Seneca Village does not exist at all anymore. It is a figment of Central Park’s imaginative past. There are little to no records of it’s people, community life, or anything else having to do with it’s history. However, it contains an essential part of the Park’s hidden life. And it all begins on Summit Rock.
Summit Rock is the Park’s highest naturally occurring spot and the jumping off point for the Seneca Village tour that Kaitlyn and I took on September 25th. We learned all about Seneca Village on the tour. What was it? Who lived there? What did they eat? More importantly, what happened to them?
Seneca Village was composed of free black, Irish and German immigrants that moved from the crowded downtown (below 14th street, specifically around the Lower East Side) area to ‘northern’ Manhattan for a chance to carve out their own living space in a chaotic City.
The Village was thought to be located around West 83-89th streets and overlooked the Hudson River. It was one of the more established communities in it’s time period (traditionally, families that lived downtown would move at least once every year; Seneca Village had inhabitants for up to 15 years or more). People who moved there could have their own gardens, livestock, and wealth of foraged greens.
Unfortunately, the people of Seneca Village were forcibly evicted from the land when Central Park was being built. As they were laying down the foundation for the park, workers found Seneca Village coffins, proving once again the vitality of the community there. Not much has been written on Seneca Village but the tour guides hope to get a grant to create more permanent representation of the Village in Central Park.
To learn more about Seneca Village, go on one of the tours in Central Park. The presenters are knowledgeable and create an accurate representation of what Seneca Village was like.