It’s the last day of January here in NYC and things have warmed up, melting away our recent snow storm. A good day for a ride. Today I am headed downtown for a little exploration of some of the cities colonial sites. I bring you some places where George Washington tread but did not sleep. Most of the residences from those days are gone. Though I can’t testify that he did not doze off in St.Paul’s Chapel.
On the way however I made a couple stops. Right in my neighborhood are some buildings of historical significance. I have been going to this Indian deli Kalustyan’s for the last 15 years. It’s a great place for exotic spices and rices.
What I did not know until today however, is that it was was once home to the 21st U.S. President Chester A. Arthur. While serving as Vice President Chester A. Arthur retreated to this house when then President James Garfield was shot. Garfield later died of his wounds and Chester A. Arthur took the oath of office on this site at 123 Lexington Avenue. Below is how it would have looked then.
Just down the street from the President’s old home on Lexington Avenue is the 69th Regiment Armory. This place is still an active building for the 69th Regiment. You can see some soldiers entering the building in the photo.
The 69th Armory also has an impressive history.
In 1910 Thure Johansson of Sweden broke the worlds indoor record for a marathon at 2:36:55.2.
Some of the first ever televised Roller Derby matches took place here.
The New York Knicks played some of their games here between 1946 and 1960.
The side of the Armory served as the entrance to the morgue in the movie Men in Black.
But perhaps most notably, in 1913 the 69th was the site of the Armory Show in which Modern Art was first introduced to the United States. It was the biggest art show New York had ever seen.
It was the first time people had seen Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase. Former President Teddy Roosevelt compared it to a Navajo rug in his bathroom.
Along with the many avante-garde works from artists like Duchamp, Degas, Cezzane, Cassatt, Picasso and others from Europe who were practically unknown in the United States. There were Amereican artists work on display as well like this painting, McSorley’s Bar by American realist John Sloan.
McSorley’s bar is still in business on East 7th Street. If you would like to read more about some of the reactions to the Armory show, I have included an article from the time period. CLICK HERE.
Downtown Manhattan is the oldest colonized part of the city. The Dutch first settled here in the early 1600’s. The British took over in 1664 and on July 9, 1776 George Washington read The Declaration of Independence to his troops who were assembled in what is now City Hall Park.
After hearing Washington’s recital, the troops and gathered crowds stormed south down Broadway. At the end of Broadway is New York City’s oldest park Bowling Green.
Nervous and upset by the British navy occupying New York Harbor and excited by George Washington’s reading of the Declaration of Independence and a call to arms, the crowds stormed into Bowling Green and tore down an equestrian statue of King George. They decapitated the King’s likeness and melted the statue down for bullets. The crowd knocked off all the ornamented pillars of the fence surrounding the park and melted them down for ammunition as well. The original fence still stands today and you can see the broken tips of each pillar.
But screw history. The most exciting thing for tourists who visit Bowling Green to do is to have their picture taken with a bull sculpture.
Further back up Broadway is St. Paul’s Chapel. St. Paul’s is most recently known for it’s role after the tragedy of 9/11. Rescue workers used it as a place to rest and renourish themselves. It’s fences were plastered with notes and photos of people who were unaccounted for after the falling of the tallest buildings in New York. The church was shown time and time again as a backdrop during the weeks after 9/11. But this church has stood here since 1766 where itself was once the tallest building in New York City.
It is the oldest public building in continuous use in New York City. Inside most of the pews have been removed and though they still have services it doubles as a museum for the events of 9/11. Some of the original photos from outside are shown.
The charred remains of a rescue workers outfit is on display.
One pew is left to show the scars left by folks lying down to rest and recover. Many with their utility belts still on.
St. Paul’s Chapel is also where George Washington worshiped on his Inauguration day and during the two years that New York City was the nation’s capital. Inside, an 18th-century oil painting of the Great Seal is on display above George Washington’s original pew.
As you exit from the rear of the church you can see where the World Trade Center once stood.
At the end of the Revolutionary War, on December 4, 1783 General George Washington bade farewell to his officers at a banquet on the second floor here at Fraunces Tavern.
Federal Hall is the location where George Washington was inaugurated President of the United States. This pillared Greek facade is not the original Federal Hall. It is long gone. The only building left in NYC where any President was sworn in is the one in my neighborhood where Chester A. Arthur became President..
If you look to your right from where George is standing, you will see Trinity Church. Now this is not the same church where George Washington would have gone. There have been 3 Trinity Churches on that site.
The Trinity Church we see today was built in 1846. George Washington probably would have gone to the first Trinity Church but it burnt down in a huge fire in 1776 so he attended services at St. Paul’s. The Second Trinity Church was built in 1790. That church had to be torn down after receiving damage from a snow storm in the winter of 1838-39.
Buried on the south side of the church are Robert Fulton and Alexander Hamilton.
The Liberty Tower peeks down onto Hamilton’s Grave just as the twin towers had.
You may recognize this place as another scene from the movie Men in Black. This is the entrance to their headquarters. It’s actually a ventilation shaft for the tunnel going to Brooklyn.
This is a sculpture that used to rest between the twin towers. Now it sits all banged up in Battery Park as a reminder and memorial.
The spire of St.Paul’s, once the tallest thing in NYC is now surrounded and dwarfed by many newer buildings. This latest structure is a travel hub where a whole bunch of subway lines will intersect with the Path train and lots of shops.
On to February. And the weather this week looks mild. Bonnie may just get out to play a little more this winter.