The site of this triangular park was once part of the Lispenard Swamp, roughly bounded to the north by Spring Street, to the east by Wooster Street, to the south by Duane Street, and to the west by Greenwich Street. In 1735 Anthony Rutgers, the owner of an adjacent farm, arranged to acquire much of this land in return for draining the swampy ground. In 1741 Rutgers’s daughter Elsie married local landowner Leonard Lispenard, who leased another nearby parcel from Trinity Church. When Rutgers died nine years later, most of his holdings passed to Elsie and Leonard Lispenard. By 1755 all of Rutgers’s property was held by the Lispenards. The area became known as Lispenard Swamp or Lispenard Meadows.
Beach Street (to the north) was so named as early as 1790, when the Vestry of Trinity Church resolved that “Streets upon the Church Lands to the Northward [are to] be successively named as follows—vizt—Duane Street—Jay Street—Harison Street—Provoost Street—Moore Street—Beach Street—Hubert Street.” Beach Street was named for a son-in-law of Elsie and Leonard Lispenard named Paul Bache, and the street was alternatively called Bache Street or Beach Street in the late 18th century. In 1809 the Common Council agreed that the intersection of Beach, Walker, and Chapel (now West Broadway) should be “converted to a Park.” The following year the City of New York purchased the land from William I. and Elizabeth Waldon for a sum of $3950.
For over a century the park was known as Beach Street Park. Although the original design is not known, the Department of Parks Annual Report from 1871 details the expansion and reconstruction of the park at that time. The site was excavated, and a new stone foundation was laid down. The interior plot was planted and surrounded by an iron railing and a twelve-foot-wide sidewalk. By 1936 Beach Street Park featured six trees and six benches inside the iron railing, and ten trees and a water trough on the perimeter. Of note, the granite pavers on the site were laid in earth, and the joints were seeded with grass.
Since 1985 the site has been known as TriBeCa Park in tribute to the surrounding neighborhood, which in turn takes its name from its geographical location. The neighborhood of TriBeCa, a name coined by real-estate developers in the mid-1970s, encompasses the “triangle below Canal” Street. The area was once part of New York’s most important district for wholesale commodities, produce, and dairy products. Many of the nearby warehouses and store-and-loft buildings were erected in the 19th and early 20th centuries. After market activity moved to Hunts Point and the Washington Market Urban Renewal Project was approved in the 1960s, the area was reinvented as a residential neighborhood. The short, diagonal streets and historic green spaces (like Duane and TriBeCa Parks) provide evidence of TriBeCa’s Colonial and Federal past.