A Hooverville in Central Park

Imagine strolling through Central Park and coming upon an encampment of shacks right out in the open, with furniture and stoves providing heat and comfort for dozens of residents.

This encampment actually existed in the early years of the Great Depression. Central Park’s Great Lawn served as a Hooverville of sorts for out-of-work, homeless New York men.

Public and official sentiment was on the side of the Hooverville residents. A New York Times article from September 22, 1932 states: “The raid was staged on the orders of Deputy Parks Commissioner John Hart, who explained that the Park Department, much as it regretted it, intended to raze the settlement this morning.

“‘We don’t want to do it, but we can’t help it,’ Mr. Hart said, adding that although the men had maintained good order, had built comfortable shacks and furnished them as commodiously as they could, there were no water or sanitary facilities near the settlement.”

There were other Hoovervilles in the city in the 1930s. One, “Camp Thomas Paine,” existed along the Hudson in Riverside Park, another, “Hardlucksville,” was at the end of 10th Street on the East River. Red Hook had its own Hooverville as well, off Columbia Street:

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19 Responses to “A Hooverville in Central Park”

  1. joy Says:

    Great post. Topical, given current events. It’s always shocking to me what hardships people went through in the Depression, Hoovervilles especially.

    There was a Doctor Who episode last year where they went back in time to 1930s NYC, and they tried to recreate the Hooverville in Central Park. It was odd to actually see it onscreen, rather than pictures – kind of made it come alive. (Daleks notwithstanding. Heh.)

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Thanks! I was going to write in the post that we may end up seeing another Hooverville in Central Park awfully soon. But the parallel seemed obvious enough without me pointing it out.

  3. yojimbot Says:

    There was a hooverville in the north part of central park from 1991 to 1995 and in riverside park from 1989 to 1998. Cities of Crack!

  4. Joe R Says:

    I read somewhere that there was a Hooverville in that big lot on Spring Street and West Street. It believe it was called “Unemployed City.”

  5. Sean Says:

    There was a Hooverville in SoHo on the former parking lots on Houston between Greene and Wooster, where recently lux condos were built.

    ^Right, Joe R, there was a Hooverville on that Spring St. lot.

    And, kids, remember a similar homeless encampment until 1995 underneath the Manhattan side of the Manhattan Bridge, until it was torn down by Giuliani. Was is a Dinkensville?

  6. Millionaires of Williamsburg Take Note - City Room Blog - NYTimes.com Says:

    [...] others who are more affected by the downturn should consider scoping out their turf in Central Park, as they did in the 1930s in Hoovervilles. [Ephemeral New York] How to stop worrying and learn to [...]

  7. Kevin Fitzpatrick Says:

    Good post. I have a photo of the same era, however, it is of the Reservoir. It was a dry lakebed in the early Thirties. In 1932, when my photo was taken (it comes from Culver Photos) there was a row of shacks in the location. I also saw a photo at the New-York Historical Society of the Hooverville that was on the West Side, from West 42nd that stretched up the banks of the riverfront.

  8. Welcome to “The Great Recession” | iSawNEWS.com Says:

    [...] It resonates, of course, with “Great Depression” but without the soup lines and Hoovervilles. At the same time, it differentiates between the severe contraction now under way and [...]

  9. Bushurbs? Obamatropolis? » CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities Says:

    [...] tracks and sometimes in swampy areas. Hoovervilles on the other hand were anywhere and everywhere. Central Park’s great lawn had residents as did Riverside Park and Red Hook’s water front area. Public spaces stopped being places to enjoy [...]

  10. The squatters who lived in “Hardlucksville” « Ephemeral New York Says:

    [...] Central Park had its own Hooverville as well. Read more about it here. [...]

  11. The growing gap of income inequality « Ought Thoughts Says:

    [...] programs raise the floor and allow most people a standard of living above that of a Hooverville shantytown, so that there’s less attention on the topic of poverty. There’s also the manner in [...]

  12. Occupy Central Park: One Group Dreams Of A Three-Day Festival To Rival Woodstock | My Blog Says:

    [...] very similar to objections lobbed against the camp in Zuccotti Park. A deputy parks commissioner explained to The New York Times in September 1932 that “although the men had maintained good order, had built comfortable [...]

  13. Could Occupy Central Park Rival Woodstock? | BNewsworld Says:

    [...] very similar to objections lobbed against the camp in Zuccotti Park. A deputy parks commissioner explained to The New York Times in September 1932 that “although the men had maintained good order, had built comfortable [...]

  14. spartakus online Says:

    spartakus online…

    [...]A Hooverville in Central Park « Ephemeral New York[...]…

  15. janet Rogers Says:

    2012 here, Occupy Wall Street happened; homeless still live in streets, have evolvoled underground, while internet has us, upabove.

  16. The Cinderella Man « buehnernew Says:

    [...] http://ephemeralnewyork.wordpress.com/2008/10/08/the-hoovervilles-of-new-york-city/ [...]

  17. Hoovervilles are back – now they’re called ‘tiny homes’ — 1389 Blog - Counterjihad! Says:

    [...] A Hooverville in Central Park [...]

  18. The “squatters” who called Central Park home | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] In the 1930s, Central Park became home to another group of squatters: the residents of a Depression-era Hooverville. […]

  19. The sheep pen turned restaurant in Central Park | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] on a more gruesome note, apparently there were fears that the hungry, desperate men who built a Depression-era Hooverville in the park would kill and eat the […]

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