If You Always Wanted to Know Where Minetta Brook Flows Under Washington Square Park

Parks Department Areas of Archaeological Sensitivity Washington Sq Park 2005
Parks Department Areas of Archaeological Sensitivity Washington Sq Park 2005

The New York City Parks Department prepared an Archaeological Assessment of Washington Square Park in 2005 prior to the park’s controversial redesign (2007-2014+). The affiliated map outlines where long-forgotten Minetta Creek flows (once flowed?) under the park. Follow line #8 on the above map to see where.

The YouTube video below shows the gushing waters viewed through a park manhole. Yet more recent reports suggest that Minetta at the park has gone dry.

If Minetta Creek was being discussed today, would there be an effort to uncover it or let some of it be visible within the park?

The History of Diverted Minetta Creek

This is an updated post from 2015. This Archeological Assessment had been on my computer for years but it wasn’t until I read Local Ecologist’s post then that I noted how amazing it is. Nicely detailed history here.

In 1808, the upland areas were leveled and the soil was used to fill in the swamp in order to create a burial ground. This intervention affected the eastern two-thirds of the park. (The western one-third of the current park was acquired between 1825 and 1828.) A drain was installed in 1819 to divert Minetta to the south of the burial ground. In 1823 and 1824, Minetta was deepened and culverted in a wooden sewer. The wooden culvert routed Minetta from the eastern section of the site to west of the burial ground.

By 1828, Minetta is completely culverted from the park to the Hudson River. In that same year, the burial ground becomes a park and is officially named Washington Square. A storm and sanitary sewer was transversely laid through the park sometime between 1880 and 1892. After the park’s official founding, trees were planted in 1908 (81 young trees), 1911 (50 trees), 1913 (43 trees), and between 1934-1936. There was a major redesign of the park between 1934 and 1938 and again in the 1990s and 2000s.

Images and content sourced from Washington Square Park Phase 1A Archaeological Assessment by Joan H. Geismar, PhD, LLC through Thomas Balsley Associates for NYC Parks.

Minetta Brook Greenwich Village Tours

Steve Duncan ran tours of where Minetta Brook flows in Greenwich Village for years, opening up manhole covers – with a screwdriver – along the way! At the time of this video, he revealed the water gushing underneath Washington Square Park.

Nearby Minetta Street follows path of Minetta Creek [photo: Ephemeral New York]
Ephemeral New York covered Minetta in 2008 noting:

As development pushed northward the brook was diverted beneath Washington Square, where it gurgled its way under the West Village. Minetta Street (below), a tiny lane intersecting little Minetta Place, bends slightly the way its namesake brook supposedly wound across the land.

In the lobby of the apartment building at 2 Fifth Avenue is a clear tube through which Minetta brook used to bubble up out of the ground. Unfortunately, the doorman told me he hasn’t seen any water in it in six years. Could the Minetta have run dry?

Additional reading on Minetta Brook:

On Minetta Brook WaterCourses Blog

Minetta Brook beneath the village Ephemeral New York

Minetta Street via New York City Walk

Ghost River via Paris Review Daily

Thanks to the Greenwich Village Kids on Facebook for their help with the above list of resources!


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