Landmarking · Merchant's House · Monuments and Memorials

Ten Reasons Why I Love New York

A professional group I belong to recently asked us to list on the discussion board what, in our opinion, were the ten most significant historic sites in New York City. We could decide what “significant” meant, so I decided to make a list of ten “personally significant” sites—places that for one reason or another meant the most to me. I’m glad they asked, because in making my list, I realized how incredibly rich the city is in material connections to the past. For tourists, they are attractions to visit; for New Yorkers, they are part of the fabric of our daily lives. Here are my picks—with my reasons.

Grand Central Terminal Concourse
Grand Central Terminal Concourse

Grand Central Terminal tops the list because of its significance in establishing the constitutionality of Landmarks Legislation, without which I am certain that many of the historic sites I cherish would have been demolished or defaced. And for me Grand Central is a gateway to family who live up the river.

The Old Merchant's House here seen in the earliest known photograph, c 1890
The Old Merchant’s House here seen in the earliest known photograph, c 1890

The Merchant’s House in the oldest existing photo. Today the adjacent buildings are gone, but the Merchant’s House is still there! It is like a second home to me. For seventeen years this month, I have been helping visitors access the past through this unique historic house. Built in 1832 it remains virtually unchanged with original furnishings and personal belongings of the family who lived there for almost 100 years. You can read more about it on the “about” page.

The Rose Reading Room, New York City Research Library

The New York Research Library is one of the world’s great research libraries. This magnificent Beaux Arts building is a place where I have spent many satisfying hours reading about the 19th century and I account it a very great privilege.

Prometheus at Rockefeller Center
Prometheus at Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center with its art deco style evokes inchoate memories of my childhood when art deco was fashionable and exciting. My exposure to this aesthetic must have been through the movies—I saw lots of movies in those days. Rockefeller Center even today strikes me as the ultimate in sophisticated and grown up.

Washington Square North is a unique example of an extant streetscape of the era. This is where the fictional characters of Henry James’ novel Washington Square lived in 1843. I loved the book as well as the two movies and the Broadway revival of the The Heiress, the play based on the novel. And another Broadway revival is coming soon to Broadway!

New York City's City Hall  1811
New York City’s City Hall 1811

City Hall makes the list because I find it so amazing that a building over two hundred years old still serves the same function it was originally intended for. Very satisfying.

St Paul’s Chapel, New York City, opened in 1776

St. Paul’s is the oldest building in continuous use in New York City. George Washington prayed here! For this reason alone it deserves a place on my list. I chose it also for the care and comfort it gave so many in the difficult days following September 11, 2001.

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The Soldiers’and Sailors’ Monument, which I pass almost daily and has been known to move me to tears. It honors the Union soldiers and sailors who served in the Civil War. One day as I sat nearby, I heard a fragment of a conversation between a young mother pushing a stroller and her five-year old who was walking alongside. Apparently he had just asked what that was? Her reply, “It helps us think about. . .” I can’t think of a better explanation of why monuments are important.

Bethesda Terrace, Central Park, New York City

Central Park, particularly Bethesda Terrace, is my favorite place in all of New York City.The Terrace, in my mind, is a perfect public space. A photograph cannot convey the wonderful way It uplifts the spirit and at the same time enfolds and soothes.

One Grand Central Place, formerly The Lincoln Building

The Lincoln Building serves as a shortcut to my dentist. I still call it the Lincoln Building, although the Daniel Chester French model for the seated Lincoln has been banished to the law library in the retail corridor that branches off the lobby and the building has been renamed. Still, with its polished marble, satiny brass and exquisite coffered ceiling it is so lovely that it almost makes up for the dentist.

I could go on, but that’s ten. If you’re a New Yorker, make your list and share it with us in the comments section. (You don’t have to give reasons unless you want to). If you’re not a New Yorker, come visit and see some of our favorites, particularly the Merchant’s House, where I guarantee you’ll receive a warm welcome.

Those of you who grew up in New York may have on your list one of the beautiful historic school buildings designed by C.B.J. Snyder, featured this month in The Landmarks Conservancy Tourist in Your Own Town series.

10 thoughts on “Ten Reasons Why I Love New York

    1. If we were to ask families with children, or children themselves, Balto would no doubt rank very high! Since 1925 when the bronze statue of the brave husky made its appearance just north of the zoo in Central Park, countless children have been photographed astride Balto. They all know the story of how, in 1925, Nome, Alaska suffered an outbreak of diphtheria and teams of sled dogs braved a blizzard and traveled 674 miles to deliver much needed anti toxin to cure the childen. Balto was one of the fearless and faithful lead sled dogs. So glad you remembered him!

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  1. Beautiful post. The pictures are great. I started to think of my ten reasons and became overwhelmed. I think some of the bridges would be in mine. The Brooklyn Bridge is my favorite. The jewel of a theatre in what used to be The Lambs Club. The Big Post Office. I love the steps. Thanks for the great post. It has got me thinking about all the reasons I love NY.

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  2. From my vast storehouse of favorites: The Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park as well as the Merry-go-round and the Zoo; The Jefferson Market Library at 6th and 8th St.; The Smithsonian now in the Old Custom House at the tip of Broadway; while you are down there, the Treasury Building on Wall St. and Trinity Church and the old Castle Clinton which I remember as an Aquarium, earlier a concert hall, immigration center and of course a fort ; And most of all if allowed, neighborhoods……..Little Italy and the first St. Patrick’s, and China -town below Canal Street; and lastly, though difficult to get there, The Cloisters branch of the Met. I could go on forever…………..DJL

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    1. I love the Merry-go-round too. Is there anyone—anyone?—who doesn’t have childhood memories of merry-go-rounds? Jefferson Market library is one of those sites that always has me trying to figure out what was where, in this case when it was a courthouse. And the Cloisters is truly so special. Last time I went, several months ago, thought I would walk through Fort Tyron Park from the subway. Too far to walk for me, but the Park deserves to be better known. It’s a great example of “nature still, but nature methodized.” And it connects us in such a dramatic way to the early history of NY!

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  3. Mary, just discovered your blog. I will enjoy dipping into your knowledge and expertise whenever I have access to the internet. I loved your photos and information about your ten favorite places, and if I am ever lucky enough to get to the City again, I want to see the Merchant’s House! I send regards to you and Herb from the hinterlands.

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  4. Mary what a great post. Even though I never lived in NY, I did spend enough time there from the 70-80’s with Susan that allows me to always feel at home there and Mike and I exposed our kids to the city and its fine arts as they grew up. It was our family Christmas Day place for many years. I have visited about half of these places but I have never been to the Merchants House and will try to get there sometime with the family to explore!

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