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St. John's Park

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Title: St. John's Park  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: West Side Line (NYCRR), Hudson Street (Manhattan), Tribeca, Gorman Park, Playground 52
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

St. John's Park

A drawing of St. John's Park in the winter of 1866

St. John's Park is a square in TriBeCa, Manhattan, New York City. It is currently bounded by Laight, Varick, Beach and Hudson Streets. The square has been used for many different purposes since the colonization of New Amsterdam in the early 17th century, but is no longer accessible due to being surrounded by exits from the Holland Tunnel.


The land on which the square sits was originally part of a larger 62-acre (250,000 m2) plantation granted to Dutch immigrant Roelof Jansen in 1636 by New Amsterdam governor Wouter van Twiller.[1][2] Jansen died just a year later, in 1637 and left the land to his widow, Anneke Jans.[2] A contemporary manuscript describes the earliest development of the land in 1639, stating the "plantation [was] new and consist[ed] of recently cleared land [and had] a tobacco house and [was] fenced."[1] Jans's claim was renewed when Peter Stuyvesant granted her a patent in 1654.[2]

When Jans died in 1663, her will stipulated that the land should be liquidated, with the proceeds going to the children from her first marriage. The heirs sold the property in March 1670 to Francis Lovelace, but he lost it when the Dutch reclaimed New Amsterdam in 1672. England recaptured the territory in 1674, and New York governor Edmund Andros claimed the land for the Duke of York.

The freight building constructed for the Hudson River Railroad

The parcel was leased to various parties for the next quarter century. In 1700, the land was leased to Trinity Church, which then gained title to the land under a patent from Queen Anne in 1705.[2]

Trinity held the parcel as farmland until 1800, when it began to develop the land as New York expanded northwards.[3] Trinity built a new church, St. John's Chapel, on the Varick Street side of the square, which was turned into a private park and given its current name. The park was intended to spur local residential development, which attracted many upscale residents.[3] The church granted certain local residents access to the park, giving them keys to open its gates.[4] By 1807, the park and the neighborhood that developed around it was known as Hudson Square.[5] In addition to serving the local residents, the park was used for church events, including annual festivals for children of the parish.[6] During the coldest winters, the park trustees flooded the park to create a large public ice skating rink.[7]

As New York continued to develop, land in lower Manhattan became increasingly valuable, and in 1867 Trinity sold the park to the Hudson River Railroad for $1 million, split between the church and the park users.[8][9] The railroad purchased the land to build a 4-acre (16,000 m2), $2 million freight depot to terminate the new West Side Line.[10] The name "St. John's Park Terminal" was retained when the New York Central Railroad, successor to Vanderbilt's Hudson River Railroad, built a new terminal (opened in 1934) at Spring Street, to serve as terminus of the High Line.[11]

The 1867 depot was removed in 1927 to make room for the eastbound exits of the Holland Tunnel.[12] Five exits form a circular road contained within the square. The inner portion of the square is no longer accessible to pedestrians.

The interior of the square is now inaccessible, surrounded by exit roads from the Holland Tunnel.



  1. ^ a b Zabriskie, George Olin (April 1973). Everitt, Rolland, ed. "Anneke Jans in Fact and Fiction". The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. Retrieved 16 June 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d "A Dutchwoman's Farm". The New York Times. 7 May 1879. Retrieved 16 June 2010. 
  3. ^ a b Gray, Christopher (27 April 2008). "St. John's Chapel - A Chapel the City Fought to Save". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 June 2010. 
  4. ^ "St. John's Park". The New York Times. 9 March 1867. p. 4. Retrieved 16 June 2010. 
  5. ^ Jackson, Kenneth T., ed. (1995).  
  6. ^ "The St. John's Annual Festival". The New York Times. 5 June 1864. Retrieved 16 June 2010. 
  7. ^ Shookster, Linda (11 December 2005). """St. John's Park: NY's First Ice Skating "Rink. OldNewYork. Retrieved 16 June 2010. 
  8. ^ "Sale of St. John's Park". The New York Times. 20 October 1866. Retrieved 16 June 2010. 
  9. ^ "St. John's Park; The Park to be Changed into a Railroad Freight Depot--Plans for the Construction of the Buildings, &c.". The New York Times. 9 March 1867. p. 1. Retrieved 16 June 2010. 
  10. ^ "Local Intelligence: St. John's Park". The New York Times. 15 November 1867. Retrieved 16 June 2010. 
  11. ^ Illustration: St. John's Terminal; New York Central's 1934 West Side Improvement
  12. ^ White, Norval; Elliot Willensky and Fran Leadon (2010).  

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