The legacy of a historic Black community that once resided in the epicenter of New York City will be memorialized. According to the Smithsonian, a new monument will capture the history of Seneca Village.
The 19th-century village—which was cultivated in 1825—was one of the state’s first free Black communities. It spanned from West 83rd Street to 89th Street; which is now Central Park. In the 1850s the village had over 225 residents and African Americans made up two-thirds of the population. Many of the properties that were a part of the village were Black-owned. The creation of Central Park ultimately led to the erasure of the community and the displacement of its residents. Individuals living in Seneca Village were forced to leave in 1857.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced that a monument will be created to pay homage to a prominent family that resided in the community. The Lyons family owned and operated a boarding house for Black sailors. The home also served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Mary and Albro Lyons were educators and their daughter Maritcha Remond Lyons was involved in social activism and co-founded the Woman’s Loyal Union of New York and Brooklyn. The $1.15 million memorial is being funded by several organizations including the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund and the JPB Foundation.
“The Lyons family story began more than a hundred years ago in a thriving Black community that was razed to build Central Park,” Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Vicki Been said in a statement. “We finally recognize their contribution to New York and American history with a monument.”
Although many people are excited about the project, there has been some criticism because the monument may be placed on 106th Street; 20 blocks away from the village’s historic location. There is no word on when the project will be completed.