When I discovered Rooster and I was selected to oversee the New York City adventure itinerary, I knew I wanted to visit several historical sites other than the 911 memorial. We visit the place of one of our country’s worst disasters on our last trip. I’m a history buff, but I must admit I knew hardly anything about the Big Apple’s past beyond 911 and Tammany Hall. I knew about the draft riots during the Civil War and Street gangs with colorful names such as The Dead Rabbits and the Bowery Boys. I found a book by Edward Rutherfurd, titled New York. By the time I finished reading the novel, which spanned the history of this remarkable city from the time of the Dutch until 911, I knew where the epicenter of New York’s history was located. The weather was chilly but dry. The four of us hopped on a subway early in the morning and rode to the Financial District. Our quest was to discover the energy of the historical stories, which unfolded on Wall Street.
We American’s, in general, don’t pay much attention to our nation’s history. We view it as an odd collection of trivial facts; we had to learn to make it through school. Dates, we needed to remember to pass a class. Wars we fought such as the American Revolution, the Civil War, and World War I and II. A person might stroll past Trinity Church and ponder at the significance of the old structure. A New Yorker or tourist might notice George Washington standing on the steps of Federal Hall and wonder why they erected a statue of him on that spot. Our nation’s history is an ever-unfolding story with new pages added every day like novels in a series without an ending, with only an occasional stopping point where a reader can catch their breath. A trip to New York City wouldn’t be complete without a stop in the Financial District. This tiny dot on the globe located in Manhattan has been the financial center of this country since the Dutch West India Company purchased it for ‘sixty-guilders” in supplies, or the equivalent of $24.00. New Amsterdam became the center of the fur trade in the New World. The Dutch erected a wall to keep the Lenape people away from the Dutch settlement. The British tore the wall down when they took over in 1699. The famous street where so much history took place got its name from the wall.
We only had the morning to explore the Financial District. Chris and Richard had a scheduled appointment later in the afternoon. Richard was afraid if he left Rooster and me alone to our own devices, we’d get lost somewhere in New York City. The thought caused him a lot of anxiety. Nightmares of forming a search party to find the parental units played out in his mind. He worried we’d ride the subway to somewhere in the Bronx. Giant skyscrapers surrounded us as soon as we climbed off the train and went in search of Federal Hall. On April 30, 1789, George Washington stood on a balcony there and was inaugurated our first American President. On our stroll to Federal Hall, Chris pointed to Trinity Church. He told me Alexander Hamilton was buried behind the wrought iron fence, we were hiking past. I knew Trinity Church was an essential part of New York City history, but I was surprised it was located across the street from the New York Stock Exchange. Alexander Hamilton’s grave is located behind the metal fence surrounding a small graveyard beside the church. It seems fitting for him to be buried in the shadow of the stock Exchange here in the Financial District because he was the father of American banking when he conceived the idea of the National Bank.
Federal Hall was a two-block promenade from Trinity Church. An enormous statue of George Washington stands on the front steps of this prestigious looking building. From the position where Washington’s image is erected, he can look out onto the ole New York stock exchange building. Federal Hall once housed Congress, the Supreme Court, and the executive branch of our government until Philadelphia became the nation’s capital for a short time. The building is now a museum. We didn’t have time to go inside and look around. There were several places we wanted to see. It will be one of our stops the next time we visit New York City. The images that caught my eye were the vendors selling hot dogs and tourist trinkets at the foot of the stairs. They are the perfect example of modern-day entrepreneurs. Workers were in the process of erecting the Financial District’s Christmas tree in an area in front of the Stock Exchange. The lights weren’t on yet, but they were busy anchoring the tree in place.
We ambled a couple bocks and came upon one of my favorite pieces of art in the city. The 7000-pound Charging Bull Sculpture has such an exciting story; it’s almost too unbelievable to be true. Sicilian artist Arturo Di Modica created the sculpture using his own money after the Black Monday stock market crash in 1987. He arrived in the middle of the night and illegally unloaded the bull outside the New York Stock Exchange on Broad Street. Di Modica claimed it was his Christmas gift to the city. The bull was the artist’s attempt to capture the spirit of the American people. The city of New York moved the statue to the Bowling Green. It also created a dilemma since the city can’t own sculptures. Pieces remain in place for a year on a temporary permit. The Charging Bull has been in its current location for twenty years. There are rumors it will be moved to another location in the coming year.
Di Modica’s act of gorilla art created a favorite tourist attraction for visitors to New York City. The day we were there, it was hard to get through the swarm of people to snap a picture of the impressive bull. Vendors lined the street selling Statue of Liberties, and copies of the Charging Bull with the copper shine like a million glistening pennies in the afternoon sun. A lady from Ukraine sold unique nesting dolls from a table next to the other vendors. Our last stop before we caught the subway was at a coffee shop on the corner. It was an excellent place to get out of the cold. It gave me a chance to reflect on all the pieces of history crammed into this area of the city.
I walked in the steps of influential people who had trod these streets centuries before I arrived on this planet. Men with dreams and ideas. Immigrants who came to these shores in search of riches and a better life. After being knocked down and counted as out, these people got back up on their feet again and learned what it meant to rise. I believe Arturo Di Modica did capture the American spirit when he created the Charging Bull. I noticed how people nestled up next to the sculpture, touching it with their hands for luck. It was as if they sought a piece of his strength. A small zap of his energy to give them courage when they journey from this historic spot on Wall Street. Rooster and I will take a part of the Charging Bull with us when we go back to Indiana.