Guest Blog Post: Jeff on NYMAAC’s Annual Brrr Crawl 2016

Check out this recap of our Annual Brrr Crawl that took place on February 6, 2016 from our tour guide Jeff!

We began our tour near the heart of Chinatown, at the corner of a fairly unassuming playground.  Many people do not know that we were very close to the intersection that gave the neighborhood it’s former, infamous identity: The Five Points.  Although this neighborhood is familiar to some (mainly through the book and film “Gangs of New York,”) its true squalor and violence is hard to comprehend.  As unpleasant as it was, a lot of what has made New York great was present in this area: immigrants, social outreach programs, entrepreneurship, politics of all shades, and some true rags-to-riches stories.

We walked through Chinatown.  Although this neighborhood has become one of New York’s most well-known and influential cultural touchstones, it was not always so large.  It was once a “bachelor society” of a few dozen Chinese immigrant workers.

As we approached the Brooklyn Bridge, I thought it was worth mentioning the story of the bridge.  Although some might find it strange (being a bridge and all,) the construction was filled with drama, politics, scientific breakthroughs, and opened new doors for workers’ rights and women’s rights.

After our first watering hole (the historic Paris Cafe,) we walked through the low-key South Street Seaport area.  What were once some of the busiest piers in the world are finding new identities as stores, restaurants, and interesting stores off the beaten path.

We came to Wall Street, which prompted one of my favorite stories: the 1929 race to build the world’s tallest building.  The clear winner seemed to be 40 Wall Street (now The Trump Building,) but the surprise completion of the Chrysler Building’s stainless steel spire clinched a victory, and helped make Midtown the new center of skyscrapers.

After our second rest stop at The Full Shilling, we continued up Wall Street.  We saw Federal Hall, a replica of a Greek-style colonial building, and took in the imposing facade of The New York Stock Exchange.

Just up the block is Trinity Church.  It has been at the head of Wall Street since almost before there was a New York City.  The current building (completed in 1846) is one of the few left in the Financial District from before the Civil War.  Although the churchyard was closed for the evening, we did get a glimpse at the final resting place of Alexander Hamilton: first secretary of the treasury of the U.S., author of most of the Federalist Papers, face of the $10 bill, and immigrant role-model.

We made our way north along Broadway.  As we noted the sidewalk plaques commemorating the many ticker-tape parades in the neighborhood’s history, we approached the area around City Hall, the Woolworth Building, St. Paul’s Chapel, and the World Trade Center.  It was a great place to end our tour, as the brand new towers reach up to the sky, among buildings that have been in Manhattan for hundreds of years.

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