When New York was a small town at the southern tip of Manhattan, Collect Pond was a place for recreation: fishing in the summer and skating in the winter. Fishing in the pond was so popular that in 1734 the city banned nets, allowing people only to use hook and line.
Eventually, however, the pond was fouled by industrial uses and pressures from the advancing population. Tanneries, slaughterhouses, and other noxious industries that utilized large amounts of fresh water began to locate near the pond in the 1690s.
Area residents also contributed to the pollution, leading to a 1778 ban on laundering in the pond, which was largely ignored. In 1785, the New York Journal reported "suds and filth are emptied into this pond, besides dead dogs, cats, etc. thrown in daily, and no doubt, many buckets (of bodily waste) from that quarter of town."