Imagine you are in New York City, and you are near Central Park. Now, imagine you are passing through Mariner’s Gate on 85th Street and entering the park. Once you enter, you will see a path. Try to follow it. When you stroll down the path, you will see a playground, trees and benches. If you keep following the route, you will see the Great Lawn. Now, stop there. Turn around and look at the path you’ve walked through.
Imagine how the path would have looked before Central Park was created. Could you believe that people once lived there? Could you believe that there was a village where African Americans and Irish immigrants lived together and interacted with each other? Believe it or not, a village once existed on this spot, from the Great Lawn to Central Park West and from 82nd to 89th Street.
Imagine that middle class African Americans used to own the lots across 82nd and 89th Street. You will see Epiphany Davis’s lots on 89th Street. Walk towards West Drive. There, you will see African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church cemetery. There was a greenhouse at the end of this cemetery. Now, cross the street toward the south side of 85th, where you are walking was once the old African Union Methodist Church. And you might even hear the teachers and children’s voices at Colored School #3, which was located in the church’s basement.
Cross Spring Street, and you will encounter All Angels’ Church. Enter the church and you will see African Americans and Irish residents worshiping together during the sermon. Granted, it would be hard to imagine them worshiping and sitting together on the same bench inside the church, because it was rare for Blacks and whites to worship together in the 19th Century. Now, leave the church and roam around the spot from the Great Lawn to Central Park West and from 82nd and 89th Street. A multiracial village once existed there.