Center, Lower Manhattan, bounded to the north by Chambers Street, to the east by Park Row and to the west by Broadway.

In the 17th century it served as a communal pasture ground for livestock, established in the Dutch tradition of common lands for local residents, outside the walled citadel. It was known as "Vlackte" by the Dutch settlers (Plain in English) and the Common or Flats by the English. The first construction in the area is believed to be a windmill, built about 1663. In 1686, Governor Thomas Dongan granted the City of New York ownership of the Common. The area was then used for executions and the burial of paupers and slaves.

In the 18th century, this area was more commonly known as the Green or the Fields. The John Harris house, built in the 1720s, is believed to be the oldest house in the Common. Later, it became also a site of civic institutions such as an almshouse, jails, British soldiers barracks, powder house, as well as burial grounds. The Almshouse, better known as Poor House, was erected in 1735, adjoining the Harris property. In 1739, an additional building for a hospital for contagious diseases was ordered to be erected in the Poor House plot.

Fear of French and Indian invasions during King George’s War led to the construction of palisades, block houses and four gates in 1745. The palisades crossed Manhattan, from East River to North River, across the Common. They were removed in the 1760s.

In 1766, a Liberty Pole, was erected in the area to celebrate the Repeal of the Stamp Act. Four others were raised in the following years, all cut down by loyalists. A replica dating to 1921 now stands near the original location.

In 1785, the "Fields" were fenced with post and rail and it became known as the Park. The old fence was replaced in 1818 by an iron railing and it was completed in 1821.

The construction of the City Hall building started in 1803 and it was opened in 1812, when the city government moved from the old Federal Hall, on Wall Street.

In 1818, the Rotunda was built as New York City’s first art museum. The iron railing around the Park was partially constructed in the same year and it was completed in 1821.

The Old New York County Courthouse (now Tweed Courthouse) was constructed from 1861 and 1881. In the late 19th century, several of the early skyscrapers were built around the Park. The monument to Nathan Hale was dedicated in 1893.

More: City Hall Park in the 19th Century

On October 27, 1904, the City Hall Subway Station was opened, more than four years after the formal groundbreaking ceremony performed at City Hall on March 24, 1900.

More: Broadway at City Hall Park

 

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Historical post card City Hall Park in the early 20th century, published by H. C. Leighton Co. The Post Office building is on the right, outside the image. Newspaper Row was a name given to part of Park Row with some newspaper buildings.

 

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The City Hall Park Fountain in 2011 (credit: Will Steacy / NYC & Company). The architect was Jacob Wrey Mould (cast: 1872).

 

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Copyright © Geographic Guide - Antique images of NYC. Historic Places.

 

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