On Saturday, my husband and I took a walking tour of Lower Manhattan led by a New School acquaintance of mine, Suzanne Reisman. Suzanne graduated from the New School's nonfiction MFA when I was in Writing for Children. What I didn't realize until we were almost done with the program is that she'd also written an NYC guidebook, Off the Beaten (Subway) Track, that I'd given to my husband (then my boyfriend of only a few months!) as a birthday gift in 2009. It felt like a small world indeed when I made that connection! Because my husband and I had both enjoyed Off the Beaten (Subway) Track, when Suzanne posted on Facebook that she wanted to lead a walking tour, I responded "yes" immediately. And I'm so glad I did! Although it was a pretty lousy day to be outside—unseasonably chilly, drizzly, and very windy—the tour was informative and fun. We started off at the South Ferry subway station, worked our way through Battery Park, headed up Broadway past the Charging Bull statue, went across Wall Street, and then headed back south to finish at Fraunces Tavern. Along the way, I picked up some interesting factoids:
- Aaron Burr (longtime NYC resident) did not have to immediately resign as Vice President of the United States after he killed Alexander Hamilton in their famous duel.
- Burr's ghost is one of the most widespread, um, haunters in the city (not to mention that he's been spotted in Pennsylvania!). In Battery Park, he supposedly haunts the pier area, waiting for his daughter—she was lost at sea en route to New York in 1813.
- The famous Wall Street Charging Bull statue was originally a piece of guerrilla art, installed by the artist (without a commission from the city) in front of the New York Stock Exchange in 1989. The police actually impounded it, but public outcry led to the sculpture's official installation in its current home.
- The wrought-iron fence around Bowling Green park used to have crowns atop every fence post. After the Declaration of Independence was read in 1776, the Sons of Liberty knocked off every crown on the fence, melted down the iron, created musket balls, and sent them to General Washington.
- Fraunces Tavern is Manhattan's oldest surviving building. In its museum, you can see a piece of George Washington's tooth and a lock of his hair.
- Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch was so insistent upon being buried on the island of Manhattan that he had a plot in Trinity Cemetery (the one in Washington Heights) consecrated as a Jewish burial ground, just for him.
Despite the gray day, I took some photos:
It was fun to get reminders of the earliest days of New York City and to see how the area has changed, or hasn't, in the centuries since. Yay for walking tours! Oh, and if you want to check out more fun, weird, random attractions, museums, and historical sites in the five boroughs, check out Suzanne's book, Off the Beaten (Subway) Track!
Hopefully I'll have more fun around-NYC photo posts in the coming months! For now... hope you're enjoying some much-needed sunshine, too.