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Central Park Is A Lovely Place Now, But In The 1930s, It Was Anything But

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When you think of Central Park, you probably imagine bright green lawns, tree-lined pathways, and amazing cultural events. It’s a green oasis in a bustling urban center, and for many, it’s a place to gather, relax, and do some very interesting people-watching.

This is the Central Park that most of us imagine today.

This is the Central Park that most of us imagine today.

It’s a bustling place where city dwellers go to stroll, read, relax, and socialize.

It's a bustling place where city dwellers go to stroll, read, relax, and socialize.

But that wasn’t always the case. In the 1930s — during the height of the Great Depression — hundreds of people called the park home. And they really didn’t want to.

These were the people who had lost everything and were forced from their homes. Taking what they could carry, they set up camp in the park. All they could do was attempt to survive in crude, leaky tents.

This shanty town was built by hand in the middle of the park.

This shanty town was built by hand in the middle of the park.

The Manhattan skyline sat in stark contrast to the makeshift homes.

During the Depression, camps like this were all too common. They were called “Hoovervilles,” named after then-president Herbert Hoover, who was often blamed for the Depression. These refugee camps sprung up all across the country, and hundreds of thousands of people lived in them.

The residents of these camps tried their best to make their shacks feel like home.

The residents of these camps tried their best to make their shacks feel like home.

Adding insult to injury, city officials often raided the camps, forcing these people out once again. Many officials were reluctant to do so, but the lack of sanitation and running water made the camps health hazards.

This video shows what life was like in these makeshift communities:

video-player-present

(via Acid Cow, The New York Times, Ephemeral New York, Gothamist)

Even though it was large, the Hooverville in Central Park only stood until 1933, when it was uprooted to resume building on the reservoir. As for the people who camped out in the park, it’s unclear what happened to them, but they may have had to relocate to one of the other Hoovervilles in New York City.

The next time you’re in Central Park, remember that countless people were once forced to call it home.