Today I went on an architectural walking tour of Newspaper Row and Manhattan’s civic center; the tour was conducted by the New York Sun‘s Francis Morrone, in honor of the paper’s first anniversary. (Morrone writes the Sun’s “Abroad in New York” column.) He made a few observations that I thought would be worth posting.

City Hall Park goes back to the 17th century; before City Hall was there, it was known as the Commons. On July 9, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was publicly read there; here‘s what happened:

On July 9, 1776, upon hearing the Declaration of Independence, an enraged crowd marched down Broadway to Bowling Green where stood a large lead statue of King George III astride a horse…. Ropes were thrown around the Romanized icon and the body was pulled down.

As Morrone said, “The history of the world can be read in its toppled statues.” (Or something to that effect.)

Morrone also called attention to St. Paul’s Church, where George Washington worshipped and where his memorial was held when he died. He mentioned how the church survived the Great Fire of 1776 when everything around it was destroyed:

Did you know that St. Paul’s is the oldest extant building in New York, give or take a few farmhouses? It was finished in 1766, which means it survived the Revolution and British occupation, the Great Fire of 1776, when a third of the town was destroyed, the Great Fire of 1835, when almost 700 downtown buildings were destroyed on a freezing December night, and everything since. This city is a great churning engine of destruction and creation, with the past, until only a generation or so ago, dispatched with a wanton ferocity, yet the dark, ruddy St. Paul’s remains. [Matthew Wills, Notes from Brooklyn, 11/9/01]

Recently St. Paul’s Church survived once again–the World Trade Center was just across the street but the church remained unharmed. Morrone suggested that instead of some hideous modern sculpture the most fitting memorial to September 11 would be the church itself.

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