The Messiah College History department hit the road yesterday for a field trip to New York City. Students in our U.S. Urban History course went to the New York Public Library, Central Park, and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. Students in our History of the Middle East class went to the U.N. And I took my students on a revolutionary-era walking tour through lower Manhattan.
Stops along my tour included:
“The Commons” (City Hall Park), St. Paul’s Church (with a brief stop at Ground Zero), St. Johns United Methodist Church, Golden Hill, Murray’s Wharf, Federal Hall, Trinity Church (and Alexander Hamilton’s grave), Bowling Green, Fraunces Tavern Museum (which was closed), and Hanover Square. (Then, since we had some time to kill, we headed over to Battery Park).
Unlike revolutionary-era tours I have done in Philadelphia, I have concluded that the New York-area walking tour requires too much of a student’s imagination. How can you get them to try to imagine the events surrounding the so-called “Battle of Golden Hill” when you are standing amid skyscrapers?
Perhaps the most moving and interesting part of the trip was the visit to St. Paul’s Church. For those of you unfamiliar, St. Paul’s, a “chapel” of the larger Trinity Church, is the oldest church building in New York City (1766).
Today it presents a very eclectic mix of historical and sacred space. There are only two original pews left in the building. One belonged to longtime New York governor George Clinton and the other belonged to George Washington, who worshiped at St. Paul’s while he was president of the United States.
St. Paul’s has also become a shrine to the victims of 9-11. Ground Zero is located just behind the church and, amazingly, during the collapse of the World Trade Center the church suffered no major damage–not even a broken window. So as we wondered (somberly and quietly, I might add) through the sanctuary (which feels more like a museum than a church) you experience a fascinating blend of the sacred. 18th century markers are mixed with makeshift shrines to the victims of 9-11. It is a lot to process.
After the Revolutionary-era stuff, we walked up to Little Italy and had dinner at Lombardi’s Pizza and cannoli at Ferrara’s. I wanted to go visit the place where my grandmother was born (202 Hester St.), but we did not have the time.
I say it was a pretty good day. I hope my students agree. At least one of them had never been to NYC before and several of them had never eaten a cannoli!
Now I am thinking about a possible field trip for next semester’s early American republic course (1789-1812). Any suggestions?
Janine Giordano says
Seneca Falls! Harriet Tubman's house. The landmarks of where Alexis de Tocqueville stayed…. I went there on a field trip when I was in college (though we were already upstate New York).