The land and water within the five-mile expanse of Hudson River Park can tell thousands of stories about New York’s and America’s history. Here are just a few of them.
1400s to 1600s
The Lenape, the loose confederation of Algonquin tribes that populated much of latter day New York and New Jersey, establish the Hudson waterfront in what would become Greenwich Village, as an important village and trading post. Near the area now known as Gansevoort Peninsula once existed the Lenape settlement known as Sapokanikan. The Lenape used an old footpath (now Gansevoort Street) to walk directly to the Hudson River. Back then, twelve-inch oysters and six-foot lobsters were common, and fish could be caught with bare hands.
Giovanni da Verrazano, an Italian navigator in the service of France, is the first European to visit the New York Bay.
Henry Hudson, whose expedition sailed under the Dutch flag, explores the Hudson River.
The Dutch West India Company establishes the colony of New Netherland. A Dutch trading post called New Amsterdam is established on Manhattan’s southern tip in 1625.
The city’s tallest structure is a 2-story windmill.
New Amsterdam is ceded to the English in 1674 by the Treaty of Westminster, and the colony is renamed “New York.”
General George Washington arrived in New York at the Desbrosses Street pier (just south of the present Pier 34) on his way to Boston to take command of the fledgling American Army. His Tribeca arrival and parade were carefully charted to avoid the British governor, who arrived on an East side pier the same day.
British forces seize New York and fire destroys much of the West Side.
New York State’s first prison opens along the Hudson River waterfront in what is now the Greenwich Village neighborhood. Newgate Prison was intended to be a humane jail; however, overcrowding, fires, and near-riots led to its eventual abandonment.
Alexander Hamilton, mortally wounded after his duel with Aaron Burr on the dueling grounds at Weehawken, New Jersey, was rowed to the shores of Hudson River Park, to a pier at Horatio Street. He died the next day.
Robert Fulton’s steamship, the North River Steamboat, often referred to as the Clermont, launched its maiden voyage from Pier 45. Defying all expectations, “Fulton’s Folly” reached Albany in 32 hours, making it the world’s first practical, commercially viable steamboat.
As the War of 1812 loomed and tensions between America and Great Britain increased, Fort Gansevoort was built on what is now referred to as Gansevoort Peninsula and named after Revolutionary War General Peter Gansevoort. Gansevoort’s grandson, novelist Herman Melville, later worked as a customs inspector at the Gansevoort wharf.
The Erie Canal is completed, creating a navigable water route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. New York’s waterfront activity grows exponentially, putting New York Harbor on the top of the list as one of the world’s most prolific working waterfronts.
The body of assassinated President Abraham Lincoln arrived at the Desbrosses Street pier by ferry from New Jersey. Lincoln’s body was placed in a glass hearse and drawn by six horses across Canal Street and down Broadway to City Hall, where over 500,000 people waited to view the President.
The first masonry bulkhead was constructed at Christopher Street by the newly formed Department of Docks. Today, the entire length of Hudson River Park bulkhead is a nationally recognized historic resource.
On April 18th, the Carpathia docks at Pier 54 with 709 survivors of the Titanic disaster.
The bow notch is created at Pier 45 in Greenwich Village as the final and most extreme effort to accommodate the larger cruise ships that were increasingly using the North (Hudson) River as the embarkation point for their journeys. For centuries, the island of Manhattan was expanded by placing fill into the river. As ships got longer, the federal government established the United States Pierhead Line to prevent ships from interfering with the shipping channel. As a result, at the bow notch, land was excavated to permit longer ships to dock alongside the adjacent pier without extending into the channel.
The Holland Tunnel opens. It was named for its chief engineer, Clifford Milburn Holland, who died shortly before construction was completed. It was the first tunnel designed for automobiles to pass beneath a body of water, and it also one of the earliest examples of a mechanically ventilated design. The tunnel’s four ventilation buildings — some of which can be seen from Pier 34 in the Tribeca section of Hudson River Park, contain eighty-four fans. The Port Authority’s original plan to build a bridge across the lower Hudson was rejected in 1913 in favor of a tunnel because a bridge high enough to clear harbor shipping required the purchase of a prohibitively costly amount of access land. The Holland Tunnel Vent Shaft is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A 60-foot section of the West Side Highway collapses at Gansevoort Street, bringing attention to NYC’s deteriorated West Side waterfront.
Hudson River Park Act is signed into law. Hudson River Park project breaks ground.
The first complete segment of Hudson River Park in Greenwich Village opens.