Estimated walk time: 22 minutes without stops
The history of Battery Park City is relatively recent but just east of this small southwestern corner of Manhattan are some of New York City’s oldest historical sites. This walking tour takes us past some of these historic settings in a 20-minute walk that ends at the Museum.
Start: Pier 11 Ferry Terminal at South Street near Wall Street, New York, NY 10005
We start at Pier 11, the ferry terminal just west of Wall Street. NYC Ferry boats run seven days a week from all boroughs but Staten Island, and are an excellent way to see the city. (And if you’re visiting from Staten Island, the Staten Island ferry terminal is just a few blocks west of where our tour starts.)
Facing South Street, walk a block or two to your right and then start walking up Wall Street. Debate exists as to how the street got its name, but it is certain that today “Wall Street” is a synonym for the United States financial market.
At the intersection of Wall Street &Water Street, you are now approaching the site of New York City’s first slave market. The informational placard at this location details when slavery started in Manhattan, as well as when - and how - it was abolished. A block further west, at Wall & Pearl Street, is where the actual market stood.
As you continue walking up Wall Street-literally uphill- on your right you’ll see a large statue of George Washington outside of 26 Wall Street. This building, Federal Hall, is where Washington took the first US presidential oath of office, and was home to the first Congress, Supreme Court, and Executive Branch offices.
Just across the way from Federal Hall, the iconic facade at 18 Broad Street is the face of the New York Stock Exchange. The beginnings of the NYSE were formed in 1792, though no NYSE building existed at 18 Broad Street until 1865. And don’t overlook the four foot statue facing 18 Broad Street; Fearless Girl, a bronze sculpture by Kristen Visbal unveiled in 2017 was moved from its original location by the Charging Bull statue to its current spot in late 2018.
Now walk up the last block of Wall Street, heading west.
In the early days of the New York settlement, jokes were made that sinners were sent to the bottom of Wall Street (into the East River), or to the top of Wall Street: Trinity Church. The present-day Trinity Church building on Broadway is the third building to occupy this spot. Built between 1839 and 1846, it was the tallest building in the United States until 1869. The graveyard surrounding the church dates back longer than the building; it is perhaps best known as the gravesite of Alexander Hamilton, an American Founding Father and the main character in a certain Broadway musical.
Heading south down Broadway, the Charging Bull statue, originally placed secretly in front of the New York Stock Exchange by Arturo IDi Modica in 1989, currently guards New York’s oldest park, Bowling Green, site where the Lenape tribe “sold” Manhattan to Peter Minuit in 1626. This spot was a center of activity long before the Dutch arrived, and perhaps in tribute to that, just south of Bowling Green park is the National Museum of the American Indian, housed in the historic Alexander Hamilton US Custom House.
From this former Custom House, cross Battery Place and walk along - or through, if you desire - The Battery, formerly known as Battery Park (and the namesake park for the Museum’s Battery Park City neighborhood). The history of The Battery is fascinating, and the more than 20 monuments found throughout explore themes that speak to the Lower Manhattan location: immigration, invention and innovation, defense and heroism.
From Battery Park, you will approach your last stop on the tour: The Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. Anchoring the southernmost tip of Manhattan, the Museum of Jewish Heritage completes the cultural and educational landscape it shares with the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Across the water, Lady Liberty lifts her lamp and Ellis Island marks the gateway through which millions flowed into this country seeking refuge. The Museum’s meaningful location inspires its mission to educate diverse visitors about Jewish life before, during, and after the Holocaust.