Hanover Square was named after the House of Hanover, the lineage of British monarchs of which King George–the King at the time–was a part in 1714. The Square served as the center of New York’s commodity market for housing the New York Cocoa Exchange and the New York Cotton Exchange, the oldest commodities exchange in the city. It was also known as Printing House Square for its line of newspaper offices.
In December of 1835, the Square was also the center of a fire that decimated Lower Manhattan. The Great Fire of 1835 began in a five-storey warehouse on present-day Beaver Street. As the fire spread, it consumed thousands of imported and priceless goods from Europe and Asia stored in the surrounding warehouses. Strong winds carried the fire throughout the area destroying over 600 buildings. When firefighters responded to alarms, they had no way of putting out the fire, as the East River had frozen over due to the -17 degree weather. They were then forced to drill though the ice, but when they finally did reach water, it was so cold that the water froze in the pipes and hoses.
In a desperate attempt to stop the fire, the Marines brought over gunpowder from the Brooklyn Navy Yard and began blowing up buildings in the fire’s path in order to limit its fuel.
This fire led to the construction of the Croton Aqueduct, which would provide a source of water for firefighters in times of emergency, no matter what the weather.
The Great Fire of 1835 remains the largest fire in New York City history.