In the 1820s, bootblack and cartman Andrew Williams bought land in the primarily African American community of Seneca Village, which once thrived on land that is now part of Central Park, from West 83rd Street to West 89th Street.
Williams built a house on the three plots that he had purchased for $120, moved in with his wife Elizabeth, and eventually raised his family there, until 1857 when life there came to an abrupt end. The entire village was acquired by the city via eminent domain and all of its homes, two schools and three churches were razed to make room for the new park.
The City of New York’s Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group will host the presentation “Andrew Williams of Seneca Village: A Family Visionary and his Descendants,” by Cal Jones, on Thursday, February 13th. Jones, Manhattan Borough Historian Emeritus, has traced the history of the Andrew Williams family from the mid-1800s to the present.
You can read more about Seneca Village here.
Cal Jones served as Manhattan Borough Historian for three Borough Presidents, beginning in 1997. He has been a contributor to The Encyclopedia of New York City and the author of the Manhattan African-American History and Culture Guide, published by the Manhattan Borough President and the Museum of the City of New York; he volunteers at the Museum of the City of New York, teaching history to school children. Among his many other affiliations, he is a member of the Institute for the Exploration of Seneca Village History.
This event will be held at Hostelling International-NY, located at 891 Amsterdam Avenue, NYC. More information is available online, or by calling (212) 666-9774.
Illustrations: Above, construction on another part of Central Park ca 1859 (New York Public Library); and below, a map showing the former location of Seneca Village by Egbert Viele, ca 1857.