Governors Island National Monument: Liggett Hall

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

Governors Island has over 200 years of history as a military outpost. It began as a colonial militia base in 1755 and defended the harbor entrance to New York City during The War of 1812. During the Civil War, Confederate prisoners were held here. In peacetime, it was a training ground and administrative base for first the US Army and then the Coast Guard.

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After exploring Castle Williams, our group explored some of the other historic structures in the park. Liggett Hall was built in 1929 as an army barracks capable of housing an entire regiment. The 16th regiment was stationed there at the time and been living in temporary wooden structures.  This was the largest structure the Army built prior to the Pentagon.

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Construction of the 400 yard Liggett Hall down the widest part of the island prevented a proposed air-strip from being placed there. LaGuardia airport was instead built out in Queens.

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In the building’s archway, we saw a sculpture by Hashimoto called Never Comes Tomorrow. It is meant to represent a time vortex between the historic side of the island and the more recent additions on the other side of the building.

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Next door to Liggett Hall is the hospital that served the Army Base. The Smothers Brothers (comedians) were born in that hospital when their father was stationed on the island.

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There is also a historic theater, built in 1939 for the island residents. We had theaters like this in Staten Island, too, that were still operational in the 70s and 80s when I grew up there. I remember seeing Mary Poppins and Disney’s Robin Hood in a theater just like this.

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Across the way from Liggett Hall is Colonel’s Row. These are six large homes, built in the 1870s for the high-ranking officers when the island became an army base. These homes were originally on the waterfront, but the island was later expanded with landfill from the excavation of the Lexington Avenue subway line. These homes are now used for art shows and non-profit organizations.

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To see my other Governors Island posts, please click below:

  • Battery Maritime Building
  • Soissons Landing and Castle Williams
  • Liggett Hall
  • Fort Jay and The Hills (Coming Soon)

Location: New York Bay

Designation: National Monument

Date designation declared: 1/19/2001

Date of my visit: 9/11/2018

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Governors Island National Monument: Soissons Landing and Castle Williams

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Governors Island has over 200 years of history as a military outpost. It began as a colonial militia base in 1755 and defended the harbor entrance to New York City during The War of 1812. During the Civil War, Confederate prisoners were held here. In peacetime, it was a training ground and administrative base for first the US Army and then the Coast Guard.

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I visited the island with a local community school with Mario as our tour guide. We boarded the ferry at the Battery Maritime Building in lower Manhattan and disembarked eight minutes later at Soissons Landing.

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Soissons Landing was named after a town in France that was the site of a decisive battle in World War I where the combined Allied forces regained ground from the Axis powers. The American regiment that fought in that battle was stationed on Governors Island after the war and so named the landing Soissons.

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Building number 140 is on the left as you leave the ferry. Built in 1857, it used to be a munitions warehouse. Now it houses the offices of The Trust for Governors Island which manages the island along with the National Park Service.

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After disembarking, we walked over to Castle Williams. This is one of the forts built to protect New York from the British during the War of 1812. Additional Rodman Guns were placed on the fort’s roof during the Civil War to protect the city against the Confederate Army. They were never fired.

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Ranger Charles joined our group to give an impromptu talk about the different kinds of cannons found here.

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Castle Williams is made of red sandstone and was designed by Jonathan Williams, who developed a system of forts on Governors, Ellis and Liberty Islands to protect the harbor.

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In the early 1900s, Castle Williams, no longer useful as a defensive fortification, was renovated into a prison. It was abandoned as a prison in the 1960s, when the Army left the island and the Coast Guard moved in.

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To see my other Governors Island posts, please click below:

  • Battery Maritime Building
  • Soissons Landing and Castle Williams
  • Liggett Hall(Coming Soon)
  • Fort Jay and The Hills (Coming Soon)
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Mario holds up an old photo of Castle Williams. The island sure looks different now!

Location: New York Bay

Designation: National Monument

Date designation declared: 1/19/2001

Date of my visit: 9/11/2018

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The large octagonal concrete structure to the left of Soissons Landing (seen in the video below) is the air vent for the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.

 

Home of FDR National Historic Site: Gardens at Bellefield

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Bellefield is an estate that was built in 1795 by a judge and then passed through many different hands. In the late 1800s, New York Senator Thomas Newbold bought the property and expanded the house and built a formal walled garden. Bellefield remained in the Newbold family until 1975 when the last heir donated it to the National Park Service.

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The NPS incorporated Bellefield into the neighboring Home of FDR National Historic Site. The house is used for offices now, but the formal garden is open to the public. It sits behind the Wallace Visitor Center.

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The garden was designed by Beatrix Farrand in 1911. Farrand was the only female founder of the American Society of Landscape Architects and was responsible for the landscaping of many college campuses including Princeton and Yale.

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I walked over to the garden after finishing up my tours of Springwood and the FDR library. In early October, there were still some flowers blooming and there was no one else in the garden with me…a lovely, peaceful place.

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Federal funds did not allow for proper maintenance of the garden so the Beatrix Farrand Garden Association partnered with the NPS in the 1990s to restore it. The arts and crafts style gates were restored by an Eagle Scout based on Farrand’s original plans.

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Hyde Park posts:

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Location: 4079 Albany Post Rd, Hyde Park, NY 12538

Designation: National Historic Site

Date designated or established: Incorporated into FDR NHS in 1975

Date of my visit: 10/3/2018

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Battery Maritime Building – NRHP

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Visitors to Governors Island National Monument will pass through the historic Battery Maritime Building. It is located in Lower Manhattan, next to the Staten Island Ferry terminal.

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This Beaux-Arts structure was built in 1909 to serve as the Municipal Ferry Pier. Since 1956, it has served as the ferry terminal to Governors Island.

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At first used by the Army to access the military base on the island, management was assumed by the Coast Guard in 1966 when Governors Island became the largest Coast Guard base in the country.

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In 1996, the Coast Guard moved its base to another location. In 2001, 22 acres on Governors Island, including two of the historic forts were designated a National Monument managed by the NPS. The remaining 150 acres were sold to New York City to be managed by the Trust for Governors Island. The Trust now manages the ferry terminal, shuttling visitors via a $3, eight-minute trip to the island, between May and October.IMG_2861

The Battery Maritime Building is constructed of cast iron, steel, zinc and copper. It was restored to its original appearance in the early 2000s.

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To see my other Governors Island posts, please click below:

  • Battery Maritime Building
  • Soissons Landing and Castle Williams (Coming Soon)
  • Liggett Hall (Coming Soon)
  • Fort Jay and The Hills (Coming Soon)
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Guide Mario showing the group the difference between now and then: the view of the  New York City skyline from the ferry.

Location: 10 South St, New York, NY 10005

Designation: National Register of Historic Places

Date designation declared: 12/12/1976

Date of my visit: 9/11/2018

 

Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park

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In 2009, the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge re-opened as the world’s longest elevated pedestrian walkway.

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Originally built in the late 1800s, the railroad bridge was the only Hudson River crossing between NYC and Albany until the Bear Mountain bridge opened in 1924. It was the largest cantilever-truss bridge in the world at the time.

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The bridge provided a valuable connection between the industry of the Northeast and supplies from the Midwest and was used continuously up until 1974 when a fire damaged the Poughkeepsie side of the bridge. It was abandoned and fell into disrepair.

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In the 1990’s, the non-profit organization Walkway Over The Hudson was awarded the deed to the bridge in order to turn it into a linear recreational park.

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The group solicited donations from NY State, the federal government and private donors, restored the bridge and built the walkway. In October 2009, the site was dedicated as a State Historic Park.

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Rail trails were later constructed at either end of the bridge to extend the trails. On the Highland side, the rail trail extends five miles west of the bridge. Free, but limited parking is available at the Highland Station entrance to the rail trail.

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There are volunteer ambassadors stationed at either side of the bridge in kiosks. I was able to purchase a collectible pin at the western kiosk.

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The trail is completely accessible…I saw a man in a wheelchair crossing the bridge.

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Pets and  bicycles are allowed.

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The bridge is 1.28 miles long and there was a nice breeze coming off the river on the hot day that I visited.

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The Walkway Over the Hudson runs parallel to the nearby Mid-Hudson bridge.

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Location: 87 Haviland Rd, Highland, NY 12528

Designation: State Historic Park

Date designation declared: 10/3/2009

Date of my visit: 9/3/2018

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Flag at half-mast for Senator John McCain
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Poughkeepsie
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Looking towards the more rural Highland side of the bridge

The High Line

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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The New York City High Line is a 1.5 mile Rail-Trail on the west side of Manhattan. In 1999, neighborhood residents saved this elevated historic railroad from demolition and converted it into a public park with landscaping and art exhibits along a concrete walkway.  It first opened to the public in 2009.

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From 1934 to 1980, this rail line carried meat to the Meatpacking District in New York. Today the park extends from 34th Street to Gansevoort Street. The NYC Department of Parks & Recreation is currently working on an extension called The Spur which is expected to open in April of 2019.

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Some friends from France came to town and wanted to explore this park. We walked over to the entrance on 34th street and ascended to the walkway via a long ramp. We admired the interesting artwork we saw along the way (Exhibits change out periodically.)

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We exited via the 16th Street staircase to have lunch in Chelsea Market, a busy indoor marketplace with shops and restaurants.

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Location: Gansevoort & Washington Streets to 34th st & 12th Ave

Designation: City Park

Date designated or established: 2009

Date of my visit: 12/09/2016

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National Historic Landmark: St. Patrick’s Cathedral

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Saint Patrick’s Cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of the New York diocese and is perhaps the most famous Catholic Church in the US. It is on the busiest section of 5th Avenue, across the street from Rockefeller Center.

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Once inside the doors, it is an oasis of calm in the midst of chaos. Though crowded with tourists when there is not a service, there is still a hush when compared with the blaring horns of the traffic outside.

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The land was originally purchased by the Jesuits for a college campus in 1810 and served multiple purposes over the next several decades. At that time, this area was considered north of the city proper.

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Construction on the cathedral began in 1858 and took 20 years to complete because work on it stopped during the Civil War. The Gothic Revival-style cathedral was dedicated in 1879 and had the main spires added nearly ten years later. They were the tallest structures in NYC at the time.

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Renovations and additions continued into the early 1900s. The Cathedral was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976.

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Compare the marble color in this photo, taken in 2010 to the aerial view of the spires from 2014 at the end of the post

The last time we visited, there was an extensive restoration underway. The Cathedral that I’d thought was grey all my life gradually emerged as pristine white marble. The restoration cost $177 million and was completed just in time for Pope Francis’ visit in 2015.

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Location: 5th Ave, New York, NY 10022

Designation: National Historic Landmark

Date designated or established: 12/8/1976

Date of my visit: 8/1/2014

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The Pietà by William Partridge is three times the size of Michelangelo’s Pietà
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From the Top of the Rock, you can clearly see the cross-shaped floor plan in the style of the great European cathedrals.