The land now occupied by City Hall Park and municipal buildings is one of Manhattan's most historic sites, and its use dates back to pre-colonial times. The first European settlers in the area used this area as communal pasture, which grew over time into a city center. Former buildings to exist here include an almshouse, a prison, and barracks. The present City Hall was completed in 1812. Many other historic buildings surround the plaza, and monuments are abundant, honoring patriots and public figures.
The park, although small, features a fair amount of greenspace and gardens. It makes a pleasant stop for relaxing and soaking in some history, if desired, in downtown Manhattan. Pedestrian and bicycle access to the Brooklyn Bridge on the promenade is right across the street on the park's east side.