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City on a Pond

Canal ST

If you’ve ever visited Chinatown, chances are you’ve been to Canal Street. Canal Street in Manhattan is notoriously known for its knockoff brand name watches, street vendors, jewelry shops, its cheap perfumes, and its numerous backdoor sales. But before Canal Street became a bustling district of commerce in Manhattan, in its prior life, it was a pond— Collect Pond to be exact.

The name Canal Street itself is derived from a canal that was dug in the 19th century to drain Collect Pond into the Hudson due to contamination. The pond was consequently filled in 1811 and Canal Street was completed in 1820. The street was slightly tilted, following the angled path of the canal. The years following the drainage of Collect Pond proved to be difficult. The surrounding land became muddy and the natural springs that popped up had nowhere to drain. The townhouses and tenements along the street suffered which gave rise to the infamous Five Points. 

Canal Street

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