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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
New York in New York County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

New York City Hall Park

 
 
New York City Hall Park Medallion image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, 2007
1. New York City Hall Park Medallion
Inscription.  A medallion set into the pavement at the southern entrance of New York City Hall Park celebrating its history.

Medallion perimeter: "It must not be forgotten that the park is still the refuge of the people, the cradle of liberty" - Henry B. Davidson, Historian 1855
Medallion center: The Seal of the City of New York
9 medallion segments, each with an area map, descriptive text, and a laser-engraved illustration.
1) 1625 to 1664: Founding and Settlement
Since New York’s founding in 1625 as the Dutch trading colony New Amsterdam, the land now occupied by City Hall Park has played a central role in the civic life of our city. It has been used as a pasture, a parade ground, a place for public executions, the site of an almshouse, a prison, a and a public gathering place in times of conflict and celebration. From 1653 to 1699, when the first City Hall was located in a converted tavern on Pearl Street, this land was well north of city limits and used as a communal pasture ground for livestock. It was known as the Commons. A deep, spring-fed pond, known as the Collect, served as the northeast boundary for the Commons.
Segment 1 - 1625 to 1664: Founding and Settlement image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, February 15, 2015
2. Segment 1 - 1625 to 1664: Founding and Settlement
its western boundary, along the modern day Broadway, followed the path of a Native American trail. In 1663, a windmill became the first recorded structure on the Commons. In 1664, New Amsterdam was captured from the Dutch by British forces and renamed New York. The City Seal was adopted later that year.
2) 1665 to 1775: Under British Rule
New York City was already a vibrant center of commerce and culture, and its population nearly doubled between 1690 and 1723, growing from 3,900 to 7,200. In 1736, a publicly financed Almshouse was built on the present site of City Hall to house ill and impoverished residents. It was part infirmary, part jail and part workhouse – both orphans and adults were taught skills that would help them gain employment. In 1757, construction of a debtors’ prison known as “ the New Gaol”, began east of the present City Hall, and Soldiers’ barracks were built on the north end of the Commons, where the Tweed Courthouse now stands. The Commons was the site of many pre-Revolutionary protests and celebrations. When the British Parliament passed the Stamp Act in 1765, outraged New Yorkers protested on the Commons – and when the Act was repealed, citizens celebrated on the Commons. However, dissatisfaction with British rule continued to grow and, beginning in 1766, a group of New Yorkers known as the Sons of Liberty erected a Liberty
Segment 2 - 1665 to 1775: Under British Rule image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, February 15, 2015
3. Segment 2 - 1665 to 1775: Under British Rule
Pole outside the Soldiers’ Barracks. The Liberty Pole was chopped down by British troops and replaced five times. A replica of the pole now stands between City Hall and Broadway, near its original location.
3) 1776 to 1799: Revolution and Independence
On July 9, 1776, New Yorkers gathered on the Commons to hear the Declaration of Independence read aloud in the presence of General George Washington and soldiers of the Continental Army. Two months later, New York City was captured and became British Army Headquarters in America throughout the Revolution. During the occupation, American soldiers were kept in the New Gaol and in a new prison called the Bridewell. The British officer in charge of the prisons in New York City, Provost Marshall William Cunningham, later confessed to starving 2,000 prisoners to death and stealing their rations, as well as ordering the execution of more than 250 Continental soldiers on gallows located behind the Soldiers’ Barracks. Therefore, City Hall Park is the site of what is believed to be one of the first mass executions of American prisoners of war in our nation’s history. On November 25, 1783, the British evacuated New York, and Washington led the victorious Continental Army into the City where the American flag was raised in celebration over the Commons. Over the next seven years, new York City served as the first capital of the United
Segment 3 - 1776 to 1799: Revolution and Independence image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, February 15, 2015
4. Segment 3 - 1776 to 1799: Revolution and Independence
States, home of the first United States Congress, and birthplace of the Bill of Rights. On April 30, 1789, George Washington was sworn in as the first president of the United States on the balcony of Federal Hall on Wall Street. After his inauguration, President Washington prayed at St, Paul’s Chapel, which still stands to the south of City Hall Park.
4) 1800 to 1835: City Hall
The first calls to turn the Commons into a public park came at the turn of the century. One contemporary newspaper wrote, “This place, laid out with judgement and taste, would be a blessing to the inhabitants of New York and an ornament to the City.” In 1802, the City government announced a contest to design a new City Hall. Architects John McComb Jr. and Joseph Mangin won the competition, and its prize of $350. The cornerstone was laid in 1803, and in 1812, the building was opened to the public. City Hall was set back in a gated park, and its marble exterior and prominent dome were designed to be seen clearly from the steps of St. Paul’s Chapel and the sidewalks of lower Broadway. At the time, some citizens criticized the choice of location as being too far north of the City’s center. As New York grew, development in and around City Hall increased as well. In 1818, a circular building known as the Rotunda was built on the Park’s northeast corner to house the City’s first art museum,
Segment 4 - 1800 to 1835: City Hall image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, February 15, 2015
5. Segment 4 - 1800 to 1835: City Hall
and a dozen years later, the New Gaol was converted to the City hall of Records. When torn down in 1903, it was the oldest municipal building in New York. On Independence Day, 1827, the remaining enslaved people in New York City and State were freed, four decades before slavery was abolished throughout the nation. Two days of celebrations followed, including a parade that stopped in City Hall Park.
5) 1836 to 1869: Progress, Prosperity and Civil War
In 1836, New York City’s first luxury hotel, the five-story Astor House opened on Broadway overlooking City Hall Park. In 1842, the Croton Fountain was built on the southern tip of the Park to celebrate the opening of the Croton Aqueduct, which provided New York City’s first dependable supply of pure water. The Aqueduct drew water from the Croton Dam, more than 10 miles north of the city, and was considered one of the great engineering feats of the 19th Century. The fountain was fed directly by the aqueduct and shot a spire of water fifty feet into the air. In August 1858, during celebrations commemorating the first transatlantic telegraph cable, fireworks started a fire on the dome of City Hall. During the Civil War a number of temporary buildings were erected in City Hall Park, including barracks and recruiting tents. Weeks after the of the war in April 1865, City Hall was draped in black cloth as President Abraham Lincoln’s
Segment 5 - 1836 to 1869: Progress, Prosperity and Civil War image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, February 15, 2015
6. Segment 5 - 1836 to 1869: Progress, Prosperity and Civil War
body lay in state at the top of the rotunda staircase. Over the course of two days, thousands of New Yorkers paid their respects, and 60,000 followed the memorial procession from City Hall Park.
6) 1870 to 1897: The Federal Post Office
In 1870, the triangular shape of was altered when an ornate Federal Post Office was built on the southern tip of the park. When construction of the Post Office began, New Yorker George Templeton String wrote in his diary “This will destroy the best known and most characteristic street in New York … looking up from Fulton Street and Broadway across the Park to the south front of old City Hall.” The construction of the Post Office resulted in the removal of the Croton Fountain and the wrought iron fence around City Hall Park. An elaborate granite fountain designed by noted park architect Jacob Wrey Mould was installed closer to City Hall and became the centerpiece of the Park. In 1880, New York became the first City (sic) in the nation with a population that surpassed one million. In 1881, work was complete on the Tweed Courthouse, which still stands north of City Hall. In 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was opened. In October 1886, the first ticker-tape parade was spontaneously held on Broadway to celebrate the dedication of the Statue of Liberty, beginning a tradition that has honored pioneers of aviation and space exploration, political
Segment 6 - 1870 to 1897: The Federal Post Office image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, February 15, 2015
7. Segment 6 - 1870 to 1897: The Federal Post Office
and wartime leaders, and New York City’s champion sports teams.
7) 1898 to 1938: Expansion
On the evening of December 31, 1897, citizens gathered in City Hall Park to celebrate the consolidation of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx and Manhattan into the City of Greater New York. Overnight, the City expanded from 24 square miles to more than 300 and the population grew from 1.8 million to 3.4 million. In 1903, the construction of the original City Hall subway station was completed – the first segment of what would become the largest mass transit system in the world. The station included tiled arches, chandeliers and rose-tinted windows in the ceiling to let in light. By 1903, City Hall Park’s gas lighting fixtures were replaced with electric lampposts – several of which remain in use today. As skyscrapers began to define New York City’s skyline, in 1913 the 60-story Woolworth building was constructed on Broadway west of City Hall Park. It remained the world’s tallest building until 1930 when the Chrysler building was completed in midtown. In 1920, the Jacob Wrey Mould fountain was disassembled and replaced with a statue called “Civic Virtue”, which was relocated to Queens Borough Hall in 1941, During the years of the Great Depression, City Hall Park was used as a site of protest.
8) 1939 to 1998: Renovation and Excavation
During
Segment 7 - 1898 to 1938: Expansion image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, February 15, 2015
8. Segment 7 - 1898 to 1938: Expansion
the administration of New York City’s 99th Mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia, Parks Commissioner Robert Moses unveiled an ambitious plan to renovate City Hall Park. In 1939, the Federal Post Office was torn down, restoring the park to its original rectangular shape and re-establishing clear views of City Hall from St. Paul’s Church and Lower Broadway. But completion of the plan was stopped in mid-construction due to opposition from City Hall and community groups. In 1966, the exterior of City Hall was declared a city and national landmark. In 1978, the Delacorte family donated to City Hall Park a new fountain which stood on the site of this marker until 1999. In 1991, construction of a federal office building north of City Hall Park uncovered a portion of an African Burial Ground, used by New York City’s free and enslaved African-Americans throughout much of the 18th Century. The area was partially excavated and declared a city and national historic landmark. Throughout the second half of the 20th Century, City Hall Park continued to offer New Yorkers a place of relaxation around the civic and financial districts, but over time City Hall Park fell into neglect.
9) 1999: The Restoration of City Hall Park In the fall of 1999, New York City’s 107th Mayor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, rededicated City Hall Park on behalf of seven-and-a- half million New Yorkers. These extensive renovations faithfully
Segment 8 - 1939 to 1998: Renovation and Excavation image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, February 15, 2015
9. Segment 8 - 1939 to 1998: Renovation and Excavation
restored much of the original park geometry, with its unobstructed views of City Hall from St. Paul’s Chapel, while adding a central walkway and formal gardens. paved Areas were reduced and replaced with lawns and trees, and the granite base of the original 1871 Jacob Wrey Mould fountain were returned to the Park with exact replicas of its centerpiece and lights reconstructed from Mould’s designs. Portions of the original wrought iron fence around City Hall were recovered from a cemetery in Bloomingdale, New York, and provided the model for the current fence. the result is a new, dramatic setting for the City Hall of the largest, most historic and most diverse city in the United States. This re-birth of City Hall Park is intended to serve as a symbol for the ongoing renaissance of the entire City of New York. This restoration is dedicated to the future, in a spirit of appreciation for the struggles, sacrifices and accomplishments of those New Yorkers who have come before us. It is a final gift from the 20th Century to the New Yorkers of the 21st.
 
Erected 1999.
 
Location. 40° 42.718′ N, 74° 0.454′ W. Marker is in New York, New York, in New York County. Marker can be reached from Park Row near Broadway, in the median. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: New York NY 10038, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within
Segment 9 - 1999: Restoration of City Hall Park image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, 2007
10. Segment 9 - 1999: Restoration of City Hall Park
walking distance of this marker. Windmill (was a few steps from this marker but has been reported permanently removed. ); The Croton Fountain 1842-1870 (a few steps from this marker); The Federal Post Office 1870-1939 (within shouting distance of this marker); The Jacob Wrey Mould Fountain (within shouting distance of this marker); The Bridewell 1775-1838 (within shouting distance of this marker); Jacob Wrey Mould Fountain 1871-1920 (within shouting distance of this marker); Woolworth Building (within shouting distance of this marker); British Soldiers' Barracks (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in New York.
 
Categories. Colonial EraParks & Recreational AreasSettlements & SettlersWar, US Revolutionary
 
New York City Hall Park Marker, 2019 image. Click for full size.
By Larry Gertner, March 14, 2019
11. New York City Hall Park Marker, 2019
Time for another restoration.
Over the years, the paving material has not held up well, nor have the laser-etched illustrations, which have virtually disappeared. The railing is to prevent passage because, as the upturned sign states, the surface is slippery when wet.
 
More. Search the internet for New York City Hall Park.
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 12, 2019. This page originally submitted on June 10, 2019, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. This page has been viewed 53 times since then. Last updated on June 12, 2019, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on June 10, 2019, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York.   7, 8, 9. submitted on June 11, 2019, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York.   10, 11. submitted on June 12, 2019, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. • Andrew Ruppenstein was the editor who published this page.
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