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August 26, 2019

A History Lover’s Tour of Downtown New York

New York City is known for its rich and diverse history. Some of the city’s most important claims to fame include serving as the country’s first capital in 1788, hosting America’s first World Fair in 1853 and inspiring countless artists during the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920’s. Artifacts and remnants of New York’s unique history can still be found scattered in various locations across the city. Read up on some of our favorite downtown historic locales below and take yourself on a self-guided tour of the beloved remnants of historic New York.

Grab a Drink at George Washington’s Watering Hole

Just a ten minute walk east from The Wagner Hotel is a Wall Street bar called Fraunces Tavern. Inside the bar you’ll find all the trappings of a 21st century bar, but outside is a plaque dedicated to this building’s rare history. During the Revolutionary War, the bar (then called Queen’s Head Tavern) was a gathering place for revolutionaries plotting against British soldiers.

In fact, it was here where George Washington gave his final salute to his officers at the close of the Revolutionary War. After the war, the building was converted into congressional offices while New York held its place as the capital of the newly independent country. Though its revolutionary patrons have been replaced with members of Wall Street, you can still grab a drink and imagine what historic moments might have taken place here during colonial times.

Downtown’s 18th century waterfront

A quick trip to Cannon’s Walk at South Street Seaport is a quick and easy way to feel as if you’ve travelled back in time. Head northeast from The Wagner for a twenty-minute walk, or ten minute cab ride, until you hit the South Street Seaport area. Walk past the shops and tourists and focus on the brick buildings and architectural remnants to get a sense of what New York’s waterfront looked like in the 18th and 19th centuries before the shoreline was extended with man-made landfill. Once you hit the letters designating Cannon’s walk, imagine your feet dangling into the once bustling and busy New York port.

 

Truman Capote’s former townhouse

It was 1966 when novelist and American icon Truman Capote grabbed New York’s attention when he hosted the infamous “Black & White” masked ball at the Plaza Hotel. At that time, the “Black & White” ball was considered the social event of the year, and Capote surely solidified his status among the New York elite as host of the event that year. His novels Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood were also big hits at the time of their publications in 1958 and 1966, respectively. New York City loved the writer, who even became a star on Broadway while adapting one of his novellas for the stage. During this time, Capote lived in a classic townhouse in Brooklyn Heights, which would also become the subject of his essay “A House On The Heights.” Literary fans can visit his former home at 70 Willow Street, just a fifteen-minute cab ride from The Wagner.

The New York Produce Exchange

Visitors might be familiar with the New York Stock Exchange, but the New York Produce Exchange was once one of the finest buildings in the city. The building was so unique that The New York Times called it “the most impressive exchange structure ever seen in Manhattan.” Designed by George Browne Post, who also designed the New York Times building, the Produce Exchange was the first building in the world to use both masonry and wrought iron. While the structure is no longer standing, explorers passing by on Marketfield Street can take a look at the original property marker that still exists in the pavement and reads: “Property of New York Produce Exchange – Passage By Permission Only.”