The inauguration of New Yorker Donald Trump as 45th US President is a good time to visit the places in NYC where the first US President, George Washington, was inaugurated, ate and drank, slept and prayed, and made famous in other ways.
That would include, of course, commanding the Continental Army to victory in the Revolutionary War, which also ended here in NYC in 1783, with a triumphal march by the soldiers along the wide, main north-south street known as the Broad Way. Some history books tell us the Continental Army soldiers stopped at 13 taverns to drink toasts to each of the 13 Colonies and celebrate the new country.
Today, of course, that is Broadway, still the site of famous parades, from ticker tape parades for American heroes, from returning World War II soldiers, moon-walking astronauts, popular US presidents, to NYC teams which win the Super Bowl.
Let’s not forget that New York City was the first US capital, for nearly two years, before it moved to Philadelphia and then to Washington, D.C, close to Washington’s beloved home in Mount Vernon, Virginia.
There is just so much history in New York City, much of it connected with US presidents. Remember that President Theodore Roosevelt was born and raised in New York City, and President Grant is buried here.
But let’s focus on the first US President, George Washington.
Since New York City was pretty small in those days, you can visit most, if not all of George Washington’s New York in one long day.
George Washington took the Oath of Office here, in 1789, and his larger-than-life statue dominates the building entrance. The land was donated by a Dutch merchant, first to become the first City Hall for what was then called New Amsterdam. After the city was taken over by the British and renamed for the Duke of York, it became an important spot for Patriots to plan the revolution.
The 1765 Stamp Act Congress was held here, to protest “taxation without representation”, the slogan that helped build popular support for the war of independence, and the building served as the first US Capitol. The original building was demolished in 1812, after the US capital moved from NYC to Philadelphia, and then to Washington, DC. This building dates from 1849. In addition to soaring columns outside, 16 massive marble Corinthian columns inside support an equally impressive rotunda, and there are excellent FREE historical exhibits.
- National Parks Rangers also lead FREE guided tours.
- 26 Wall St., open year-round, Mon.-Fri., 8am-5pm except Federal holidays.
The family of Etienne de Lancey lived here (Delancey Street is named for him) when Samuel Fraunces took over the place in 1763 and turned it into a tavern downstairs, with rooms to rent upstairs. Yes, George Washington slept here, his last residence as General before becoming President. In 1783, he famously said goodbye to his officers in the Long Room upstairs (pictured here) after taking the oath of office a few blocks away.
Downstairs continues to be a restaurant and bar, where you can eat traditional Colonial foods such as oysters and steak and drink traditional Colonial ciders and other grog, as well as more modern menu and bar items. Upstairs, there’s a permanent collection of art, decorative arts and other artifacts from Colonial New York City.
- 54 Pearl St., Museum open year-round, Mon.-Sat., noon-5pm, except major holidays.
- There are FREE guided tours on Fridays at 2pm, and weekends at 1pm and 2pm
George Washington prayed here after his inaugural a few blocks away, and his pew is marked and roped off. This is Manhattan’s only remaining pre-Revolutionary War church, dating from 1764, but these days, the church is more famous for surviving unscathed from that awful day in 2011 when the World Trade Center, a few blocks away was attacked and destroyed.
The church became a refuge for First Responders, who often slept on church pews, and were served meals by an army of volunteers. There’s a display of badges, helmets and other memorabilia left by the police, fire and other service groups from around the world who came to help.
- Broadway at Fulton St.,
The cemetery has graves dating from 1680. One of them is Washington’s brilliant right-hand advisor and associate, Alexander Hamilton, who founded the US banking system and served as Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury. His wife Eliza also is buried here, as is their eldest son, Philip. Today, Hamilton’s grave is a popular tourist spot for fans of the Broadway musical.
Be sure to take the time to look towards the new World Trade Center, looking west, visible through the gravestones, and the grave of another Revolutionary Era hero, John Peter Zenger, whose passion for freedom of the press is one of the basics of the democracy that is the United States of America.
- Broadway and Wall St.
Reputed to be NYC’s first paved street, still paved with the original cobblestones that were used as ballast for ships coming to New York harbor before and after the Revolutionary War. We don’t know for sure, but Washington may have imbibed at one of the 200+ taverns in NYC at the time. We do know he enjoyed hard cider and hard liquor, distilled both at Mount Vernon. Stone Street is lined with historic buildings from the 1800s, whose ground floors house old-fashioned taverns and pubs and new-fashioned boutiques. This is a pedestrian-only street, and a lovely place to linger in warm weather when the cobblestones are covered with picnic tables. In any season, this is a great place to finish your day with George Washington.
- Stone Street is between Hanover Square and Coenties Slip in the Financial District
Additional places to find George Washington’s New York:
New York Historical Society, for its iconic portrait of General Washington by artist John Trumbull
Federal Reserve Bank, founded by Washington’s Secretary of the Treasaury Alexander Hamilton, for its billions of dollars in gold bullion, buried beneath the street.
African Burial Ground National Monument, graves dating from the 1600s, with the remains of more than 400 souls, discovered in the 1990s during the excavation for a skyscraper.
Also read this article by my friend and history buff Rich Grant with additional details about George Washington’s New York City.
Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington courtesy Wikipedia
Photo of JFK ticker tape parade courtesy NY Daily News
Stone Street photo courtesy Goldman Properties