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                                        Issue 50, May 2006
Historic America in New York City historic America in NYC banner

For views of historic America we often turn to southern towns, our nation's capital and major monuments but, a lot of American history dating back to colonial times can be found right here in New York City. Dating back as far as the early 17th century when Peter Minuit purchased the island of Manhattan from Native Americans, New York City has played a large role in American history. To this day, many historic sites exist that provide a wealth of history and pride. Among them are some lesser known sites that are well worth a look. For example:

The Morris-Jumel Mansion
65 Jumel Terrace @160th Street
Closed on certain holidays for information call (212) 923-8008
Wed-Sun 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

The Morris-Jumel Mansion pictureBuilt in 1765 by British colonel Roger Morris, this mansion is Manhattan's oldest house. The mansion perched atop a hill and originally surrounded by a 130 acre property, served as his summer home. Following the revolution, the colonel who had remained loyal to the crown was force to leave New York and return to England.

During the war, however, the house because of its location, became a military headquarter and was used by George Washington following the battle of Long Island. He returned later as president accompanied by his cabinet including, future presidents John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams. In 1810, having survived several ownerships, the mansion was purchased by French immigrant Stephen Jumel who added much of the French empire style furniture that is still in place today.

Today, the Morris-Jumel Mansion is preserved by a private non-profit organization and is open to the public. Both guided and self guided tours are available. While there, make sure to see Sylvan Terrace a double row of wooden houses, which also date back to the mid 18th century. The Morris-Jumel Mansion, Sylvan Terrace and town houses that line the neighboring streets between 160th  and 162nd streets are a historic sight and a hidden jewel in New York City.

Teddy Roosevelt Birthplace
28 East 20th Street
(Between Broadway & Park Avenue South)
New York, NY 10003
Closed on certain holidays for information call (212)-260-1616
Tue-Sat, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

Teddy Roosevelt Birthplace pictureTheodore Roosevelt, born in 1858, spent the first fourteen years of his life at this location. The original house that stood on this lot was demolished in 1916 just three years prior to his death. By then Roosevelt had gone on to become a statesman, governor of New York, Vice President of the United States and ultimately president following the assassination of McKinley.

In 1919 the site was purchased by a memorial organization for the purpose of  continuing his legacy. The house was rebuilt in the style of the original and is furnished with period pieces donated by family members including, many pieces belonging to the original house. Guided tours are available each hour (the last one begins at 4:00 p.m.).

Federal Hall National Memorial
26 Wall Street
New York, NY 10005
(212) 825-6888
Currently closed. Scheduled to reopen in September, 2006

Federal Hall National Memorial pictureToday's Federal Hall is built on land where once stood New York City's 18th century City Hall. From freedom of the press trials, such as the Zenger case to meetings of the stamp act congress, which lobbied against taxation without representation, the building has served as a legislative seat, court room and jail house, and in 1789 was the site of George Washington's inauguration.

The greek revival building that currently stands on this spot was erected in 1842 and served as the US customs house for twenty years. In 1862 the building became the property of the US treasury and was used to store millions of dollars in precious metals within its basement. This system remained in place until the early 1920s.

Designated a national memorial in 1955, Federal Hall is maintained by the Parks Service. Guided tours and a second floor gallery provide a closer look at colonial life and the history of New York City. Although currently closed, Federal Hall's stately exterior including; its statue of George Washington can be viewed in passing.

St. Mark's in the Bowery Church
131 East 10th Street (at 3rd Avenue)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 674-6377

St. Mark's in the Bowery Church pictureSt. Mark's in the Bowery Church, located in the north end of the East Village, dates back to 1799 and stands on land which once formed part of Peter Stuyvesant's estate. In the mid seventeenth century, Dutch governor Peter Stuyvesant purchased land from the Dutch West India Company to build a farm which in Dutch would be referred to as a Bouwerie. Upon obtaining the land, he added a chapel on the site of the current Church. Nearly 150 years later Stuyvesant's great-grandson donated the land to the Episcopal, church with the stipulation that a new chapel be built. By 1799 the current St. Mark's was completed.

Early on, St. Mark's became a strong force in the community lending both a voice and community space for the support of civil rights and the arts. In fact, in the 50's and 60's it was a gathering place for the black panthers and the war lords. The walls of its performance space echo the words of poets, such as Edna St. Vincent Millay, Carl Sandburg and Kahlil Gibran, reverberate the footsteps of dancers such as, Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham and reflect the messages found in the works of stage and screen legends such as, Sam Sheppard and Andy Warhol.

In addition to Peter Stuyvesant who is buried in the vault under the church,the church grounds are the burial site of such notables as Commodore Perry and New York governor, Daniel Tompkins who is credited with having abolished slavery in New York.

In 1978 a devastating fire destroyed much of the church's interior. Community efforts and a preservation fund which remains in place saw to the complete restoration of the church - a project that was completed in 1983. Now, after more than 200 years, St. Mark's remains an active Episcopal parish dedicated to worship, social advocacy and support of the arts. This broad focus is depicted in the 12 new stain glass windows, which were installed during the restoration process.

Gracie Mansion
East End Avenue (at 88th Street)
New York, NY 10128
(212) 570-0985

Gracie Mansion pictureThe land on which Gracie Mansion now sits was a Dutch farm dating back to the mid 17th century. The first house built by a British loyalist and, which for a while served as one of George Washington's headquarters, was destroyed in 1776. A wealthy merchant named Archibald Gracie purchased the property and built what is the main section of the current house. This house built along the banks of the East and Harlem Rivers remained his country home up until the time of his death in 1823. Over the next 50-75 years New York City witnessed a growth in urban development. The house and the eleven acres of land around it fell from disuse to near abandonment and by 1896 was seized by the City and used as the first Museum of the City of New York. Years later, then mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, persuaded by environmentalist Robert Moses, formally established it as the official residence of the mayor.

Robert Wagner, the first mayor to live in the mansion added an expansion known until today as the Wagner wing. The Gracie Mansion Conservancy founded by former mayor Ed Koch maintains the house as an historic landmark. Beautifully kept and decorated in period furnishings, the two-story Federal-style mansion is open to the public for viewing. Tours are available by reservation only.

Trinity Church
74 Trinity Place
(corner of Wall St. & Broadway)
New York, NY 10006
(212) 602-0800

Trinity Church pictureBuilt with a grant received from King William III in response to a request from Anglican colonist, Trinity Church stands on Wall Street as one of America's oldest churches. Originally built in 1697, the original church and its successor. which George Washington visited following his inauguration, did not withstand the destructive nature of revolutionary battles and the ravaging storms of 1838. The third structure, an elegant example of gothic architecture, was consecrated in 1846 and still stands today. Its 831 foot spire which once served as a beacon for ships sailing into the harbor is now dwarfed by neighboring skyscrapers.

A noon-time concert series of chamber music is held at 1:00 p.m. each Thursday and at 1:00 p.m. each Monday at neighboring St. Paul's Chapel (Broadway at Fulton Street). For details call (212) 602-0747. Tours of this active church are available Monday through Friday at 2:00 p.m.

New York Botanical Gardens
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New York Botanical garden picture

New York Botanical Gardens

Bronx River Parkway at Fordham Road
Bronx, New York 10458
Tue - Sun, closed Mondays
10:00pm - 6:00pm April - October
10:00pm - 5:00pm October- March
(718) 817-8700, (718) 817-8073

A visit to Kew Gardens in London by a Botanist from Columbia University was the inspiration for the New York Botanical Gardens. After obtaining the land, funds were raised by such notable members of nineteenth century society as Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie and JP Morgan. This sprawling oasis encompassing 250 acres consists of 50 gardens linked by winding paths. The various garden styles include forested areas, rock gardens, a children's adventure garden, herb gardens, a tulip garden, rose arboretums and more. The incredible assortment of plants, foliage and flowers includes roses, orchids lilacs, tulips, peonies, azaleas, water lilies, daffodils, magnolias, flowering cherries and more. In June, the Peggy Rockefeller rose garden, first created in 1917 and completely renovated in 1987 is the perfect place to enjoy lilac bushes in all their splendor and roses in full boom. Two eateries located on the premises serving hot and cold entrees, sandwiches, snacks and beverages provide an energizing break and allow you to make this trip an all day affair. The New York Botanical Gardens are 20 minutes from Grand Central Station via Metro North. For more information, a complete blooming schedule and a map to help you navigate through the various gardens visit

In late April Central Park's Cherry trees blossomed along the west side of the reservoir. You should have seen it! Don't miss any more of the wonderful things going on in NYC this spring and Summer. Respond to our getaway offer today.

Central Park Cherry trees picture
Images of Central Park In Spring
Central Park Cherry trees picture

The History of Broadway Theater
History of bway theatre banner

Part One of a Continuing Series

Broadway durin 1910New York City's theater district originated in the Union Square area. Later it migrated to the Herald Square and lined either side of Broadway with glowing marquis lights (hence the song lyrics "give my regards to Broadway...remember me to Herald Square" and the term the great white way). Starting in the early 1920's and throughout the ensuing decade a number of theaters were built in what is today known as the theater district - 42nd to 54th Street between Sixth Avenue and Ninth Avenue. Many theaters were built by writers and producers to stage their own works. The introduction of movie houses that offered air conditioning and cheaper seats caused some theaters to lose ground. The art of the stage, however, persevered. In many cases existing theaters were enlarged adding balconies that provided more affordable seating.

Having survived for nearly a century, these elaborate houses make a myriad of architectural statements and carry with them a rich history including, a period in the 50s and 60s during which several were used by CBS and NBC as radio or television studios. The battle and victory by the Landmark Preservation Society, which in 1986 granted the majority of these houses protection against demolition or conversion was brought about by the destruction of five theaters to make way for the Marriott Marquis. All theaters built prior to 1930 are now protected. Broadway's three oldest surviving theaters are:

The Balasco Theater
111 West 44th Street (between Broadway and 6th Ave.)
New York, NY 10036

The Belasco Theater built just after the turn of the century in a neo-georgian style was opened in1907 by playwright and theater impresario David Balasco, It was originally named the Stuyvesant but in 1910 it was renamed in honor of its founder. Its current current owners, the Shubert Association purchased the theater in 1948 and leased it to NBC during the period of 1949-1953. With a capacity of 1,015, the Belasco is a medium size theater and has played home to such productions as Oh Calcutta and The Rocky Horror Show. Clifford Odett's Awake and Sing is scheduled to open there this Spring.

The Victory Theater
The Victory Theater picture209 West 42nd Street (just west of Broadway)
Built in the year 1900 by Oscar Hammerstein, this is Broadway's oldest surviving theater. Its very first production, James A. Herne's Sag Harbor starred stage nd screen legend Lionel Barrymore. Within one year of its opening, Hammerstein sold the theater to David Belasco who renamed it after himself. Belasco invested in making major technical improvements that made the theater popular among producers. An eight year series of successful runs starring such names as Mary Pickford, Cecil B. DeMille, Tyrone Power and Lillian Gish followed. The patriotic name the Victory was given to the theater during World War II.

The Victory Theater pictureFrom theater to burlesque to porn and now back to legitimate theater . . .the Victory's winding path, in a sense, tells the complete story of Times Square through the decades. The complete restoration of the Victory that took place in 1995 marked the first sign of change on 42nd Street.

The Hudson Theater
145 W 44th Street (between 6th & 7th Avenues)
Built between 1902-04

Along with the New Victory, Lyceum and New Amsterdam Theaters, the Hudson Theater is one of the oldest surviving legitimate theaters on Broadway. Oscar Hammerstein made the move above 42nd Street in 1895, and others followed. Among them was producer Henry B Harris. The Hudson, a simplified Beaux Arts structure functioned as Harris' business offices and theater. The theater's first production in 1903 starring Ethel Barrymore in Cousin Kate was a great success but the theater had a troubled life. For most of the '30s it was a CBS radio studio; in the '50s it was NBC's turn, this time using the Hudson as a television studio. Despite a couple of tries at legitimate fare in the '60s strong competition by movie theaters caused the Hudson to resort to yearly burlesque revivals. Ultimately it fell dark. The theater has been a part of the Millennium Broadway Hotel since 1990 and has been renovated to function as the hotel's meeting and presentation space.

Lyceum Theater
149 W 45th Street (between 6th & 7th Avenues)
Completed in 1903

Lyceum Theater bannerAnother early theater impresario encouraged by Oscar Hammerstein's move north of 42nd Street was Daniel Frohman who in 1903 built the Lyceum Theater, a small and intimate theater with an elaborate land marked interior. The walls and ceiling are lavishly painted and include murals, marble panels and bronze statues. The Lyceum Theater is the oldest continuously-operating legitimate theater on Broadway. Though this theater embodies many 19th-century theater design principles; two balconies, performer's green room and a producer's apartment, it also contains the first cantilevered balcony on Broadway, eliminating columns that obscured views from the orchestra.

New Amsterdam Theater logoNew Amsterdam Theater
214 West 42nd Street (between 7th & 8th Avenues)

In 1902 impresarios Marc Klaw and Abraham Erlanger commissioned Herts & Tallant to build across from Hammerstein's Republic ( today the Victory Theater). The result was the New Amsterdam theater completed in 1903. The New Amsterdam Theater's Beaux-Arts entrance opens into the finest Art Nouveau theater interiors in New York City. Carved and painted plaster, carved stone, carved wood, murals and tiles, all combine to evoke what it was like going to the theater at the turn of the century. A production of Shakespeare's Midsummer Nights Dream opened the theater on Nov 2, 1903. Florenz Ziegfeld staged his Follies at the New Amsterdam from 1913 through 1927.

New Amsterdam Theater pictureAs happened with many legitimate theaters during the depression years, by 1937 the New Amsterdam had been converted to a movie house. The Nederlander Organization purchased the theater in 1982 with the intentions of undertaking a reconstruction program to return the theater to legitimate use. Major structural problems, combined with the uncertainty of the City's economic health caused many delays. New York State purchased the New Amsterdam in 1992 and subsequently resold it to the Walt Disney Co for $29 million. The complete reconstruction of the theater between 1995 - 1997 signaled Disney's confidence in Times Square's future and guaranteed the further redevelopment of the area.

The Lion King, Disney's mega hit production, which has been running at The New Amsterdam theater since 1997 will move to the Minskoff Theater this June to make room for Disney's next project, Mary Poppins, scheduled to open at The New Amsterdam this October.

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New York City, New York, 10019    1-800-532-4566
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