USA’s First Capital – for the NY Bound Visiters

The Alliance for Downtown NY has compiled this terriffic self-guided walking tour that examines places of real historical impact in lower Manhattan.  The Alliance was formed to help revitalize the economic structure of downtown post 9/11.  Where ever possible, I have included both the Revolution/Fedral historical facts and the impact of 9/11 on the same sites. 

slide1.jpg Click on the map for full size.

The walk suggests starting with number 1.  We will begin with the uptown STAR 1.

Star 1: The WOOLWORTH Building: 233 Broadway between Park Place and Barclay Street

The Woolworth Building is noted as one of the oldest skyscrapers in the city. It first opened it’s doors in 1913, as the Cathedral of Commerce, mear three years after Woolworth commisioned the plans.  It remianed as the Woolworth Headquarters until it was sold in 1998. After the September 11, 2001 attacks a few blocks away, the building was without electricity and telephone service for a few weeks but suffered no significant damage. Increased post-attack security restricted access to most of the ornate lobby, previously a tourist attraction.

 Star 2: City Hall Park. July 9th 1776, Gen. Geo. Washington read the Declaration of Independance to his troops and the people of New York.  After the reading, a mob of angry citizens “ran” down Broadway (to what is now Bowling Green, a later stop) to destroy the tributary statue of King George III.

STOP 1. ST. PAUL’s CHAPEL: 209 Broadway.  St Paul’s (1766) is the only pre-Revolution Church and the oldest continually used structure in Manhattan.  The yard was used by the militia, Hearts of Oak for drilling.  One of the notible officers of the King’s College student militia, was a young Alexander Hamilton. 

St Paul’s also served as George Washington’s place of worship while in residence of NY as the first capital of the USA.  You can visit his private pew. 

In more recen times, St. Paul’s Chapel served as a place of rest and refuge for 9/11 recovery workers. For eight months, hundreds of volunteers worked 12 hour shifts around the clock, serving meals, making beds, counseling and praying with fire fighters, construction workers, police and others. Massage therapists, chiropractors, podiatrists and musicians also tended to their needs.  The church survived 9/11 without even a broken window.  A miracle sycamore on the northwest corner of the property  was hit by debris and spared the church any damge. The tree’s root has been preserved in a bronze memorial by sculptor Steve Tobin.

The fence around the church grounds became the main spot for visitors to place impromptu memorials to the event. After it became filled with flowers, photos, teddy bears, and other paraphernalia, chapel officials decided to erect a number of panels on which visitors could add to the memorial. Estimating that only 15 would be needed in total, they eventually required 400. The Chapel is now a popular tourist destination since it still keeps many of the memorial banners around the sanctuary and has an extensive audio video history of the event.

Head on down Broadway to Star 3, Maiden Lane.

 Image courtasey of Burlando on Picasa.

Maiden Lane dates back to the early days of New Amsterdam.  It was a stony footpath with a running stream that served as a the city’s first laundrimat for the maidens of the city.  After dark it was also known to be a place for lovers to stroll, making the name of the street an irony unto itself.

One block to the right down Maiden Lane you will find Star 4, 57 Maiden Lane, Thomas Jefferson’s New York Apartment. Jefferson stayed in NY 6 months as America’s first Secretary of State.  I tried to find a quote from Jefferson regarding his time in NYC, but alas I could not.  Given the tension between Jefferson and New York’s own A. Hamilton, one can surmize that Jefferson may have had trouble seprating the city from the man.

Okay…walk back to Nassau Street and proceed downtown to Liberty Street.

STOP 2. FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF NEW YORK, 33 Liberty Street.  The New York Federal reserve is the largest, in terms of assets, and the most important of the twelve regional banks. Operating in the financial capital of the United States, the New York Fed is responsible for conducting open market operations — the buying and selling of outstanding U.S. Treasury securities.  The Federal Reserve Bank of New York maintains a vault that lies 86 feet (26 m) below sea level, resting on Manhattan bedrock. By 1927, the vault contained ten percent of the world’s official gold reserves. Currently, it is reputedly the largest gold repository in the world (though this cannot be confirmed as Swiss Banks do not report their gold stocks) and holds approx 5,000 metric tons of gold bullion ($160 billion as of March, 2008), more than Fort Knox.

Continue downtown to Wall Street.


FEDERAL HALL: The building here was not the building then.  When the capital was moved from NYC in 1790, NY local government moved in and finally raized the structure in 1812 to build the Customs House you see above.  However, activities at this site read like the top ten in American legislature.

  • In 1735, John Peter Zenger, an American newspaper publisher, was arrested for committing libel against the British royal governor and was imprisoned and tried there. His acquittal on the grounds that the material he had printed was true established the freedom of the press as it was later defined in the Bill of Rights.
  • In October 1765, delegates from nine of the 13 colonies met as the Stamp Act Congress in response to the levying of the Stamp Act by the Parliament of Great Britain. Drawn together for the first time in organized opposition to British policy, the attendees drafted a message to King George III, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons, claiming entitlement to the same rights as the residents of Britain and protesting the colonies’ “taxation without representation.”
  • The building was remodelled and enlarged following the American Revolution under the direction of Pierre Charles L’Enfant, who was later selected by President Washington to design the capital city on the Potomac. This was the first example of Federal Style architecture in the United States.
  • The first United States Congress met there on March 4, 1789, to establish the new federal government
  • George Washington was inaugurated in front of the building on April 30, 1789
  • Twelve amendments to the Constitution were initially drafted here
  • The Bill Of Rights
  • Judiciary Act establishing the powers of the Supreme Court
  • The Northwest Ordinance was adopted here which set up what would later become the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, but more fundamentally it prohibited slavery in these future states

You want more? Okay how about…New-York Historical Society to declare “Sancte Claus the Patron Saint of Nieuw Amsterdam”…setting the stage for Macy’s annual parade. (Sancte = Santa)

On September 6, 2002, approximately 300 members of the United States Congress traveled from Washington, D.C. to New York to convene in Federal Hall as a symbolic show of support for the City, still recovering from the September 11, 2001 attacks. Just four blocks from Ground Zero, the meeting was the first by Congress in New York since 1790.

In 2006, Federal Hall opened after a brief closure and a $16 million renovation, mostly to its foundation, after cracks threatening the structure were greatly aggravated by the collapse of the World Trade Center Twin Towers.


The origin of the NYSE can be traced to May 17, 1792, when the Buttonwood Agreement was signed by 24 stock brokers outside of 68 Wall Street in New York under a buttonwood tree on Wall Street which earlier was the site of a stockade fence.

The first central location of the NYSE was a room rented for $200 a month in 1817 located at 40 Wall Street. (I wonder if that $200.00 was rent controlled or not.) The NYSE was destroyed in the Great Fire of New York (1835). It moved to a temporary headquarters. In 1863 it changed its name to the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). In 1865 it moved to 10-12 Broad Street.

The NYSE was closed from September 11 until September 17, 2001 as a result of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Star 5: The J.P. Morgan & Co. Building. 23 Wall Street “The Corner”.  What is most noteable…the lack of verticle structure. The idea that Morgan could afford to build something only four stories high in the most valued property area was a sign of his wealth.  Prior to the Oklahoma City Bombing, the JP Morgan Building was the site of the largest terrorist attack in the US, a bombing in 1920 which killed 33 people.  The damage can still be seen on the building facade because the Morgan Company refused to fix the damage in defiance to the evil doers.

Star 6: 55 Wall Street, The Old US Customes House. Now a luxuray condos, this is the Customes House that Melville worked at while he penned Moby Dick.

Turn right onto William Street and walk two blocks to…

Star 7. Delmonico’s: 56 beaver Street- First opened in 1827, Delmonico’s is the oldest longest running fine dining establishment in the United States. 

Chicken à la King, Lobster Newberg, and Delmonico Potatoes were invented at Delmonico’s restaurant, but it was most famous for Delmonico steak.

Famous patrons: Jenny Lind (who, it was said, ate there after every show), Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, “Diamond Jim” Brady, Lillian Russell (usually in the company of Diamond Jim), Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, J.P. Morgan, James Gordon Bennett, Jr., Walter Scott, Nikola Tesla, Edward VII (then the Prince of Wales), and Napoleon III of France.

With Delmonico’s on your right walk on down on mini-block and turn left on Star 8, Mill Lane.

 Okay, stop right there… this was the site of the first “very tallest structure”.  A windmill erected by the dutch who originally own New Amsterdam as a commerce colony.  And true to the ironic nature of the city this is also the site in which Peter Stuyvesant relinquished control of the city to the English for ever changing the course of New Amsterdam.  It was because of this interaction that the city was renamed, New York.

Okay, proceed to the right to Star 9. Stone Street.

This is the first paved streets in America and also one of the last 19th style blocks left of the old Manahattan.  I don’t think the man is a permanent fixture…but you never know, it is New York after all.

Keep walking looking for Star 10. Archeological ruins marked by a brass railing.

Head towards STOP 4. FRAUNCES TAVERN, 54 Pearl Street

Visit the museum to get the full history on the tavern, including the fact that the tavern was frequented by pro-British forces much to the delight of the owner Samuel Fraunces, a member of the Sons of Liberty; but the biggest event here was Gen. George Washignton bid farwell to his troops.

Cross Broad St. and walk along Bridge St. to Whitehall.  Cross White hall and turn right. Walk two short blocks to a little patch of green. STOP 5. BOWLING GREEN

The Oldest park in NY is Bowling Green, which may have been the site of the purchase of the island by the Dutch from the Native A.mericans.  During English rule, the green was leased to the people of NY for one peppercorn a year.  On the site of the fountain was the large statue of George III that the mob destroyed when hearing the Declaration.

Star 11. Alexander Hamilton’s US Custom House.  How many custome houses does a city need? 

I guess at least as many as needed to include this beautiful building which is now home to the National Museum of the American Indian.

At the north side of the park is the 1989 bronze homage to good luck.


Seriously, legend has it this guy just showed up one day.  Rub his nose for good fortune.

Cross over Broadway and walk north to Star 13, 39 Broadway. Look for the plaque…it shows you a representation of the very first Presidential House of George Washington.

Continue north on Broadway to STOP 6: TRINTY CHURCH, 74 Trinity Place. 

During the American Revolutionary War the clergy was required to be Loyalists, while the parishioners included some members of the First and Second Continental Congresses.

The church was destroyed in the Great New York City Fire of 1776 following the capture of the city by the British in the Battle of Long Island. The fire that started in the Fighting Cocks Tavern destroyed nearly 500 buildings and houses and left thousands of New Yorkers homeless. Six days later, most of the city’s volunteer firemen followed General George Washington north. The roots from the miracle sycamore that saved St Paul’s are perserved here in bronze as a memorial to the horrors that lower Manhattan suffered on 9/11.

I hope this historical walk will be of use to some of you in your future visits to NYC.  I do ask, true to the Downtown Alliance’s mission; while you walk the history that is these streets, stop into shops and eateries and support the men and women who are fighting to keep their shops going despite the loss of support from major surrounding business once found in the World Trade Center.


8 thoughts on “USA’s First Capital – for the NY Bound Visiters

  1. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog.

    Tim Ramsey

  2. Well I’d just like to say that if I ever travel anywhere I want to go with you.
    You do great research and have GREAT ideas!!!

  3. Wow, such an exhaustive list! There’s so much to do and so much to see in the big city! Thank you so much for everything you put into these posts. I don’t know how much we might get to see, but it certainly makes me want to keep coming back and seeing more!

  4. It is a very useful blog for home and commercial security for those who are concerned about security, as I have got from Home Security Shutters .Shutters add a nice touch to a home’s exterior. In other parts of the world, especially Europe and the Caribbean, shutters serve a functional purpose.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s