Guerrilla History & Urban Exploration

Conflux 2008 Project & Tour: Underground Streams

I led a couple walking tours at Conflux 2008 as part of my project "Looking for...", a quest to find out about New York City's lost waterways. See my website on the project here: http://watercourses.typepad.com/

Information on the Conflux event: http://confluxfestival.org/conflux2008/looking-for/

Before New York was developed, there were literally hundreds of streams running through the area now in the five boroughs, dozens large enough to be named and to function as important sources of freshwater. There were also springs that welled up from the ground, feeding streams or marshy areas. As the city grew, wells were dug to tap the water as well.

Most of these were covered over and forgotten; some of them still remain, merely hidden. Many more are referenced now by street names and symbols like street layouts and neighborhood names; most of the time these symbols, however, remain uninterpreted. I’d like to interpret them.

I will lead one or more walking tours (i’m thinking two, on two different days) and will point out some of these symbolic references to the pre-urban topography. I will also have packets of materials for different regions of NYC (things like copies from “Streams and Wells of Manhattan and the Bronx” and sections of the Viele Water map). These I will give to interested participants… and anyone who finds any clue, however recondite or obvious, to some ancient watercourse, will then email it in to a blog where it will post immediately. I hope by the end of the four days that we’ll both amass an informational archive, and be able to read oft-unread urban symbols of the past.

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