St. John's Park



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St. John's Park is a square in TriBeCa, Manhattan, New York City. It is currently bounded by Laight, Varick, Beach and Hudson Streets.
The land on which the square sits was originally part of a larger 62-acre (250,000 m2) plantation granted to Dutch immigrant Roelof Jansen in 1636 by New Amsterdam governor Wouter van Twiller. Jansen died just a year later, in 1637 and left the St. John's Park land to his widow, Anneke Jans. A contemporary manuscript describes the earliest development of the land in 1639, stating the "plantation (was) new and consisted of recently cleared land and had a tobacco house and (was) fenced." Jans's claim was renewed when Peter Stuyvesant granted her a patent in 1654.
When Jans died in 1663, her will stipulated that the land should be liquidated, with the proceeds going to the children from her first marriage. The heirs sold the property in March 1670 to Francis Lovelace, but he lost it when the Dutch reclaimed New Amsterdam in 1672. England recaptured the territory in 1674, and New York governor Edmund Andros claimed the land for the Duke of York.
The St. John's Park square has been used for many different purposes since the colonization of New Amsterdam in the early 17th century. The parcel was leased to various parties for the next quarter century. In 1700, the land was leased to Trinity Church, which then gained title to the land under a patent from Queen Anne in 1705. Trinity held the parcel as farmland until 1800, when it began to develop the land as New York expanded northwards. Trinity built a new church, St. John's Chapel, on the Varick Street side of the square, which was turned into a private park and given its current name. The St. John's Park park was intended to spur local residential development, which attracted many upscale residents. The church granted certain local residents access to the park, giving them keys to open its gates. By 1807, the park and the neighborhood that developed around it was known as Hudson Square. In addition to serving the local residents, St. John's Park was used for church events, including annual festivals for children of the parish. During the coldest winters, the park trustees flooded the park to create a large public ice skating rink.

Five exits form a circular road contained within the square. The inner portion of the square is no longer accessible to pedestrians. As New York continued to develop, land in lower Manhattan became increasingly valuable, and in 1867 Trinity sold the park to the Hudson River Railroad for $1 million, split between the church and the park users. The railroad purchased the land to build a 4-acre (16,000 m2), $2 million freight depot to terminate the new West Side Line.
The depot was removed in 1927 to make room for the eastbound exits of the Holland Tunnel