You can make a strong, waterproof hat out of a beaver. We have 17th century milliners to thank for today’s New York City, which began as a trading post where Native American hunters supplied beaver pelts to Dutch adventurers, for shipping back to the Old World to satisfy the fashions of the day.
The modern Financial District roughly covers the area of that first Dutch settlement at the tip of Manhattan island, where the Hudson and East Rivers meet and many of the city’s iconic attractions are situated. The settlement was known as New Amsterdam until the British captured it in 1664 and renamed it after the Duke of York, the future King James II.
Below are some of our favourite things to see in the area. Maybe you can get to a few of them while you are here. And maybe on your travels you will see New York City’s official seal on a building somewhere. If you do, now you know why there are two beavers on it.
Few things are as closely associated with American finance as the statue of the Charging Bull on Broadway, just north of Beaver Street. Today, he has been joined by the controversial statue of the Fearless Girl. A powerful feminist challenge to testosterone-driven Wall Street or a cynical corporate publicity stunt? You decide.
The Museum of American Finance at 48 Wall Street is a good place to explore the history of the area, including the influence of Alexander Hamilton. This Founding Father, now immortalised in a sold-out Broadway musical, was the first secretary of the US Treasury. He is buried at Trinity Church nearby, having unfortunately been shot dead in a duel with the vice-president Aaron Burr in 1804.
Irish Hunger Memorial
A magnificent piece of art, this is at once a memorial to those who died and struggled in the Irish Famine, a metaphor for and celebration of the immigrant journey to the New World, and a call to action to prevent hunger in the 21st century. A derelict farmhouse from the Irish countryside has been shipped, brick by brick, and rebuilt in New York, startlingly out of place among the skyscrapers of modern finance.
Looks like the skeleton of a giant stegosaurus, feels like a Steve Jobs architectural fantasy, and serves as a transport hub for Lower Manhattan. This is the heart of the rebuilt World Trade Center, more striking even than the new One World Trade tower, and an important gateway for visitors to the 9/11 memorials.
This cobblestone passageway in the heart of the Financial District is so-called because it was the first street in New Amsterdam to be paved with stone. Today, it is lined with pubs and restaurants, a great place to grab a beer or a bite. Cuisines range from Mexican to Swedish, with pizza and burgers in between. And stroll a block or two away to get lost in the maze of bars inside historic Fraunces Tavern, a loyalist drinking den during the Revolutionary War.