George Washington's Eyes and Ears in Lower Manhattan
The British Revolutionary War Spymaster Major George Beckwith claimed that, "Washington didn't really outfight the British, he simply out-spied us." The General's master-spies operated out of Lower Manhattan. As we make our way between The Battery and Wall Street on this walking tour, we'll retrace their steps. Along the way, we'll find out who first peddled fake news, meet the tailor who saved George Washington's life not once but twice, and discover what Eagles, Turtles, and Vultures have to do with turncoats and saboteurs.
Brownstones and Ballot Boxes
Women's Suffrage in Brooklyn Heights
Brooklyn Heights was home to some of the nation’s earliest suffrage organizations, including those founded by Black women. The suffragists of Brooklyn Heights, known as the "wise women of Brooklyn” were doctors, lawyers, educators and orators whose vision and fortitude changed the course of history. On this tour, we’ll explore suffrage history at what was once “the center of Black Brooklyn,” find out why the Brooklyn Bridge is a feminist icon, and see how the Brooklyn Academy of Music set the stage for the Women’s Movement.
From the oldest continuous site of worship in New York City, to the highest concentration of Victorian mansions in the United States, Victorian Flatbush stands out as one of the most striking, and historically rich areas in the city. Join us as we make our way from the epicenter of Dutch settlement on Long Island, to the leafy splendor of Prospect Park South and Ditmas Park. We’ll take in a dash of rainbow shingles, a drop of Dutch Reform, and find out how this remarkable neighborhood has a direct connection to The American Revolution, the Women’s Movement, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and the Golden Age of Hollywood!
Some of New York City’s loveliest early to mid-19th century Greek Revival and Italianate row houses stand in the Vinegar Hill Historic District, a patchwork of historic architecture on the East River tucked between Dumbo and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. On this tour we will explore the Vinegar Hill Historic District, and see how centuries of architecture, industry and immigration shaped this unique neighborhood, from the Dutch period to our own!
Gramercy Park, the city's only private park, is home to some of Manhattan's stateliest architecture. This tour, inspecting the environs of Irving Place and Gramercy, will focus on two landmarked historic districts in the neighborhood. Covering not only the history and architecture of 1840s - 1850s New York, this tour will also delve into the stories of the artists, writers, inventors, and politicians who called the neighborhood home.
A walking tour of Greenwich Village
Let's look back at the history of women's health in Greenwich Village, once home to this nation's first female physician, its earliest visiting nurses, its first female public health expert, its leading birth control advocates, its queer and trans health pioneers and even its largest pre-Roe abortion referral service (founded by Village-based clergy!). This tour will delve into women's health advocacy beginning as early as the 1840s, and consider how it intersected with many other fights for equality being waged in the Village and around the nation.
Radical Educational Institutions in Greenwich Village
Greenwich Village is home to some of the first public educational institutions in New York City, from the city's first free circulating library to the People’s Institute, open to "whatsoever things are true." The Village’s pedigree as a bastion of free expression has its roots in these institutions, which were at the center of some of the great radical and progressive movements of the 19th and 20th centuries. On this tour, we’ll drop by The New School and discuss how opposition to World War I (and to stodgy uptown academia) inspired its creation. We will also visit the first law school in New York City to admit women, an anarchist educational collective on St. Marks Place, and other historic sites.
Before West 57th Street was Billionaires’ Row it was Artists’ Alley. A wide array of buildings - from artist studios to concert halls, dance conservatories to literary clubs - made 57th street one of New York’s preeminent cultural corridors. This tour of West 57th Street focuses on the artistic legacy of 57th street, featuring such institutions Carnegie Hall, the American Fine Arts Society Building, and the Louis H Chalif School of Dance. We will explore why such celebrated architects as Henry Hardenbergh and Cass Gilbert were drawn to 57th Street, discover why luxury apartments appeared on 57th Street long before the current super-talls, and see where the arts are still flourishing on 57th Street.
New York Style
An Architectural History of the Garment District
The architect Ely Jacques Kahn was considered a “master of the loft building” and a “father of the New York City skyline.” As a native New Yorker and graduate of Columbia University, Khan sought to achieve “a new style of architecture - a New York style.” We can see evidence of his vision all over New York, but it is particularly striking in the Garment District, where he designed 14 buildings. On this walking tour, we will consider Kahn’s work inside and out, from his skyscraper designs to his custom art deco lobbies. We’ll learn how Kahn’s “New York Style” contributed to the rise of the Garment District, and how the district itself grew and flourished after WWI, as Jewish garment workers-turned-manufacturers-turned-developers commissioned millions of square feet of loft and office space to support the needle trades, and turned to Jewish architects to realize those building projects. Kahn, who hailed from a French and Austrian Jewish Family, created some of the most prestigious and architecturally distinctive buildings in the district.
Fired Up about Fired Earth
Terra Cotta Architecture in Lower Manhattan
Before New York’s tallest towers were sheathed in glass, they were clad in clay. Terra-Cotta, or “fired earth,” is an ancient building material made of baked clay, that helped make New York a Modern city. At the turn of the 20th century, terra- cotta became a sought-after fire-proof skin for the steel skeletons of the city’s tallest buildings. Though you’ll find it on some of New York’s most iconic structures, including the Flatiron Building, The Woolworth Building, and the Plaza Hotel, terra-cotta often hides in plain
sight, mimicking other materials like granite or carved wood. On this tour of Lower Manhattan, we’ll uncover some of city’s earliest terra-cotta structures, and find out how New York got fired up about fired earth. Along the way, we’ll see the tallest terra-cotta structure in the world, find out how the nephews of Samuel Morse commissioned the city’s earliest surviving “fireproof” sky-scraper, and learn how this stunningly versatile material moved from monochrome to multi-colored, and helped shift the city from Beaux-Arts beauty to Art Deco splendor!
Rooms of Their Own
Womens'-Only Spaces on the Upper East Side
The Upper East Side boasts the first private women's social club in New York, the first public women's college in the nation, and the first Black working women's settlement house in the city. Since the 19th century, the neighborhood has been home to clubs, schools, residences, political institutions, and professional associations catering exclusively to women. The women who founded, joined, lived, worked and learned in these institutions used them to shape their lives, their city, and their nation. On this walking tour we will dive into the architectural and social history of these establishments, and delve into more than 100 years of local women's history through the spaces they made their own.
George McAneny's New York
George McAneny was honored as “a friend beyond compare” to the City of New York. McAneny held a wide variety of municipal offices, including Manhattan Borough President, President of the board of Alderman, and President of the City Club. He was the first head of the Transit Commission, and first head of the Regional Plan Association. He even found time to found the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and do a stint as Managing Editor of the New York Times! His planning genius gave us our Art Deco skyline, and our modern transit system. On this tour of Lower Manhattan, we’ll see how McAneny shaped the city center, and connected it to the outer boroughs like never before. We’ll find out how McAneny went toe to toe with Robert Moses...and won, spearheading the modern preservation movement in the process.
From "Howling Wilderness" to Historic District
The New York Times once described the area of Brooklyn now known as Prospect Heights as a "howling wilderness." On this tour of Prospect Heights and Grand Army Plaza, we'll find out how this petit neighborhood, located on the north eastern edge of Prospect Park went from a rural expanse to a historic district, home to some of the city's most spectacular brownstone and row house architecture. Along the way, we'll find out what makes Prospect Heights Revolutionary, where architects set out to build the world's largest museum, how Frederick Law Olmsted intended to connect Prospect Park to Central Park, and why the Central Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library took nearly 40 years to build!