Category: New York City Parks and Playgrounds

First Shearith Israel Graveyard/Chatham Square Cemetery                                            55-57 St. James Place                                  New York, 10038

First Shearith Israel Graveyard/Chatham Square Cemetery 55-57 St. James Place New York, 10038

First Shearith Israel Graveyard/Chatham Square Cemetery

55-57 St. James Place

New York, NY 10038

(212) 873-0300

https://shearithisrael.org/content/chatham-square-cemetery

Open: 24 Hours

Fee: Free

My review on TripAdvisor:

There are times that I walk around Manhattan and things just pop out at you. Tucked inside small pockets of the City are small community gardens, detailed statues, street art and sometimes a small cemetery. I had passed the First Shearith Israel Graveyard or also known as the Chatham Square Cemetery many times when visiting Chinatown since I was a kid. This tiny elevated pocket square of land is located next to a building and locked behind a gate just off St. James Place right at the end of Mott Street strip of Chinatown.

Chatham Square Cemetery

You really have to look for this at the side of 55-57 St. James Place

This is the oldest Jewish Cemetery in Manhattan that was in use from 1683 to 1833. The site of the cemetery was originally on a hill overlooking the East River in an open area at the northern periphery of the British-Dutch colonial settlement. The plot was purchased in 1682 by Joseph Bueno de Mesquita and the cemetery’s first interment was for his relative, Benjamin Bueno de Mesquita. The cemetery expanded in the 1700’s from Chatham Square to the upper part of Oliver Street to Madison Avenue (Wiki).

The original map of the Dutch Colony (New York Historical Society)

In 1823, a City ordinance prohibited burials south of Canal Street and the congregation opened a second burial spot at West 11th Street. A third cemetery was opened at 21st Street west of Sixth Avenue. The size of the cemetery has been reduced over the years because of development and most of the bodies were removed and moved to the other cemeteries. In 1851, the City again prohibited burials below 86th Street and the congregations again opened a fourth cemetery in Ridgewood, Queens. In 1855, with more development changing the area again and over two hundred graves were removed from the site. Only about hundred remain (Wiki).

Two of the most notable people buried here are Reverend Gershom Mendes Seixas (1745-1816), the first American born Jewish spiritual leader and Dr. Walter Jonas Judah, the second person of the Jewish faith to attend an American Medical School (now Columbia University) and the first native born one. (Wiki). There are also 18 Jewish Revolutionary War era veterans and patriots buried here.

History of the Jewish Settlement in Dutch New York:

In September of 1654, just after the Jewish New Year, twenty-three Jews, mostly of Spanish and Portuguese origin arrived in Manhattan. These people had been living in Recife, the former capital of the 17th Century Dutch Brazil. When the Portuguese defeated the Dutch for control of Recife and brought with them the Inquisition, the Jews of that area left. Some returned to Amsterdam, where they had originated and others moved around the Caribbean to other islands. These twenty-three arrived in New York due a series of unseen events (Big Apple Secrets).

Governor Peter Stuyvesant did not want to permit them to stay but these settlers fought for their rights and won permission to remain. In 1655, the Jewish settlers applied to the Dutch authorities for permission to purchase a parcel of land as an exclusive place to bury their dead. In February of 1656, appealed “that consent may be given” for the purchase. In 1644, the British took New Amsterdam and renamed it New York and the Jews were granted more civil rights. In 1706, they had organized their own congregation, Shearith Israel (Big Apple Secrets).

The cemetery for the most part is pad locked but you can view the outside from the street level. The cemetery is open on Memorial Day for services to the members of the armed services but for the most part you have to view the cemetery from the street level.

Chatham Square Cemetery

The plaque that you can see at eye level just inside the cemetery.

This unique plot of land is easy to miss so look for the plaque at eye level as you pass it.

Central Park Zoo  Fifth Avenue and East 64th Street New York, NY 10021

Central Park Zoo Fifth Avenue and East 64th Street New York, NY 10021

Central Park Zoo

Fifth Avenue and East 64th Street

New York, NY 10021

(212) 439-6500

https://centralparkzoo.com/

Open: Sunday-Saturday 10:00am-4:30pm

Fee: Adults $12.00/Seniors (65+) $10.00/Children (3-12)$8.00/Total Experience Adults $16.00/Seniors (65+) $15.00/Children (3-12) $12.00

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d267703-Reviews-Central_Park_Zoo-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

I love coming to the Central Park Zoo when I am visiting the Upper East Side. The zoo is a nice to just relax and reflect from the hustle and bustle of the City. On a quiet midweek day, there is nothing like going to the 2:00pm seal feeding at all times of the year. The seals get so excited and the humans like seeing the seals in their playful mood.

The Seal feedings are a lot of fun.

The zoo is small so touring it will only take about an hour or so to see all the exhibitions. You have a choice of seeing the monkeys, the birds, the seals and the penguins. They finally moved the polar bear out of the zoo a few years ago and he always looked so bored with his life. He would give you a look like ‘get me out of here’.

The Central Park Zoo is set up with different exhibitions.

The smaller animals like the monkeys and the penguins look like they are having more fun in their enclosed homes with more room to move around. They always look at us as visitors in an amusing way like why are we so interested in them. It is an interesting interaction with the animals there to see their reaction to us.

There is also more birds, amphibians and bats to see in other exhibitions around the zoo and smaller outside areas to view the smaller animals such as pandas and leopards that have finally been given space to roam around.

The penguin exhibition

There is also a nice gift shop just outside the zoo and the Dancing Crane Cafe is the zoo restaurant which is over-priced and the food the few times I have tried it was mediocre. It is not like the cafe up at the Bronx Zoo that was pretty decent.

Don’t miss the hourly concert at Delacorte Clock when the animal sculptures dance to the music played. It is such an enjoyable experience.

The Delacorte Clock that plays music hourly

History of the Zoo:

The Zoo was not originally part of the layout for Central Park when designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux. A small menagerie developed on the edge of the park with exotic animals that had been donated to the park starting with a bear cub tied to a tree in 1859 and a monkey in 1860. Other animals came later including cranes, a peacock and a goldfish.

The original menagerie

In 1860, the American Zoological and Botanical Society wanted to create a zoo somewhere in New York City. In 1864, the zoo received a formal charter, making it the second publicly owned zoo behind the Philadelphia Zoo. Though a formal zoo had not yet been created, the menagerie, with its free admission and good location made it the most popular attraction in Central Park.

By the 1930’s, the menagerie had become run down and was not sufficient to hold the animals. In 1834, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia hired Robert Moses to head the unified Parks Department and a new more formal zoo was created. The new zoo was opened on December 2nd, 1934 and by 1936 over six million people had visited the zoo.

By 1967, the zoo was again falling apart due to years of negligence and budget cuts. New York City’s fiscal crisis had affected the Parks System and conditions had gone downhill. In 1980, The Wildlife Conservatory (the former NY Zoological Society) signed a fifty year agreement in April of that year and started a renovation of the zoo from 1982 to its opening in 1988.

When the Zoo opened in August of 1988, the concept of the zoo had changed. The Wildlife Conservation Society had taken over the Queens Zoo, the Prospect Park Zoo in Brooklyn and already had possession of the Bronx Zoo and the direction of the society was toward conservation and care of animals while the Prospect Zoo was to be used as a Children’s Zoo and the Queens Zoo would concentrate on North American animals. The Children’s Zoo next to the Central Park Zoo went through its own renovation in the late 1990’s and is now called the Tisch Children’s Zoo after businessman, Laurence Tisch who had donated most of the money for the renovation.

The structures and concept of what a zoo is has changed over the years.

(This information was taken from both Wiki and the Central Park Zoo History)

Fort Jay Governors Island New York City, NY 10004

Fort Jay Governors Island New York City, NY 10004

Fort Jay

Governors Island

New York, NY 10004

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d136072-Reviews-Governors_Island_National_Monument-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on MywalkinManhattan.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/7658

When I was touring Governors Island for my blog, “MywalkinManhattan.com”, I explored the Fort Jay complex which is located on the northern end of the island just past Castle Williams.

Fort Jay on Governors Island

This fort is mostly in a state of ruin and is currently being restored at various stages all around the complex. The decorative entrance with its statuary is being cleaned and the entrance fixed on one side of the fort and the walls and some of the interior space is being repaired inside the fort.

The main entrance to Fort Jay.

This fort and Castle Williams were built to protect the City of New York between the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. After that these forts fell out of use as the times and technology changed .

The decorative statuary is being repaired on the fort

Now the fort is used for art exhibitions in some of the interior hallways and grass has grown over most of the walkways. Still it is interesting to walk along the pathways near the walls of the fort and see how they were once used. It is interesting to see how far we have progressed in warfare.

The History of Fort Jay:

Fort Jay is located on Governors Island in New York Harbor, one half-mile from the southern tip of Manhattan. No defensive works are known to have been erected on the island during its early history. Defensive earthen works were first erected on the highest point of Governors Island by Continental troops in 1775-76. The island and its fort were occupied by the British during the American Revolution until 1783, when it surrendered, along with several buildings to the Governor of New York.

More than ten years passed before renewed tensions with Great Britain resulted in funding from both the New York Legislature and the United States Congress in 1794 to reconstruct the works on Governors Island. This part of a larger national effort to fortify ports that later became known as the First American System of coastal fortifications.

Design of the New York Harbor defenses was assigned to French engineer Charles Vincent. The works on Governors Island had been completed by 1796, described in January of that year by the Secretary of War as “a fort made of earth and two batteries under its protection, partly lined with brick masonry, two air furnaces, a large powder magazine and a barrack for the garrison.”

Fears of a French invasion in 1797 resulted in a second phase effort funded by additional appropriations to complete and enhance the coastal fortifications, including those on Governors Island. The fort is said to have acquired the name “Fort Jay” in 1798 for John Jay, then the Governor of New York State. Governors Island and its fort were conveyed to the federal government two years later in 1800, by an Act of the New York State Legislature.

A plan of the fort as it existed that year shows it as a four-bastioned form surrounded by a ditch with a parapet having 51 embrasures, a gate and bridge on the east side and a large magazine in the northeast bastion. The fort was still incomplete and incapable of defense in 1802 according to a written report, although it was then equipped with a “handsome Gateway with a Corps de Garde” or guardhouse, that survives today.

Fort Jay had fallen into ruinous condition by 1806 when a second national campaign to strengthen the coastal defenses of the country, now known as the Second American System of fortifications, was implemented. This effort differed from the first by employing American engineers and using more durable masonry construction.

The engineer chosen to design and oversee the defenses of New York Harbor was Colonel Jonathan Williams, Chief Engineer of the Corps of Engineers and first Superintendent of the Military Academy at West Point. Reconstruction of Fort Jay, renamed Fort Columbus about this time, began in July 1806 and was completed by December 1809. The only components of the old fort judged worth saving were “the walled Counterscarp, the Gate, the Magazine and the Barracks,” according to Colonel Williams in a report dated November 1808.

The completed fort was described in a later report to Congress as “an enclosed pentagonal work, with four bastions of masonry, calculated for one hundred guns, fifty-five mounted with brick barracks for two hundred and thirty men, including officers. The earliest known plan of the completed fort is a plan by Joseph Mangin drawn in 1813.

The first significant repairs and alterations were made to Fort Columbus in the 1830’s, resulting in the overall appearance of the fort as it exists today. The stone retaining walls were extensively rebuilt at this time, including the scarp that was faced with granite and topped with a new brickwork parapet. The old magazine in the northeast bastion was demolished and replaced by four new magazines erected in the north ravelin. Finally, the four existing brick were replaced by four new barracks with flanking triangular structures and outdoor courtyards.

Later changes have been made to the barracks by the U.S. Army over the years, including interior remodeling and replacement of the flat roofs with hipped roofs in 1855-57, incorporated of five of the triangular buildings as additions in the 1860’s and 1898-99 and reconfiguration of the buildings as officers’ apartments in 1921-22 and again in the 1930’s. Paint was stripped from the exterior brick buildings in the 1930’s, the sodded glacis of the fort was converted to recreational use as a golf course by 1940 and the flagstaff was moved from the northwest bastion to the north ravelin by 1953.

The interior walls of Fort Jay

Jurisdiction of Governors Island passed from the U.S. Army to the U.S. Coastguard in 1966. Improvements made by the Coast Guard to Fort Jay, whose name was officially reinstated in 1904, included expansion of the golf course; remodeling of the barracks with new kitchens, bathrooms, heating and electrical systems and storm windows and doors and erection of chain-link fencing on the glacis. Fort Jay sat vacant with minimal upkeep since the closure of the Coast Guard in 1997.

Fort Jay was recorded by the Historic American Buildings survey in 1934 and in 1982-83. The fort was individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. It was included in a National Historic Landmark District designated in 1985 and a New York Historic District designated in 1996. The fort is also located within the boundaries of the Governors Island National Monument, established by Presidential Proclamations in 2001 and 2003.

Fort Jay on Governors Island

(This information I credit to the National Park System-Division of Culture website)

Castle Williams       Governors Island               New York, NY 10004

Castle Williams Governors Island New York, NY 10004

Castle Williams

Governors Island

New York, NY 10004

(212) 825-3054

Open: Check the website. It varies by season

https://www.nps.gov/gois/learn/historyculture/castle-williams.htm

https://www.nps.gov/gois/planyourvisit/explore-castle-williams.htm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d6952984-Reviews-Castle_Williams-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My trip to Governors Island on MywalkinManhattan.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/7658

I have toured Castle Williams several times when visiting Governors Island over the last two years. The fort sits at a strategic site on the island facing Manhattan. The fort was originally built to protect New York City from the British during the War of 1812. The British knowing that the City had been fortified for battle never attacked New York.

The tour takes place twice a day for about an hour and you tour the first two levels of the fort. There are all sorts of signs around to show the history of the fort and its uses over the years. The one thing they don’t like is you touching the walls as the fort is still pretty fragile.

The nicest part of the tour is the observation deck at the top of the fort and the views of the Lower Manhattan skyline. It is a spectacular view of the harbor. You can see by the view why the fort was built where it was built and for its purpose before the War of 1812.

It really is a treat to see how fortifications mattered for cities in this time of history in this country.

The History of Castle Williams:

Castle Williams as you walk to the front

Castle Williams is a circular defensive work of red sandstone on the west point of Governors Island in New York Harbor. It was designed and erected between 1807 and 1811. It was designed by the Chief Engineer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lieutenant Colonial Jonathan Williams for whom the fort was named after. It was considered a prototype for new forms of coastal fortification.

The castle was one component of a larger defensive system for the inner harbor that included Fort Jay and the South Battery on Governors Island, Castle Clinton at the tip of Manhattan, Fort Gibson at Ellis Island and Fort Wood, which is now the base of the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island. This system of forts came to be known as the Second American System of coastal defense and existed to protect harbors like the one in New York from British interference with American Shipping.

Castle Williams from the Harbor

Its usefulness as a fort began to end in the 1830’s, so Castle Williams subsequently served as barracks for the island’s garrison and new and transient troops. The castle was then remodeled by the U.S. Army for use as a prison in various forms during the Civil War and through the first half of the 20th Century.

The outside of Castle Williams from the lawn

In 1901, Secretary of War Elihu Root, who worked hard to modernize the Army, made a commitment to preserve the castle and overruled army leaders who wanted to demolish both it and Fort Jay. By 1903, the castle was fitted up as a model, state of art prison facility. In 1947, extensive renovations were carried out with the wooden catwalks replaced by concrete enclosed walk ways, hiding the beautiful stone arches on the third level and resulting in the industrial appearance of the courtyard today. Castle Williams ceased operations as a military prison in 1965 just before the U.S. Army left Governors Island.

The Castle again faced a demolition challenge as Coast Guard officials in Washington DC, who took control of Governors Island in 1966, wanted to demolish it. Instead, the castle was remodeled as a youth community center with a nursery, meeting rooms for Scouts and clubs, a woodworking shop, art studios, a photography laboratory and a museum. By the late 1970’s, the community center moved to another location and the fort became the grounds-keeping shop for the Coast Guard base.

The inside of Castle Williams during the tour of the Castle

Over time, the roof failed and broken windows allowed serious water damage to occur inside the castle. In the mid-1990s, the roof was replaced and new windows stopped further water damage to the structure but the interior remains closed until it can be made safe for public access. The National Park Service proposes to stabilize and restore the castle and eventually provide access to the roof, allowing the public to admire the harbor and the modern skyline of the great city (this has since opened on my last visit).

Governors Island with a view on Lower Manhattan

Castle Williams was individually listed in the National Register of Historic Placed on July 31, 1972. It was recorded by the Historical American Buildings Survey in 1983. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985 and the New York City Landmarks Historic District in 1996. It has been part of the Governors Island National Monument by Presidential Proclamations signed in 2001 and 2003.

(This information was provided by the National Park System Division of Cultural Affairs).

Governors Island Park (the fort is to your top right)

The Castle has since opened for tourists and touring since my last visit in the summer of 2019.