|Image: Plate 31, 1921-1923. NYPL Digital Collections.|
Washington Square Park was not always parkland.
|The land was upland meadow and a marsh supported by the Minetta waterbody. It was farmland, too. The farmers were indentured but free blacks. The land east of Minetta Waters was purchased by the City in 1797 for a potter's field (reportedly 20,000 burials occurred there). The next use for the land was a military parade ground.|
|The 2-tributary, almost 2-mile long Minetta originally flowed west of the current location of the Arch and the fountain. In the late 1820s, the land between the creek and current day MacDougal Street was purchased by the City, and in 1827, the former marsh/farm/potter's field/parade ground became a public park. By 1828, the flow of the "Minetta Waters" was completed culverted from the park to the Hudson River. Read more about the park's timeline here.|
|Image: Washington Square looking north, 1935. NYPL Digital Collections.|
Given the uses of the land before it became a park, Washington Square was not an extensively wooded landscape. In 1908, 81 trees were planted. In 1911, fifty more were planted, and another 43 in 1913.
The picture is different now. There are currently at least 338 trees growing in the park in addition to shrubs and herbaceous perennials. Each of the green dots with the exception of one represents tens of trees. Do the math at www.wspecoprojects.org.
|Image: Public squares, parks and places in the City of New York, 1852. NYPL Digital Collections.|
Despite the square in its name, Washington Square Park is a rectangle. I measured each side several times early one morning in late August 2015. The north side is approximately 952 feet and the south side is 954 feet. The average of the north and south sides is 953 feet. The west and east sides are 449.2 feet and 448.6 feet, respectively, yielding an average of 448.9 feet. Thus, the approximate square footage of the park is 427,801 square feet. This converts to 9.8 acres. The official size of the park 9.75 acres according to the NYC Parks website. Interestingly, the park's square footage was listed as 424,684 on a 1852 map. The conversion to acres is 9.74940312.
Washington Square Park, Phase 1A Archaeological Assessment by Joan H. Geismar, PhD., 2005.
Washington Square Park, NYC Parks page. http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/washington-square-park.
Washington Square Park wiki page. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Square_Park.
Minetta Creek wiki page. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minetta_Creek.