City Hall Park
During the pre-Revolutionary and Revolutionary eras, City Hall Park was the site of many rallies and movements. For instance, in 1765, New Yorkers protested the Stamp Act of 1765 at the site. On March 18, 1766, New Yorkers rejoiced when the Stamp Act was repealed.
In 1766, the Sons of Liberty erected the first “Liberty pole", a commemorative mast topped by a vane featuring the word “liberty", outside the Soldiers’ Barracks. British soldiers chopped it down, and it was replaced five times. A replica dating to 1921 now stands near its original location between City Hall and Broadway.
In 1766, St. Paul's Chapel was completed as a chapel of Lower Manhattan's Trinity Church. It stood in a field some distance from the growing port city to the south and was built as a "chapel-of-ease" for parishioners who lived far from the Mother Church. Two years later, construction began on the new Bridewell, a jail. American Prisoners of War would be held in the Bridewell during the British occupation of New York during the American Revolutionary War.
On July 9, 1776, people gathered in the commons to hear the Declaration of Independence read by George Washington. On November 9, 1783, the American forces recaptured the Civic Center, and George Washington raised the flag in the park. Six years later, General Washington was named the president of the United States of America, and immediately after his inauguration, President Washington went to the renowned St. Paul’s Chapel, the oldest surviving church in Manhattan.
In 1802, since the original City Hall of New York City was aging and could not accommodate the growing municipal government, New York City's administration decided to hold a competition for the best new City Hall design. Aaron Burr promised Philadelphia’s Benjamin Henry Latrobe that he would win. When he lost, Latrobe bitterly denounced the winners, “bricklayer” John McComb Jr. and French exile Joseph-François Mangin, and their “vile invention". In fact, McComb and Mangin were each accomplished architects, and their design, largely by Mangin, was superior to Latrobe’s, but City Hall was their only collaboration, and it was brief. McComb alone was chosen to oversee construction, and Mangin's career never recovered. Decades later, a McComb descendant erased Mangin's name from the original drawings, and Mangin was officially recognized as the principal designer of City Hall in 2003. The building was completed in 1812; it was designed in a Federal style with French influence. Some critics complained that the New City Hall was too far north of the heart of the city, but others liked the remote location and beautiful landscape of the building.
Slavery was abolished in New York on July 4, 1827, Emancipation Day, prompting a two-day celebration in the park and a parade.
In 1830, the old debtor prison, New Gaol, was transformed into the city’s hall of records. When the building was torn down in 1903, it was New York’s oldest municipal building.
New York City’s lavish architecture and growing economy attracted tourists, and in 1836, the first New York City luxury hotel was built. Isaiah Rogers, with a reputation for building America’s first luxury hotel, designed the six-story Park Hotel, which was commonly known as the Astor House.
In 1842, the Croton Fountain was placed in the center of City Hall Park to celebrate the Croton Aqueduct, New York City’s first dependable supply of pure water. The aqueduct drew water from the Croton Dam more than 40 miles (64 km) north of the city and was considered one of the great engineering feats of the 19th century.
Starting in 1861, the Tweed Courthouse was built in the northern portion of the park. The courthouse was widely seen as a symbol of corruption because it was built using funds provided by the corrupt William M. "Boss" Tweed, whose Tammany Hall political machine controlled the city and state governments at the time. It was completed in 1881, twenty years after construction started.
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- New York City Department of Parks & Recreation:
- Hall, Edward Hagaman. "A Brief History of City Hall Park, New York," Fifteenth Annual Report of the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society (Albany, 1910). (Byline erroneously reads "Edward Hagaman", but full name is given in the same document on p. 10.) pp. 397-8
- "New York County Courthouse" (PDF). New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. October 16, 1984.