Discovering NYC’s 18th and 19th century within City Hall Park as part of the larger City Hall Rehabilitation Project
Chrysalis conducted research and excavation in coordination with construction activities to rehabilitate New York City Hall in lower Manhattan and expand utility and security services for the mayor and his staff throughout the surrounding park. New York City Hall is a National Historic Landmark, a Federal style structure built at the turn of the 19th century atop an earlier civic green that housed, at various times, public grazing land, British military encampments, poor houses, and jails. The area also bordered the colonial African Burial Ground.
Excavations for City Hall’s rehabilitation revealed remnants of the city’s 18th century Almshouse, or pauper’s house, below the civic center’s foundation. Artifacts recovered in this area helped determine some of the work residents were required to perform to improve their “moral character” and offset the cost of their residency, such as bone button production and sewing operations. Additionally, excavations allowed the Chrysalis team to pinpoint the locations of the Bridewell, a jail, on the civic green, used to house American prisoners of war during British occupation of New York in the American Revolution. Building rehabilitation and infrastructure upgrades at City Hall also revealed a wealth of information about the original landscape and early water management through wells, drains, and cisterns, and provided thousands of artifacts useful in determining the sociopolitical diversity of local residents.
The breadth of artifacts, their preservation, and the complex public nature of the site’s usage made it an ideal project for Chrysalis to develop into didactic public outreach presentations and interpretive displays shared with local modern residents as well as the mayor and his staff.