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New York in New York County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Seneca Village

Central Park

 
 
Seneca Village Marker image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, June 17, 2020
1. Seneca Village Marker
Inscription.  
Although the reason for the name Seneca Village is unknown, recent historical and geophysical research has uncovered a great deal of information about this unique community and its inhabitants. Seneca Village, which was located from 81st to 89th Streets between Seventh and Eighth Avenues in what is now a section of Central Park, is important to the history of New York City because it may possibly be Manhattan's first prominent community of African American property owners.

Beginning in 1825, parcels of land were sold to individuals, and to members of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, considered one of the largest and most prosperous congregations of African Americans in 19th century America. The community expanded to over 250 people, with African Americans owning more than half the households in the village — an unusually high percentage of property ownership for any New York community. The presence of a natural spring near 82nd Street would have provided the fresh drinking water necessary for the maintenance and stability of a large community.

Religion played an enormous part in most communities in the
Seneca Village marker image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, June 17, 2020
2. Seneca Village marker
NYCP&R "Seneca Village" marker and the Seneca Village Trail Introduction kiosk near Spector Playground
Click or scan to see
this page online
nineteenth century, and Seneca Village was no exception. Two African Methodist churches, the African Union Methodist and the AME Zion (today known as Mother AME Zion) were constructed in the village near 85th Street. Their congregations were composed entirely of African Americans. Colored School No. 3, one of the few black schools in New York City, had been established in the 1840s and was housed in the basement of the African Union Methodist Church. All Angels' Church, an affiliate of St. Michael's on Broadway at 99th Street, was built in 1849. It had a racially integrated congregation of African Americans from Seneca Village and Irish and German parishioners living in the village and within a mile of the church. By the 1850s, Seneca Village had also gained many Irish and German immigrant families. There were also three or four large cemeteries affiliated with churches.

In 1853, the state legislature authorized the use of "eminent domain," the taking of private property for public purposes. This unprecedented public acquisition of private land to create a major public park in the City of New York began in 1856, and at the time encompassed the land from 59th to 106th Streets between Fifth and Eighth Avenues. In 1863, additional parkland was annexed to include the area between 106th and 110th Streets. Those owners living within the boundaries of the proposed park were compensated
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for their property, though many protests were filed in New York State Supreme Court, as is often the case with eminent domain, when owners contest the amount of settlement. In view of recent research, it appears that residents and institutions of Seneca Village did not reestablish their community in another location.

In total, approximately 1600 people who owned, lived and/or worked on the 843-acre tract of land had to move when the Park was created.

City of New York Parks & Recreation
February 2013
 
Erected 2013 by City of New York Parks & Recreation.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansParks & Recreational AreasSettlements & Settlers. A significant historical month for this entry is February 2013.
 
Location. 40° 47.048′ N, 73° 58.095′ W. Marker is in New York, New York, in New York County. Marker can be reached from Central Park West east of West 85th Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: Central Park, New York NY 10024, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. African Union Church (a few steps from this marker); Seneca Village Community (a few steps from this marker); Seneca Village Landscape (a few steps from this marker); Searching for Seneca Village (within shouting distance of this marker);
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AME Zion Church (within shouting distance of this marker); The Wilson House (within shouting distance of this marker); All Angels’ Church (within shouting distance of this marker); Geology (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line). Touch for a list and map of all markers in New York.
 
Also see . . .
1. Seneca Village. Wikipedia entry (Submitted on April 17, 2021, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York.) 

2. Seneca Village Site. Central Park Conservancy website entry:
Links to several related sub-topics (Submitted on April 17, 2021, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York.) 

3. Seneca Village, New York City. National Park Service entry (Submitted on April 17, 2021, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York.) 
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on April 26, 2021. It was originally submitted on April 17, 2021, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. This page has been viewed 51 times since then. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on April 17, 2021, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York.

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May. 15, 2021