Friday, April 27, 2018

Unusual Facts about Central Park

New York City is fascinating to me. In recent blogs here on HHH, I shared a tiny portion of the early history of NYC and also the beginnings of NYC’s Central Park, both overall views of New York City’s past. Today I’d like to share some detailed history of Central Park. A look at individuals or specific places that might not be as well-known as others.

First, I view history like an onion. Layer after layer of stories make up the whole of history. There’re factual layers. Like the dates and places of exploration, events and discoveries. There are personal layers, like the struggles of immigrants living in the tenements in the Fourth Ward, or freed or escaped slaves trying to find a safe place to raise a family. There are structural layers, like the building of the Empire State Building, Central Park and One World Trade. Many layers in one city equal an intriguing history.

1886 Map of Central Park

Unusual Facts about Central Park:
Ramble Cave
1. Most of Central Park is man-made. Man-made water falls, lakes, hills, rock structures—the list goes on. An exception to this, is Ramble Cave or Indian Cave. This natural cave pre-dates the park and city. It’s located in the Ramble area of Central Park and has seen its fair share of nefarious deeds within its walls. Murder, assaults, suicides . . . So many that in the year 1934, the cave was sealed. One interesting report from 1897 was of fifteen-year-old, Susie Grunelt. According to the Times, the girl disappeared from her home without a trace. Her parents frantically searched for her and found no clue of the teens whereabouts. Almost a month after Susie disappeared, a police officer found her reclining on a rock at Ramble Cave, staring at the lake below. She was promptly returned to her family none the worse for the wear.

2. There are at least five waterfalls in Central Park. All are man-made. The     
Central Park waterfall. Rosbert N. Dennis Collection
water is piped through a 48-inch pipe hidden by rocks at the Pool Grotto on West 100th Street. The strangest thing about these waterfalls? The water is New York City’s drinking water. Hmm, think about that the next time you take a sip from a public water fountain.

3. By the mid-nineteenth century, when plans for a park in the bustling New York City/Manhattan Island area were being developed, much of Manhattan Island was already taken up by residential and commercial uses. There wasn’t enough open land to create the eight-hundred and forty  acres park. Developers settled on a track of land that was sparsely populated, and the city proceeded to seize the property under the law of eminent domain.
Seneca Village
In other words, the government gave the landowners what they deemed to be a fair market price and forced the families from their homes. Seneca Village was one of these communities forced to vacate. The small town consisted of about 260 residents, three churches and a school. The village was approximately two-thirds African Americans and the rest of the population made up of immigrant groups such as Irish and German. About fifty-percent of the citizens owned their homes which gave them the right to vote. After a lengthy court battle the villagers lost their homes. Not until recently had there been any archeological excavations in the Seneca area. But researchers are working to tell the stories of these brave New York City citizens. You can find out more about the Seneca Village Project here. Seneca Village Project
Do you have any interesting little known historical stories from your area? If you do, please, share them with us in the comments below.

Thank you for stopping by Heroes, Heroines and History today. Be blessed.

Photos curtesy of


Multi award-winning author, Michele K. Morris’s love for historical fiction began when she first read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House book series. She grew up riding horses and spending her free time in the woods of mid-Michigan. Married to her high school sweetheart, they are living happily-ever-after with their large family in Florida, the sunshine state. She's represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. 

Michele loves to hear from readers on Facebook, Twitter, and here, through the group blog, Heroes, Heroines, and History at


  1. It's sad to me that people have to be displaced to create beautiful spaces. I wonder if those people could see it now, would it be worth the pain of losing their homes? In my home state of Vermont, the building of a reservoir caused some to lose their homes. And when the interstate was built, some people lost their homes or parts of their land, but I know one family who actually moved their house to a different location in town in order to save it!!!

  2. I thought about the same thing, Connie. I wondered how New York would be different if those people had been able to stay where they were. It is sad. I live in Central Florida where there's always new construction and roads being built. I often drive by homes that sit along side busy expressways and think they probably never planned their homes to be this way. Thank you for the comment. Have a wonderful day!

  3. One of the largest homes west of the Missouri River used to stand in my home town on the present site of a Wendy's burger place. Each of the many bedrooms was paneled with a different exotic wood. I think of it almost every time I see that Wendy's!

  4. Great post! I grew up in NJ and we went into NYC all the time. Central Park is a wonderful place, but it's unfortunate folks were displaced to create it.