Around City Hall
The busy, though lovely, City Hall Park was first a cow pasture, then a gathering place for Revolutionary-era political meetings. Now it’s the site of City Hall (212/788-3000, www.nyc.gov), one of the finest Federal-style buildings in New York. The City Hall area is full of impressive buildings and a visit to City Hall Park is rewarding in itself. The very interested may take a tour of City Hall offered Thursday mornings at 10 a.m. (call 311 or visit www.nyc.gov to make reservations).
At the edge of City Hall Park stands the Woolworth Building (233 Broadway, between Barclay St. and Park Pl.). Its glistening white walls and green copper roofs are best seen from a distance, where they can be appreciated in all their glory, but up close, the 1913 Cass Gilbert extravaganza is also a visual feast. Craggy-faced gargoyles peer down from a detailed Gothic exterior, while mosaic-covered ceilings grace the lobby. One lobby caricature shows Frank Woolworth, king of the discount stores, counting out his nickels and dimes. A farmer’s son, Woolworth began as a salesman earning $8 a week. By the time he built his $13.5 million headquarters, however, he was able to pay for it in cash.
Near the park’s southern end is the new NYC Heritage Tourism Center (Broadway and Barclay St., 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Sat.–Sun.), a joint venture between the city and The History Channel. The kiosk provides information on history-themed tours, activities, and events in downtown New York.
Behind City Hall is Tweed Courthouse (52 Chambers St.). William Marcy “Boss” Tweed and the Tammany Hall machine oversaw the building of the courthouse, which ultimately cost the city millions of dollars. The courthouse is now home to the city’s Board of Education. In the building’s lobby is a notable WPA mural.
Other landmarks in the area include Park Row, the diagonal street across from the Woolworth Building that was once the center of New York’s newspaper industry; Surrogate’s Court and Hall of Records (31 Chambers St.), at the north end of City Hall Park, a glorious, ostentatious building in the traditional Beaux-Arts style; and to its east, the skyscraping 1913 Municipal Building, designed by McKim, Mead & White. The Municipal Building houses many city offices, including those of the justice of the peace, where as many as 14,000 couples are married every year.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition