In 1982 GVSHP’s then-Executive Director Regina Kellerman planned an archaeological dig at the site of what is now the Sheridan Square Viewing Garden with the cooperation of the Sheridan Square Triangle Association and the NYC Parks Department. The site, which was then just an asphalt traffic triangle, had not been used since the early twentieth century, and was probably not built on prior to that. Dr. Kellerman therefore suspected that there might be a bounty of early New York artifacts buried underneath. Dr. Anne Marie Cantwell, a professor at Rutgers, directed the excavation.
You can read about the dig on our blog here, and in the September 20, 1982 issue of The Columbia Spectator here. Following the project, a preliminary report was submitted to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, and the many Native American and early New York artifacts unearthed on the site now appear in the New York State Museum in Albany.
In addition, the soil itself told the story of the area. According to Cantwell, “my colleagues and I were surprised to discover a well-preserved series of dark stains buried under several layers of soil — unmistakable proof that one spring day, in the 18th or early 19th century, a farmer had been there plowing his fields. What is today a dense and vibrant urban neighborhood was, not long ago, a quiet country farm.” It’s interesting to walk around the noisy congested NYC streets, imagining a farmer plowing his field on that very spot.
In the summer of 1984, Walter and Nancy Nugent presented a photo album of the dig to GVSHP. We have recently uploaded the first half of these pictures to our archive.
In addition to these amazing photos, GVSHP has uncovered a 35 mm reel of the award-winning PBS documentary “Community Dig,” based on the archaeological excavation, which won a Louis B. Mayer Award for outstanding documentary. We hope to have a screening of this film sometime this year.
We have other images of Sheridan Square as well, along with images from across the Village, East Village, NoHo, and even elsewhere in New York City. You can use the below map to find them all. You can also read about what now stands on the location where the Ink Pot magazine office was located on Sheridan Square and click here to see several Bob Dylan images from Sheridan Square.