After seeing Word Trade Center’s Ground Zero, we had a little time to kill while waiting for the bus (a little info on the hop-on-hop-off-busses can be found here), so we wandered into the City Hall Park, a lovely little oasis in this magnificent city.
City Hall Park is located in the area of lower Manhattan, called Civic Center. It encompasses New York City Hall, police headquarters, Foley Square courthouses. Originally, this area was occupied by the Lenape Indians*(see bottom of post for more info) due to its rich pastoral fields and proximity to both the East River and the Hudson River. What is now Foley Square used to be a big pond that was so low lying that during the spring floods, the Indians could paddle between the rivers via the pond.
In 1609 the land was claimed for the Dutch by Henry Hudson, farms expanded and the colony grew, and the demand for workers increased – and in 1625 the Dutch West Indies Company decided to import slaves.
City Hall Park has seen a lot of action (here are a few);
- Protests against the Stamp Act in 1765, and later the celebration when it was revoked.
- The “Liberty Pole” erected by the Sons of Liberty was chopped down by British soldier and replaced five times.
- The completion of St. Paul’s Chapel in 1766.
- George Washington’s reading of the Declaration of Independence (July 9, 1776)
- the British recapturing the area
- Bridewells prison head starving 2000 prisoners and hanging 250 of them
- the American forces recapturing the Civic Center, and George Washington raising the flag in the park (1783)
- President Washington’s visit to St. Paul’s Chapel immediately after his inauguration (1789)
- Abolishment of slavery in 1827 was celebrated in the park for two days.
The original City Hall of New York was built in 1700. In 1802 it could no longer accommodate the growing municipal government, so a design contest for a new City Hall was held. It was won by John McComb Jr and Joseph Francois Mangin and the building was completed in 1812.
David N. Dinkins Municipal Building
This 40 story building was built (1914) to accommodate increased governmental space demands after the consolidation of the city’s five boroughs; Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. Each borough has its own President, and a borough is here a municipal corporation that is created when a country is merged with populated areas within it. Gale Brewer is the Manhattan Borough President. At 180 meters tall, this is one of the largest governmental buildings in the world. The building was designated a New York City landmark in 1966.
*The Lenape (or Delaware Indians) are a Native American tribe, whose historical territory was along the Delaware River watershed, western Long Island and lower Hudson valley. Expanding European colonies in the 18th century pushed the Lenape out of their homeland. They suffered violent conflicts with Europeans and newly introduced diseases like smallpox. Surviving Lenape moved west into the upper Ohio River Basin, and in the 1860s, most the Lenape remaining in the eastern states were sent to the Indian Territory.
I find the Lenape especially interesting because of the importance of the Lenape women; the following is copied from Wikipedia:
“Lenape kinship system has matrilineal clans, that is, children belong to their mother’s clan, from which they gain social status and identity. The mother’s eldest brother was more significant as a mentor to the male children than was their father, who was of another clan. Hereditary leadership passed through the maternal line, and women elders could remove leaders of whom they disapproved. Agricultural land was managed by women and allotted according to the subsistence needs of their extended families. Families were matrilocal; newlywed couples would live with the bride’s family, where her mother and sisters could also assist her with her growing family.”