Skip to main content

For Presidents' Day: U.S. Presidents in New York City

(Revised February 2013) The Big Apple has played an important role in the history of the U.S. Presidency, including the two Presidents whose birthdays are near this date - Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and George Washington (February 22). In celebration of Presidents' Day, enjoy this compilation of presidential-themed posts previously published on Walking Off the Big Apple.

George Washington, Washington Square Arch, Washington Square Park. night.
The arch served to commemorate the Centennial of Washington's Inauguration, an event that took place downtown. The pier statues were added later -"Washington at War" on the left of the arch by Herman MacNeil in 1916 and "Washington at Peace" on the right by Alexander Stirling Calder in 1918. Yes, Calder was the father of the famous mobile artist, Alexander Calder.

On December 7, 1988, President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H. W. Bush met with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on Governors Island, then the headquarters for the Coast Guard. Documentation of the events that day remained secret for twenty years, but the release of both Soviet and American materials, analyzed and posted by the National Security Archive (see sources at end of post), provides a vivid picture of the dramatic events that unfolded around the meeting. Furthermore, now that Governors Island is open to the public, including the Commanders House where the leaders met for lunch, it is now possible to reconstruct the historic events by matching the words of a declassified memorandum describing the lunch with images of the interiors of the house today. The small talk that characterized the lunch, however, does not betray the extraordinary surprise that the Soviet leader unveiled earlier that morning in a speech to the United Nations. (more)

Commanders House, Governors Island.
"Gorbachev said each time they met the weather got better. 
The President replied jovially that we arranged that."

For most of his life in New York, Arthur lived at 123 Lexington, near the intersection of E. 28th Street, and walking over to see this National Historic Landmark on an unassuming stretch of Lexington is worth one's time, because the air smells so good. Many of the businesses in this neighborhood south of Murray Hill are Indian restaurants, although restaurants of other national cuisines are plentiful. There's nothing much Chester Arthur-related at this address, except for a plaque in the window, but you have to go inside. Kalustyan's, the business that occupies the site, as far as I know, is the best spice store in the entire world. (more)

[Events related to the assassination of President Garfield] wood engraving.
From LOC records: "Prints show Alexander Graham Bell using his induction-balance device to locate the bullet in President Garfield's body; fireworks at Fort Greene in Brooklyn, New York; and an evening service at Asbury Park, New Jersey." Illus. in: Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper, v. 52, no. 1351 (1881 August 20), pp. 412-413.
Note: After President Garfied died from his injuries, Chester A. Arthur assumed the Presidency, taking the first oath
of office at his New York residence on Lexington Avenue (present-day Kalustyan's food shop.) 


Grant Memorial
When was the last time you visited the final resting place for Civil War General and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant and his lovely wife, Julia Dent Grant? For me, I had a hard time remembering, and still won't say, the year I last ... (more)


In September of 1927, powerful Boston patriarch Joseph Patrick "Joe" Kennedy, Sr. moved his growing family from Boston, Massachusetts to Riverdale, an affluent neighborhood in the Bronx. Two years later the family moved to Bronxville five miles to the north. The houses in each place (the first in map below at 5040 Independence Avenue, just across from Wave Hill) sported some twenty rooms, sprawling comfortable mansions perfect for indoor and outdoor sports. John Kennedy, the future President, attended Riverdale Country School from 5th through 7th grade. When he wasn't spending the summer in Hyannisport, Massachusetts or Christmas or Easter in Palm Beach, Jack was in the Bronx. On Saturdays, his father took the kids into the city. Let's call JFK a New Yorker. Middle school makes the man. (more)


Portrait of Lincoln by Mathew Brady
taken at the photographer's studio at the corner of
Broadway and Bleecker Street.
Known as the "Cooper Union Portrait."
February 27, 1860.
Lincoln, who was relatively unknown to New Yorkers at this time and not yet the official nominee of the young Republican Party, worked hard finishing his speech, the one he was to deliver that night at Cooper Union. He arrived in New York two days before, finding his way by himself to Astor House, John Jacob Astor's hotel on Broadway between Vesey and Barclay Streets. The hotel, just across the street from City Hall, was a beautiful five-story Greek Revival building with gaslights and bathing facilities on each floor. On Sunday morning, Lincoln took the ferry over to Brooklyn to Plymouth Church to hear Henry Ward Beecher preach from the pulpit. Though invited to visit with locals after the service, he explained he needed to go back to the hotel and work on his speech.

On Monday, some supporters greeted Lincoln at the hotel and persuaded him to come along for a stroll up Broadway. Among the establishments he visited was the Know Great Hat and Cap Establishment at Broad and Fulton Street, and according to George Haven Putnam, a contemporary writer, there he received a free silk top hat. Afterward, the entourage took Lincoln to Mathew Brady's gallery on Broadway near the corner of Bleecker to get his picture taken. The handsome three-quarter-length picture, showing an almost painfully thin (look at those sunken cheekbones!) Lincoln, became a favorite collectible carte de visite and is known, even by Abe himself, to have contributed to the Illinois politician's popularity. (more)



Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, located at the south tip of Roosevelt Island, officially opened to the public on October 24, 2012, just a few days before the city was hit by Hurricane Sandy. What follows are pictures and thoughts from a visit to the park on the afternoon of Sunday, December 2, 2012.  (more)

Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island

Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace, 28 E. 20th St.

(left) At Theodore Roosevelt's boyhood home, visions of the young and privileged near-sighted boy of the East, raised by a doting, powerful and wealthy Knickerbocker father, one who instilled in him the important value of fairness, and to a lesser extent, by a beautiful Georgia peach of a mom, a woman who bore sympathies with the Confederate South... (more)

Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site is open Tuesday-Saturday, 9:00am-5:00pm. The period rooms can only be seen by guided tours, available on the hour.



For two hours, while the couple dined inside, we watched the slow and deliberate motions of the New York police officers and Secret Service personnel as they worked to keep us in line. Much attention was directed toward the heavily-armed men and the suited men from the Secret Service. All wore ear pieces, maintained a look of cool and calm, and in general, lived up to what we think of Secret Service from the movies. Our own New York police officers outwardly showed more humor with the assembling crowd, as they're accustomed to humoring us. (more)


The arch served to commemorate the Centennial of Washington's Inauguration, an event that took place downtown. The pier statues were added later -"Washington at War" on the left of the arch by Herman MacNeil in 1916 and "Washington at Peace" on the right by Alexander Stirling Calder in 1918. Yes, Calder was the father of the famous mobile artist, Alexander Calder. (more)



The inaugural ceremony of Washington as the first President of the United States took place April 30, 1789 on the balcony of Federal Hall on Wall Street. (below)



Images by Walking Off the Big Apple.









Popular posts from this blog

Circling the Met: A Springtime Visit to Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art

For a double feature of art and nature, the Metropolitan Museum of Art happens to be conveniently situated in Central Park. The front of the museum faces Fifth Avenue, its monumental wings stretching the blocks between E. 80th and E. 84th. The sides and the back of the museum are within easy walking distance of several prominent landmarks within the park.  Cedar Hill in Central Park Before a visit to the Met, consider taking a walk around the museum beginning on the southern side. A walk in the park can serve as a good preparation for a museum visit, because looking at or noticing the shapes and colors of the built and natural environment can enhance the art experience. Cedar Hill in Central Park The path south of the 79 Street Transverse leads to a scene at Cedar Hill very much like a panorama, with a vast wide-angle expanse of green grass and hill. Take the first path that leads back over 79th Street to the southern side of the museum. This path brilliantly disguises the motor traffi

A New York Spring Calendar: Blooming Times and Seasonal Events

See the UPDATED 2018 CALENDAR HERE . Updated for 2017 . At this time of year, thoughts turn to spring. Let's spring forward to blooming times, the best locations for witnessing spring's beginnings, and springtime events in the big city. While the occasional snow could blow through the city, we're just weeks now from callery pears in bloom and opening day at the ballpark. In The Ramble, Central Park. mid-April Blooming Times •  Central Park Conservancy's website  lists blooming times within the park. During the month of March we begin to see crocus, daffodils, forsythia, snowdrops, witch-hazel, and hellebores. Species tulips will emerge in several places, but the Shakespeare Garden and Conservatory Garden are particularly good places to catch the beginning of Spring blooms. Central Park near E. 72nd St., saucer magnolia, typically end of March. •  Citywide Blooming Calendar from New York City Department of Parks & Recreation April is u

The Lonesome Metropolis: A Walk from Grand Central Terminal to Rockefeller Center

As New York City reopens, why do the attractions of the great metropolis still look mostly deserted on a summer morning? A morning walk from Grand Central Terminal to Rockefeller Center sought to address this question. As it turns out, there are several adequate explanations. But for what happens next, there are no right answers. Grand Central Terminal, 9:40 am. Wednesday, July 22, 2020. Many neighborhoods outside of tourist New York are still buzzing along. While some residents of wealthier neighborhoods have largely decamped to mountain cabins, beach houses, and other second homes, the less wealthy have nowhere to go and may still be working. Just visit Washington Heights or Corona or Flatbush, and you’ll see sidewalks full of shoppers and summer evening street partiers. Those who fled the city remain only a fraction of the total population.   Grand Central Terminal, 9:40 am. Wednesday, July 22, 2020. Other renowned parts of the city such as City Hall and Brooklyn Bridge have been fr

Visiting New York City Again on the First Day of Spring

  The first weekend of spring in New York City coincided with bright and pleasing weather. Blue skies and Blue Jays, Bald Eagles and brightened crowds greeted the new season, at least in my world. It may be a cliché to say something like “Hope is in the air,” but contrast this spring of 2021 with the one a year ago, the new mood is palpable. Last year during early spring, the city shut down, in caution and crisis, but this season feels like a resurrection, albeit still cautious. The Met Steps on Fifth Avenue Last spring, when many of the city’s residents feared going outside, many are at least partially vaccinated now. The numbers rise every day. I have been fully vaccinated for a month now, so I used the occasion to revisit New York City. I have been out and about in my neighborhood, but in terms of the public New York City, the one celebrated in tourist books and on this website, I have not ventured there much at all.  A Bald Eagle grasps a fish in its talons outside the Met Cloister

Early Voting in Washington Heights, and A Walk

Early voting for the 2020 federal election in New York began on Saturday, October 24 and continues through Sunday, November 1. The weekend was overcast and autumnal, with the bright yellows of fall on display. In New York City, thousands of New Yorkers turned out at the 88 early voting locations and waited in long lines, many stretching around the block.  A line to vote in Washington Heights. The line stretched around the block multiple times. Madison Square Garden in Manhattan and the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn were two of the well-known sites, but most voting places were typical neighborhood places such as schools, churches, and hospitals.   The scene outside the entrance to the Russ Berrie Medical Science Pavilion, one of the early voting locations in Washington Heights. In Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan, two early voting locations were within a short walk of one another, causing some confusion for voters emerging from the 168th Street subway station. The Columbia Universit

North Towards Autumn: A Day Trip on the Metro-North Hudson Line

The peak of autumn colors in New York City tends to fall sometime in the days following Halloween, but those anxiously waiting leaf change can simply travel north.  Near Beacon, a view of autumn colors from the Metro-North Hudson line One way to speed the fall season is to take the Hudson line of Metro-North north of the city and watch the greens fade to oranges and yellows and the occasional burst of red.  Autumn light in Hastings-on-Hudson Weekends during the month of October are ideal times to make the trip. The air tends to be crisp with bright blue skies, and the Hudson River glimmers like a mirror in the light of autumn. As the Hudson line hugs the river for much of the distance north, the train ride alone provides plenty of opportunities for sightseeing. Try to grab a window seat on the river side of the train car for views of the Palisades and the bends of the Hudson Highlands later in the trip.   Autumn leaves on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail in Hastings Still, October is a gr

Traversing Manhattan: An Afternoon Trip to the Battery and Back Again

  Wherein the vaccinated sightseer from Northern Manhattan travels to the southern end of the island by means of the express bus, the MTA subway, and the NYC ferry, with a little sauntering on foot In Battery Park, during the first blushes of spring in New York. View of One World Trade Center Residents of the far north and far south of Manhattan are the ones most keenly aware that they live on an island. The north end of the borough tapers to a relatively small area of land, bounded by the confluence of the Harlem and Hudson Rivers and the waters of Spuyten Duyvil. The land is hilly and green, with an old growth forest. The Battery sits on the southern end, a land where the geography is defined by the meeting of the East River, the Hudson River, and the vast New York Harbor. Manhattan stretches a little over 13 miles on the long side and just 2.3, more or less, at its width. On 42nd Street, approaching Grand Central Terminal. A resident of the hilly northern terrain may sometimes long

Walking on Snow

❄ ❄ ❄ ❄ For the better part of this new year, snow has been either on the ground or in the forecast. In the city landscape, the streets look enchanting for a day or so and then devolve into a dirty mess. This sort of snow is unappealing for an invigorating walk. A snowy path in Inwood Hill Park The forest, on the other hand, has managed to stay enchanting throughout each bout of winter weather. The presence of owls and hawks, bright red cardinals and sweet chickadees, and brown squirrels and black squirrels transform the woodlands into a fairy tale. An Eastern Screech-Owl at home in the winter forest I've spent much of the whole pandemic year, going back to March 2020, in the woods of Inwood Hill Park in Northern Manhattan. While I have been accustomed to walking through the park in spring, summer, and autumn, I've never managed to engage with the deepest parts of the forest when a lot of snow was on the ground. Last winter there wasn't much snow anyway. Eastern Screech-Owl

The Most Beautiful Bridge in the World

Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier (1887 - 1965), the leading proponent of the International Style of modern architecture, visited NYC on several occasions in the 1930s and 1940s, and he made much to say about the skyscraper city. He didn’t think much of the faux tops of the tall buildings nor did he care about the haphazard city planning, but he did fall madly in love with one particular bridge:  "The George Washington Bridge over the Hudson is the most beautiful bridge in the world. Made of cables and steel beams, it gleams in the sky like a reversed arch. It is blessed. It is the only seat of grace in the disordered city. It is painted an aluminum color and, between water and sky, you see nothing but the bent cord supported by two steel towers. When your car moves up the ramp the two towers rise so high that it brings you happiness; their structure is so pure, so resolute, so regular that here, finally, steel architecture seems to laugh. The car reaches an unexpectedly wide apr

NYC Re-openings and Travel Advice

What will open, and how will you get there? This list will be updated following official announcements. UPDATED October 10, 2020.  Many favorite local destinations have now reopened.  Hand sanitizer dispenser at the Marble Hill station of Metro-North's Hudson line Openings  - General Information and Popular Destinations    • Restaurants: Consult this NYC Department of Transportation map  (updated link) for restaurants currently open in NYC. Starting September 30, NYC allowed indoor dining at 25% capacity. • As of September 25, outdoor dining in NYC has been extended FOREVER. • The  9/11 Memorial  reopened on Saturday, July 4. Visitors must wear masks and keep social distancing practices. • (update) Libraries: NYPL. T he library will allow a grab-and-go service at 50 locations.   • Governors Island reopened July 15 with advance reserved tickets.  • The High Line  reopened on July 16, with several rules and limitations in place, including timed entry passes - available July 9. Entra