Welcome to the Downtown Alliance’s self-guided walking tour. The “Highlights of Lower Manhattan” tour is the first in a series of walking tours that will give participants an glimpse into 400 years of history and innovation. Whether you live, work or are visiting Lower Manhattan, we hope you enjoy exploring the district.
For more than a century, New York City lay entirely south of Chambers Street. Today, the city encompasses the entire island of Manhattan and four additional boroughs. With more than 400 years of living history and amidst an ever-expanding city, Lower Manhattan has remained the capital of world commerce and a center for government and finance.
From City Hall to The Battery, this tour offers visitors an overview of some of the most significant sites in Lower Manhattan. Click here to download the expanded and comprehensive version of this entire tour. Our tour is also available as an audio tour on Locacious.
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This is the oldest “city hall” in America to serve its original purpose: as the place where the Mayor and the City Council conduct the City’s business. Built between 1803 and 1812, it was situated on what was then the northernmost edge of the populated city. Though City Hall’s front façade was built in marble, its back was faced in cheaper brownstone -- no one foresaw that the city would expand beyond Lower Manhattan. Old as City Hall may be, the Park is much older, going back to Colonial Dutch days.
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most well-known New York landmarks and considered by many to be the world’s most beautiful. Completed in 1883, it joined New York and Brooklyn – what were then two separate cites. Designed by German immigrant John Augustus Roebling, it was the world’s longest suspension bridge, and its enormous support towers were once New York’s tallest structures. This iconic bridge has been a National Historic Landmark since 1964.
This 60-story masterpiece - once the world’s tallest – was dubbed the “Cathedral of Commerce.” The breathtaking lobby contains jewel-like mosaics, filigree brass work and, hidden among the gnarled gargoyles tucked into the corners, figures of Frank Woolworth and architect Cass Gilbert. Woolworth, of “five-and-dime” store wealth, and fame paid $13.5 million, in cash, to build it between 1910 and 1913.
St. Paul's Chapel
This is the oldest public building in continuous use New York City. Built in 1766 as the “uptown” extension of Trinity Church a few blocks south, 18th century regulars included George Washington, who walked here from Federal Hall to attend a service of thanksgiving following his first inauguration. His pew, carefully preserved, is still on view. St. Paul’s has survived fires, blizzards and the World Trade Center terror attacks on September 11, 2001.
Federal Reserve Bank
One of the most important and powerful institutions in Lower Manhattan, the New York branch of the Federal Reserve Bank is housed in this imposing 1924 building modeled on a Italian Renaissance palace. More than one quarter of the world’s monetary gold supply is securely stored five stories underground in a vault closed with a mammoth steel door weighing 90 tons.
Trinity Church is one of the oldest institutions in New York, founded in 1697 by royal charter. Built in 1846, this lovely neo-Gothic building is the third Trinity Church erected at this site. The church spire was the tallest structure in New York until the Brooklyn Bridge towers were built 30 years later.
The National September 11 Memorial is defined by two enormous reflecting pools that sit in the footprints of the Twin Towers, a grove of trees, and the names of nearly 3,000 people inscribed in bronze. The 9/11 Memorial is a national tribute of honor and remembrance to the victims of the terror attacks of February 26, 1993 and September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center site, near Shanksville, PA., and at the Pentagon.
When the Dutch settled here in 1626, Wall Street – where there really was a wall to defend the city of New Amsterdam --marked the city’s northern limit. Today, “The Street” remains a symbol of the American financial system. This, of course, leads to both protest and praise.
New York Stock Exchange
The New-York Stock Exchange traces its history to the signing of the “Buttonwood Agreement” in 1792. The agreement set the basic rules for trading that are still used today. Little did those early 24 traders know that this agreement would evolve into the epicenter of the financial world as we know it. Since 1903, the NYSE has been here on the corner of Broad and Wall streets. Within these walls billions of dollars worth of stock are traded every day, although much of it is done electronically today.
Federal Hall National Monument
This is the site of New York’s second city hall and of George Washington’s inauguration as America’s first President. The post-revolutionary Congress met here and adopted the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution. The current, Greek Revival building, was built in 1842 as the Custom House. Today, Federal Hall is a museum operated by the National Park Service.
This brick-Colonial Revival building is the anchor of the Fraunces Tavern Historic District. Fraunces Tavern was originally built in 1719 as a private residence. Owned by Samuel Fraunces in the years leading up to the American Revolution, the Sons of Liberty gathered here on a regular basis. Upon his retirement from military service on December 4, 1783, George Washington hosted a farewell dinner in the third-floor Long Room. The Sons of the Revolution in New York State saved Fraunces Tavern from destruction in 1904. Today, Fraunces Tavern is a public restaurant and museum.
Bowling Green Park
The history of this small space goes all the way back to the 1630s, when the Dutch
declared it the site of the annual cattle and grain market. In 1733, three colonists leased it from the English crown for the nominal fee of one peppercorn a year and it became New York’s first park. The British installed a statue of King George III in 1770 and built the fence to protect the statue soon after. The statue was torn down on July 9, 1776 by an angry mob. The fence remains intact.
U.S. Custom House
The Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House was designed by Cass Gilbert and built between 1902 and 1907. It is a glorious Beaux-Arts building with four large sculptures in front designed by Daniel Chester French. It was originally built to house the import duty operations for the port of New York. It is currently home to the New York branch of the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian and federal Bankruptcy Court.
Named for the battery of cannons that protected the harbor. From the waters edge, the Dutch, British and Americans all protected Manhattan against possible attack or invasion. The modern, 25-acre park is mostly landfill. Within Battery Park can be found numerous memorials, the ferries to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty as well as Castle Clinton.
Most of the streets in Lower Manhattan have names with historic significance. In the 1650s, this former dirt road became Dutch New Amsterdam’s first paved street. Stone Street originally ran from Broadway to Hanover Square. It was divided into two short
sections when 85 Broad Street was built in the 1980s. The eastern section of Stone Street is pedestrian-only and is lined with outdoor tables from the wide array of restaurants.
Check back for more tours coming soon!