I am a history geek. Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that delving into the nit-picky, teeny-tiny details of the past is one of my greatest delights. And thanks to the tip-end of Lower Manhattan, I spent the day getting nit-picky about colonial and revolutionary New York.
Zipping down on #4, I got off at Bowling Green, the last Manhattan stop before the train heads under the water for Brooklyn. Tiny Bowling Green Park was the site of the iconic images of colonists pulling down the statue of King George III on horseback.
I crossed Battery Place, avoiding tourists - chock-a-block for the Staten Island Ferry or the cruises over to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty - as best I could, to find a little pleasant walk along the waterfront in Battery Park. Great views of Lady Liberty and Ellis Island, plus gorgeous flowers and lots of benches to sit and take it all in. All free!
Battery Park has some nice public art/sculpture, as well as World War II, Korean War, Merchant Mariners' memorials. I particularly like the Korean War memorial with the cut-out of the soldier, and one of the Merchant Marines trying to save a fellow mariner from the water. Castle Clinton's there, too. Nothing to do with Bill or Hill, but it was built to defend Manhattan against the British in 1812.
On to Fraunces Tavern. This isn't the original (built 1719 as a residence) - it's actually the 3rd or 4th one, I think - but it is the original site. Great history behind this place. Big GW (George Washington) hung out here, as did many of the heroes of the revolution. Lots of plotting and drinking happened. It's where GW did his farewell to the officers of the Continental Army in 1783 (a very teary occasion, by all accounts - maybe it was the beer). I got to learn all of this for a mere $4. The restaurant downstairs is a little pricey, so I moved on after I'd gotten my Fraunces history fix in the museum.
I meandered through the district - Water Street, Wall Street, Pearl Street, William Street. Trinity Church is always imposing at the end of the Wall Street, and Delmonico's seems to beckon "Put on your bustle and long white gloves, and c'mon in and have a steak!" Not suitably dressed, I didn't even try to get inside.
Headed southeast to South Street. The masted ships with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background are wonderful sights to behold. I was getting hungry, but I wanted something historically interesting (and cheap) rather than the restaurants at South Street Seaport. I found my place. The Dodo Cafe (that's "dodo" as in the extinct bird, not whatever else you're thinking) is a great little place with a terrific street-side view of both the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. Cold cantaloupe soup (with blueberries) and a dynamite chicken/avocado sandwich hit the spot. (And reasonable - around $11.)
Poked around a little more - lots of historic little buildings and monuments of one kind or another in the area, so I took my time. Capped off the ramble with a visit to The Strand Bookstore, where I picked up two great trade paperbacks for $1.95/each. A bargain, I tell ya'!
A little pre-visit research really helped focus my time in Lower Manhattan. Most helpful, in addition to the NYU architecture site I mentioned in a previous post, was my handy-dandy Eyewitness Travel New York (thanks, Barbara!). I knew ahead of time my "have to sees" and the rest was the whipped cream topping. I loved every minute of it!
With a better understanding of early New York stuffed into my noodle, I feel fully prepared to attack the Gilded Age next. I will have to break out the bustle and long gloves for that, I suspect.