George Washington's New York, New York

George Washington's New York (Self Guided), New York

While not really a New York fan himself, George Washington held the city in high esteem, calling it “a post of infinite importance,” and is even credited with coining the term “New Yorker”. The scene of some of Washington’s greatest military trials and political triumphs, NYC is a home to several important sites associated with his life and career, such as Fraunces Tavern, Bowling Green, St. Paul’s Chapel, and more.

Begin your tour with a stroll through the cool little City Hall Park in the heart of the very old part of Manhattan, where on July 9, 1776, people gathered in the commons to hear the Declaration of Independence read by George Washington. Thirteen years later, in the nearby Federal Hall, General Washington was named the first president of the United States and immediately after his inauguration, he went to the renowned St. Paul’s Chapel – Manhattan’s oldest surviving church - for a prayer.

After a fire in 1776 and major collapse in 1838, the 3rd Trinity Church is another fascinating sight whose parishioners included Alexander Hamilton (the face of the $10 bill), John Jay and George Washington. If not to say a prayer, the building’s history and architecture are enough to merit a visit and pay respects.

Round out with a visit to the Fraunces Tavern and the Bowling Green – an integral part of the president’s new landscape plan which he designed and implemented between 1784-87, including a lawn for playing the game of lawn bowls. Encircled with high-rise buildings, it’s just the right place for a break before pursuing further in your NYC adventures.

If you want to explore Washington's New York City in a beautiful historic area complete with pre-Revolutionary War landmarks and monuments, join us on this self-guided walking tour.
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George Washington's New York Map

Guide Name: George Washington's New York
Guide Location: USA » New York (See other walking tours in New York)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.6 Km or 1 Miles
Author: Xena
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • City Hall Park
  • St. Paul's Chapel
  • Federal Hall
  • Trinity Church
  • Bowling Green Park
  • Fraunces Tavern
City Hall Park

1) City Hall Park

While Boston and Philadelphia are thoroughly steeped in revolutionary history, New York’s contribution to the American independence is little noted despite the greatest price it had paid in terms of death and human suffering. Part of New York’s revolutionary heritage is closely associated with City Hall Park, a public park surrounding New York City Hall in the Civic Center of Lower Manhattan. During the Revolutionary era this part of the city was the site of many rallies and movements.

The Declaration of Independence may well have been enacted in Philadelphia, but the first soldiers rising bravely to the defense of American liberty were in New York. On July 9, 1776, the word of the newly signed Declaration reached George Washington, upon which he gathered his men on the New York Common, now City Hall Park, and had the Declaration read out to them, exhorting the troops to be worthy of the newly independent nation whose uniform they wore.

The very first blood of struggle for the cause was shed on the New York Common on August 11, 1766 during the so-called Liberty Pole Dispute in which the Sons of Liberty (a secret revolutionary organization advancing the rights of European colonists in American Colonies) erected the first Liberty Pole, a commemorative mast topped by a vane, featuring the word “Liberty”, outside barracks of the British occupation force. Although the soldiers had it chopped down, the post was repeatedly replaced – five times in total. A replica dating to 1921 now stands near its original location between City Hall and Broadway. On November 9, 1783, after the American troops recaptured the Civic Center, George Washington raised the American flag in the park for the first time.

Also the park houses a monument honoring America's most famous Revolutionary era martyr, Nathan Hale, a 21-year-old American spy. A graceful, 13-foot bronze statue set upon a granite base, facing directly the City Hall, illustrates the last moments of the hero shackled and bound, and is inscribed with the last words he had uttered prior to being hung by the British,“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”
St. Paul's Chapel

2) St. Paul's Chapel

St. Paul's Chapel is an Episcopal church on the Columbia University campus. It was a gift to the campus from sisters Caroline Phelps Stokes and Olivia Egleston Phelps Stokes.

Construction of the church began in 1903 and was completed in 1907. It was designed by I.N. Phelps Stokes, nephew of the sisters who gifted the building to the campus. The church is influenced by a myriad of architectural styles, including Northern Italian Renaissance Revival, Byzantine and Gothic.

St. Paul's Chapel has a number of unique features in its interior. The 91-foot tall dome has 16 stained-glass windows that display coats of arms belonging to distinguished graduates.

Memorial tablets are also installed throughout the chapel. They are placed in honor of teachers and administrators, including Seth Low, the former college president, who was instrumental in moving Columbia University to Morningside Heights.

St. Paul's Chapel has often been recognized in popular culture. The Simon & Garfunkel classic "The Boxer" was partially recorded here. It was also featured in the Barbra Streisand film "The Mirror Has Two Faces."
Federal Hall

3) Federal Hall

The finest example of classical architecture, Federal Hall bears witness to the momentous events in the history of New York City and the entire nation, and houses a museum dedicated to the history of the city after independence. The building stands on the location of the former city hall erected by the British in 1700. As such, it was the first U.S. Capitol, where Congress met after the revolution to establish the new federal government and ratified the Bill of Rights, and where George Washington was declared the first President of the United States.

In 1789, architect Charles Pierre L’Enfant was charged with the task of building the city of Washington DC and enlarging Federal Hall. The result was the first federal style building in the U.S. In 1790, New York City ceased to be the U.S. capital and the original building was torn down. Ithiel Down and Alexander Jackson Davis designed the present Classical-style building with Doric columns and a domed ceiling, created by John Frazee, largely adding to the classical appearance. The intent was to make the structure a symbol of democracy reminiscent of the Parthenon in ancient Greece.

A large bronze statue on the steps of the Federal Hall by John Quincy Adams Ward depicts George Washington taking presidential oath on April 30, 1789. While the statue is the same height and street location as where Washington stood, it marks the spot only approximately since at that time, he was inside another building on this site. A museum within the monument houses a small exhibit on Washington’s inauguration, the Bible upon which he was sworn in, as well series of displays depicting, among others, the arrest of newspaper publisher John Peter Zenger for exposing the corruption of the British government which led to major changes in the freedom of the press. Also on the premises is a fascinating “All George” gift shop offering everything, from Christmas ornaments to bookmarks featuring George's face.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Trinity Church

4) Trinity Church

Trinity Church is a traditional high church situated not far from the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway in Lower Manhattan. Renowned for both its location and endowment, this historic temple has been around since the late 17th century.

Originally built in 1698, the church had been remodeled three times until the current edifice came to be in 1846. In the course of the centuries, the Manhattan Trinity Church has held an important place in American history. During the American Revolution, it served as the British headquarters prior to being destroyed by the Great New York City Fire of 1776. The replacement building was completed in 1790 and saw many of the nation's founding fathers, like Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, attending services, as well as George Washington's inauguration thanksgiving service which also took place here.

The burial grounds outside the church are a who's who of early America. It is now a must-stop site for fans of the hit musical “Hamilton”, the lead character of which, Alexander Hamilton, is buried here alongside his wife and son. Today, thanks to the musical, his final resting place is a popular site for selfies. Washington’s aide and one of his most valued military staff, Hamilton was the nation’s first secretary of the treasury after George Washington was elected president in 1789. Following Washington’s death in December 1799, for a brief period he also had been the most senior-ranking officer in the U.S. army, until his retirement a year later.

Among other notable figures buried at Trinity are William Bradford ("the pioneer printer of the Middle colonies"), Robert Fulton (American engineer and inventor of a commercial steamboat), William Alexander (aka Lord Stirling, a Scottish-American major general during the American Revolutionary War), Francis Lewis (a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence as a representative of New York), Hercules Mulligan (Irish-American tailor and spy during the American Revolutionary War), Edward Irving Koch (mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989), and others. Remarkably, the Trinity Church graveyard is also the only cemetery in Manhattan still in service.
Bowling Green Park

5) Bowling Green Park

Located near New York City's financial district, Bowling Green Park is a crescent-shaped fenced-in garden – the oldest public park in the city – whose benches and tables are much favored a lunchtime destination for the financial district workers. As if attesting to this is the charging bull statue of the New York Stock Exchange, found within the park, symbolizing financial hope.

Originally, this is the place where on May 24th, 1626 the Dutch Governor, Peter Minuit, bought Manhattan for as little as $24 worth of trinkets, thus rendering it the birthplace of the Dutch fort of New Amsterdam, precursor of New York City. For some time afterwards, the area served as a cattle market and was then turned into a parade ground with a large statue of King George III, made of lead, set in its midst. During the War of Independence, the statue was torn down and the lead was used to make patriot bullets. The original 18th century fence surrounding the park saw some action too when New Yorkers, enflamed with patriotic fervor, marched down Broadway to Bowling Green and ripped the gilded crowns from atop the fence posts.

During the time when New York was briefly the nation’s capital, George Washington made the city his home, precisely the Alexander Macomb House at 39-41 Broadway, at the northern tip of Bowling Green, where he resided for one year in 1790 with his family until the capital was moved to Philadelphia. Prior to that, for a short while in 1775, he also stayed in a home beside the park and reportedly enjoyed and frequented the park on his way home.

As a popular ground for lawn bowling, at some point Bowling Green saw many elegant houses mushroomed in the vicinity, gradually turning it into a promenade for the wealthy. In 1850, the park was thrown open to the general public, and in 1939 was manicured for the World’s Fair. After years of neglect that followed, Bowling Green Park was restored in 1970 and improved further in 1990.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Fraunces Tavern

6) Fraunces Tavern

Fraunces Tavern is a landmark museum and a restaurant in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan, sitting on the corner of Broad Street at 54 Pearl Street. Opened in 1762, this location features much of the revolutionary history of New York before, during and after the American Revolution, and was once headquarters for George Washington, a venue for peace negotiations with the British, and a federal office in the Early Republic.

On the inside, Fraunces happens to be bigger than it looks on the outside, with lots of rooms for dining and/or drinking, named for the historic visitors and war heroes, decorated with white linens and chandeliers. Whilst here, you may wish to see the lobby frequented during the American Revolution by the likes of George Washington, or the Long Room in which he and his 185 friends gathered for a celebration dinner on November 25, 1783 after the British had left New York, known since as the “Evacuation Day”.

Washington himself was a big fan of Fraunces’ cooking and even made the innkeeper his presidential steward. He generally liked taverns and booze, and even named his three dogs Tipsy, Tippler and Drunkard. As part of the American Whiskey Trail and the New York Freedom Trail, Fraunces is a must-go for history, beer, and whiskey lovers. The whiskey bar has the best selection in NYC, and the tavern’s beer selection is historic just as well. The restaurant serves traditional American menu, offering meatloaf, steak (Fillet Mignon on a Stone is highly recommended!), various sandwiches and salads, plus desserts (creme brulee and pecan pie in particular).

The museum interprets the building and its history, along with varied exhibitions of art and artifacts. Just take your time and enjoy the quiet. Come here and you'll love it!

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