If you’ve never been to Lower Manhattan, the oldest and most historic section of New York City, then you should plan to go. So many reasons. Historically speaking, it was the first capital of the United States (before Washington, DC) and the petrie dish for young rebels like George Washington and Alexander Hamilton to dream up a new republic concept—not a monarchy. Artistically speaking, it is stunningly beautiful, a peninsula surrounded on both sides by a river, and at its tip facing the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
I am posting some photos I have taken there over the years to give you a feel for what to expect when you go. I am also going to post a few links at the end to videos I have made of Lower Manhattan for you armchair travelers!
Of course, the photo above is of the site of 9/11— and the phoenix rising from the ashes. Someday this will be a beautiful site, but for now, it is good to remember. (update: 9/11 site is now built!)
Lower Manhattan has the oldest architecture in New York City, including this spectacular Customs House, which now houses the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian . It’s something that is hard to get my mind around, but America used to not have taxes, but rather financed the government with customs duties (import tariffs) on ships that arrived on our shores with goods. This customs house in Lower Manhattan was originally put under the supervision of Alexander Hamilton and funneled revenues from import tariffs into the government treasury.
Its interior is magnificently embellished with maritime motifs to reflect the importance of maritime trade to the country and its significance in Lower Manhattan and this building.
This is the South Street Seaport complex with its historic boats and museum. Lower Manhattan is still all about the sea and water. It is surrounded by it and the salt in the air is everywhere. If you visit the Seaport, try to go on a day when the New Amsterdam Market is open. Since this exact area has been a food market/center since early colonial days, it is poignant that an open air market exists here once again, reviving the area’s connection to food.
At the tip of Lower Manhattan you can board a ferry that takes you out to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I love to pick up a great take-out lunch downtown, board the ferry, get off on the island where the Statue of Liberty is located, walk to a bench facing Lower Manhattan, and have my lunch with the most amazing view. If you don’t want to pay for the ride you can take the Staten Island Ferry which is free and passes the Statue of Liberty but only stops in Staten Island. It’s the best free ride in the world!
I know. It’s a powerful picture. But it represents Wall Street, which is located in Lower Manhattan and is home to the birthplace of the U.S. capital markets. This bull was donated to the city by its artist, Arturo Di Modica.
In fact, Lower Manhattan is paved with art. Its fabled cobble stone streets are works of art in many photographers’ opinions. Its buildings are garnished. Historic paintings hang in building lobbies. Outdoor art is everywhere you look.
In its plazas and squares…..
And all along the Esplanade, a pedestrian walkway that runs along the Hudson River, there are outdoor art installations like the one below. When I lived in Lower Manhattan I used to love going out the Esplanade in the evening with a bottle of wine, glasses, and some cheese, sit on one of the benches, and just breathe in. It’s so relaxing. And the view as the sun sets and the lights of Manhattan come on is exhilarating.
As if all this wasn’t enough to keep you busy for days, consider the fact that in Lower Manhattan you will be able to visit Chinatown, Tribeca, Little Italy, and some of the best restaurants and shopping in New York City. So now, I bring you the following videos to give you just a bit more of a taste of my favorite part of the city!