NYC's Path Through History Program Showcases Sites for Summer Visits

NYC's Path Through History Program Showcases Sites for Summer Visits

With summer travel planning underway, the New York City Path Through History (NYCPTH) work group - dedicated to promoting historic gems in the five boroughs as part of New York State's Path Through History initiative - has identified off-the-beaten-track destinations that provide outdoor experiences for staycationers, tourists, and out-of-town visitors. These historic and culturally significant sites offer enriching and enjoyable adventures, feature stunning views, have free or nominal admission, and are accessible by public transportation.

Merrill Hesch, Grants Officer, NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation and representative of the NYCPTH work group said, "While there are hundreds of fascinating sites in the City for summer exploring, including iconic landmarks, we are highlighting a handful of compelling destinations that have intriguing stories to tell about the City and its citizens' roles in the history of the State and the nation. These particular ones have the additional appeal of stunning vistas, MTA accessibility, and free or low-cost admission. All you need is the spirit of adventure and a Metrocard."

These following seven sites connect with Path Through History statewide themes including Arts & Culture, Canals and Transportation, Civil Rights, Colonial History, Innovation & Commerce, Native American Heritage, Natural History, the Revolutionary War, U.S. Presidents, and the War of 1812.

In October 2012, Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park opened on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island with sweeping views of the East River, Manhattan, and Queens. It is the only memorial dedicated to the former President in his home state of New York and the last project designed by Louis I. Kahn, the acclaimed 20th-century architect. Open six days a week (closed Tuesdays) from 9 am to 7 pm, the Park celebrates the Four Freedoms, as pronounced in President Roosevelt's famous January 6, 1941, State of the Union speech. Fittingly, the Park overlooks the United Nations complex that he began planning while in the Oval Office. Accessible via the Tram from East 59th Street and Second Avenue and the F train to the Roosevelt Island stop. The walk to the Park is approximately 15 minutes.

Governors Island, a 172-acre island in the heart of New York Harbor, served as a military base for the U.S. Army and, later, the Coast Guard for almost two centuries. In 2003, the federal government sold 150 acres of the Island to the people of New York. The remaining 22 acres became the Governors Island National Monument, overseen by the National Park Service. The National Monument includes Fort Jay and Castle Williams, two fortifications that, along with other installations in the harbor, proved to be powerful deterrents to the British Navy at the outbreak of the War of 1812. The National Park Service leads tours of the two fortifications Wednesdays through Sundays during the season. The City of New York, now responsible for the 150 acres, created the Trust for Governors Island to transform the property into a destination with great public open spaces, as well as educational, not-for-profit, and commercial facilities. Open to the public from late May through late September seven days a week, Governors Island offers an array of arts, cultural, and recreational programs. Thirty acres of new park and public spaces opened with the 2014 season providing even more spectacular views of the Harbor and cityscape. Ferries run from Lower Manhattan daily and from Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 6 on Saturdays, Sundays, and Labor Day.

General Grant National Memorial, commonly referred to as Grant's Tomb, is the final resting place of President Ulysses S. Grant and his wife, Julia Dent Grant. Over one million people attended the parade and dedication ceremony on April 27, 1897. Located on Riverside Drive at West 122nd Street with views of the Hudson River beyond Riverside Park, the site includes a visitor's center with programs and exhibits about the man who was Commanding General of the Union Army and then served as President for two terms after the Civil War. It is fitting that the Memorial is overseen by the National Park Service. President Grant signed the act that established Yellowstone as the first national park in 1872. Designed by architect John Duncan, the granite and marble structure remains the largest mausoleum in North America. The visitor center is open Wednesday through Monday from 9 am to 5 pm and the mausoleum is open intermittently on those days. Accessible by the 1 train to West 125th Street and Broadway.

The Queens County Farm Museum dates back to 1697, and occupies New York City's largest remaining tract of undisturbed farmland. It offers urban audiences a vivid picture of how farm products travel from field to table. The farm encompasses a 47-acre parcel that is the longest continuously farmed site in New York State. It includes historic farm buildings, a greenhouse complex, livestock, beehives, farm vehicles and implements, planting fields, an orchard, vineyard, and herb garden. Grounds are open daily year-round from 10 am to 5 pm. On Saturdays and Sundays, guided tours of the historic Adriance Farmhouse and seasonal hay-rides (weather permitting) are available. General admission is free, except during designated public events. The Museum is a transfer to the eastbound Q46 bus from the E or F trains.

The southernmost point of New York State is on Staten Island, the site of Conference House Park and the Conference House, a grand stone manor house built around 1680, surrounded by acres of forest, marshland, and meadows. It is named for the unsuccessful Revolutionary War peace conference held here on September 11, 1776, between the Americans and the English. John Adams and Benjamin Franklin were among those in attendance. Despite their negotiations to end the fighting, no agreement was reached and the Revolutionary War continued for another seven years. The Conference House offers guided tours Fridays through Sundays for a nominal fee. Overlooking the Arthur Kill River, Lower Raritan Bay, and New Jersey, the Park is a favorite destination for nature and history buffs. The Conference House is accessible via the Staten Island Railway (Metrocards accepted) from the St. George Terminal of the Staten Island Ferry.

The Brooklyn Heights Promenade offers exceptional vistas of the Statue of Liberty, the Manhattan skyline, and the Brooklyn Bridge. Looking out over the East River, the Promenade is part of Brooklyn's first Historic Preservation District. It was from Brooklyn Heights that George Washington watched the Battle of Brooklyn unfold and, from the waterfront below, that Robert Fulton captained his steamboat, The Clermont, on its maiden voyage up the Hudson River. The Promenade was constructed in part to insulate the neighborhood from the noise of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway below. It opened to the public in October 1950, and has been a magnet for local residents and visitors alike ever since. To access the Promenade, take the A or C trains to High Street or the 2 or 3 trains to Clark Street and walk toward the River.

The Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum in the Bronx is sited on land purchased in 1654, by Thomas Pell from the Siwanoy Indians. In 1836, Robert Bartow purchased the property and built the present Greek Revival-style mansion. The Bartow family lived there until the property was sold to New York City in 1888. It is the last of the "great mansions" that once stood in what is now Pelham Bay Park. The breezes off Long Island Sound enticed Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia to set up his office there in the summer of 1936. Guided tours of the Mansion and Carriage House are offered Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday for a modest fee. The recently renovated gardens and grounds are open to the public daily. The Museum and Park are accessible by the 6 train to Pelham Bay Park station and the 45 Westchester Bee-line bus to the Museum entrance.

Photo Courtesy: NYC & Company

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