African-American Village Under Central Park?

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Seneca Village, an African-American ghost town that lies beneath Central Park, ingrained but invisible, has been waiting a century and a half to be rediscovered.

Today may be the day.

Using ground-penetrating radar in areas west of the Great Lawn where building foundations and burial shafts are believed to exist, archaeologists from Barnard College and City College will try to learn whether there is anything left of the town but ghosts.

Once, there were about 250 people, 60 households, 3 churches and a school in Seneca Village, the heart of which was bounded by West 83rd and West 86th Streets, Eighth Avenue (Central Park West) and Seventh Avenue (which no longer exists in these latitudes). They all disappeared in the 1850's, when the land was taken to build the park.

Even the memory of Seneca Village disappeared, although two of its churches, All Angels' Episcopal and Mother A.M.E. Zion, still exist. It seemed to be just a curiosity in the 1950's when a Parks Department gardener found a graveyard around 85th Street, which The New Yorker said was "filled with the bones of tramps and squatters."

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