Collect Pond: Ancient History to 1811


The Collect Pond was an ancient fresh water pond used by Native Americans as a water and fishing resource. With the settling of New Amsterdam and early New York, the area around the pond remained a pastoral environment due to its location further north on the Island. It remained a central source of fresh water for early Manhattan until the development of tanning and slaughterhouse industries along its shores polluted the pond beyond use. The first steamboat was even tested on its waters. By 1803 the City decided to rid itself altogether of the typhus and choleric festering pond by draining it out via a canal that ran along the present-day Canal Street. By 1811 the once water-filled area was completely buried by the neighborhood that developed into the notorious slum district known as Five Points. Unfortunately, the City's engineers could not completely erase the Pond's history due to the fact that several fresh water springs still fed into the area. This created a swampy environment, which continuously flooded the basements of such buildings as the Tombs Prison and local tenements throughout the 19th and early 20th century. The small park named after the Collect Pond between Center and Lafayette Streets still to this day has a problem with sinking periodically. Most of the southern area where the pond used to be located between White and Duane Streets has been renamed as part of Foley Square, which was recently renovated with a new park that displays three large bronze disks set in the ground depicting the local history of the area.