Top 5 Historical Sites to Visit in New York City
- Feb 8, 2018
New York City wasn’t built in a day. Attractions both big and small, no matter how new and modern they may seem today, have a rich history behind them and make a unique contribution to the Big Apple’s story. For visitors and especially those who have recently relocated to New York, doing some historic sightseeing will make you marvel at and appreciate the city that much more.
Give yourself a one-of-a-kind learning experience by exploring these New York City historical sites.
1. City Hall Park
New York’s City Hall, located in the Civic Center district of Lower Manhattan, is the oldest city hall in the United States that still houses its original government functions. The original city hall was built in 1700; a rebuild was completed in 1812.
Adjacent to the building is City Hall Park, the site of several historical rallies and movements including protests of the Stamp Act, a reading of the Declaration of Independence by George Washington and a two-day celebration of New York’s abolition of slavery. Today, City Hall Park is a popular spot for locals to relax, have lunch and soak in the sunshine on the grassy lawns.
2. St. Paul’s Chapel
Also known as “The Little Chapel That Stood,” St. Paul’s Chapel is an Episcopal chapel in Lower Manhattan built in 1766, making it the oldest surviving church building in Manhattan. The chapel is one of the nation’s finest examples of Late Georgian church architecture—characterized by symmetrical design, boxy proportions and a classical portico—making it a must-see when taking a historical sight-seeing tour of NYC.
Amazingly, the building survived the Great New York City Fire of 1776, when a quarter of New York City’s land mass at the time burned down following the British capture of the city during the American Revolutionary War. George Washington worshipped at St. Paul’s Chapel on his Inauguration Day in 1789, and also attended services there during the two years New York City served as the nation’s capital.
3. Wall Street Historic District
The Wall Street Historic District is a history buff’s paradise, composed of 21 sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Significant sites include Bowling Green, Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, the New York Stock Exchange, Trinity Church, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Federal Hall National Memorial.
The district’s layout originated in the colonial era, with streets reflecting European town patterns by deviating from Manhattan’s standard grid format. This irregular street plan is the only physical remnant of 17th-century Dutch colonial settlement of New York City (“New Amsterdam” at the time). Walk around and take in the historical sites of this NYC district, or schedule guided tours of some of the buildings.
4. Ellis Island
Ellis Island, the gateway to America for over 12 million immigrants, is just a quick ferry ride away from Lower Manhattan. In 1990, the island opened the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration, located in the original Main Building of the immigration station complex. The structure has been restored to its 1918 to 1924-era appearance, allowing visitors to relive the experience of immigrants going through the necessary inspections before being admitted entry to America. Visitors can even look up historical records of their ancestors who passed through Ellis Island and print out the original manifests.
5. Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
WWII history enthusiasts will appreciate this NYC historical site, which features an unparalleled collection of American fighter ships and planes onboard a real decommissioned aircraft carrier. The vessel, named the Intrepid and docked at Pier 86 on Manhattan’s west side, fought in the Pacific during WWII, withstanding Kamikaze plane attacks and a torpedo strike.
Exhibits onboard the carrier include a Blackbird spy plane, a Concorde SST, the USS Growler submarine, the Space Shuttle Enterprise and a capsule that returned one of the first astro-tourists to earth. Visitors can also get a glimpse into how naval offices lived on the ship, with hands-on displays of items used in everyday life and views of the lower living quarters.