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Full text of "An appeal for the preservation of City Hall Park, New York : with a brief history of the park"

An Appeal 



i — 

■ f 128 
1.65 

a .C5 ns 

Hcopv 1 For the Preservation of 

Jm f 



CITY HALL PARK 



NEW YORK 



with 



A Brief History of the Park 



The American 

Scenic and Historic Preservation Society 

Tribune Building, New York 

April, igio 




•'^•>^0,-,(AN Oi"^.^ 



An Appeal 
for the Preservation of 

CITY HALL PARK 

NEW YORK 



with 

A Brief History of the Park 



The American 

Scenic and Historic Preservation Society 

Tribune Building, New York 

April, igio 



®f)e American 
)cenic anb J^isftoric ^resJerbation ^ocietp 

tKribune ^uiltring, i^eto |9orfe 



J. PIERPONT MORGAN, LL.D. 

^resfibent 

GEORGE F. KUNZ, Ph.D., Sc.D. 

^iceBresiibents! 

Hon. GEORGE W. PERKINS HENRY M. LEIPZIGER, Ph.D. 

Hon. CHARLES S. FRANCIS Col. HENRY W. SACKETT 

Ereafiurer Counsel 

Hon. N. TAYLOR PHILLIPS HENRY E. GREGORY 

Xanb^cape iarcijitect 

Hon. SAMUEL PARSONS 

^ecretarp 

EDWARD HAGAMAN HALL, L.H.D 

Erusiteesf 

EDWARD D. ADAMS, LL.D. Hon. THOMAS H. LEE 

Prof. L. H. BAILEY HENRY M. LEIPZIGER, Ph.D. 

REGINALD PELHAM BOLTON OGDEN P. LETCHWORTH 

Com. HERBERT L. BRIDGMAN HIRAM J. MESSENGER 

H. K. BUSH-BROWN J. PIERPONT MORGAN, LL.D 

D. BRYSON DELAVAN, M.D. IRA K. MORRIS 

PIoN. CHARLES M. DOW JOHN DE WITT MOVVRIS 

Hon. CHARLES S. FRANCIS GORDON H. PECK 

Hon. ROBERT L. FRYER Hon. GEORGE W. PERKINS 

HENRY E. GREGORY Hon. N. TAYLOR PHILLIPS 

ROCELLUS S. GUERNSEY Hon. THOMAS R. PROCTOR 

FRANCIS WHITING HALSEY Hon. J. HAMPDEN ROBB 

SAMUEL VERPLANCK HOFFMAN Col. HENRY W. SACKETT 

Hon. WILLIAM B. HOWLAND CHARLES A. SPOFFORD 

Hon. THOMAS P. KINGSFORD Hon. STEPHEN H. THAYER 

GEORGE F. KUNZ, Ph.D., ScD. ALBERT ULLMAN 

FREDERICKS. LAMB CHARLES D. VAIL, L.H.D 
FRANK S. WITHERBEE 



AN APPEAL FOR THE 

PRESERVATION OF CITY HALL PARK 

IN NEW YORK CITY 



The American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society- 
appeals to all public spirited citizens to use their influence to 
prevent the appropriation of park space in City Hall Park, New 
York, for an enlarged County Court-house, by addressing their 
remonstrances to the Chairmen of the following Boards in 
whose hands the decision of the question rests : 

BOARD OF ESTIMATE AND APPORTIONMENT 

His Honor William J. Gaynor, Mayor, as Chairman of the 
Board, City Hall. 

Hon. Wm. A. Prendergast, Controller, No. 280 Broadway. 

Hon. George McAneny, President of Manhattan Borough, 
City Hall. 

Hon, Alfred E. Steers, President of Brooklyn Borough, 
Borough Hall, Brooklyn. 

Hon. Cyrus C. Miller, President of Bronx Borough, 3d 
avenue and 177th street, Bronx. 

Hon. Lawrence Gresser, President of Queens Borough, 
Borough Hall, Long Island City. 

Hon. George Cromwell, President of Richmond Borough, 
Borough Hall, New Brighton. 

Hon. John Purroy Mitchel, President of the Board of 
Aldermen, City Hall. 

COUNTY COURT-HOUSE BOARD 

Hon. Morgan J. O'Brien, Chairjnan, 2 Rector street. 
Hon. Edward M. Grout, iii Broadway. 
L. Laflin Kellogg, Esq., 115 Broadway. 
E. Clifford Potter, Esq., 137 Broadway. 
Charles Strauss, Esq., Secretary, 141 Broadway. 



The situation is as follows: City Hall Park, which fifty 
years ago contained io% acres before the Postoffice site was 
sold, now contains about 8^ acres. This space contains the 
City Hall, the County Court-house at its rear facing Chambers 
street; the City Court-house east of the latter; the kiosks 
of the subway; the superstructures of the underground public 
conveniences; a fountain and the statue of Nathan Hale. 

The Court-house board now proposes to erect on the site 
of the County Court-house an enormous structure extending 
almost the entire distance along Chambers street from Broadway 
to Centre street. If such a project be carried into execution, 

It will greatly reduce the open space of what has been the 
City Common for over two centuries; 

It will encroach further than heretofore upon land made 
sacred by venerated traditions of every period of our City's 
history; 

It will overshadow the City Hall, which is one of the archi- 
tectural treasures of the City; 

It will prevent the symmetrical architectural development 
of a Civic Center around City Hall Park commensurate with 
the dignity of the Metropolis of the New World and similar to 
those of other large cities in America and Europe; 

It will increase the congestion of traffic at a point already 
greatly congested; 

It will impair the City's financial credit by a confession of 
past improvidence and by proclaiming that the city's financial 
resources are at last so exhausted that it cannot afford to buy 
a building site and must therefore consume its park space — 
reserved for future generations — in order to house its courts; 

And it will establish a precedent for still further encroach- 
ments in this and other public parks, the ultimate effect of 
which cannot be foreseen. 

It is apparent that a crisis has arrived in which every public 
spirited citizen, as he values the city's parks, should rally to 
their defence. 

For seven years successive Court-house Commissions have 
been seeking a site for a larger building, considering at various 
times sites in City Hall Park, Battery Park, Washington Square 
and Union Square. Last year, when the Court-house Com- 
mission appeared to favor placing the Court-house in Washing- 
ton Square, this Society at its Annual Meeting Jan. 21, 1909, 



adopted a resolution declaring "that in the opinion of this 
Society, it is against the interests of the city and contrary to its 
settled policy and the sentiment of the people that any part of a 
public park should be used for a court-house or other municipal 
building." 

The Washington Square site was abandoned, and this year 
the Court-house Board secured an amendment to the law 
under which it is acting permitting it to locate the building in 
City Hall Park. This plan has aroused the most earnest pro- 
test from the public. Popular sentiment on this subject was 
unmistakably manifested at the hearing before the Board of 
Estimate and Apportionment in the City Hall on March i8, 
1910, when the chamber was crowded almost to suffocation and 
when the limits of the hearing did not suffice to allow all the 
protestants to speak. At the present moment the Court-house 
Board is considering alternative plans and will soon make final 
recommendations to the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, 
the final arbiters. 

The objections of this Society are based on the ground that 
the appropriation of public park space for a building is a viola- 
tion of the principle upon which our public parks are created, is 
contrary to public policy, and in the present instance is unneces- 
sary as other sites are available. For 22 years persistent efforts 
have been made to encroach upon City Hall Park for a public 
building and for 22 years public opinion has successfully 
resisted the effort. In 1888 the Legislature constituted a Com- 
mission, "To select and locate a site, conveniently situated, in 
the neighborhood of the County Court-house Building in said 
City, but not in the City Hall Park,"' for a Municipal Building. 
In 1889 the Legislature authorized this Commission to locate a 
site within the City Hall Park, but public sentiment revolted 
against it and in 1890 the Legislature again imposed upon the 
commission the prohibition '■'■ but not i7i City Hall ParkP In 1892 
the Legislature again authorized the selection of a site for a 
municipal building in City Hall Park, and the intense indignation 
which prevailed in that year and in 1894 compelled the abatidon- 
ment of the project. Public sentiment is no less sensitive upon this 
question today than it was then. In fact the agitation last year 
which prevented the location of the Academy of Design on the 
site of the Arsenal Building in Central Park, demonstrates how 
jealous the people are of any diminution of their park area. 



As the city finally found means to erect its municipal build- 
ing on property which was not a public park, we believe that a 
place can be found for the new Court-house without going into 
a public park. 

Within a period of thirty-five years and forty-three years 
respectively, both the Post Office and Federal Court-house at 
the south end of the Park and the County Court-house at the 
north end have been outgrown, and there is every probability 
that the new County Court-house proposed for City Hall Park 
would be outgrown in an equal period and the city eventually 
compelled to go elsewhere for a larger site or encroach still 
further upon the park. It would therefore seem to be the 
policy of wisdom to look at least fifty years ahead and provide 
for future needs by locating the new Court-house, not only 
where it will not encroach upon present park space, but also 
where it will have room for future expansion. 

The growth of population, the increase in the holding 
capacity of the buildings and the augmented congestion at and 
around City Hall Park counsel the removal of all buildings 
from the Park except the City Hall itself, and the recovery of 
the area occupied by the Post Office, rather than the establish- 
ment of the principle that the city can use up its park areas for 
building lots. 

The following historical sketch of City Hall Park and its 
buildings will serve to indicate the deep interest attaching to 
this place and how deserving it is of preservation and restora- 
tion. 



AN HISTORICAL SKETCH OF 
CITY HALL PARK 



City Hall Park has been known at various periods as the 
Vlacte or Flat, the Second Plains, the Common, the Fields, the 
Green, the Square, the Park, and finally City Hall Park. 

During the Dutch regime the Vlacte was part of the un- 
appropriated lands of Manhattan Island and was used as a com- 
mon for the pasturage of cattle. 

Title Vests in the City 

The title to this area was given to the Corporation of the 
City of New York in 1686 by the terms of the Dongan Charter, 
which says : " I do by these presents give and grant unto the 
said Mayor, Aldermen and Commonalty of the said City of New 
York all the waste vacant unpatented and unappropriated lands 
lyeing and being within the said City of New York and on Man- 
hattans Island aforesaid extending and reaching to the low water 
mark," etc. At this period the Common was a wild, uncultivated 
tract on the outskirts of civilization. 

Delimitation of the Park 

The outlining of the form of the Park was a process of 
gradual evolution. The first boundary was made by the ram- 
bling old Post Road, which came down approximately along the 
line of the Bowery and Chatham street (now Park Row) to 
Broadway, just south of the present post-office. This road fol- 
lowed one of the routes designated in the act of June 19, 1703, 
entitled "An act for the Laying out Regulateing Clearing and 
Preserving Publick Comon highways thro'out this Colony." 
The Commissioners appointed under this act filed their survey 
June 16, 1707, laying out the road "to begin from the gate 
at Spring Garden to Fresh Water, the course east by north." 
The Spring Garden occupied the southern half of the site of the 
present Saint Paul Building, which stands on the southern 
corner of Ann street and Broadway. The new road was named 
Chatham street in 1774. 

The western boundary of the future park was indicated in 
the first half of the eighteenth century by a farm road which, 



running between the King's Farm on the west and the Common 
on the east, extended from the junction of the Post Road with 
Broadway at the present Vesey street northward to Anthony 
Rutgers farm at about Worth street (formerly Anthony street). 
On this road, extending along almost the entire length of the 
present Park, was a rope-walk, which appears on a map of 1728 
without the owner's name. This appears on a map of 1730 as 
Dugdale & Searls' rope-walk, and on a map of 1742 as Van 
Pelt's. It stood in what is now Broadway. 

In 1760, 53 years after Chatham street was surveyed on 
one side of the Common, Broadway (first called Great George 
street) was surveyed on the other side. The Common Council 
archives record that " Mr. Marschalk, one of the City Surveyors, 
produced to this board the draft or plan of a road which 
he hath lately laid out by direction of the Corporation, viz., 
beginning from the Spring Garden House where the street 
is now of the breadth of 82 feet 6 inches, and extending from 
thence north 37 degrees 30 minutes east until it comes to the 
ground of the late Widow Rutgers, leaving the street thereof 
50 feet in breadth, which is approved by this Board." 

Between these two diverging highways, property bounda- 
ries at and immediately north of the present Chambers street 
were indefinite and the Common gradually merged into the 
negroes' burial ground beyond. In June, 1796, the boundaries 
were adjusted by the establishment of Chambers street, thus 
completing substantially the triangular outline of the Park. 

At the beginning of the last century the triangle at present 
bounded by Centre street. Park Row and Chambers street was 
a part of the Park area and constituted its northeast angle. In 
1835 the Board of Aldermen voted that Centre street be opened 
from Chatham to Pearl street 75 feet wide; and that the grounds 
between Tryon Row and the old Hall of Records be thrown 
open to the public and be made a part of Centre street. In 1852 
the intersection of Chatham street (now Park Row) and Centre 
street was widened, the railing and coping of the Park from the 
Hall of Records northward being set back 9^ feet. From that 
point to the south end of the Park the curb was also set back a 
few feet ; and from time to time other alterations have been 
made in the fence and curb lines. In 1867, as more fully stated 
elsewhere, came the crowning disaster to the Park when the 
southern end was cut off and sold to the Federal Government 
for a post-office. 



A Place of Execution 

Returning now to the period prior to this delimitation when 
the area thus included was a formless Common, we may recall 
the uses to which it was successively devoted and trace its phy- 
sical development to the Park of today. 

During the latter part of the seventeenth and first half of 
the eighteenth century this remote and unimproved tract was 
considered an appropriate place for the expiation of capital 
crimes. It is believed that Lieut. Gov. Leisler and his son-in- 
law, Jacob Milborne, who were executed for alleged treason in 
1691, were hanged on the Common nearly opposite the place of 
their burial, which latter was on the Leisler estate on the east side 
of Park Row, opposite the Park. Gallows were erected " at the 
usual place of execution on the Commons " from time to time as 
occasion required. Resolutions to that effect may be found in 
the proceedings of the Common Council in December, 1725, 
June, 1727, and doubtless many other dates. On Mays, 1756, 
the Common Council ordered the gallows removed " to the place 
where the negroes were burnt some five years ago at the foot of 
the hill called Catiemuts Hill near the Fresh Water." The Fresh 
Water was a pond on the site of the present City Prison and 
Criminal Court building. 

The First Building— 1728-1776 

The first building within the area of the present park ap- 
pears on the map of 1728 on the western margin of the Common 
about opposite what is now Murray street. It stood in front of 
the rope-walk, from which it was separated by an interval of 
only 40 or 50 feet and to which it apparently belonged. This 
or some other small building appears on this site up to the 
building of the Bridewell in 1775. 

The First Almshouse— 1736-1797 

The first public building was an Almshouse, which was 
erected in 1736 on the site of the present City Hall. To distin- 
guish this building from its successor, we will call it the first 
Almshouse. An advertisement in that year invites proposals 
from suitable persons, stating the terms on which they will per- 
form the duties of Keeper of the House of Correction and Over- 
seer of the Poorhouse and Workhouse, Adjacent to the Alms- 



house were two small outhouses. In 1757 a small piece of 
ground, " of the length of two boards," to the eastward of the 
Workhouse fence, was ordered to be enclosed for a burial place 
for the poor of that institution. This Almshouse remained 
standing until the second Almshouse was completed in its rear 
in 1797, when it was demolished. 

City Wall, Blockhouse and Fcnrder Magazine — 1745 

In 1745, the year after France had declared war against 
England, the citizens of New York, fearing an attack by the 
French, put the city in a posture of defence. Among the forti- 
fications erected was a wall of palisades, similar to that which 
gave the name to Wall street. The second city wall, however, 
was built farther north, beginning at Mr. Desbrosses' house (No. 
57 Cherry street) and crossing the island in a zigzag course to 
the North river near the foot of Chambers street. It was built 
of cedar logs 14 feet long, and was perforated with loopholes 
for musketry. Within the wall was a banquet four feet high and 
four feet wide. Six blockhouses with portholes for cannon were 
situated at commanding angles, and strong gateways were built 
at the intersection of the wall with the Post Road, Broadway and 
Greenwich road. One of these blockhouses and gateways was 
in the angle of the wall at Broadway and Chambers street. 
David Grim, who was living at the time when the wall was built, 
has recorded that in 1746 a large party of Mohawk and Oneida 
Indians came down the Hudson river in their canoes, landed 
near the foot of Laight street, and passed through the Broadway 
gate on iheir way to have an interview with Governor Clinton 
on Bowling Green. About the time when the wall was erected, 
a powder magazine was built on the Common a short distance 
southeast of the Almshouse. The powder magazine appears on 
Maerschalck's survey of 1755 and again on Montresor's survey 
of 1775. 

The New Gaol— Old Hall of Records — 1757-1903 

In 1757 the Common Council appointed a committee to 
purchase materials for a new gaol to be erected just east of the 
first Almshouse on the Common, and instructed it to proceed 
with all speed to construct the same. At that time and for 
sev'eral years previously, the basement and garret of the old 
City Hall, which stood at Wall and Nassau streets, on the site of 
the present United States Sub-Treasury, had afforded ample 

10 



accommodations for transgressors of the law; but the city was 
growing in wickedness as it was growing in population, and it 
was decided to erect more commodious quarters on the Com- 
mon. This building, which stood 135 feet east of the present 
City Hall, and which, at the time of its demolition in 1903, was 
the oldest municipal building in town, had a varied and stirring 
history, being known at various periods as the New Gaol, the 
Debtors' Prison, the Provost, the Register's Office, and lastly 
the Hall of Records. Originally it was a square stone building 
about 60 by 75 feet in size, three stories high and facing, as 
the present City Hall faces, west of south. 

The basement consisted of three rows of three arched vaults 
each, varying from 15 by 19 feet to 18 by 28^ feet in size. 
The arches were 9 feet high in the center, built of brick, and 
rested on stone foundations 3 feet thick and stone piers 7 feet 8 
inches square at the base. The partition walls of the cellar were 
2 feet thick. There appear to have been no exterior openings 
to these dungeons originally. The doorways connecting them 
were closed with heavy doors. Above the ground the building 
was constructed of rough stone three stories high. A picture of 
the period shows the entrance in the middle of the first story on 
the southwestern face, with two windows on either side, and 
five windows each in the second and third stories. The side view 
shows four windows in each story. The roof was square, with a 
pediment and four dormer windows in tlie front view and four 
dormer windows in the side view. Above the centre of the roof 
arose a cupola which contained a bell. This bell was used to 
give alarms of fire, the location of the fire being indicated at 
night by a lantern suspended from a pole protruding from the 
cupola toward the endangered quarter. The building is said to 
have cost less than $12,000. It was the first one erected for ex- 
clusive use as a jail. It was an imposing edifice in its day, and 
standing, as it did, the most conspicuous object to the traveler as 
he entered the town by the old Boston High Road, was a pow- 
erful admonition to all comers to lead a sober, righteous and 
upright life — and to pay their debts. The latter was by no means 
the least important of its warnings, for in those days they had 
not adopted the modern beneficent bankrupt law by which a 
man can swear off his superfluous financial obligations and begin 
life anew with a clean ledger, if not a clear conscience. At that 
time the law permitted a creditor to cast a debtor into prison, a 



proceeding which, if it curtailed the debtor's money-earning 
capacity, at least gave the creditor the consolation to be derived 
from the knowledge that he was not the only person suffering 
inconvenience. 

That there were many creditors ready to take that sort of 
satisfaction is evident from the fact that the new gaol soon 
came to be known as the Debtors' Prison. A notice in Gaines' 
Gazette and Mercury of July 27, 1772, indicates that the public 
hospitality extended by the gaol was not of the most comfort- 
able kind, and was supplemented by the kind ofifices of a sympa- 
thetic and "respectable publick." "The Debtors confined in 
the Gaol of The City of New York " — so the notice runs — " im- 
pressed with a grateful sense of the obligations they are under 
to a respectable publick for the generous contributions that 
have been made to them, beg leave to return their hearty 
thanks, particularly to the worshipful the Corporation of The 
City of New York, the reverend the Clergy of the English, 
Dutch and Presbyterian Churches and their respective congre- 
gations, by whose generous donations they have been comfort- 
ably supported during the last winter and preserved from per- 
ishing in a dreary prison with hunger and cold." 

In 1764 the Common Council authorized the Committee on 
the New Gaol to erect opposite the gaol a public whipping post, 
stocks, cage and pillory " in such manner as they shall think 
proper." 

After the Revolutionary War the building continued to be 
used as a city prison until 1830. By that time the city had come 
to need better quarters for its public records, and a committee 
of the Common Council selected the old gaol for such use. About 
$15,000 was then spent in remodeling and refitting it. The orig- 
inal three stories were transformed into two by changing the 
floors and windows ; the cupola and the roof with its dormer 
windows were removed and a fiat roof substituted, and the build- 
ing was lengthened at each end about seventeen feet by the 
addition of a Grecian portico and steps. The six columns of each 
portico were of the Ionic order, and supported a perfectly plain 
entablature and pediment. These changes having been made, 
the rough stone exterior was nicely smoothed over with a uni- 
form coating of stucco, and the whole transformation was 
alleged to have given the one-time gaol something of the classic 
beauty of the Doric Temple of Diana at Ephesus, one of the 

12 



Seven Wonders of the World. The result, however, was an archi- 
tectural nondescript possessing neither the substantial simpli- 
city of the original building nor any recognizable resemblance 
to the beautiful heathen temple of the Goddess of the Silver Bow, 
which it was supposed to imitate. The old bell that was used 
to sound the primitive fire alarms was placed over the neigh- 
boring Bridewell. When the Bridewell was removed, in 1838, 
the bell continued to ring out its alarms from the roof of Naiad 
Hose Company, in Beaver street, until, a short time later, it was 
destroyed by the element against which for so many years it had 
given its warnings. 

In 1832, while the reconstruction was in progress, an epi- 
demic of cholera broke out in the city, driving many of the in- 
habitants to the outlying villages and paralyzing business. Dur- 
ing the prevalence of the scourge, the work of remodeling the 
gaol was suspended, and it was used temporarily for a hospital. 

Upon the completion of the repairs it was occupied by mu- 
nicipal offices and became the depository of the city records. 
Within twenty-five years, however, even these accommodations 
were outgrown, and in 1858 the Surrogate was obliged to move 
to other quarters. In the following year the Street Commis- 
sioner followed suit, and in 1869 the Comptroller evacuated, 
after which time the building was in sole possession of the City 
Register, and was known indifferently as the Register's Office 
and the Hall of Records. 

During the supremacy of the Tweed ring (some of whom 
may well have desired to obliterate any possible suggestion of 
the original character of the building), the city fathers spent 
$140,000 more on the ancient gaol. Their " improvements " con- 
sisted of the erection of another story above Diana's entabla- 
ture and pediments, and the further enlargement of the interior 
accommodations by the simple expedient of filling up the inter- 
spaces between the columns of the southwestern portico so that 
these columns were converted in appearance from pillars to 
pilasters. 

In 1897 the City Government made provision for the erec- 
tion of the new Hall of Records on the north side of Chambers 
street, and in December, 1897, the Board of Aldermen voted to 
place the historic old building, when vacated, in the care of the 
National Historical Museum for use as a public museum of his- 
torical relics. Soon thereafter the underground rapid transit 

13 



tunnel was begun, and the Subway Commission, desiring to 
locate one of its stations opposite the Brooklyn Bridge, applied 
for the removal of the old Hall of Records. The demolition of 
this old building, hallowed by the sufferings of American patri 
ots during the Revolution and many other traditions, was ear- 
nestly opposed by the American Scenic and Historic Preserva- 
tion Society and other civic and patriotic organizations, and a 
strong sentiment of opposition was also voiced in the press ; but 
an application vi^as made to the Supreme Court for the removal 
of the building on the affidavits of Inspectors of the Depart- 
ment of Buildings alleging that the building was "unsafe " and 
''dangerous to life" — a condition which was not apparent to others 
who inspected the building at the time. After earnest argu- 
ments in opposition, however, Justice Leventritt announced on 
October lo, 1902, that he would issue an order for its demoli- 
tion, and by April, 1903, the sunlight was shining into the un- 
covered dungeons of the cellar in which Continental soldiers 
had suffered for their country's sake. 

The Upper Barracks— 1757-1790 

In the same year (1757) in which the New Gaol was erected 
some military barracks, known as the Upper Barracks to distin- 
guish them from those at the Battery, were erected on the south 
side of the present Chambers street partly on the site of the 
present Court-houses. The Common Council records show that 
the committee appointed to confer with the carpenters building 
the barracks reported the following resolution : 

Ordered, That the said building be forthwith carried on 
under the direction and inspection of the above-named commit- 
tee, who are hereby empowered to treat with such persons and 
provide such materials for the carrying on and completing said 
work as they shall judge proper ; and further ordered, that the 
said building contain 20 rooms on a floor, two stories high, to 
be 21 feet square, 420 feet long, and 21 feet wide, etc. 

During the Revolution, to accommodate the increased num- 
ber of the King's troops, two other long buildings were erected 
between the Bridewell (which stood west of the first Almshouse) 
and the original barracks on Chambers street. In 1784, the year 
following the evacuation of the City by the British, the Barracks 
were leased to various persons for residences. In 1790 the Com- 
mon Council ordered that the Treasurer sell the Barracks before 
April 20, the purchaser to remove all the materials by June i. 

14 



The Bridewell— 1775-1838 

On March 17, 1775, the Common Council approved plans 
for a new Bridewell drawn by Theophilus Hardenbrook. This 
building was erected between the first Almshouse and Broadway 
and was finished in April, 1776. This institution was erected 
with the aid of a lottery, and the Treasurer of the City was au- 
thorized to take 1,000 tickets of the lottery " on and for the risque 
of the Corporation." 

This building, which made some pretence of architectural 
attractiveness, was built of dark gray stone. The central por- 
tion, which had a pediment in front and rear, was three stories 
high, while the wings were two stories high. It was used as a 
prison for American soldiers during the Revolution. On Jan. 4, 
1777, according to the authority of N. Murray, there were 800 
men in the Bridewell, and to reduce their number it was alleged 
that the doctors gave them poison powders. 

The prison was demolished in 1838, and furnished some of 
the material used in the Tombs Prison, which was then in course 
of construction in Centre street. This application of building 
material for a similar use, but in a different form, led David T. 
Valentine to quote somewhat lamely Hamlet's remark to his 
father's ghost: "Thus it is permitted to revisit the pale glimpses 
of the moon." 

The Second Almshouse — 1797-1857 

In 1794 the Common Council resolved to apply to the 
Legislature for leave to establish a lottery to raise |io,ooo for a 
new Almshouse (which, by way of distinction, we will call the 
second Almshouse) to take the place of the first one, which had 
become ruinous and unfit for use. In 1796 it was resolved to 
erect the second Almshouse to the north of the first house and 
on the site now occupied by the County Court-house. In 1797 
the second Almshouse was ready for occupation, and Mr. Harsen 
was instructed to take down the first one. In 1812 the functions 
of the Almshouse were transferred to the new buildings erected 
for that purpose at Bellevue, and the vacated building, under 
the name of the New York Institution, was devoted to various 
enterprises of a public or semi-public nature. Among the vari- 
ous institutions harbored therein were the New York Historical 
Society, the Academy of Arts, the Academy of Painting under 
charge of Alexander Robinson, the American Institute and the 

15 



City Library. John Scudder's American Museum moved into 
the west end of the building in 1816. The Deaf and Dumb In- 
stitute, incorporated in 1817, opened its school in this building 
in 1818 and continued therein until 1828. The Lyceum of 
Natural History, incorporated in 1818, also made its home there. 
On March 26, 1818, the Chambers Street Savings Bank, the first 
bank for savings, opened for business in the basement. In 1824 
the first Egyptian mummy ever brought to this country was ex- 
hibited here. In 1832 rooms were assigned in the building for 
the use of the United States Courts. In 1857, a year of great 
financial distress, the building was finally torn down, partly 
to relieve distress by giving work to the unemployed. 

The City Hall— 1803-1910 

The next building in historical order erected in City Hall 
Park was the City Hall itself. On the map of 1803 it appears 
plotted on the site of the first Almshouse (its present location) 
as "the new Court-house." The first City Hall or Stadt Huys 
stood at No. 73 Pearl street. The second stood on the site of 
the present United States Sub-Treasury at Nassau and Wall 
streets. 

The first foundation stone of the third and present City 
Hall was laid by Mayor Edward Livingston, September 20, 1803, 
when City Hall Park was on the outskirts of the city. The 
plans were by Macomb & Mangin. The names of the building 
committee, clerk, sculptor, architect, master stone cutter, master 
masons and master carpenter are engraved on two marble slabs 
now set up in the main corridor of the building as mural tablets. 
The edifice is a beautiful structure in the style of the Italian 
Renaissance, 215 feet long by 105 deep. The south front and 
sides are of Stockbridge (Mass.) marble, but the rear was built 
of brownstone from motives of economy and in the belief that 
the city would not grow so as to extend to the northward of the 
building. It cost something more than $500,000. When com- 
pleted it was pronounced the finest public edifice in the United 
States. 

The city government first met in this City Hall on July 4, 
1810, while it was yet uncompleted. The finishing touches were 
not put on the building until 1812. (Further details concerning 
the erection of the City Hall and the historical incidents con- 
nected therewith may be found in the Ninth Annual Report 

16 



(1904) of the American Scenic and Historic Preservation 
Society). 

Dispensary and Fire Houses — 1817-1906 

Upon the map of 1817 there appears at what would now be 
the corner of Centre and Chambers streets, where until recently 
a fire-house stood, a City Dispensary and Soup House, estab- 
lished by the Almshouse Commissioners. A little later the 
building was shared by the Dispensary and a Hook-and-Ladder 
Co., such being the case in 1835. In June, 1859, contracts were 
awarded for a new building to accommodate the steam fire 
engines and for Engine Company No. 42. This was a temporary 
frame building between the Hall of Records and the building 
on the corner of Chambers and Centre streets. The corner site 
appears to have been dedicated continuously to the uses of the 
Fire Department, which occupied it with a succession of build- 
ings until the last one was vacated Dec. 31, 1905, and was 
demolished in March, 1906. 

The Rotunda— i8i8-i87o 

About the year i8t8 a building called the Rotunda was 
erected on Chambers street east of the second Almshouse. At 
the time of its removal in 1870 it stood between the present City 
Court-house and the fire-engine house which was removed in 
1906. There was no space between it and the City Court-house 
on the west, and only an alley-way between it and the engine- 
house on the east. The Rotunda, originally a circular, dome- 
like structure, sometimes called the Round House, was erected 
by subscription for an art gallery at the instance of John Van- 
derlyn, the artist, to whom the city granted the use of the 
ground free for a period of ten years upon condition that at the 
end of that period the building should become the property of 
the city. Panoramic views of the Battle of Waterloo, the Palace 
and Garden of Versailles, the City of Mexico, etc., were among 
the pictures represented. After the great fire in the lower part 
of the city in 1835 the Post Office moved into the Rotunda and 
continued there until 1845. On July 24, 1848, the Common 
Council directed the New York Gallery of Fine Arts, which 
then occupied the Rotunda, to vacate the premises within ten 
days; and in August the sum of $2,000 was appropriated for the 
purpose of converting the Rotunda into public offices. In the 
course of time the exterior appearance of the building was 

17 



changed and its interior accommodations were enlarged by addi- 
tions which squared it out on the north and south sides. On the 
south side the addition of a portico with four Doric columns 
gave it quite a classical aspect. When the newly created Board 
of Park Commissioners entered upon their duties in May, 1870, 
they gave City Hall Park particular attention, taking away the 
old iron fence which surrounded the Park, removing the rub- 
bish in the northwest corner left from the building of the 
Count}^ Court-house, improving the unsightly conditions at the 
south caused by the building of the Post Office, and removing 
the Rotunda and an old fire-engine house in the northeast cor- 
ner. At the time of its removal the Rotunda had been occupied 
for 20 years by the Croton Aqueduct Board m company with 
various othes municipal offices. 

City Court-house— 1852-1910 

On June 5, 1851, the Mayor approved a resolution awarding 
contracts to the lowest bidders for a three story building to be 
erected "between the new City Hall and the Rotunda for Court 
rooms and offices, and that said building be completed on or 
before the ist of May, 1852." At the same time, $96,716 was 
appropriated for the erection of the building. This building, 
mentioned in the old municipal registers as "No, 32 Chambers 
Street," was erected on the west of and close to the Rotunda. 
It is still standing bearing the inscription: "Erected A.D. 
1852. William Adams, Commissioner; Job L. Black, Superin- 
tendent Public Buildings." It is about 75 by 105 feet in size. 
In 1904 an additional story was added, and it is now 4^ stories 
high. 

This building has variously been known as the Marine 
Court, the Court of Sessions and the City Court. 

The CouQty Court-house — 1861-1910 
The County Court-house, which fronts on Chambers street 
in the rear of the City Hall and the replacing of which is the 
subject of the present public agitation, was begun in 1861 and 
completed in 1867, but it was not then and it is not now com- 
pleted. It is of Corinthian architecture, 3 stories high, 250 feet 
long and 150 feet wide. Its walls are of Massachusetts white 
marble. It was designed to be crovmed with a handsome dome, 
the summit of which was to be 210 feet above the sidewalk. 
Erected during the extravagant days of the Tweed Ring, after 

18 



It had been the medium of legitimate expenditures and illegiti- 
mate peculations amounting to the enormous aggregate of $i6,- 
000,000 the County stopped pouring money into this apparently 
bottomless financial pit and left the building incomplete. It 
has been variously occupied by state and county courts and 
several city departments. One of the singular contrasts so 
often encountered in history is presented by this building, 
which, erected upon the site originally dedicated to the relief 
of the poor as an Almshouse, cost, according to common esti- 
mate, $16,000,000. This monumental piece of extravagance is 
popularly known as the Tweed Court-house. 

The Postoffice— 1875-1910 
In 1867 the City committed the lamentable mistake of 
parting with the southern end of City Hall Park for a United 
States Postoffice and Court-house, and the present building was 
occupied in 1875. As there appears to be in print no collated 
data concerning the Postoffice in New York City, it may not 
be inappropriate to give here a few facts concerning the estab- 
lishment of the postal service as one catches occasional glimpses 
of it in the various records. 

Concerning the postal service during the Dutch period, we 
have no data at hand. It is to be presumed that letters were 
carried informally by travelers and captains of vessels at such 
rates as the senders were willing to pay. 

Early in the English regime the office of the Governor's 
Secretary in the old Fort at the foot of Bowling Green appears 
to have been the depository of the post " bagg" where letters 
were received for despatch to their destination out of town. 
Such was the case as early as 1672. 

By letters patent granted by William and Mary under the 
Great Seal of England, dated Feb. 17, 1691, to Thomas Neal, 
the colonial postal service was established on a more systematic 
basis. This patent gave to Neal and his successors authority 
for 21 years to carry letters at such rales as the senders might 
agree to give. Andrew Hamilton was deputed to act as Post- 
master General for all their Majesties' Plantations and Colonies 
and by an act of the Colonial Assembly passed Nov. 11, 1692, 
was authorized to establish "a general Letter office" in the city 
of New York "from which all Letter's and Pacquet's whatso- 
ever may be with Speed and Expedition Sent into any part of 

19 




I I 



CITY HALL PARK 

NEW YORK 

Oy SJivard Hayarrxarx Ho//. Apn,j l^tO 



For explanation of Map see opposite page. 
20 



out Neighboring Collony's and plantations on tlie main Land 
and Continent of America or to any otlier of their Majesties 
Kingdom's and Dominions beyond the Sea's;" and he was 
authorized to appoint "one Master of the Said generali Letter 
office." The rates of postage were fixed at 9 pence for a single 
letter to or from beyond the seas; 9 pence for a letter between 

EXPLANATION OF MAP 

The old Common was substantially identical with the triangle bounded by 
Broadway, Chambers street and Park Row. The northeast corner was gradu- 
ally worn off until, with the opening of Centre street, the Park was bounded by 
Broadway, Chambers street, Centre street and Park Row. It thus remained 
until 1867, when the Postoffice site was sold, since which time the Park has been 
bounded by Broadway, Chambers street. Centre street, ParkRow and Mail 
street (the latter the shortest street in the city). 

i . Site of ancient burying ground for negroes, paupers and criminals and 
for American patriots under British rule during the Revolution. 2. New Hall of 
Records. 3, Site of barrier gate and blockhouse in angle of second City Wall 
of palisades erected in 1746 (Maerschalck's survey, 1755). 4. Large broken 
outline, 480 by 215 feet, plan of proposed new county Court-house. 5. Small 
broken outline, pian of second almshouse, 1797-1857; also site of Upper 
Barracks of larger extent 420 by 21 feet, 1757-1790. There were additional 
Barracks between sites 5 and 16 during the Revolution. 6. Solid outline, 
present County Court-house, begun 1861. 7. Present City Court-house, erected 
1852. 8. Site of Rotunda, 1818-1870. 9. Site of dispensary and soup-house, 
1817 and later; also of fire engine house, removed 1906. 10. New Municipal 
Building in course of erection. I !. Site of temporary fire engine house built 
1859. 12. Subway kiosks. 13. Approximate site of old State Arsenal; later, 
Free School No. i, circa 1809. 14. Fortifications built by Americans in 1776 
(Hills' survey, 1782 5). 15. Postal Telegraph Building, 253 Broadway; site of 
Montagnie's Tavern, headquarters of Sons of Liberty, 1770 and earlier. 16. 
Plan of Bridewell, 1775-1838 (Mangin's survey, 1804); a Revolutionary prison. 
17. City Hall, begun 1803; site of first Almshouse, 1736-1797. 18. Site of Gaol, 
the "Martyrs' Prison" of the Revolution, later Hall of Records, 1757-1903 
(Mangin's survey). 19. Site of Powder Magazine (Maerschalck's survey 1755, 
and Montresor's survey, 1775). 20. New York World Building. 21. Nathan 
Hale Statue. 22. Approximate site of first building on the Common, early 
i8th century. 23. Fountain, built 1871. 24. Statue of Benjamin Franklin 
in Printing House Square. 25. New York Sun Building, built 1811, first per- 
manent Tammany Hall. 26. Approximate site of grave of Jacob Leisler 
as located on Grim's recollection map, but may have been a little farther 
north. 27. New York Tribune Building; statue of Horace Greeley in 
vestibule. 28. American Tract Society Building; site of Martiing's Tavern; 
rendezvous of Sons of Liberty and "Martiing's Men"; Wigwam of Tammany 
Society, 1798. 29. Building formerly occupied by New York Times. 30. Site 
of Brick Presbyterian Church built 1768. 31. Site of Croton Water Fountain 
in what WciS once part of City Hall Park; triangle is now occupied by United 
States Post-office and Court-house. 32. Astor house, built 1834-38; site of 
Drovers' Inn and other early hostelries. 33. Nos. 21,23,25 Park Row, site 
of successive Park Theatres, 1798-1848, frontage of 78 feet on Park Row 
and 85 feet on Theatre Alley. Part of this site (No. 21 Park Row) is now 
occupied by the Park Row Building. 34. Saint Paul Building; southern half 
of this property is site of Spring Garden House. On this property stood 
Bicker's Tavern, bought by Sons of Liberty after they left Montagnie's and 
named Hampden Hall Later site of Scudder's Museum and Barnum's Museum. 
35. Saint Paul's Chapel, begun in 1764. 



New York and Boston or between New York and Maryland; 12 
pence between New York and Virginia, and 4^ pence between 
New York and anyplace not exceeding 80 miles distance. This 
law was renewed from time to time, with changes in the rates, 
for several years. 

For over a century — during the remainder of the English 
regime and the beginning of the American — the Post-office 
itself was an extremely rudimentary establishment, generally 
maintained at the residence of the postmaster. It was also a 
very nomadic institution, moving from place to place with the 
changes of postmaster. The New York Gazette of July 30, 
i753> for instance, gives notice that ''The Postoffice will be 
removed on Thursday next to the house of Mr. Alexander 
Golden opposite to the Bowling Green in the Broad-Way where 
the Rev'd Mr. Pemberton lately lived." 

The first postmaster of the city after the Revolution was 
Sebastian Bauman, appointed by President Washington, and the 
post-office was then located in his residence at the corner of 
William street and Garden street (now Exchange Place). In 
1807 the Postmaster was General Theodorus Bailey, who had 
taken up his residence in the same house and continued the post- 
office there. The post-office then consisted of a room about 25 or 
30 feet deep, having two windows fronting on Garden street and 
a little vestibule on William street containing about 100 boxes. 

The post-office remained at the latter site until July 4. 1827, 
when it was removed to the basement of the new Exchange in 
Wall street, which had been opened May i of that year. The 
Exchange was burned in the great fire of 1835. Then the post- 
office was removed to the Rotunda in the northeastern corner of 
City Hall Park. This location gave great dissatisfaction to 
business men at that time on account of its great distance from 
the business center of the town ! In 1845 the post-office 
was removed from the Rotunda to the Middle Dutch Church, 
which occupied the block on the eastern side of Nassau street 
from Cedar street to Liberty street. Upon the building of the 
Mutual Life Insurance Co, of New York, which now occupies 
that site, is a tablet reading as follows : " Here stood the 
Middle Dutch Church. Dedicated 1729. Made a British Mili- 
tary Prison 1776. Restored 1790. Occupied as the United 
States Postoffice 1845-1875. Taken down 1882. The Mutual 
Life Insurance Co. of New York." 



22 



As early as 1853 the postoffice had become so inadequate 
that the United States began to look around for a new site. In 
April and May, 1857, the Mayor was authorized by the Common 
Council to negotiate with the Federal authorities for the cession 
of the land at the southern angle of the Park or a portion of 
the upper part of the Park fronting Chambers street between 
Broadway and Centre street, for a new Postoffice, but nothing 
definite was effected and in 1861 came the interruption of the 
Civil War. 

Immediately after the War, efforts were renewed to find a 
site, and the lower end of City Hall Park was chosen. On De- 
cember 15, 17 and 18, 1866, respectively, the Councilmen, Alder- 
men and Mayor of the City consented to the sale of the site 
embracing an area of 65,259 square feet, for the purposes of a 
United States Postoffice and Court-house. The property was 
conveyed by the Mayor, Aldermen and Commonalty of the City 
of New York, parties of the first part, to the United States of 
America, parties of the second part, by deed dated April 11, 
1867 (Liber 1012, page 142 et seq., of Conveyances, Hall of 
Records), the consideration being the sum of $500,000. The 
conveyance was made 

"Upon the express condition, however, that the premises 
above described and every part and parcel thereof, and any 
building that may be erected thereon, shall at all times hereafter 
be used and occupied exclusively as and for a postoffice and 
court-house for the United States of America and for no other 
purpose whatever, and upon the further condition that if the 
said premises shall at any time or times cease to be used for the 
purposes above-limited or for some one of them, or if the same 
shall be used for any other purposes than those above specified, 
the said premises hereby conveyed and all right, title, estate and 
interest therein shall revert to and be revested in the said 
parties of the first part, their successors and assigns, and the 
said parties of the first part shall thereupon become the absolute 
owners of the said premises and every part thereof with the 
appurtenances and they may then re-enter the said premises and 
forever thereafter use, occupy or alien the said premises and 
every part thereof in the same manner and to the same extent 
as if these presents had not been executed." 

The erection of the postoffice was not begun at once and it 
was proposed to use another part of the Park for the purpose. 
On June 17, July 19 and July 20, 1869, respectively, the Alder- 
men, Assistant Aldermen and Mayor approved of the following 
resolution: 

23 



"Resolved that a joint committee of three members of each 
Board be appointed by the respective Presidents thereof to con- 
fer with Messrs. Horace Greeley, William Orton and Alexander 
T. Stewart, Commissioners on the part of the United States, 
respecting a proposed exchange of the 65,259 square feet of land 
in the City Hall Park heretofore deeded by the City to the 
United States for another plot of ground of similar area at a 
different location in said Park, which proposed exchange has 
been recently authorized to the City by the Legislature and 
requested on behalf of the United States by the above-named 
Commissioners." 

The foregoing resolution is interesting as indicating the 
names of the representatives of the United States Government 
in the Postoffice matter, but it did not result in any change of 
plan. The present postoffice was begun in 1870 and was first 
occupied August 25, 1875. The building cost between ^6,000,000 
and $7,000,000. This edifice, in turn, is already outgrown and 
inadequate for the transaction of the business of the General 
Postoffice, and a new postoffice in another part of the City is 
being planned. In view of these plans, it is to be hoped that 
the municipal authorities will bear in mind and enforce the con- 
ditions of the deed to the United States, which provide that the 
present Postoffice site shall revert to the City when any part of 
it shall cease to be used for a United States Postoffice and Court- 
house or shall be used for any other purpose. Indeed it is a 
question whether the Federal Government's tenure has not 
already been forfeited by the use of the building for a private 
library, and we are informed that the Hon. George B. McClellan, 
during his recent incumbency as Mayor of the City, gave notice 
to the Federal Government of the latter's violation of the con- 
ditions of the deed. 

Building Propositions Rejected 

Not every building proposed to be erected in City Hall Park 
has materialized. On August 19, 1771,3 proposition to erect a 
public market in the Fields was voted down by the Common 
Council by a vote of 11 to 4. In October the proposition was 
renewed, but was again voted down. 

During Mayor Paulding's incumbency in 1824 it was pro- 
posed to remove to the North River the Bridewell and Jail which 
stood on either side of the City Hall and to construct two-story 
houses in the Park facing Chatham street (Park Row) and lease 
them for the sake of the revenue which the City might derive. 

24 



On another occasion it was proposed to erect a City Hos- 
pital near the Bridewell, and the Corporation actually voted to 
give the land for the purpose, but public sentiment was so 
strongly opposed to the project that the action was rescinded. 

At still another time, early in the last century, it was pro- 
posed to erect a reservoir in the Park for the purpose of supply- 
ing the City with water from the Bronx River. 

In i8S8 the Legislature authorized a commission to select a 
site in the neighborhood of the County Court-house for a Muni- 
cipal building. The proposition to locate the building in the 
City Hall Park was indignantly resented, and for several years, 
as stated elsewhere (page 5), there was a "tug of war" be- 
tween the Commission and the people. At one time the Com- 
mission would get the advantage with a law permitting the 
building in the Park. Then the remonstrants would prove the 
stronger and drag the Commissioners from their ground by an 
amendment excluding them from the Park. After several oscil- 
lations of fortune, the protestants finally won and the Municipal 
building was located where it is now in course of construction, 
on the triangle at Centre street and Park Row. 

Park Improvements 

As the city grew in population and the structures erected 
upon the old Common grew more pretentious, a natural desire 
to improve the grounds gradually found expression until the 
wild and uncultivated cow-pasture of colonial days became, just 
before the Civil War, one of the most beautiful city parks in 
America. Perhaps the first intimation of the increasing dignity 
of the Common is afforded by Col. John Montresor's map of 
1775, which entitles the Fields "The intended Square, or Com- 
mon." The names of the Fields and the Common, however, 
still continued in popular use at this period, with the occasional 
use of the name Green. In June, 1785, appears the first move- 
ment for the enclosure of the Fields with a fence In that 
month the Common Council approved the plans of the Alms- 
house Commissioners to that effect, " if it could be done without 
expense to the Corporation." It is not surprising, perhaps, that 
upon these economical terms the fence failed to materialize. In 
1787 the improvement of the Green advanced a stage farther 
when the Council ordered that the paupers in the Almshouse be 
employed in collecting street dirt and spreading it on the Com- 

25 



mon in front of the Almshouse, to manure the ground and pre- 
pare it for grass seed. 

In 1792 the Fields were enclosed for the first time with a 
fence of posts and rails. In 1797, when the structural encum- 
brances of the Fields had been reduced to the second Alms- 
house, the Gaol and the Bridewell, and when the Fields were 
surrounded by a rail fence, the old Common first appears on the 
map under the dignified title of " The Park." 

Early in the last century the rail fence was superseded by 
one of wooden palings, and then, as the civic pride increased, 
nothing less than an imported iron fence would do. On Dec. 
31, 1821, the iron railing for the Park arrived from England. In 
order to avoid duty, it was complete only in parts. When the 
fence was erected, it had at the southern gateway four marble 
pillars surmounted by iron scroll-work supporting lanterns. 
Coins and other mementoes were deposited in one of them. The 
completion of the improvement was celebrated with public exer- 
cises, including the delivery of an address by Dr. Samuel L. 
Mitchill. Trees were then set out in the enclosure, and two 
generous ladies — Mrs. Sages of their day — gave rose-bushes, 
which were planted within the railings and which withstood the 
frosts of winter, the vandalism of boys and the depredations of 
flower-thieves for more than a year. 

In 1832 the Superintendent of Buildings was directed to 
cause the grass plats in the Park to be surrounded with iron 
chains supported on turned locust posts; and in 1834 some of 
the walks in front of the City Hall, from Broadway to Chatham 
street, were laid with flag-stones two feet wide. When the 
Croton Water Works were nearing completion, a beautiful foun- 
tain was erected in the lower part of the Park. This portion of 
the Park, now obliterated by the Post Ofiice, was then tastefully 
laid out with gravel walks and adorned with trees. On Oct. 14, 
1842, the climax was reached when, amid a celebration such as the 
city had never before witnessed, and with demonstrations of joy- 
ful popular enthusiasm seldom if ever excelled, the Croton water 
arrived and gushed forth from the fountain. The procession on 
this occasion, estimated to have been seven miles long, was re- 
viewed at the Park by the Mayor and Aldermen. Here the water- 
works were formally delivered to the city. A brilliant illumina- 
tion in the evening ended the festivities. For days the great 
fountain continued to be an object of extraordinary curiosity, 

26 



and for years it added grace and beauty to the supremest period 
of this once beautiful Park. The fountain was so important a 
feature of the Park at that time that a special office was created 
for its care. Thus we read that, in 1848, for instance, Thomas 
Cole was appointed "Keeper of the Park Fountain." 

From this time on, until the sale of the Post Office site, the 
Park was the object of minor improvements, such as the substi- 
tution of iron posts for the entrance gates in 1852 to facilitate 
ingress and egress, but nothing could be done materially to en- 
hance its beauty. Then came the Post Office on the south and 
the County Court-house on the north, and the Park was reduced 
to its present disennobled proportions. 

Historical Events — Aboriginal Period 

Having now reviewed the history of the physical develop- 
ment of the Park and its buildings, we may return to the begin- 
ning and glance briefly at the history of the spot. 

It has been surmised * that before the advent of Europeans 
this was the site of one of the villages of the Manhattan Island In- 
dians. The eligible situation of this comparatively level tract, 
sloping downward on all sides — to the Lispenard Meadows and 
swamps and the Fresh Water Pond on the north, the Beekman 
swamps on the east, and the slightly lower land on the south 
and west — would have made it a desirable location for a vil- 
lage, and the finding of a large admixture of oyster shells of 
apparent age in the soil would tend to indicate the presence 
or proximity of aboriginal occupancy at some time; but there 
is no positive evidence that there was a village here. 

Historical Events— Dutch Period— 1626-1673 

During the Dutch period the Common was one of the 
parade grounds of the soldiers when they marched up from Fort 
Amsterdam on training days. 

In 1664, when the little city of New Amsterdam was cap- 
tured by the English, the troops of the latter who remained in 
the Bowery until the Dutch had evacuated the Fort, marched 
down over this tract. 

In 1673, when the Dutch fleet under Capt. Anthony Colve 
arrived to repossess the City, the Dutch captain landed 600 men 
on the Island and put them in battle array on the Common in 



D. T. Valentine in the Corporation Manual for 1856. 

27 



preparation for the march on the Cit}^ which then lay below the 
City Wall at Wall street. Capt. Manning, who commanded the 
City, sent Capt. Carr, Thomas Lovelace and Thomas Gibbs to 
negotiate terms with Colve, but the latter detained Lovelace and 
Gibbs as hostages on the Common and sent Carr back to the fort 
with a summons to surrender within a quarter of an hour. No 
reply being received, Colve in a passion ordered his men to march 
from the Common to the Fort. They proceeded down Broadway, 
and as they approached the fort they were met by a messenger 
from the English commander who offered to surrender if the 
garrison were allowed to march out with the honors of war. The 
request was granted and the city again changed hands. 

Under the second Dutch regime the Common became the 
place of general parade. 

Historical Events — English Period, 1674 to 1765 

Under the English the Common continued to be a popular 
rallying place, particularly on festive occasions. This was more 
especially the case after the old parade ground in front of the 
fort was authorized in 1732 to be enclosed as a Bowling Green, 
thus forming the first city park. On the Common, the King's 
Birthday, the anniversary of the discovery of the Gunpowder 
Plot, and other festive occasions were observed with bonfires 
and other demonstrations of loyalty or joy. But the demonstra- 
tions began to assume a different color in 1 764 when a press gang's 
boat was seized by a mob who carried it to the Common and 
burned it. 

Another stirring event of that year was the arrest and incar- 
ceration of Major Rogers of the King's troops in the New Gaol 
The gallant Major had been cutting a pretty prominent figure in 
the town, and living beyond his means, until his creditors became 
tired of airy promises to pay and put him in prison. His com- 
rades, stationed in the neighboring barracks, took his arrest as an 
insult to His Majesty's arms and an infringement of their superior 
authority, and demanded his release. The jailor shook his keys 
contemptuously at the enraged soldiers, and told them, in effect 
if not in words, that if they wanted their Major they would have 
to come and get him. This they proceeded to do, breaking open 
the jail doors with muskets and axes, releasing Rogers, and giving 
the other prisoners an opportunity to escape. The latter, how- 
ever, standing more in awe of the civil power than their riotous 

28 



and uninvited deliverers, declined to avail themselves of this 
temporary and unauthorized amnesty and remained in prison. 
The riot, which was finally quelled by the militia, cost the soldiers 
the life of one of their Sergeants. 

Historical Events— English Period, 1765 to 1775 

The next year, made memorable by the adoption of the 
Stamp Act, the Common became the stage upon which, in the 
succeeding decade, were enacted many scenes which foreshadowed 
the coming Revolution. On Nov. i, 1765, the first mass meeting 
in opposition to the Stamp Act was held here, being signalized 
by the erection of a gallows upon which the Lieutenant Gov- 
ernor was burned in effigy. On the following day another popular 
meeting was held with a view to seizing the stamps, but action 
was deferred. From that time until the repeal of the Stamp Act 
in March, 1766, other meetings of a similar character were held. 

On June 4, 1766, a great meeting was held on the Common 
to celebrate the repeal of the obnoxious act. The jubilant 
populace erected a flagstaff inscribed "King, Pitt, and Liberty," 
and further manifested its joy by consuming a roast ox, 25 barrels 
of ale, and a hogshead of rum punch. 

For the peace of the community, however, it was not the 
most fortunate thing that the Upper Barracks, in which the 
King's troops were quartered, were so close to the rallying place 
of the Liberty Boys, and after the Liberty Pole had been up a 
little more than two months, the soldiers cut it down. Promptly 
the next day (Aug. 11) a meeting was held on the Common to 
erect another, but the soldiers attacked the people and wounded 
several of them, and the attempt was deferred several days, 
when another pole was successfully raised. 

On Sept. 23, 1766, the second Liberty Pole was cut down by 
unknown persons, but a third pole was erected two days later. 
On March 18, 1767, the third pole was destroyed. The next day 
a fourth pole was erected, secured by iron braces and bands 
and watched by a citizens guard. On March 21 the soldiers 
tried to destroy this emblem of liberty but were repulsed by the 
citizens. On Dec. 17, 1767, a mass meeting was held on the 
Common in opposition to the Mutiny Act. 

So affairs continued until 1769-1770 when the Liberty Pole 
contests culminated in the Battle of Golden Hill, which has 
been called the first bloodshed of the Revolution. 



29 



In December, 1769, a handbill was printed and circulated, 
addressed to the " betrayed inhabitants of the City and Colony 
of New York," sharply reproving the Assembly for voting sup- 
plies to the King's troops, accusing it of betraying the common 
cause of Liberty, and inviting the citizens to meet at the liberty 
pole in the Fields to express their sentiments. It was signed 
" A Son of Liberty." The authorities were scandalized by the 
handbill and sought its author. While the search was going 
on, the soldiers, on Jan. 13, 1770, again attacked the Liberty Pole 
but were repulsed. On Jan. 16, however, the soldiers succeeded 
in felling the pole, sawing it up, and piling it in front of Mon- 
tagnie's door, the headquarters of the Sons of Liberty, on 
Broadway. On Jan. 17 upwards of 3,000 indignant citizens 
assembled on the Common and erected another Liberty Pole. 
This pole, strongly reinforced with iron, was surmounted by a 
topmast and vane, the latter bearing the word "Liberty" in 
large letters. On January 18 three soldiers were caught posting 
on the Fly Market, at the foot of Maiden Lane, a scurrilous 
placard impugning the character of the Sons of Liberty, and 
signed " The Sixteenth Regiment of Foot." Several citizens, led 
by Isaac Sears, took the soldiers before the Mayor. A number of 
armed soldiers from the Fort demanded their release. The two 
parties of citizens and soldiers moved tumultuously to Golden 
Hill, about at John and William streets. Here the soldiers 
turned and fired on the citizens, killing one, wounding three, 
and injuring many others. Many of the soldiers were badly 
beaten. 

A sequence of the placard-posting was the arrest of Alex- 
ander MacDougall. Through the confession of the printer, the 
handbill of December, 1769, was traced to MacDougall, one of 
the leading spirits of the Sons of Liberty, and he was cast into 
the New Gaol in the Fields, as the Common was now called. 

MacDougall's case was so similar to that of John Wilkes, 
who had been imprisoned in England for a famous article on 
individual liberty, printed in No. 45 of "The North Briton," 
that his friends adopted "45" as their cabalistic number. 
Holt's Journal of February 15, 1770, records the following visit 
of the " Forty-five " to MacDougall in his new quarters: "Yes- 
terday, the forty-fifth day of the j'ear, forty-five gentlemen 
friends of Captain MacDougall and the glorious cause of Ameri- 
can Liberty, went in decent procession to the New Gaol and 

30 



dined with him on forty-five pounds of beaf steaks, cut from a 
bullock forty-five months old." So great was the pressure of 
MacDougall's callers that he had to establish regular reception 
hours, and under date of the "New Gaol, February lo, 1770," 
he published a notice to his friends, stating that he would be 
"glad of the honor of their company from three o'clock in the 
afternoon until six." He was released on bail in April. During 
the Revolutionary War he became a Major-General in the Conti- 
nental Army, and at one time had command at West Point. 

On March 26, 1770, the soldiers made an attempt to remove 
the topmast and Liberty vane of the Liberty Pole and a contest 
ensued between them and the citizens, but without fatal results. 
On May lo a mass meeting was held in the Fields to oppose 
the importation of English goods, and in June a quantity of 
English wares seized by the Sons of Liberty were brought here 
and burned. 

On July 6, 1774, a great meeting was held in the Fields in 
opposition to the act of Parliament known as the Boston Port 
Bill, At this meeting one of New York's most distinguished 
citizens, Alexander Hamilton, first appears as a public orator. 
Hamilton was a student at old King's College (now Columbia 
University) which stood two blocks west of the present City 
Hall Park on a site indicated by a tablet at Murray street and 
West Broadway. Irving, in his Life of Washington, referring 
to Hamilton on this occasion, says: "Hamilton was present, 
and, prompted by his excited feelings and the instigation of 
youthful companions, ventured to address the multitude. The 
vigor and maturity of his intellect, contrasted with his youthful 
appearance, won the admiration of his auditors; even his 
diminutive size gave additional effect to his eloquence." 

On Sunday, April 23, 1775, a travel-stained horseman 
dashed down the old Post Road, past the Common, and to the 
center of the city, spreading the news of the Battle of Lexing- 
ton. The crisis in the affairs of the colonies had come, the 
loyal citizens at once took measures for enlisting soldiers, and a 
Citizens Committee assumed the government of the city. On 
May 26 the Asia man-of-war arrived and the Royal Irish Regi- 
ment remaining in the Upper Barracks on the Common evacu- 
ated their quarters and withdrew to the ship on June 6, 1775. 
In doing so, they attempted to remove five cart-loads of spare 
arms. At Broad and Beaver streets they were boldly halted 

31 



by Marinus Willett and others, deprived of the five carts con- 
taining the arms, and were then permitted to embark without 
further molestation. 

Historical Events — Revolutionary Period — 1776-1783 

With the evacuation of Boston by the British on March 17, 
1776, and the transfer of the seat of war to New York, the Fields 
became the camp-ground and the drilling place of the Ameri- 
cans, 

The Americans at once set themselves actively at work for- 
tifying the cit)' and barricading the streets. The Fields were 
almost completely hemmed in with fortifications, every avenue 
of approach being guarded. At St. Paul's Church there were tv/o 
barricades at right angles to each other one extending across 
Broadway and one across the front of the church-yard. Other 
barriers extended across the heads of Barcla}'^, Robinson (now 
Park Place) and Murray streets. On the Chatham street side 
a barricade was erected across the head of Beekman street ; 
another, right-angular in form, was in the present Printing 
House Square, one face commanding George (now Spruce) 
street, the other commanding the Presbyterian Church Yard (on 
the south side of the Square) and Nassau street ; another con- 
fronted Frankfort street ; another, forming an obtuse angle, 
occupied Chatham street in front of the present World Building; 
and another long one extended from the site of the Brooklyn 
Bridge entrance diagonally across Chatham street to the upper 
eastern end of the Barracks on Chambers street. 

A notable figure in the history of the Park at this period 
was Alexander Hamilton, who, in March, 1776, became Captain 
of artillery in a newly raised provincial corps. It was while 
exercising his company here that he became the object of one of 
those interesting concurrences of events which oftentimes mark 
the turning point, not only in individual careers, but also in the 
course of historic events. We can best describe this occurrence, 
which brought together Hamilton and Washington and which 
had a profound influence on the future of both men and the 
cause of Independence itself, by quoting Irving. Speaking of 
the middle of the year 1776, he says: 

" About this time we have the first appearance in the military 
ranks of the Revolution of one destined to take an active and 
distinguished part in public affairs and to leave the impress of 

32 



his genius on the institutions of the country. As General 
Greene one day, on his way to Washington's headquarters, was 
passing through a field — then on the outskirts of the city, now 
in the heart of its busiest quarter and known as the Park — he 
paused to notice a provincial company of artillery, and was 
struck with its able performances and with the tact and talent of 
its commander. He was a mere youth, apparently about 20 
years of age ; small in person and stature, but remarkable for 
his alert and manly bearing. It was Alexander Hamilton. Greene 
was an able tactician and quick to appreciate any display of 
military science ; a little conversation sufficed to convince him 
that the youth before him had a mind of no ordinary grasp and 
quickness. He invited him to his quarters and from that time 
cultivated his friendship. . . . Further acquaintance height- 
ened the General's opinion of his extraordinary merits and he 
took an early occasion to introduce him to the Commander-in- 
Chief." 

It may truly be said that City Hall Park was the birthplace 
of Hamilton's public career. 

The Park was also the scene of another historic event which 
alone should have dedicated it forever to the cause of Liberty in 
the hearts of the citizens of New York. That was the reading 
here of the Declaration of Independence on the receipt of that 
immortal document on the 9th of July, 1776. Washington had 
given orders that the Declaration be read to the several brigades 
quartered in and about the city at 6 o'clock that evening. Ac- 
cording to the relation of an eye-witness to the historian Henry 
B. Dawson, the brigade encamped on the Fields was drawn up 
in a hollow square on the southern part of the Park, now occu- 
pied by the Post Office, and the Declaration was read by one of 
the aids of Washington, the Commander-in-Chief himself being 
present. 

In August occurred the Battle of Long Island and in Sep- 
tember the Americans evacuated New York, and for seven long 
years not a Continental soldier was seen in the Fields except as 
a prisoner of war. In the latter capacity nearly 4,000 American 
troops fell into British hands as the result of the Battle of 
Long Island (Aug. 27) and the Battle of Fort Washington (Nov. 
16). The Gaol and Bridewell in the Fields were filled to their 
utmost capacity, and churches, sugar houses, the old City 
Hall, the King's College, private dwellings and prison ships 
were brought into requisition to accommodate the rest. The 
Gaol in the Fields was reserved for the more notorious " rebels,' 



33 



and the memory of the sufferings which the Continental soldiers 
endured under the inhuman Provost Marshal, Wm. Cunning- 
ham, adds still further to the sacred character of this historic 
place. The Gaol was now called the Provost. 

Cunningham's figure is one of the most repulsive in the 
history of the war. He was a corrupt, hard-hearted and cruel 
tyrant, who hesitated at nothing that would add to the miseries 
of his helpless victims or to his own wealth and comfort. His 
hatred for the Americans found vent in the application of torture 
with searing-irons and secret scourges to those of his charges 
who, for any reason, fell under the ban of his displeasure. His 
prisoners were crowded so closely into their pens that their 
health was broken by partial asphyxiation ; and many of them 
were starved to death for want of food which the Provost Mar- 
shal had sold to enrich his own purse. The abused prisoners 
were refused permission to see their nearest relatives and were 
allowed to suffer unattended when ill. They were given muddy 
water to drink, although beautifully clear water was obtainable 
from neighboring springs ; and a prisoner's weekly ration was 
restricted to two pounds of hard tack and two pounds of raw 
salt pork, with no means of cooking it. 

An admission to this Bastille, with its known and unknown 
horrors, was enough to appall the stoutest heart. Henry Onder- 
donk, Jr., in a contribution to Valentine's Manual for 1849, 
says: 

"The northeast chamber, turning to the left on the second 
floor, was appropriated to officers and characters of superior 
rank, and was called Congress Hall. So closely were they 
packed that when they lay down at night to rest (when their 
bones ached) on the hard oak planks and they wished to turn, it 
was altogether, by word of command, ' Right-Left,' the men 
being so wedged as to form almost a solid mass of human bod- 
ies. In the day time the packs and blankets of the prisoners 
were suspended around the walls, every precaution being taken 
to keep the rooms ventilated and the walls and floors clean to 
prevent jail fever." 

" In this gloomy abode were incarcerated at different peri- 
ods many American officers and citizens of distinction, awaiting, 
with sickening hope, the protracted period of their liberation. 
Could these dumb walls speak, what scenes of anguish might 
they not disclose! The Captain and his Deputy were enabled 
to fare sumptuously by dint of curtailing the prisoners' rations, 
exchanging good for bad provisions, and other embezzlements. 
In the drunken orgies that usually terminated his dinners, Cun- 

34 



ningham would order tlie rebel prisoners to turn out and parade 
for the amusement of his guests, pointing them out with such 

characterizations as, ' This is the d d rebel, Ethan Allen,' 

'This is a rebel judge,' etc." 

In the allusion to Allen we recognize the presence of the 
celebrated patriot who had captured Ticonderoga, " in the name 
of the great Jehovah and the Continental Congress." After 
taking the Lake Champlain stronghold he had joined the expe- 
dition against Montreal, and been captured on September 25, 
1775. He was taken to England, thence to Halifax, and in the 
autumn of 1776 was brought to New York, where he was at first 
allowed the freedom of the city on his parole. Here he was 
subjected to every persuasion by General Howe to induce him 
to desert the American cause and serve the King. He was 
offered a commission in the King's army and promised large 
tracts of land in Vermont at the close of the war; but his loyalty 
to the Colonies was so true that he indignantly rejected all 
attempts to purchase his integrity, and his confidence in the out- 
come of the struggle for independence was so strong that he 
openly predicted his Majesty's inability to fulfill his promises in 
regard to the land. 

It may readily be imagined that the failure of these persua- 
sions to move the steadfast patriot did not tend to ingratiate 
him in the favor of his captors, and in January, 1777, they 
clapped him into jail on the charge (which he stoutly denied) of 
having broken his parole. 

Allen was just the sort of " rebel " whom Cunningham liked 
to have in his clutches, and he was promptly assigned to a soli- 
tary dungeon, without bread or water for three days. Then he 
was given a bit of fat pork and a hard biscuit with which to 
break his fast. 

Allen grew restive under his confinement, and evidently 
considered himself neglected by his friends, as appears in a 
letter from Joseph Webb to Governor Jonathan Trumbull of 
Connecticut ("Brother Jonathan "), arranging for an exchange 
of prisoners. " Ethan Allen begs me to represent his situation to 
you," wrote Webb, " that he has been a most attached friend to 
America; and he says he's forgot; he's spending his life, his 
very prime, and is confined in the Provost, and they say for 
breaking his parole," etc. In May, 1778, he was exchanged for 
Colonel Campbell of the British army. 

35 



Major Otho Holland Williams was another unfortunate 
confined in the Provost. 

It is impossible to relate all the dark deeds done by the 
inhuman Cunningham during the seven years in which he had 
charge of the Gaol, or recount a tithe of the suffering therein 
endured by those whohad championed the cause of American inde- 
pendence, for no records were preserved, and the greater part of 
the dramatic and pathetic history of that period of the building's 
existence is known only to Him " from whom no secrets are hid." 
But enough is known to make the site of the building one ever 
to be held in sacred remembrance. 

The war at length came to an end, and on November 25, 
1783, the British evacuated New York. Most of the city prisons 
had been emptied before the close of hostilities, but the Provost 
was continued in use until Evacuation Day. 

"I was in New York November 25," wrote General Johnson, 
"and at the Provost about 10 o'clock a. m., when an American 
guard relieved the British guard, which joined a detachment of 
British troops then on parade in Broadway, and marched down 
to the Battery, where they embarked for England," 

It is chronicled that as the Deputy O'Keefe was about to 
depart, the prisoners called out asking what was to become of 
them. 

" You may go to the devil," was the reply. 

"Thank you," rejoined one of the prisoners, "we have had 
enough of your company in this world." 

It would, in a measure, appease one's sense of justice if the 
reported fate of the inhuman Provost Marshal could be con- 
firmed. It is stated with a degree of precision that, having been 
convicted of forgery — an offence v»?hich would appear to have 
been more serious in English estimation than the torture and 
murder of helpless prisoners — he was hanged in London August 
10, 1791. But there is no official confirmation of this, or of the 
^' dying confession" which he is said to have made in the follow- 
ing words : 

" I was appointed Provost Marshal to the Royal Army, 
which placed me in a situation to wreak vengeance on the 
Americans. I shudder to think of the murders I have been 
accessory to, both with and without orders from the Govern- 
ment, especially while we were in New York, during which time 
there were more than 2,000 prisoners starved in the churches by 
stopping their rations, which I sold. There were also 275 

36 



American prisoners and obnoxious persons executed, which 
were thus conducted : A guard was dispatched from the 
Provost about half-past 12 o'clock at night to the Barrack street, 
and the neighborhood of the Upper Barracks, to order the 
people to shut their window shutters and put out their lights, 
forbidding them at the same time to look out of their windows 
and doors on pain of death ; after which the unfortunate prison- 
ers were conducted, gagged, just behind the Upper Barracks, 
and hung without ceremony, and there buried by the black 
pioneer of the Provost," 

Whether or no the foregoing ever proceeded from Cunning- 
ham's lips, there is only too much reason to believe that it repre- 
sents the truth. 

Historical Events— War of 1812-1815 

Hardly had the new City Hall been completed when the 
declaration of the second war with Great Britain again made 
the Park the scene of stirring patriotic events. The news of the 
declaration of war reached New York on June 20, 1812, and at 
noon on the 24th a great public meeting was held in the Park to 
take the matter under consideration. The venerable Col. 
Henry Rutgers, an old Revolutionary officer, presided, and Col. 
Marinus Willett, one of the Sons of Liberty and also a Revolu- 
tionary hero, was Secretary. The Act of Congress and the 
President's proclamation having been read, a preamble and 
resolutions supporting the Government were read. The pre- 
amble began: 

" In one of those awful and interesting moments with which 
it has pleased Heaven that states and kingdoms should be 
visited, we consider ourselves convoked to express our calm, 
decided and animated opinion on the conduct or our Govern- 
ment." 

The preamble continued in this impressive manner, and 
was followed by resolutions approving of the efforts of the 
Government to preserve peace, but declaring the belief that the 
crisis had arrived when peace could no longer be retained with 
honor — and justifying the Government's appeal to arms. The 
appeal now being made to the sword, the meeting called upon 
all fellow-citizens to yield the Government their undivided sup- 
port. "Placing our reliance in the Most High," said the last 
resolution, "and soliciting his benediction on our just cause, 
we pledge to our Government, in support of our beloved 
country, 'our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.' " 

37 



Two years later (August 21, 1814), when the city was 
threatened with attack, the people again assembled in the Park 
to renew their pledges. Col. Rutgers again presided. Oliver 
Wolcott was Secretary. They sat on the balcony of the City 
Hall. Dr. Samuel L. Mitchill, Dr. VV. J. McNeven, and Messrs. 
Wolcott, Riker, Anthony, Bleecker and Sampson were appointed 
to draft resolutions, and those which they presented had the 
same ring as those of 1812. Col. Willett was also there and 
addressed the assemblage with patriotic fervor. " Three score 
and fourteen years," he said, "have brought with them some 
bodily infirmities. Had it been otherwise, and had my strength 
of body remained as unimpaired as my love for my country and 
the spirit that still animates me, you would not, my friends, 
have seen me here today. I should have been amongst that 
glorious band that on the waters of Erie and Ontario have 
achieved so much fame and lasting glory for their country. . . . 
Fifty years ago I was at a meeting of citizens on this Green. 
Then the acclamation was 'Join or die!' The unanimity of that 
day procured the repeal of some obnoxious laws." Then he 
ran over the events leading up to the Revolution, and events of 
the war itself; and continued: "In the War of the Revolution 
it was a favorite toast: 'May every citizen be a soldier, and 
every soldier a citizen.' Our citizens must now again become 
soldiers, and those soldiers good citizens. ... As to this mis- 
taken idea that American militia are unequal to the contest 
with British regulars, I am a living witness to the contrary. I 
have met them when their numbers were double mine and I 
have routed and pursued them." 

One cannot read the whole of the speech from which the 
foregoing words have been taken without thrilling and feeling 
that the lofty sentiments expressed at that crisis still further 
dedicated the Park with very sacred traditions to the genera- 
tions which have come after. 

On October 23, 1814, Gov. D. D. Tompkins, Commander-in- 
Chief of the New York Militia and, by appointment by the Pres- 
ident, in command of the Third Military District of the United 
States, made his headquarters in the City Hall, and during the 
remainder of that critical period the City Hall and Park were 
the base from which the military operations in this neighborhood 
were conducted. 



38 



Historical Events Between the Wars — 1815-1861 

During the period between the War of 1812-15 and the Civil 
War, City Hall Park was the focus of almost every festive dem- 
onstration of a public character that occurred in the city. Among 
these the Independence Day celebrations were notable events. 
Here was the culmination of the Fourth of July Parade, which 
was composed of the militia and civic societies and which gen- 
erally formed at the Battery, and here the procession was reviewed 
by the Mayor and Aldermen and dismissed with a feu de joie. 

For many years it was customary on the eve of Fourth of 
July to erect around the Park booths where roast pig, eggnog, 
cider and spruce beer were among the viands dispensed. On 
June 29, 1841, a vote was taken in the Board of Aldermen on the 
proposition to refuse permits for the erection of these booths, but 
the custom had such a firm hold that the motion was lost and the 
practice was continued for a few years longer before it was 
abolished. 

Besides these Fourth of July celebrations, many other inter- 
esting events occurred at this place. Here Lafayette was given 
a brilliant reception on Aug. 16, 1824 ; here was the focus of the 
land celebration of the opening of the Erie Canal on Nov. 24, 1825 ; 
here was the center of the Croton Water celebration Oct. 14, 1842; 
here the laying of the Atlantic cable was celebrated in August, 
1858, by an illumination of the City Hall from which the building 
caught fire ; from here the funeral of Gen. Wm. J. Worth took 
place Nov. 25, 1857; and here in i860 the Prince of Wales, now 
Edward VH of England, was received with great ceremony. 
These are only a few of the ceremonies which, during the period 
mentioned, marked City Hall Park as the civic center of the City. 

An occurrence of less agreeable aspect was the riot precipi- 
tated by Mayor Fernando Wood in 1857. In that year the 
charter was amended and the Metropolitan Police system estab- 
lished having jurisdiction over the counties of New York, Kings, 
Westchester and Richmond. Mayor Wood refused to accede to 
the new system and, gathering the old police force around him, 
defied the Metropolitan Police and threatened with violence those 
who attempted to get the offices in their control. When Daniel 
D. Conover was appointed Street Commissioner by Gov. King, 
Mayor Wood drove him from the City Hall. Conover secured 
a warrant for Wood's arrest and proceeded to execute it with the 
aid of fifty Metropolitan police. Arriving at the City Hall he 

39 



found it closed against him and filled with armed policemen of 
the old force. A conflict ensued. The Mayor had the sympathy 
of the worst class of the population and a mob gathered for his 
support. A bloody riot ensued. Just at this juncture the Sev- 
enth Regiment came down Broadway, en route to embark on a 
steamboat for a trip to Boston. It stopped long enough to sup- 
port the Metropolitan Police in enforcing order and serving the 
warrant, and then continued on its way. But the spirit of defi- 
ance of the law thus encouraged by Mayor Wood was aroused 
and broke out in other parts of the city in bloody riots, which 
were not quelled until six persons had been killed and a hundred 
wounded. 

Historical Events— Civil War Period, 1861-1865 

With the outbreak of the Civil War the Park again became 
the scene of martial activit3\ In the very first month of the 
war, in April, 1861, the Common Council passed a resolution 
authorizing the State authorities to erect a building in the Park 
for barracks and to provide an eating place for volunteers. In 
February, 1862, when the Common Council directed the removal 
of all tents and booths from the public parks, the barracks in 
City Hall Park were specifically excepted. From time to time 
during the war permits were granted for the erection of recruit- 
ing tents. 

Our Cradle of Liberty 

In bringing to a conclusion this very imperfect sketch, the 
words of Henry B. Dawson, the historian, concerning this 
storied Park, may be quoted with as much force today as when 
he uttered them 55 years ago: 

" It must not be forgotten that the Park is still the refuge 
of the people. . . . Here they have met La Fayette and 
other friends of freedom and their country, making the welkin 
ring with their joyous shouts; and here they have mingled their 
tears over the memory of Jackson, Clay and other departed 
worthies. On all occasions, whether of joy or sorrow, of pros- 
perity or calamity, of welcome or of separation, the Park is now, 
as it ever has been, the resort of the people. Nor does it possess 
much less interest to others than to us. The past — the common 
property of all — shows the Park to have been the Faneuil of New 
York, the cradle in which the much-lauded ' cradle of liberty ' 
in Boston was itself rocked in its infantile years." 



40 



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