NYC Part 8: Lower Manhattan

Lower Manhattan is where it all began. It’s where a Dutchman, Peter Minuit, purchased the island of Manahatta from Native Americans (most likely the Lenape tribe) in 1626, establishing the colony of New Amsterdam; it’s where, in 1664, the English took control of the city from the Dutch and renamed it “New York” after the Duke of York and Albany; it’s where the Dutch and English continued to fight over the land for another ten years before they finally came to an agreement and ceded the land to the Brits.

It acted as the site of many major battles in the early American Revolutionary War; it saw Robert Fulton’s steamship sail up the Hudson, creating a new era in transportation; and it’s the site of the first church to be erected on the island. Lower Manhattan is the seed from which the city of New York grew and blossomed.

I had originally planned on going down to the very tip of the island and walking through Battery Park, slowly making my way up to visit Trinity Church, St. Paul’s Chapel and the World Trade Center memorial. The weather, however, had other plans and rained out any hopes I had of walking around. My canvas shoes were soaked through and my pants were wet up to my shins. Because of this, I decided to take shelter in Trinity Church.

Trinity has a history that dates back to 1696, when the land was first purchased by the Church of England for the construction of a new church. The building that is currently standing is actually the third Trinity, after the first was destroyed in a fire and the second had to be razed after it was severely damaged by snow storms.

Within Trinity’s cemetery are buried two men who played pivotal roles in New York’s history: Alexander Hamilton and Robert Fulton.

Amongst many other things, Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father of the United States, Chief of Staff to General Washington, and the founder of America’s financial institution. He was fatally wounded during a duel with then Vice-President, Aaron Burr and passed away on July 12, 1804.

It’s been 209 years since his death, and I have to admit I don’t know a lot about American history and only really found out about Hamilton in the days leading up to my trip. However, in that short period of time I gained a sort of reverency for the man. There’s just something about his character that appealed to me. Because of this, and what he had done for New York and the nation on a whole, I felt it necessary to visit his tomb and pay my respects.

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The next gentleman that I felt compelled to visit was Robert Fulton, an engineer and inventor who developed the first commercially successful steamboat and the first practical submarine in history.

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The cemetery of Trinity Church is full of graves dating as far back as the late 1700s. Unfortunately, due to the ground being soggy as a result of the rain, I didn’t feel comfortable with leaving the path and traipsing around the headstones. Despite this, I tried to capture the mood of the cemetery as best as I could to share with you. The rain definitely gives it a Poe-esque feeling.

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I popped into the church for a moment to take a quick look around and to warm up, then I continued on my sodden walk to the World Trade Center Site.

By this point the rain became intense, and the only shot of the area that I could get was taken while I was standing under some scaffolding, trying to dodge the fat rain drops as they fell. Here’s One World Trade Center:

IMG_2999I honestly wanted to spend more time at street level to pay my respects to those lost in the attacks of 9/11, but that rain forced me to seek shelter once again.

My next spot to visit was going to be St. Paul’s Chapel, a church that I’ve visited on nearly every other trip I’ve taken to NYC.

To get to St. Paul’s I had to walk past the square where Occupy Wall Street was held back in 2011. This gentleman, a reminder that you’re in the Financial District and not far from Wall Street, sits at the corner of this very square:

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Seems like he doesn’t like the rain, either.

Because of the role it played in the days after 9/11, and to properly honour the property and what it stands for, I decided to dedicate an entire post to St. Paul’s, the oldest surviving church in Manhattan and the oldest public building in continuous use in New York City.

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