Map of Seneca Village NYC

Seneca Village NYC – The Displacement of an Entire Community

Seneca Village was a small, predominantly African-American community that was established in 1825 in what is now Central Park.

The village was self-sustaining, with its own churches, stores, and homes.

In 1857, the City of New York announced plans to build a new park in Seneca Village, and the residents were forcibly removed from their homes.

Today, there is no physical evidence of Seneca Village remaining, but it is remembered as an important part of African-American history in New York City.

Who lived in Seneca Village NYC?

This article explores the history of Seneca Village, New York. Until its annexation by Central Park in 1857, the neighborhood was a mixed African-American and Irish community.

From the Dutch colonial days, African Americans were an integral part of the city’s history.

During the 19th century, Seneca Village became a refuge for slaves who wanted to escape the harsh conditions of slavery. Most African Americans were enslaved, and even though slavery was abolished in New York in 1827, much of the city was built using enslaved labor.

Seneca Village was a small but vibrant community (Video)

The city of New York purchased a strip of land in Upper West Side Manhattan known as Seneca Village in 1856. This was the largest African-American community in the pre-Civil War era, complete with a school, a church, and gardens.

These free African-American landowners were also granted voting rights, something that was denied to the white population.

Despite the dissolution of the community, the landscape can still be seen today in Central Park.

A new exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art re-examines the history of the town and its people.

The wooden boards used for the new exhibition resemble the exterior of a slave shack, embracing the idea of turning something from nothing into something that was useful.

In addition to retracing the history of the Seneca Village NYC, this exhibit integrates pride in being a slave.

Residents struggled for basic rights in Seneca Village

During the early 20th century, Seneca Village was a thriving community where black and white residents lived side by side.

The community was diverse, as African-Americans owned property in the village, and Irish, German, and other immigrants also made their homes there.

It was not uncommon for White villagers to attend church side by side with Black residents.

The area was considered to be a slum until the Fugitive Slave Law was passed in 1850.

While many black people have benefited from the development of the neighborhood, not everyone in the area has been able to enjoy the benefits.

The Seneca Village NYC community was once viewed as a nuisance in the city by newspapers advocating for the creation of a new park.

Although many of the residents owned their land, they were still denied basic rights and could not compete with the vision of a lushly landscaped urban paradise.

Author Internet Archive Book Images


When you think of takings, you might think of Loretto, Penn Central, or the Courtesy Sandwich Shop. However, we’re talking about the story of a New York neighborhood that was destroyed by eminent domain.

These three places were a part of Seneca Village, located in the heart of Seneca Park.

In 1850, about 20 percent of the residents of Seneca Village were African-American. Today, less than a dozen people are able to say that.

This is because the displaced residents are all African-American.

Moreover, a study has shown that eminent domain is a process that causes the displacement of a whole community. The process is not new; however, the people who were affected have been affected by it in the past.

Landowners Participated in the Underground Railroad

In the late nineteenth century, a settlement of mostly African American landowners was located near the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

The village’s boundaries roughly followed the axes of 82nd and 89th streets. At the time, Seneca Village NYC was predominantly Black, but the population also included Irish and German immigrants.

The town’s church was also mixed in color. Despite the high level of segregation in the town, many of its residents remained largely undetected.

Although no monument has yet been built in Seneca Village, some residents of the village’s free black community participated in the Underground Railroad.

The Lyons family-owned property there and operated an Underground Railroad station in Manhattan.

This monument is likely a symbolic gesture to their contributions to the fight for emancipation.

Though it is unclear how many other residents of the village participated in the Underground Railroad, the Lyons family has always been associated with this abolitionist legacy.

Seneca Village Residents Lived in Well-built Homes

The Irish Voice reported in 1857 that the residents of Seneca Village in New York City lived in well-built homes, raised livestock, and farmed.

SENECA VILLAGE NYC African Americans

They probably drew their water from the Hudson River and collected firewood free of charge.

These immigrants were mostly anonymous, but two became well-known figures in the Tammany Hall political system and the city.

Let’s discuss how they survived in their well-built homes.

The story of Seneca Village is often told as a tale of woe and tragedy, but this is not entirely accurate.

In “Before Central Park,” author Sara Cedar Miller tells a much more nuanced tale of the residents.

Her research highlights the role of land ownership in Seneca Village as an engine of empowerment and wealth for African Americans. Many African Americans took advantage of the real estate boom and cashed in at just the right time.

New York’s plan to build the nation’s first great park

In the 1850s, Seneca Village was a thriving African-American neighborhood in the heart of New York City.

There were 264 residents and three cemeteries.

An exhibition, “Seneca Village: The Lost Community of New York,” was at the New York Historical Society.

Before the plan to build the park, Seneca Village residents had to own at least $250 worth of property to register.

The residents of Seneca Village were deprived of the right to vote in New York City, and discrimination and poverty forced many to seek refuge in a rural setting.

The displaced residents were able to build better homes in other parts of the city.

Those who remained in the city purchased land on the Upper West Side for as little as $125. Other residents, such as Andrew Williams, purchased three lots at a cost of $3,090.

The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church purchased six lots of land near 86th Street for as little as $578.

Take the Seneca Village NYC Tour

A Seneca Village NYC Tour is a unique way to experience this historic neighborhood.

Located near the West 85th Street entrance of Manhattan, the neighborhood is a popular attraction for visitors interested in the Black history of Central Park, social history, archeology, and architecture.

To get the most out of your tour, consider taking a Conservancy-led tour.

While you are walking through the park, you can stop by the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Central Park West.

A visit to the church’s house-like structure will educate you about the history of gospel music. Afterward, visit the Central Park Conservancy’s Abyssinian Village, where they erected memorial signs.

The plaques in Central Park tell the story of the neighborhood’s occupants.

When visiting the Seneca Village Site, be sure to bring comfortable walking shoes.

This is an area where many African-Americans lived and worked before the American Civil War.

You’ll see three churches, a school, and a few cemeteries.

While you’re on the tour, make sure you bring your camera as there are some steep hills and stairs. You’ll be glad you did!

Seneca Village NYC Parking

The parking situation at Seneca Village Central Park isn’t a problem, especially when it’s free and easy to find.

Parking at the lot in the area. It is conveniently located just across the street from the Village Center and the Village’s main entrance.

In Conclusion…

The Seneca Village story is one of perseverance in the face of adversity.

The African-American community was able to build a thriving neighborhood in the heart of New York City, despite discrimination and poverty.

Today, Seneca Village NYC is a popular attraction for visitors interested in the Black history of Central Park, social history, archeology, and architecture.

A visit to the Seneca Village Site is a unique way to learn about this important chapter in American history.