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Block 122, Lot 1

Currently known as City Hall Park, Manhattan, USA

Human Land Use
10,000 B.C.E. - 1626 C.E.

1626 C.E. - 2002 C.E.

8 Exchanges

(Count based on confirmed documents as of 2002.)

Click on red links below to go to pdfs of the original documents.

Major Sources:

[1] New York City Office of the Registrar of Deeds, 66 John Street, 13th Floor, Manhattan

[2] Iconography of Manhattan Island, 1498-1909, Volume 6, I.N. Stokes, Martino Fine Books, The Law Book exchange, Ltd., 1998 (1915-1928).

[3] Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, Burrows, Edwin G. and Mike Wallace, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

[4] New York City Department of Records and Information Services Municipal Archives, 31 Chambers Street, Room 103, Manhattan

Human Land Use

10,000 B.C.E. - 1626 C.E.

10,000 – 7,000 B.C.E. – The first people to arrive at the island of Manhattan appear to have been hunters who followed big game into the area as the Ice Age ended, glaciers receded, and the ocean rose. They also appear to have simply passed through the area moving south as the warming continued. [3]

5,500 B.C.E. – 1626 C.E. – A second group followed later, settling into a series of seasonal encampments at various locations throughout the region including a site just north of what is now City Hall Park (Block 122, Lot 1). Eventually known as the Lenape peoples, they consisted of about a dozen small groups who hunted small game, fished, gathered naturally occurring produce and planted small agricultural plots. Although estimates vary widely, there may have been 15,000 people in the area when Europeans first began to arrive. [3]

    The Lenapes made use of a trail whose approximate route proceeded from Bowling Green and the Battery up Broadway, turning at the corner of Broadway and Ann Street and continuing up what is currently Park Row. [3]

May-June 1626 – The First Exchange involving Europeans.

    In 1621, the States-General, the legislative body of the United Provinces of the Netherlands chartered Geoctroyerde West-Indische Compagnie, commonly known in English as the Dutch West India Company. Capitalized at 7.5 million Guilders, the Company was a corporate entity with sole Dutch rights to develop trade in West Africa and the Americas. It had its own structure of governance and its own military forces. Aside from trade, the Company was able to pay its shareholders massive dividends through the organized seizure of Spanish shipping vessels, a common practice during the seventeenth century when nations were at war. [3]

    Unlike the purchase of Staten Island, which is detailed in an August 10, 1626 deed, there is no extant document of the purchase of Manhattan. Mythology (and a second-hand hearsay account contained in a contemporaneous letter) has Dutch West India Company Director Peter Minuit purchasing, on behalf of the Company, parts of Manhattan in May-June 1626 from on-site natives later determined to be simply traveling in the area. The price was apparently similar to the Staten Island purchase - a technology transfer of “Some Duffies [duffle cloth], kittles [kettles], Axes, Hoes, Wampum, Drilling Awls, Jew’s Harps and Diverse Other Wares” worth about 60 Dutch Guilders (the proverbial $24). [3]

    Minuit likely believed he had purchased a clear, permanent deed to the land. It is unlikely that the Lenape leaders who participated in a later “re-purchase” agreement (after pointing out that the first deal was cut by non-Manhattan visitors) had any such conception of absolute property rights of the kind that Europeans had devised after a thousand years of argument, adaptations and precedents. [3]

Block 122 Lot 1

1658 - [GRANT] [2] What will later be called Block 122, Lot 1 was made public pasture, a
“commons.” [3]

GRANTOR: Dutch West India Company
GRANTEE: Burgomasters of New Amsterdam

1664, March - [GRANT] King Charles II of England made his younger brother, James Stuart, the Duke of York (later King James II), proprietor of most of the lands then known as New Netherland. [3]

GRANTOR: King Charles II of England
GRANTEE: James Stuart, the Duke of York (later King James II) younger brother
    of King Charles II
PRICE: 40 beaver skins per year

    The duke sent troops to seize control of New Amsterdam, taking possession of the city from the Dutch West India Company on September 8, 1664. [3]

1664, September 8 - [ARTICLES OF CAPITULATION] By the terms of the surrender, Dutch settlers were allowed to keep their “Estate, life, and liberty.” However, Block 122 Lot 1, “the commons” was eventually transferred from the Dutch Burgomasters to the new English Mayor, Alderman and the Commonalty of the City of New York. [2][3]

GRANTOR: Burgomasters of New Amsterdam
GRANTEE: Mayor, Alderman and the Commonalty of the City of New York

1795, January 6 – [PARTITION DEED] Liber Deeds page 397 [1]

GRANTOR: Mayor, Alderman and the Commonalty of the City of New York
GRANTEE: Kip, Henry; Breese; Van Vleek; Deniston

1812, December 13 – [DEED] Liber Deeds 100: 431 [1]

GRANTOR: Kip, Henry; Breese; Van Vleek; Deniston
GRANTEE: Mayor, Alderman and the Commonalty of the City of New York

1831, July 7 – [DEED] Liber Deeds 272: 574 [1]

GRANTOR: Van Vleek, John; Beekman, Theo and Elizabeth
GRANTEE: Mayor, Alderman and the Commonalty of the City of New York

1867, April 16 – [DEED] Liber Deeds 1012: 142 [1]

GRANTOR: Mayor, Alderman and the Commonalty of the City of New York
GRANTEE: United States of America

    U.S. Post Office built late 1860s, dismantled late 1930s.

1945, December 4 – [QUITCLAIM DEED] Liber Deeds 4394: 64 [1]

GRANTOR: United States of America
GRANTEE: Mayor, Alderman and the Commonalty of the City of New York
PRICE: $5,232,917.79 at 4% interest

All Content Peter Walsh 2006
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