With a history that goes back to the 1600s, New York City is full of museums, monuments and landmarks tracing the story of the United States since well before it declared independence and signed the Constitution. It was here that George Washington took office as the first President of the United States, and it was here that the face of the world was forever changed on the morning of September 11, 2001.
If you’re interested in history at all, then New York is the place to visit. No matter what aspect of American history appeals to you the most, you could spend more than just one holiday to New York exploring the history of the city.
The best place to start your historic journey through New York is at one of the city’s dozens of museums. Start at the Museum of the City of New York, which houses more than 1.5 million papers and artifacts chronicling the history of the Big Apple. Another landmark that’s a must for anyone interested in the history of New York – and the country of the United States as a whole – is Ellis Island. Located within New York Harbor in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island was the first stop for generations of Americans coming from around the world. The three story hall that was the initial check-in point for travelers has been renovated and now houses photos, memorabilia and exhibits chronicling the immigrant experience in America. While a visit to the Statue of Liberty and the exhibits on Liberty Island is worth a visit as well, if you plan to make the trek up into Lady Liberty you’ll need to purchase your tickets ahead of time and adhere to strict security regulations.
While the Museum of the City of New York and Ellis Island are devoted to the stories of the general population of New York, there are a number of other museums devoted to specific populations and subjects related to the city. The Jewish Museum, for example, is devoted to furthering understanding of Judaism and includes a large collection of artifacts from the Holocaust. The New York Fire Museum and the New York Police Museum are devoted to those who serve and protect, and the Museum of American Finance highlights the history of money and finance in U.S. History. And New York’s rich maritime history is explored at the South Street Seaport Museum, where some of the exhibits are housed on the restored tall ship Peking, giving visitors a true sense of what life was like in colonial New York.
Music and Art
When you start researching your vacation to New York, and looking for information on hotels, you’ll notice that many tout their proximity to the arts and culture venues in the city. For example, history buffs will be very interested in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which includes a large collection of historic artifacts dating as far back as ancient times in addition to master works. If you’re interested in musical history, don’t miss the Apollo Theater in Harlem. This legendary theater, which opened in 1934, has seen such legends as Billie Holliday, Stevie Wonder, and others perform on its stage. The theater was also the site of the popular “Showtime at the Apollo” television show, and continues to host both amateur and professional acts today.
Houses and Sites
Both the landmark Empire State Building and Chrysler Building are designated historic landmarks, and both contain exhibits chronicling their construction and history, ideal for anyone interested in architectural history. The Flatiron Building in Madison Square is considered the world’s first skyscraper, and was the tallest building in the world from 1901-1911.
Beyond the historic buildings, New York has several landmarks that are a must for any history buff. On the NYU campus, for example, the Brown Building was the site of the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911 that killed 148 people and lead to a number of industrial reforms. And of course, no visit to New York is complete without a stop at the site of the former World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial.
However, these sites barely scratch the surface of the historic sites and landmarks that dot the city of New York. Before you leave on your trip, spend some time researching the options that interest you; chances are you’ll find a spot devoted to something you’re interested in.