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. To explore Washington's New York City, follow this self-guided walk.
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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

Known as “the little chapel that stood,” St. Paul's Chapel is the oldest perpetually used public edifice in New York City. Upon its completion in 1766, it stood in a field, some distance away from the growing port city to the south, and served as a "chapel-of-ease" for parishioners residing far off from the “Mother Church” of Trinity in Lower Manhattan. Over the years, St. Paul's has withstood a number of tragic events including the Great Fire of 1776 and the September 11 attack of 2001 which brought down both twin towers of the World Trade Center just across the street. Miraculously unscathed, the chapel provided refuge for the many firefighters, police officers, and other first responders working through the devastation that day.

Still, the chapel has gone down in history, primarily, as George Washington’s church in New York, as it was his place of worship prior to the Inaugural Ceremony as well as for the next 17 months of his presidency in New York. A replica of George’s modest pew box, in which he prayed immediately after the inauguration, is now displayed within the church. Hanging over it is the painting of The Great Seal of the United States installed on the Inauguration Day. Rumors say that it has been designed by Benjamin Franklin featuring the dark bird resembling a wild turkey, which was Franklin’s choice for the national bird instead of an eagle.

The outside churchyard also most certainly remembers George walking through as this was the main entrance to the chapel in his day. It now looks particularly moving, if not say spectacular, packed with gravestones from the 1700s set against the backdrop of Santiago Calatrava’s new World Trade Center Oculus Pavilion directly across the street. On the inside St. Paul's is rather simple in design featuring a modest hall, glass chandeliers, handmade carving, door hinges and woodwork, complete with the Pierre L'Enfant oil painting hung over the unique altar.
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 (must see)

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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