The High Line

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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.

Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site

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My first stop in Hyde Park was to the Wallace Visitor and Education center where I watched the short film and then spoke to the rangers about making the most of my day. After touring Springwood, FDR’s home, I drove two miles to Eleanor Roosevelt’s Val-Kill.

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This unassuming entrance was the front door, through which all visitors passed.

This is the only National Historic Site dedicated to a First Lady. When I was in grade school, I was assigned Eleanor Roosevelt’s biography for a book report, so I already had an inkling that she was pretty remarkable.  My tour through her home with the thoughtful commentary of the park ranger confirmed that she was an amazing woman.

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On this site, Eleanor Roosevelt, along with three other women, established Val-Kill Industries in 1927.  Here, local craftsmen produced colonial revival furniture and pewter work in order to provide supplemental income for the local farming community. In 1938, because of the Great Depression, the factory was closed and converted into a cottage which became Eleanor’s permanent home after the death of her husband.

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As the wife of a president disabled by polio, Eleanor Roosevelt played a more prominent role than any of her predecessors. She often made public appearances on the president’s behalf and was particularly outspoken when advocating for civil rights. She authored a daily newspaper column and hosted a weekly radio show.

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After FDR’s death, Eleanor prepared Springwood, which had always felt more like her mother-in-law’s home, for transfer to the National Park Service. She moved into the more modest Val-Kill cottage and began the second stage of her political career.

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She became the United States Delegate to the United Nations General Assembly from 1945 to 1952. There she helped to author the Bill of Human Rights.

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Eleanor’s winter bedroom. During the warmer months, she slept on the porch.

She also entertained various politicians and foreign dignitaries in her simple cottage. There are photos of John F Kennedy drinking from one of the generic diner-type glasses in her dining room. The few luxurious items on display in the house were Eleanor’s family heirlooms…she didn’t care for anything ostentatious.

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The heirloom candelabras are at odds with the utilitarian plates and glassware and the odd figurine collection Roosevelt brought back from Europe.

JFK visited Eleanor at Val-Kill because he wanted her endorsement in his bid for president. She had supported his opponent in the democratic primaries and agreed to support Kennedy only if he would promise to work towards improving the rights of minorities and women. In 1961, President Kennedy appointed Roosevelt to chair the Commission on the Status of Women. She died shortly before the commission issued its report.

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Eleanor Roosevelt and JFK met in this room to discuss his election campaign.

The family offered Val-Kill to the National Park Service. The NPS initially declined due to lack of funds and so the estate was sold to developers. A non-profit ‘friends’ organization began a campaign to preserve Eleanor Roosevelt’s legacy and Val-Kill was designated a National Historic Site in 1977.

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Eleanor’s ‘Sleeping Porch’

Hyde Park posts:

  • FDR Presidential Library
  • Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site
  • Gardens at Bellefield (Coming Soon)
  • Home of FDR National Historic Site (Coming Soon)
  • Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site (Coming Soon)

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Location: 106 Valkill Park Rd, Hyde Park, NY 12538

Designation: National Historic Site

Date designated or established: 5/27/1977

Date of my visit: 10/3/2018

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The Stone Cottage is an older building on the property which now houses the museum
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The ‘Kill’ for which the estate is named.

Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area: DeWint House

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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 Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area  is one of the forty-nine federally-recognized National Heritage Areas in the United States. The Hudson Valley NHA is considered a National Park Service affiliate. Through the partnership with the Park Service and other organizations, the Heritage Area includes over one hundred sites spread across ten counties in New York State.

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I visited the DeWint House in Tappan, New York. This site is billed as Washington’s Headquarters in Tappan. George Washington stayed there on four separate occasions between 1780 and 1783.

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I stopped first at the Visitor Center in the 1865 carriage house. A later owner of the DeWint house added this structure to the property after returning from the Civil War. There are many artifacts displayed from Washington’s time and there is an introductory video in which two charming children take visitors on a virtual tour.

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The DeWint house was built in 1700, evidenced by the numbers set into the brick facade. During the Revolutionary War, it was owned by the DeWint family who had made their fortune in the West Indies. Over the years, the home passed to different owners until the Masons bought it and restored it as a Masonic Shrine in 1932.IMG_2641

George Washington stayed at the DeWint House four times during the Revolution. His most notable visit was the second, when he signed the death warrant of John Andre. Andre was the major who conspired with Benedict Arnold in the thwarted plans to hand West Point over to the British.

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During a later stay, Washington negotiated the evacuation of British forces from New York City with British General Carleton.

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After watching the video and looking at the displays in the carriage house, I went over to the stone and brick house. The house’s two first-floor rooms have been restored by the Masons and furnished to reflect the 1780s and Washington’s visit.

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You can only peer into the rooms through a Plexiglas partition, so taking in the video and the museum displays first is necessary to appreciate the history of the site.

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To see my other posts from The Hudson Valley National Heritage Area, please click the links below:

  • DeWint House (Washington’s HQ at Tappan)
  • Camp Shanks
  • Storm King Arts Center– Coming Soon!
  • New Windsor Cantonment– Coming Soon!
  • Purple Heart Hall of Honor– Coming Soon!

Location: 20 Livingston Avenue, Tappan, NY

Designation: National Heritage Area, National Historic Landmark

Date designation declared: 1996 NHA, 1966 NHL

Date of my visit: 8/18/2018

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The Pierpont Morgan Library National Historic Landmark

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If you’ve watched the series or read The Alienist, a work of historical fiction by Caleb Carr, you’ve seen a representation of J.P. Morgan as a powerful financier who controlled Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt’s New York City of 1896.

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In reality he was the USA’s most influential banker, financing the railroad, US Steel, General Electric, etc… With a group of other bankers, he helped to stabilize American markets during the Panic of 1907.

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He was also an avid collector of rare books, manuscripts, antiquities and art with nearly inexhaustible funds. He built a lavish library in 1906 to house his collections. In 1924, his son opened to library to the public as a museum.

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J.P. Morgan used the West Room as his private study. Its furnishings reflect his fondness for the art of the Renaissance. It was here that he met with the group of bankers in 1907 to resolve the national economic crisis. There is a vault in this room for the most valuable manuscripts.

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The rotunda, with its marble columns and elaborate ceilings, was the original entrance to Morgan’s private study. The blue and white reliefs are modeled after the work of the artist Raphael in Rome. The paintings represent the three ages contained in Morgan’s collections: The Antiquities, Middle Ages and Renaissance.

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The East Room is the original library. It is three stories of carved walnut and contains rare books including a Bible printed by Johannes Gutenberg in 1455.

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More modern buildings were added to the museum later and contain rotating and permanent exhibits. We enjoyed the Etruscan jewelry section!

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Location: 225 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016

Designation: National Historic Landmark

Date designated or established: 11/13/1966

Date of my visit: 9/6/2015

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Federal Hall National Memorial

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Welcome back to National Parks and 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 site at Federal Hall National Memorial began in 1703 as New York’s first City Hall. The Stamp Act Congress met here in colonial times to protest taxation without representation.  It was renamed Federal Hall when it became the first capital of the United States in 1789 and George Washington was inaugurated on its front steps.

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The capital and Congress moved to Philadelphia a year later and the original Federal Hall was demolished in 1812. The current building has been there since 1842. It was the Customs House and then the Treasury building.  In 1939 it became a National Memorial and now contains some relics dating back to Washington’s inauguration.

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We visited Federal Hall after touring the 9-11 Memorial a few blocks away on a chilly winter day. We arrived in time to take a tour of the building with a ranger. He pointed out a lot of the architectural features and talked about the historical significance of the site.

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The ranger pointed out some cracks in the wall over one of the doorways, with gauges to monitor movement. When the Twin Towers fell in 2001, the impact caused tremors which damaged Federal Hall’s structure.

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In Sept 2002, a year after the attacks, Congress convened in Federal Hall for the first time in over 200 years to show support for New York’s recovery. In 2004, Federal Hall closed for a two-year renovation to repair the damage.

Location: 26 Wall St, New York, NY 10005

Designation: National Memorial

Date designated or established: 1939

Date of my visit: February 24, 2012

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View of the NY Stock Exchange from the steps behind George Washington’s statue. The statue was placed in this spot in the late 1800s, and is believed to be where he stood on his inauguration day.

Sagamore Hill National Historic Site

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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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Sagamore Hill was Theodore Roosevelt’s home in Cove Neck, NY.  Known for being the 26th President of the United States, Roosevelt grew up in New York and accomplished much here before taking on Washington DC. He served as NYC Police Commissioner (where he  initiated sweeping reforms in the police department) and Governor of New York before moving into national politics.

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Of all Roosevelt’s achievements, he was proudest of his work in conservation. He created the first National Parks and signed into law the Antiquities Act (under which the president may designate National Monuments.)  So it is fitting that the National Park Service manages the home where he lived from 1886 until his death in 1919. The Sagamore Hill National Historic Site includes the mansion and also the Theodore Roosevelt Museum in a separate building on the grounds.

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The mansion was originally 22 rooms, was built for his first wife Alice Lee and named Leeholm after her. But she died before the home was completed, soon after the birth of their daughter. When Roosevelt remarried and moved into the home with his new family, he changed the name to Sagamore Hill (Sagamore is the Algonquin word for chieftain.)

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Ranger-led tours of Sagamore Hill can be reserved on the NPS website or purchased on a first-come basis at the visitor center. The North Room, part of a 1905 expansion, is filled with Roosevelt’s keepsakes and safari trophies. This room, along with others on the first floor, served as the ‘Summer White House’ for part of Roosevelt’s presidency. We were awed by this room, though struck by the irony of all the animal trophies in the home of one of our countries foremost conservationists.

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The site had just reopened at the time of our visit after an extensive multi-million-dollar, 4-year restoration project. It is beautifully preserved and most of the furnishings are original. The ranger’s narrative gave us a real feel for the dynamic leader and family man Roosevelt must have been.

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Location: 20 Sagamore Hill Rd, Oyster Bay, NY 11771

Designation: National Historic Site

Date designated or established: 7/25/1962

Date of my visit: 2/7/2016

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This windmill is a modern replica of the one Theodore Roosevelt originally installed. Because there was no electrical service here in those days, the windmill was used to pump water to a holding tank on the 3rd floor to provide running water for household needs.
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A bathroom with running water was a luxury at the time. The house was expanded to include the bathroom in 1905.
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One of the daughter’s bedrooms
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The kitchen, with running water
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Quentin Roosevelt was Theodore’s youngest & favorite son He was killed in action in WWI and awarded a Harvard degree posthumously,