Unraveling the Mysteries of Seneca Village - Atlas Obscura
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New York, New York

Unraveling the Mysteries of Seneca Village

Atlas Obscura readers are invited to attend the story of a mysterious local discovery, hosted by Landmark West!

Gather in a landmarked site as author Aaron Goodwin recounts the fascinating story of how one Upper West Side “history detective” set out to find what really happened to a founding family of New York City's first significant community of African American landowners.

When Andrew Williams bought his first lot in 1825 on land that would soon become Seneca Village, slavery was still legal in New York. For Williams, a free black man, land ownership represented much more than social and economic advancement: it meant he could vote. But the law brought down the village in 1857, when the city razed every structure within it from 82nd to 89th Street to create what is now Central Park. 

But what happened to the people of Seneca Village? What happened to Andrew Williams?

Aaron Goodwin, author, editor, and professional genealogist, recently accepted the challenge to unearth what he could of one family at the heart of this nearly forgotten community. What he found will fascinate any fan of New York City history. A true "history detective," Goodwin takes us on an illustrated journey of how he dug deep into his genealogist's and researcher's toolkits to travel back in time. You'll be drawn into the riveting world of 19th-century New York City as each level of sleuthing (plus the occasional bit of good luck) brings Goodwin, and us, closer to unraveling a 160-year-old mystery. 

This event is made possible by Landmark West, an award-winning non-profit that has worked to achieve landmark status for individual buildings and historic districts on the Upper West Side and to protect them from insensitive change and demolition. As a special offer to Atlas Obscura readers, attendance is free with the code ATLAS. 

Featured Speaker

Aaron Goodwin is the author of New York City Municipal Archives: An Authorized Guide for Family Historians. He is former contributing editor to the NYG&B Record, former editor of the Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and was the American Society of Genealogists' scholar for 2011. His published work on African American subjects includes "Richard Allen, First Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church," and "The Richard Allen Family of Philadelphia," both published in the Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine. 

Tickets and Details

  • Registration is free for Atlas Obscura readers with coupon code ATLAS.
  • Reserve your spot here!
  • The lecture takes place inside the Library at the Rectory of Church of the Blessed Sacrament at 152 W. 71st Street, 2nd Floor (just east of Broadway).


Email Landmark West at landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org.

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Registration is free for Atlas Obscura readers with coupon code ATLAS