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Lower Manhattan

The lower tip of Manhattan (called Lower Manhattan or Downtown), where the East and Hudson rivers meet, is where New York City began; it was also our nation’s first capital. Did You Know? Broadway’s original name was the Wiechquaekeck Trail. It was an old Algonquin trade route.


In one of history’s most famous real estate deals, Dutch traders purportedly purchased the island of “Man-a-hatt-a” from the Algonquin Indians in 1621 for $24 worth of beads and other trinkets. Originally called Nieuw Amsterdam by these Dutch settlers, the 21st century blend of old colonial churches and gleaming skyscrapers has become the financial capital of the world. The heart of it all is the area clustered around Wall Street – originally a walled fortress (c. 1633) built by the settlers. Titanic edifices such as the New York Stock Exchange and the Federal Reserve Bank buildings line the streets here. Also see Financial New York.

While modern day business is the focus of Lower Manhattan, many visitors come to this area to experience the history of New York City. Nearby is Federal Hall Memorial (Closed for construction as of 12/2/04), the spot where George Washington took his oath as America’s first president, and Fraunces Tavern, where he celebrated the end of the Revolutionary War. Other famous landmarks include Trinity Church/St. Paul’s Chapel, a national landmark built in 1766. At the towering height of 284 feet, it was once the tallest structure in New York City. George Washington attended services here.

Alliance for Downtown New York leads a free 90-minute walking tour that includes stops at Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange every Thursday and Saturday at noon. Meet at the front steps of the National Museum of the American Indian; no reservations are necessary. For information on the tours, call 212/606-4064. Or walk the Patriot Trail, a self-guided walking tour through America’s most partriotic neighborhood. Tour lasts approximately one hour and begins one block east of the World Trade Center site at Broadway and Vesey Street.