Friday, November 06, 2015 Road Junkies 0 Comments

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, Chapter 6:
If it’s Friday, it’s time to explore some of New York’s green spaces—and find some letterboxes, of course.  We started in Central Park, where the clues for our hidden treasures took us to parts of the park we hadn’t visited before.  Though it’s only the fifth-largest park in New York, it is by far its most visited with about 40 million visitors annually.  In addition, Central Park is by far the most filmed location in the world, having scenes featured in more than 500 films.
Central Park's Dairy
When the park was opened before the Civil War, the southern portion was considered the “children’s district” by designer Frederick Law Olmstead.  At that time, the park’s location was rather remote from the heart of the city below 38th Street, 30 or more blocks south.  Since one of the critical needs of children in that era was fresh milk, a dairy was constructed so families could find a ready supply of milk near the entrance to the park. Still called the Dairy, the building serves today as a visitor center and provides the public with information rather than milk.  It also serves as the official Central Park gift shop.
Central Park Mall
The next letterbox took us on a stroll down Central Park’s Mall, designed as a formal promenade and gathering space.  Said to be the only straight path in the park, the mall is lined with American elm trees, selected for their curvy branches, which create a canopy that mimics an architectural space.  In the late 19th century, numerous statues of renowned writers such as Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott were placed along the mall’s southern section, giving it the nickname the Literary Walk.  
Robert Burns on the Literary Walk
Central Park is so expansive that it even includes a yacht club, albeit the boats are only models.  From March to November, members of the club race their model boats across Conservatory Water, the pond adjacent to the clubhouse.  Unfortunately for us, the races occur on Saturday mornings so we were a day early but did see some sailors enjoying a cruise.
Model yachts on the Conservatory Water
Though our aversion to musicals has quashed any interest in Broadway’s 2015 uber hit show Hamilton, our interest in history propelled us to visit the summer country estate of the real Alexander Hamilton.  In 1798, Hamilton purchased 34 acres of farmland in Upper Manhattan.  The picturesque property was wooded and watered by two streams. Its 200-ft elevation offered expansive views of the rivers bordering Manhattan on both the east and west.  Completed in 1802, the Grange was named for the ancestral Hamilton home in Scotland.
Hamilton Grange
Subsequent to Hamilton’s death in 1804, his widow moved to Washington, DC, and sold the home.  As the city grew around the house, time brought many changes to the Grange—different owners, uses, and even locations.   Finally in 1924, it was purchased by a preservation group and turned into a museum.  
When the National Park Service gained ownership in 1964, the home was sandwiched between a church and an apartment building.  In 2008, the Grange was moved 500 feet to St. Nicholas Park, within the boundaries of Hamilton’s original parcel.  After a complete restoration to its original design, it was opened in 2011 as Hamilton Grange National Memorial.
The last stop on our park tour today was Fort Tryon Park .  Located on a ridge above the Hudson River, the park was gifted to the city of New York by John D. Rockefeller, Jr.  With a series of private property purchases, Rockefeller assembled a 67-acre parcel for his vision of a public park overlooking the river.  Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., the son of Central Park’s visionary, was hired to design the park and oversee its construction.  Extending from 192nd Street north to Riverside Drive, Fort Tryon Park was dedicated for public use in 1935.
Fort Tryon Park
Fort Tryon, named for the last British governor of the colony of New York, had been established at this location, and a November 1776, battle was fought here between American colonial forces and Hessian mercenaries.   American soldier Margaret Corbin, for whom the southern entrance road to the park is named,  became the first woman to fight in the war and was injured during the battle.
The letterbox we found which honors this early American hero offered additional information about her.  “Among those killed that day was a man named John Corbin, of the 1st Company of Pennsylvania Artillery. His 25-year-old wife, Margaret, was with him at the battle. She saw him killed by British fire, and when he went down, she took over his position at a small cannon. It was a vulnerable position, and she soon was wounded by grapeshot. She survived the battle, and all were impressed by her bravery.”
TKTS guides advise theater patrons waiting in line to buy tickets.
By the time we left Fort Tryon, we had walked more than seven miles and were ready to hop the subway for a return to our Times Square hotel.  One of the advisors at the TKTS booth recommended The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night and convinced us to buy tickets.  We later learned that his taste in theater and ours were not compatible.  Even though the play has garnered rave reviews, it just wasn’t for us and we left at the first intermission.

Central Park's Turtle Pond