Tuesday, 2 December 2008


The Collect Pond was a body of fresh water near the southern tip of Manhattan, covering approx. 48 acres and running as deep as 60 feet. The pond was fed by an underground spring, and its outflow ran through marshes to the Hudson River. The pond was located just north of today's Foley Square and just west of modern Chinatown.

During the 18th century, the pond was used as a picnic spot in the summer, and a skating rink in the winter. In 1796, the first experimental steamboat was launched on its waters. Industry almost immediately started to make use of the water, and dumped its waste there as well. This included tanneries, breweries, rope walks, and slaughterhouses. By the late 18th century, the pond had become an open sewer emitting a foul odour and considered a fearful health risk by the authorities and so they initiated a programme to fill the sewer with earth from an adjacent hill.

In 1805, in order to drain the garbage-infested waters, designers opened a forty-foot wide canal that today is known as Canal Street. By 1811, the City had completed the filling of Collect Pond. A neighbourhood known as Paradise Square soon arose over the pond's previous site. Unfortunately, due to the area's extremely high water table, Paradise Square began to sink in the 1820's. The neighbourhood again began emitting an acrid stench, prompting the most affluent residents to leave the area. By the 1830's, Paradise Square had become the notorious "Five Points", an extremely poor and mightily dangerous neighbourhood renowned for its crime, filth and depravity, so well depicted in Martin Scorsese's multi award winning film "Gangs of New York", based on a book by Herbert Asbury and starring, Leonardo Dicaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis and Cameron Diaz.

Starting at the turn of the last century, the whole area was cleared of the slum tenement buildings and became known as the Civic Center, due to the presence of many government offices. In 1960, the City Park's Department created Collect Pond Park, boasting a large, green open area circumscribed by benches and trees, thereby providing the area with a well-deserved sense of its character and history.

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