Exploring Lower Manhattan

While most days I am leading one of my set tours-- Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge, Greenwich Village, etc-- I do leave many days free for custom requests. After all, we are Custom NYC Tours!

I've written on this blog previously about some past custom tours that I've designed (ie. a Neil Diamond-themed tour of Brooklyn, or a tour of Bensonhurst in Brooklyn). I recently got a custom request with a lot of interesting (and seemingly unconnected) elements: stops on the Underground Railroad, hidden little spots of the city, a look at the original/abandoned City Hall subway station, and street art. Luckily, lower Manhattan has all of this!

I started our tour outside the towering Manhattan Municipal Building, so that we can admire its numerous, and beautiful, architectural features. Then we headed behind the building for a peek at a little-known piece of Revolution-era New York history: the Sugar House Prison window. One block over, thousands of tourists a day enter the Brooklyn Bridge, but almost all miss this curious gem. Next, we headed down into the City Hall subway station. This is actually a replacement station, as the original City Hall station was closed in 1945.  But you can still see it, if you stay/get on a downtown 6 train as it terminates there... while the train loops back to the uptown track to start a new run, it passes through the old station. So stay on, head to the wall-facing windows/doors, and get your camera ready for a quick peek at some subway history!

Next, we headed west over to Church Street-- passing by the historic Tweed Courthouse on the way-- for an exploration of black history. While the original church is no longer there (way too much history downtown was not preserved), this block was the original home of Mother African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first black church in New York state, and a stop on the Underground Railroad. As we walked further, we took a moment to stare up at the newly developed "Jenga building" residential skyscraper. A few blocks away, we came to Manhattan's most-famous Underground Railroad stop... 36 Lispenard, where publisher & abolitionist David Ruggles once lived. It was here that Frederick Douglass passed through. A plague on Lispenard explains the history of Ruggles and his works.

Then, we passed through Chinatown, specifically the as-seen-on-TV Cortlandt Alley, to take a peek at Mmuseumm, the city's smallest museum (it is housed in an industrial elevator shaft, and can fit only a few people at a time). From there, we wandered right over to the Little Italy section of the Lower East Side, which has some of the best street art in Manhattan. Works by well-known street artists such as Space Invader, Ron English, D*Face, Jerkface, Tristan Eaton, Solus, and many more can be found in this area (I offer a street art-focused tour of this neighborhood). 

We ended the tour in trendy SoHo, with a look at two curious, little-known art projects. The first is on Greene Street. Literally. It is a piece called 'Subway Map Floating on a New York City Sidewalk' by Belgian artist Fran├žoise Schein. It is a huge (and reasonably accurate) recreation of the subway lines built into the sidewalk. A really fun piece to explore. Finally, we headed up Wooster to see the New York Earth Room, one of the city's more curious art exhibits. It is a 3,600 square foot (335 square meters) loft space... filled with loose soil/earth. It has been on display there for nearly 40 years. It is a free exhibition, so if you are ever in SoHo, head up to 141 Wooster and buzz up to see it for yourself!

I love planning these custom tours, and I felt satisfied that this was most fun one yet... for both the customers and myself! There is no area of the city, no subject, that I cannot create a tour around. If you have an idea for a custom tour you'd like me to create for you, please contact me!