Wood’s Effort to Oust the Seneca Villagers

In the 19th century, Many African American gained suffrage by purchasing land in Seneca Village, which led to the creation of a strong African American community. Concerned about the growing political power that black Seneca Villagers had, some white politicians like Mayor Wood planned to destroy the village so that they could prevent African Americans from creating a more firm black community and from gaining political power. Unlike Mayor Wood, some white New Yorkers believed that destroying Seneca Village was unnecessary and nonsensical. To persuade the opposition and to justify the destruction, Mayor Wood decided to replace the village with a public park, which some people thought was necessary. With public support and the help of landscape designers like Andrew Jackson Downing, Mayor Wood succeeded in destroying the village and creating a park, which later became Central Park.

Fernando Wood (1812-1881) was the 73rd and 75th mayor of New York City. He supported the creation of the Central Park and the destruction of Seneca Village for personal and  political reasons. 

The Financial and Personal Reasons Why Wood Endorsed the Destruction of Seneca Village 

Although the land between Fifth and Eighth Avenue, Fifty-Ninth and Once Hundred Sixth Street was unappealing and the public preferred Jones’s Wood over this region, Mayor Wood was not willing to retract his decision to destroy Seneca Village because of the following reasons. First, Mayor Wood possessed property in an area near Seneca Village, and he also had a financial investment in the construction of Central Park. He believed that creating Central Park would increase his property. As Wood had expected, Wood’s land value increased from a few hundred dollars to more than $10,000 due to the construction of Central Park.