History of Columbus Circle

Although it Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 9.54.17 PMmay be hard to believe Columbus Circle was once what you can see in the picture to the left. The land at the time the picture is trying to depict was once farmland owned by John Somerindycke on which he farmed, fished, and hunted.

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Columbus Circle, 1905. Image via fineprintnyc.

Because Columbus Circle was on the outskirts of Manhattan it had developed much more slowly in the beginning. During the 1880’s when their was a rapid growth in the number of tenements. The area around Central Park including Columbus Circle remained a wasteland.

Columbus Circle, the monument, for Christopher Columbus that had begun in 1842 wasn’t completed until 1905. It was at t his time that the Circle began to become the cultural center it is today. As live playhouses and early movie theaters moved in the Circle became livelier and livelier. By 1907 it had come to look like this:


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In 1954 the Coliseum was begun and completed in 1956 under the direction of Robert Moses. The building was originally intended to replace the tenements in the area by middle class apartments and was torn down in 2000 to make way the Time Warner Center.

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After a 15 year delay construction of the Time Warner Center began in 2000 and was completed in 2003. The space is divided between a mall at the base of the building, offices of Time Warner Inc., residential condominiums, and the Mandarin Hotel.

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Lincoln Squarewomenandkidsstooplincolncnter

Formerly called San Juan Hill,Lincoln Square,  extends from Columbus Circle to 72nd Street, from Central Park West to the Hudson River. Earlier in the 20th century area comprised of tenements, shops, and, spaces for light industrial use. The neighborhood had been heavily populated by African-Americans. 

In the 1940’s the New York City Housing Authority had declared the area as “the worst slum section in the City of New York” and had made plans to demolish the area.

Between 1950 and 1957 the city experienced a vast migration of African-Americans and Puerto Ricans totaling over 650,000 new Manhattan residents. In order to curbed this massive flux the City began to heavily exert the powers granted to them by the Housing Act of 1949.

Robert Moses who had been named chairman of the New York City Slum Clearance committee began to push for the demolishment of these densely populated neighborhoods in order to make room for attractions like Lincoln Center.

Construction of Lincoln Center began in 1955, around the time that Robert Moses completed the Coliseum, and was completed in 1969.

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