Learning About New York Part III

New York, or Manhattan Island, rises from each river with a gentle ascent, thus forming a central ridge nearly its entire length. The city is compactly built, from the Battery to Forty-second-street, four miles. In the lower part of the city the streets are laid out to suit the shape of the island, and, though not uniform, the general divisions are regular, and the main streets broad. At Houston-street, one and three-fourth miles from the Battery, commences the uniform plan of avenues and streets. Above this point the entire island is divided, longitudinally, by fourteen parallel avenues, 100 feet wide, which are crossed at right angles by one hundred and fifty-six streets, sixteen of which are 100 and the remainder 80 feet wide; and these, all above Thirteenth-street, extend entirely across the island, from river to river.

The upper portion of the city is generally composed of residences, while the lower or southern part accommodates the great bulk of commerce and general trade. The principal business portion lies south of Chambers-street.

Broadway extends for two and a half miles in a straight line, commencing at the Battery and running north. The turn in Broadway is just below Union-Square, at Tenth-street, where it bends slightly to the westward, crossing, in its additional course of miles, the principal avenues in the western part of the city.

Broadway is 80 feet wide, and occupies in its straight part the natural crown of the island between the two rivers. It is the great promenade of the city, and one of the grandest streets in the world, elegantly built with costly edifices, stores, hotels, churches, etc.

"The great characteristic of New York is din and excitement; everything is done in a hurry, all is intense, anxiety. It is especially noticeable in the leading thoroughfare, Broadway, where the noise and confusion caused by the incessant passing and re-passing of some eighteen thousand vehicles a day, with multitudes upon multitudes of people upon its side-walks, render it a Babel-scene of confusion."

To obtain a general idea of some of the more prominent objects of the city, we commence at the southernmost point, the beginning of Broadway, the Battery. This public ground has eleven acres, and is planted with shade trees. At the southern termination of the island it has an extended view of the magnificent bay of New York, with its fleets of vessels and crafts of all sorts. Here stands Castle Garden, originally a fortification, then a place of public meetings, with a room capable of holding an audience of fifteen thousand persons, and now as a point of debarkation of the thousands upon thousands of emigrants who annually here for the first time press their feet upon a land of freedom. At the beginning of Broadway, close by the Battery, is the little circular square known as the Bowling Green, now graced by a fountain, but in ante-revolutionary times the site of a leaden equestrian statue of George III, which the populace destroyed and converted into musket balls to be fired into his majesty's soldiers.

Passing up Broadway two blocks from Bowling Green, we have on the right, running down to East River, a short, narrow street Wall--street, the great money center of the Union and rendezvous of merchants. At its head, on Broadway, stands Trinity Church, the most important Episcopal church in the city, built at an expense of $400,000, with a singularly beautiful spire, rising to the height of 264 feet, and commanding from its summit a view of the city, bay, rivers, islands, and surrounding shores--a magnificent panorama of life and beauty. From this elevation Broadway is seen stretching away for miles, with its moving crowds of human beings and vehicles dwarfed to the eye, by height and distance, to puppets in size. In the adjoining churchyard are the monuments of many illustrious men, among them those of Alexander Hamilton, and the naval hero, Lawrence.

On Wall-street, corner of Nassau-street, stands the Custom House, modeled after the Parthenon, and built of white marble, at an expense of nearly $2,000,000. It is on the site of the Federal Hall, where congress held its sessions when New York was the national capital. Here, on the 13th of April, 1789, the assembled thousands exclaimed "Long live George Washington," on the occasion of his inauguration on this spot as the first president
of the United States. Adjoining this is the U. S. Assay Office, a handsome marble building.

Near this building, on Nassau-street, is the city Post office, formerly the Middle Dutch Church, used for military purposes by the British in the revolution.

Below the Custom House, on Wall-street, is the Merchants' Exchange, a massive granite edifice, occupying an entire block, of the Grecian Doric order. It is 200 feet long, 77 feet high, to the cornice, and cost $1,800,000. The exchange-room, where the merchants daily meet during the hours of 'Change, is a magnificent hall, capable of holding 3,000 persons.

Proceeding up Broadway, we come, after passing seven blocks more, to the Park, a triangular structure of eleven acres, and the best known locality in all New York. Upon this, at its upper end, are several public buildings, the most important of which is the City Hall, an imposing marble structure. The building was finished in 1812; its rear is of free-stone, and so built because at the time it was supposed the city would never extend north of it, now it in fact reaches four miles above it.

At the south end of the Park is the Astor House, Barnum's Museum and St. Paul's Church. In the graveyard attached to the church are monuments to the memory of Emmet, the Irish patriot, and to Gen. Montgomery, who fell at Quebec, and also a native of Ireland.

View Looking down Broadway from the Park. On the right is seen the Astor House and St. Paul's Episcopal Church; on the left, Park Place and Barnum's Museum. In front, cars of street railroads, with figures in the foreground of the little street shoe-blacks at work polishing the leather of passers-by. This is the most thronged point in the city. In the business hours of the day, policemen, in their blue uniforms, stand here to preserve order, and to conduct ladies and children in safety across the crowded street.

Printing-House Square is the open space facing the eastern side of the Park, opposite the City Hall. Upon this square directly front the offices of the New York Tribune, the New York Times, on the site of the old Brick Church, the Sunday Times, etc. The great American Tract House Printing Establishment is also on one of the corners of the square, while within sight are the offices of the Herald, the Sun, the New York Express, the Daily News, the New York Mercury, the New York Ledger, and numerous others. No other locality in the world is so closely identified with the art of printing. Within five minutes walk of this spot, toward East River, on Franklin Square, is the celebrated publishing-house of the Brothers Harper. Their establishment is on a gigantic scale. It occupies an edifice five stories in height, where printing, bookbinding, stereotyping, engraving and book-selling are carried on. They furnish employment to three hundred people, and sell two millions of volumes annually. The Messrs. Appleton, corner of Broadway and Leonard streets, conduct the bookselling and publishing business on a similarly extensive scale.

On Broadway, just above the Park, is Stewart's Marble Palace, the most extensive and fashionable "shopping place" for ladies in the world. In all its departments, it employs 350 clerks, and annually sells dry-goods to the amount of several millions. Bowen, McNamie & Co.'s marble store, also devoted to dry-goods, is on the corner of Pearl-street and Broadway, and is a most costly and elegant edifice. This firm has made itself widely known by their immortal reply to a threat of a withdrawal of trade for their political opinions--"Our goods are for sale, not our principles."

Ball, Black & Co., and Tiffany & Co., are elegant establishments, on Broadway, devoted to jewelry and silverware. The latter, it is said, retail to the amount of $1,000,000 annually.

Between Duane and Worth streets is the New York Hospital, a most important benevolent institution, of which there are many in the city, though this is probably the oldest, having been founded anterior to the revolution.

Opposite this, on the east side of Broadway, is the much admired Broadway Theater, one of the largest in the city. A short distance behind and east of this, in Center-street, is the Hall of Justice, in common language, the "Tombs," from its gloomy aspect. It contains the police and other courts, one hundred and fifty cells for prisoners, and, in the court-yard, a place of execution for murderers. It is judiciously located, for near by, a little to the east, is the infamous Five Points, so named because five streets here meet and corner. The Five Points is the nucleus around which cluster thousands of the most abandoned and wretched of the population of the city--the thieves, prostitutes, and notoriously profligate and intemperate. This vile population are mostly of the lowest class of foreigners, the off-scouring of the poorest districts and most degraded and tyrannically governed cities of the Old World.

(Continue to Part IV)


Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: Learning About New York State Part III
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Our whole country; or, The past and present of the United States, historical and descriptive. In two volumes By John Warner Barber ... and Henry Howe ...Cincinnati, H. Howe, 1861.
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