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Map: Tracing the Path of 19th-Century NYC Guidebooks

Follow the path of 19th-century guidebook writers who explored Lower Manhattan

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Writer James Nevius recently traced a path through Lower Manhattan — roughly from Battery Park to Madison Square Park — following the instructions of three different 19th-century guidebooks that point out hotels, parks, and other points that may have been of interest to 19th-century New Yorkers. "Whether it’s something as mundane as addresses of railway depots—did you know there was once one facing City Hall Park?—or as interesting as finding out that Benjamin Franklin conducted electrical experiments from the steeple of the old Dutch Church (which was, fittingly, later converted into the main post office), guidebooks often contain nuggets of information left out of more conventional histories," Nevius writes. To retrace those steps along with him, follow the path outlined in this map.

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1. Castle Clinton National Monument

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Battery Park
New York, NY 10004

This national monument was once a fortification, built for the War of 1812. As a theater, it did host Jenny Lind; it was then the state-run Emigrant Landing Depot, which it would remain until 1889, when the federal government took over the job of processing incoming passengers.

2. Bowling Green

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Broadway and Whitehall St
New York, NY 10004
(212) 360-8143
Visit Website

Following Griggs and Weatherby’s itinerary, the next stop is Bowling Green, where there “was once a leaden statue of George III, which, at the commencement of the Revolution, was torn down and moulded into bullets.”

3. Trinity Church

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75 Broadway
New York, NY 10006
(212) 602-0800
Visit Website

Back in the 1860s, a visit to Trinity’s spire — then the tallest tower in the city — was the one constant in every guidebook. Visitors have to be content with the view from across the street — the steeple has been closed to the public since 1883.

4. Federal Hall National Memorial

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26 Wall St
New York, NY 10005
(212) 668-6990
Visit Website

Following Miller’s route, head to Federal Hall, known in the 19th century simply as the United States Treasury. Built in 1842 by the architectural firm Ithiel & Town, it served as the Federal Custom House before that department moved down the street.

5. National City Bank Building

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55 Wall St
New York, NY 10005

Miller steers his visitors from the Treasury to 55 Wall Street, the old Merchant’s Exchange. Even in the 19th century, Wall Street was one of the city’s most crowded thoroughfares: Miller warns walkers that at “every moment” they “are in danger of being jostled or pushed aside by … crowds of pedestrians, all eagerly in pursuit of something.”

6. Trinity Church Cemetery

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74 Trinity Pl
New York, NY 10006
(212) 283-6200

Griggs and Wetherby wander around Trinity’s cemetery, including the graves of Alexander Hamilton, Commodore James “Don’t Give Up the Ship” Lawrence and “Lieutenant Ludlow.” Ludlow was Lawrence’s second-in-command on the USS Chesapeake and is buried alongside his commanding officer.

7. St. Paul's Chapel

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209 Broadway
New York, NY 10007
(212) 602-0874
Visit Website

Wetherby and Griggs stop at St. Paul’s Chapel, having first glanced at the still-under-construction New York Herald building across the street.

8. 222 Broadway

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222 Broadway
New York, NY 10038
(212) 349-4203

What Wetherby fails to mention is that the site of the Herald had for many years been occupied by P.T. Barnum’s American Museum, which burned to the ground in a spectacular fire a year earlier in 1865.

9. 217 Broadway

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Then, there's a quick stop at the now-demolished Astor Hotel — where Wetherby writes that “the thirsty can bibulate and the hungry can be fed (if their impecuniosity is not too great to prevent them)." The site is now home to a Staples and a New York Sports Club.

10. City Hall Park

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17 Park Row
New York, NY 10038

City Hall Park’s poor reputation would endure for over a century. As recently as the 1980s, Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern was calling it a “shabby, rundown patch of grass and roots surrounding a parking lot.” Part of the park’s downfall came in 1869, when the lower quadrant was taken over by construction of the new main post office, finished in 1880.

11. City Hall

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17 Park Row
New York, NY 10038

In New York As It Is, Miller calls City Hall, constructed at great expense from 1803–1810, “an imposing edifice” but saves most of his praise for the clock in the cupola. Wetherby similarly tries to impress his visitor with the massive timepiece.

12. Tweed Courthouse

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52 Chambers St
New York, NY 10007
(212) 639-9675
Visit Website

The Tweed Courthouse, the greatest boondoggle in New York’s history and the building that ultimately brought down William M. “Boss” Tweed. In hindsight, Wetherby’s prediction that the building would be finished in 1867 seems like impossibly wishful thinking. By the time Tweed was arrested for fraud in 1871, the exterior of the building was standing but little else had been finished.

13. A.T. Stewart Company Store

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280 Broadway
New York, NY 10007

While A.T. Stewart’s Marble Palace (a “great emporium of costly shawls, satins, silks, brocades, &c.”) still stands at the northeast corner of Broadway and Chambers Street — filled mostly with New York City government offices — almost all of the other locations that New York As It Is and the Pocket Companion point out are long gone.

14. 365 Broadway

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365 Broadway
New York, NY 10013

Wetherby and Griggs stop for lunch at Taylor’s Saloon, which was housed in the ground floor of the International Hotel at the corner of Franklin Street. Wetherby explains it is “the favorite resort … of the fashion and elite of New York,” pointing out the variegated marble flooring and the $3,500 ceiling embellishments. Alas, Taylor’s is all but gone today. When the building was “renovated” in 2010, only a smattering of original architectural details were preserved.

15. E.V. Haughwout Building

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488 Broadway
New York, NY 10012

In New York As It Is, James Miller points out Haughwout & Co., which today stands as one of the finest cast-iron structures in Soho.

16. St. Nicholas Hotel

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523 Broadway
New York, NY 10012

Both books note the St. Nicholas Hotel, one small portion of which (521-523 Broadway) today houses a Lady Foot Locker.

17. Grace Episcopal Church

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802 Broadway
New York, NY 10003

The next real point of interest that visitors can actually step inside is Grace Church, at the corner of 10th Street. Miller first praises the James Renwick-designed structure as “the most ornate of the ecclesiastical buildings” in the city before noting it contains “a little too much theatrical glitter in the interior, to comport with the chastened solemnities of religious worship.”

18. Union Square Park

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btwn Broadway & Union Sq E
New York, NY 10003

Both tours then bring walkers to the equestrian statue of George Washington in Union Square. As Wetherby tells Griggs: “That is the bronze statue of the immortal Washington. It was designed and executed by Mr. [Henry Kirke] Brown.… This one cost upwards of $30,000. On the opposite side of the square … a companion statue of Abraham Lincoln is to be erected.”

19. General Worth Monument

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Union Square marks the end of Miller’s walk in New York As It Is; Griggs and Wetherby — after stopping in the Steinway piano showroom — extend theirs a little farther up Broadway to Madison Square. However, other than the “10 acres … of noble trees” and the General Worth monument, the sights they take in around this small park — home then to fancy houses and upscale hotels — are wholly different from what I see today.

20. Foley Square

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148-152 Worth St
New York, NY 10013

In Glimpses of New-York, Foley Square, once the edge of the notorious Five Points, is mentioned. Like modern guidebook writers, who generally don’t steer readers to high-crime neighborhoods — or even to immigrant enclaves outside of Manhattan’s Chinatown, for that matter — 19th-century authors tended to avoid mention of the Five Points. But William Bobo, the “southern gentleman” who composed Glimpses, reveled in pointing out New York’s underbelly.

21. Worth and Baxter Streets

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Worth St & Baxter St
New York, NY 10007

The corner of Worth and Baxter Streets is the lone “point” of the five-pointed intersection that lent its name to the area. There’s no plaque or sign. In fact, the neighborhood was already so thoroughly destroyed by 1928, that when William Asbury wrote Gangs of New York, he placed the intersection one block too far east. Martin Scorsese’s film adaptation does the same thing, as do the countless tour guides that wend their way through the neighborhood.

22. Church of the Transfiguration

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29 Mott St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 962-5157

Five Points isn’t totally gone, however. At the corner of Mosco and Mott Streets stands the Catholic Church of the Transfiguration, originally built in 1801 as a Lutheran parish. It predates the Five Points by decades and has stood sentinel all this time as Five Points, Little Italy, and Chinatown have ebbed and flowed around it.

23. The Five Points House of Industry

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155 Worth St
New York, NY 10013

The Five Points House of Industry, established in 1850, stood at 155-159 Worth Street facing Paradise Square, the heart of the neighborhood. There’s no denying that the House of Industry served the community, providing education for children. Those “found sufficiently worthy” (according to the Pocket Companion) were then shipped out of the city “so as to wean them from old associates.”

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1. Castle Clinton National Monument

Battery Park, New York, NY 10004

This national monument was once a fortification, built for the War of 1812. As a theater, it did host Jenny Lind; it was then the state-run Emigrant Landing Depot, which it would remain until 1889, when the federal government took over the job of processing incoming passengers.

Battery Park
New York, NY 10004

2. Bowling Green

Broadway and Whitehall St, New York, NY 10004

Following Griggs and Weatherby’s itinerary, the next stop is Bowling Green, where there “was once a leaden statue of George III, which, at the commencement of the Revolution, was torn down and moulded into bullets.”

Broadway and Whitehall St
New York, NY 10004

3. Trinity Church

75 Broadway, New York, NY 10006

Back in the 1860s, a visit to Trinity’s spire — then the tallest tower in the city — was the one constant in every guidebook. Visitors have to be content with the view from across the street — the steeple has been closed to the public since 1883.

75 Broadway
New York, NY 10006

4. Federal Hall National Memorial

26 Wall St, New York, NY 10005

Following Miller’s route, head to Federal Hall, known in the 19th century simply as the United States Treasury. Built in 1842 by the architectural firm Ithiel & Town, it served as the Federal Custom House before that department moved down the street.

26 Wall St
New York, NY 10005

5. National City Bank Building

55 Wall St, New York, NY 10005

Miller steers his visitors from the Treasury to 55 Wall Street, the old Merchant’s Exchange. Even in the 19th century, Wall Street was one of the city’s most crowded thoroughfares: Miller warns walkers that at “every moment” they “are in danger of being jostled or pushed aside by … crowds of pedestrians, all eagerly in pursuit of something.”

55 Wall St
New York, NY 10005

6. Trinity Church Cemetery

74 Trinity Pl, New York, NY 10006

Griggs and Wetherby wander around Trinity’s cemetery, including the graves of Alexander Hamilton, Commodore James “Don’t Give Up the Ship” Lawrence and “Lieutenant Ludlow.” Ludlow was Lawrence’s second-in-command on the USS Chesapeake and is buried alongside his commanding officer.

74 Trinity Pl
New York, NY 10006

7. St. Paul's Chapel

209 Broadway, New York, NY 10007

Wetherby and Griggs stop at St. Paul’s Chapel, having first glanced at the still-under-construction New York Herald building across the street.

209 Broadway
New York, NY 10007

8. 222 Broadway

222 Broadway, New York, NY 10038

What Wetherby fails to mention is that the site of the Herald had for many years been occupied by P.T. Barnum’s American Museum, which burned to the ground in a spectacular fire a year earlier in 1865.

222 Broadway
New York, NY 10038

9. 217 Broadway

New York, NY

Then, there's a quick stop at the now-demolished Astor Hotel — where Wetherby writes that “the thirsty can bibulate and the hungry can be fed (if their impecuniosity is not too great to prevent them)." The site is now home to a Staples and a New York Sports Club.

10. City Hall Park

17 Park Row, New York, NY 10038

City Hall Park’s poor reputation would endure for over a century. As recently as the 1980s, Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern was calling it a “shabby, rundown patch of grass and roots surrounding a parking lot.” Part of the park’s downfall came in 1869, when the lower quadrant was taken over by construction of the new main post office, finished in 1880.

17 Park Row
New York, NY 10038

11. City Hall

17 Park Row, New York, NY 10038

In New York As It Is, Miller calls City Hall, constructed at great expense from 1803–1810, “an imposing edifice” but saves most of his praise for the clock in the cupola. Wetherby similarly tries to impress his visitor with the massive timepiece.

17 Park Row
New York, NY 10038

12. Tweed Courthouse

52 Chambers St, New York, NY 10007

The Tweed Courthouse, the greatest boondoggle in New York’s history and the building that ultimately brought down William M. “Boss” Tweed. In hindsight, Wetherby’s prediction that the building would be finished in 1867 seems like impossibly wishful thinking. By the time Tweed was arrested for fraud in 1871, the exterior of the building was standing but little else had been finished.

52 Chambers St
New York, NY 10007

13. A.T. Stewart Company Store

280 Broadway, New York, NY 10007

While A.T. Stewart’s Marble Palace (a “great emporium of costly shawls, satins, silks, brocades, &c.”) still stands at the northeast corner of Broadway and Chambers Street — filled mostly with New York City government offices — almost all of the other locations that New York As It Is and the Pocket Companion point out are long gone.

280 Broadway
New York, NY 10007

14. 365 Broadway

365 Broadway, New York, NY 10013

Wetherby and Griggs stop for lunch at Taylor’s Saloon, which was housed in the ground floor of the International Hotel at the corner of Franklin Street. Wetherby explains it is “the favorite resort … of the fashion and elite of New York,” pointing out the variegated marble flooring and the $3,500 ceiling embellishments. Alas, Taylor’s is all but gone today. When the building was “renovated” in 2010, only a smattering of original architectural details were preserved.

365 Broadway
New York, NY 10013

15. E.V. Haughwout Building

488 Broadway, New York, NY 10012

In New York As It Is, James Miller points out Haughwout & Co., which today stands as one of the finest cast-iron structures in Soho.

488 Broadway
New York, NY 10012

16. St. Nicholas Hotel

523 Broadway, New York, NY 10012

Both books note the St. Nicholas Hotel, one small portion of which (521-523 Broadway) today houses a Lady Foot Locker.

523 Broadway
New York, NY 10012

17. Grace Episcopal Church

802 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

The next real point of interest that visitors can actually step inside is Grace Church, at the corner of 10th Street. Miller first praises the James Renwick-designed structure as “the most ornate of the ecclesiastical buildings” in the city before noting it contains “a little too much theatrical glitter in the interior, to comport with the chastened solemnities of religious worship.”

802 Broadway
New York, NY 10003

18. Union Square Park

btwn Broadway & Union Sq E, New York, NY 10003

Both tours then bring walkers to the equestrian statue of George Washington in Union Square. As Wetherby tells Griggs: “That is the bronze statue of the immortal Washington. It was designed and executed by Mr. [Henry Kirke] Brown.… This one cost upwards of $30,000. On the opposite side of the square … a companion statue of Abraham Lincoln is to be erected.”

btwn Broadway & Union Sq E
New York, NY 10003

19. General Worth Monument

New York, NY 10010

Union Square marks the end of Miller’s walk in New York As It Is; Griggs and Wetherby — after stopping in the Steinway piano showroom — extend theirs a little farther up Broadway to Madison Square. However, other than the “10 acres … of noble trees” and the General Worth monument, the sights they take in around this small park — home then to fancy houses and upscale hotels — are wholly different from what I see today.

20. Foley Square

148-152 Worth St, New York, NY 10013

In Glimpses of New-York, Foley Square, once the edge of the notorious Five Points, is mentioned. Like modern guidebook writers, who generally don’t steer readers to high-crime neighborhoods — or even to immigrant enclaves outside of Manhattan’s Chinatown, for that matter — 19th-century authors tended to avoid mention of the Five Points. But William Bobo, the “southern gentleman” who composed Glimpses, reveled in pointing out New York’s underbelly.

148-152 Worth St
New York, NY 10013

21. Worth and Baxter Streets

Worth St & Baxter St, New York, NY 10007

The corner of Worth and Baxter Streets is the lone “point” of the five-pointed intersection that lent its name to the area. There’s no plaque or sign. In fact, the neighborhood was already so thoroughly destroyed by 1928, that when William Asbury wrote Gangs of New York, he placed the intersection one block too far east. Martin Scorsese’s film adaptation does the same thing, as do the countless tour guides that wend their way through the neighborhood.

Worth St & Baxter St
New York, NY 10007

22. Church of the Transfiguration

29 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

Five Points isn’t totally gone, however. At the corner of Mosco and Mott Streets stands the Catholic Church of the Transfiguration, originally built in 1801 as a Lutheran parish. It predates the Five Points by decades and has stood sentinel all this time as Five Points, Little Italy, and Chinatown have ebbed and flowed around it.

29 Mott St
New York, NY 10013

23. The Five Points House of Industry

155 Worth St, New York, NY 10013

The Five Points House of Industry, established in 1850, stood at 155-159 Worth Street facing Paradise Square, the heart of the neighborhood. There’s no denying that the House of Industry served the community, providing education for children. Those “found sufficiently worthy” (according to the Pocket Companion) were then shipped out of the city “so as to wean them from old associates.”

155 Worth St
New York, NY 10013