1. DOWNTOWN — THE WALL STREET CANYONS: Walking the Byways of The First New York
From the spectacular skyline up in the air, to archeological relics down underground — from the large new Museum of the American Indian in the old Custom House to the tiny Museum of American Financial History in the old Standard Oil Building — Downtown is one of the world’s great urban treasures. Its reputation was tarnished in the ’80s (symbol of greed and corruption) and the ’90s (the stock market crash and empty skyscrapers), as well as the ’00’s in the wake of 9/11, but it’s making a strong come-back. The tour begins at the Custom House and covers the well-known highlights and the unexpected delights of Downtown. Colonial-era relics and narrow Dutch streets. Private banks and public squares. 18th-century church steeples and 20th-century skyscraper towers. Public art from Dubuffet at Chase Manhattan to Arturo diModica’s giant bull (to cheer up the stockbrokers after the ‘87 crash) at Bowling Green. The waterfront from Steamship Row on lower Broadway (where Cunard’s cavernous ticket office suggests St. Peter’s in Rome) to Castle Clinton. The Equitable Building at 120 Broadway, which helped usher in zoning to American cities. And famous institutions like Delmonico’s, first American restaurant to popularize “continental cuisine,” whose last (and very handsome) surviving building stands on William Street.
2. THE PORT AND THE STREET
Three centuries of Downtown’s business and commercial history, from South Street shipping days through the development of Wall Street banking. Admire eighteenth-century counting-houses and twentieth-century banking headquarters, walk colonial street patterns, visit archeological sites, and learn about the continuing transformation of the financial district.
3. THE LEGACY OF CASS GILBERT
Half-a-dozen early 20th-century monuments by one of America’s great masters, including the former U.S. Custom House, the United States Courthouse on Foley Square, the New York County Lawyers’ Association, and the trio of tall office buildings (Broadway-Chambers, West Street, and Woolworth) which helped transform the American skyscraper from a gawky 19th century hybrid into a lush romantic tower, the pinnacle of 20th-century American architecture.
4. ART DECO METROPOLIS: WALL STREET
(see “Art Deco Metropolis” itineraries)
5. THE STREETS OF SoHo: The World’s Cast-iron Capital
A walk through SoHo, to marvel at the world’s greatest trove of cast-iron buildings. Cast- iron began as a mid-19th century cheap imitation of stone, in which the glories of the world’s past could be offered in modern times to American merchants through that most modern of marketing tools, the sales catalog — in mass-produced, ready-to-build versions. But cast-iron soon developed into a remarkable technology expressive of the industrial revolution and modern America, capable of entirely new architectural effects. Highlights include cast-iron recreations of Venetian palaces on Broadway, French style Mansard roofs on Greene Street, and the audaciously original metallic creations of New York’s Victorian commercial architects. Also considered are SoHo’s more recent history, including the impact of the proposed Lower Manhattan Expressway, designation as a New York City Historic District, the changing economics of light industry, and the fashions of the art world.