As one of the more venerable of US cities, New York has a lot to offer history buffs. Here are a few New York landmarks which you may have heard of, but my guess is more likely not.
• The Atlantic Avenue Tunnel- This is officially distinguished as the ‘world’s oldest subway tunnel.” Built in 1844 underneath one of Brooklyn’s busiest streets in what was then the City of Brooklyn, the tunnel is one half-mile long and carries two standard gauge railroad tracks. The tunnel took only 7 months to build, using the ‘cut-and-cover’ method, using only hand tools and simple equipment. The tunnel was rediscovered by Bob Diamond in 1980. In 1982 The Brooklyn Historic Railway Society was created in order to preserve, publicize and allow public access to the tunnel. The tunnel is found today within the Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights Historic Districts as well as within a U.S. Historic District. The Atlantic Avenue Tunnel is a landmarked and protected historic site.
• The Beacon Theatre- This theater, located at 2124 Broadway, seats 2,894 people in three tiers, and was opened in 1929. Although it was originally opened to present motion pictures and vaudeville shows, the Beacon is most famous as a music hall, which is what has been its primary function since the 1970s. An annual spring concert series which is still going on today featuring the Allman Brothers also had such classic bands as the Grateful Dead, the Rolling Stones, and others. The décor is ornate neo-Grecian with a trademark two-story, circular lobby. Both sides of the stage are adorned with statues of 30-foot-tall Greek goddesses.
• St. Paul’s Chapel- built in 1766, St. Paul’s is an Episcopal church, and is New York’s oldest continuously used building. On inauguration day the first US President, George Washington, prayed here on April 30, 1789. Over the alter, in the chapel is the ornamental design of “Glory,” which is the work of Pierre L’Enfant, the designer of Washington, DC. The “Glory” illustrates Mt. Sinai in clouds with lightning; the word for God in Hebrew is in a triangle, and the tablets of the Law with the Ten Commandments. More recently St Paul’s played an important role as a resting station for rescue workers during the days following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, due to its location right across the street from Ground Zero. Today visitors to St. Paul’s can view the exhibit, “Unwavering Spirit: Hope and Healing at Ground Zero” which chronicles the special history of St. Paul’s and its volunteer ministry during the weeks and months following September 11th.
• The Little Red Lighthouse- no longer in use, it is still possible to see the Little Red Lighthouse next to the George Washington Bridge in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. Considered the most ‘beloved of American lighthouses,” the Little Red Lighthouse was made famous by the children’s book, “The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge” by Hildegarde Swift and Lynd Ward in 1942. In 1921 the lighthouse was brought to Jeffrey’s Hook by the US coastguard to aid navigation along the Hudson River. It served well for ten years until the brighter lights of the George Washington Bridge made the lighthouse obsolete. In 1948 the lighthouse was decommissioned by the Coast Guard, and the light was put out. The Coast Guard planned to auction off the lighthouse, but a public outcry and an outpouring of support, inspired in great part by the book, helped to save it. In 1951 the Coast Guard gave the property to the New York Parks Department, and in 1979 the Little Red Lighthouse became part of the National Register of Historic Places.