Today began our official walking tour of New York City, specifically the area of Wall Street.  We started off with the African Burial Grounds that started in 1680 for the colony of New Amsterdam.  New York City was the number one slave center of the colonies up to 1750.  When land excavation for a new federal building started, seventeen feet below the surface, four hundred and fifty remains were found.  The area is said to have around 200,o00 remains.  This is the only discovery of an African burial site that has been found.  Glass beads and sea shells from western Africa were some of the burial artifacts that were found.  The lands that were once rolling hills on the outskirts of New Amsterdam were filled in and slaves, indentured servants, and other people who were on the margins of society were buried in these areas.  It is unfortunate that the museum’s bookstore was closed, the exhibit was powerful and they would have had a lot of business from us that day.  I am realizing that there is a lot more information that I can be presenting to my students about the lives of African Americans, both free and enslaved, and the impact they left on the city of New York and our country.

Also, for all who are visiting NYC, do not take pictures near the entrances to federal buildings – security does not look kindly upon that.

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The tour continued with looks at cast iron buildings.  This construction type was easier than previous construction methods and allowed for larger windows to be designed into the building.  This gave way to the first wave of “window shopping”. In 1846, the “first shopping” center was built, The White Palace, by Irish immigrants.  In fact, by 1811, the city was growing and taking off and the city developed on a grid system, eventually becoming the Empire City.  1814 leads the way into suburbanization, with the development of Brooklyn Heights, as Robert Fulton’s steam ferries began the era of the “commuter” and the implementation of streetcars allowed the city to spread out.

We worked our way towards Saint Paul’s and Trinity Church, which was the tallest building in the city in 1846. This was very powerful for me, as I visited the memorials that have been made to those who lost their lives in 9/11.  The entire building and grounds felt like hallowed ground to me.  And looking off towards Ground Zero brought a flood of unexpected emotions to me.

The day concluded with a trip into America’s heart of its financial district – Wall Street.  The former boundary of Fort New Amsterdam and a brief tour of Federal Hall.

For me, the biggest part of the day was seeing and understanding our country’s early beginnings, witnessing the growth and expansion that has happened over the past two hundred plus years, and seeing the landmarks, both modern and historic, that makeup the area that we, and the rest of the world know as NYC.  I felt a surprising bit of patriotism.  This understanding and passion for our country is what I need to remember when teaching my classes, to help inspire and awe my students.