Thomas Wolfe, American Novelist, was speaking one of the most profound truths when he said, “One belongs to New York instantly; one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.”
As soon as you set foot on New York’s streets, you fall in love. There is nowhere else in the world quite like it. As America’s largest city and one of the premier metropolitan areas in the world, the Big Apple is a thriving hub of life. Located in a perfect natural harbour, New York is a major commercial and economic world centre, and it seems that everyone knows its name.
However, there is far more for visitors to see than the Statue of Liberty. With a deep, rich history and cultural prominence, New York has a great deal to share. From its early colonisation to the present day, the city has been influenced by Britain and Europe, a flavour that is still apparent in the incredible diversity of architecture, music and culture.
New York is the city founded on the hopes and dreams of those willing to do whatever it takes to make their dreams come true; the residents are among the most colourful and diverse in America.
There is much confusion as to why New York City is commonly called “The Big Apple”. Some attribute its origin to apple vendors, a nightclub in Harlem, or the Big Apple dance. Journalist John J. FitzGerald was the first man to push the sobriquet into print. He had heard it from travelling stable boys, who realized the money-making opportunities of New York City and spoke of them at a horse track. Fitzgerald overheard them refer to it as “The Big Apple”. Jazzmen who booked gigs there, particularly Fletcher Henderson, popularised the term afterward. It certainly stuck.
New York consists of five main boroughs. First, there’s The Bronx, home of Yankee stadium, where most New Yorkers come to cheer on the Yankees as part of a traditional New York day. Baseball is extremely important to them. The longest game ever played took place in this state, in 1981, between Rochester and the Pawtucket Red Sox. It lasted 33 innings!
Next, Brooklyn is where you can enjoy a Brooklyn pizza, then ride the world famous Cyclone, a bone shaking wooden roller coaster! After the ride on the Cyclone hop on the subway over to Queens, better known as one of the most culturally diverse areas in New York. The Island of Manhattan is home to the popular suburbs of Harlem and Greenwich Village. Finally, Staten Island is considered one of the forgotten suburbs by its residents but shouldn’t be missed by far! Take a ride on the Staten Island ferry and experience the sights along the New York Harbour. You’ll get to witness what many immigrants considered a symbol of freedom and hope, the majestic Statue of Liberty.
There is no denying that New York is a city that it would take a lifetime to explore. From taking in a show to seeing the historical sights of the metropolis, there is simply too much to fit into a short holiday. However, if you have time for nothing more than a few hours in this incredible place then simply stop and soak in the atmosphere. There is no place in the world as vivid and filled with vitality as New York. If the timing is perfect, you may also observe the lighting of the gigantic Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. It truly is a city that has become far greater than the sum of its magnificent parts.
New York’s past is clearly reflected in the breath-taking panorama of its skyline. Known for its phenomenal skyscrapers, the buildings provide a structural timeline of design. The fifty-seven storey Woolworth building is a pinnacle of gothic revival, designed by Cass Gilbert. Over the decades its distinctive presence has been joined by the Art Deco influence of the Chrysler building and the functionalist movement reflected in the Seagram building.
More traditional and residential buildings are commonly built from brick and stone, after wooden houses were destroyed in the fire of 1835. A wide network of quarries and other sources of building materials give New York’s architecture an eclectic appearance, offering a taste of the state as a whole, rather than the commercially driven city. In the 1800s, wooden water towers were installed on the roofs of all buildings over six storeys high. This led to the distinctive lower skyline that has become a media icon of New York in years gone by.
Many of the city’s cultural buildings form a portfolio of stunning design, and world famous locations such as Carnegie Hall, The Lincoln Centre for Performing Arts, Broadway and the Metropolitan Museum of Art are all spectacular forums of display for the Arts.
Artist Jackson Pollock, the leader of the Abstract Expressionism movement, was from the Big Apple. So was the author Washington Irving, who crafted such classics as A History of New York and Rip Van Winkle.
Washington Irving invented a narrator called Diedrich Knickerbocker for his stories. He was a fictional Dutch descendant and native of New York. Irving often used the character in his satire, and turned his last name into a word describing old-fashioned Dutch settler. They still wore knee-length breeches called knickerbockers instead of trendy trousers; it was an eighteenth century fashion faux pas! The name also came to describe local city dwellers. It was popularised so much that a valuable sports team assumed it: The New York Knickerbockers, otherwise known as the New York Knicks.
Lyman Frank Baum was another prominent figure born in New York. He happens to be the author behind The Wizard of Oz. Now his hometown of Chittenango is dotted with yellow brick sidewalks and Oz-themed shops. Don’t forget the annual Munchkins Parade! Along with numerous artists and authors, quite a few actors and inventors grew up in the Empire State. In 1857, Joseph C. Gayetty created toilet paper and introduced it to the United States.
Gayetty didn’t perfect toilet paper; the earliest tissue gave people splinters on occasion. Nonetheless, he invented something that everyone can still appreciate today. Newspapers and magazines were the cleaning products of choice until Gayetty came along! In fact, the Farmer’s Almanac came with one hole for hanging on a bathroom hook. Other enduring products like Jell-O and marshmallows were New York-based inventions of the 1800s. During that century, mesmerizing music was being invented there as well.
Literature has forever been a corner stone of human civilisation, and New York has always captured the imagination. In particular, Jewish American literature flourished, growing into a leading literary standpoint in the 20th century. Writers such as Saul Bellow (Humboldt’s Gift) and Chaim Potok (The Chosen) were leaders in their genre and had close ties with New York.
Over the years many famous people have claimed New York as their home and birthplace. From politicians and writers to actors and artists, New York has given the world some of the greatest representatives. Brooklyn’s Botanic Gardens is home to the Celebrity Path, where the names of more than one hundred New York sons and daughters, such as Walt Whitman and Barbara Streisand, are immortalised in stone.
Music & The Arts
Music is a major part of New York culture. During the 1920s, proud expression of African-American culture was at its prime. This era came to be known as the Harlem Renaissance. Ethnic literature, music, dance, and art exploded onto the New York scene. Everyone noticed the incredible artistic talent being showcased more than ever before. Stereotypes were crushed and racial barriers were finally broken. Harlem Renaissance Celebrities include author Langston Hughes, along with jazz extraordinaire Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday.
Decades later, the Ramones were popularizing punk rock in the seventies, whilst hip-hop was making its debut through block parties in the Bronx. One rapper even named the Zoo York Tunnel. Since there were no night guards during its construction, a group of teenage graffiti artists collectively called “The Underground” used the tunnel as an open canvas in the mid-seventies. The spectacular spray painter who named the tunnel was none other than rapper ALI. It wasn’t because of the teenagers’ monkey-like behaviour, but because he saw New York as a zoo full of confined spaces.
Every component of “The Arts” has a fighting chance in New York City. Only five American cities house permanent companies for every performing arts discipline. Those in the Big Apple include the New York City Ballet, Opera, Philharmonic, and Public Theater. Lastly comes the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; the largest institute of its kind in the world. Even Juilliard is part of this massive 16.3 acre complex.
The New York Philharmonic, which has contributed substantially to the state’s musical prestige, was established in 1842. No American symphony orchestra dates farther back. The orchestra set a Guinness World Record for most concerts played in 2002 during performance number 14,000! One notable conductor of the Philharmonic is Arturo Toscanini. After he led a tour through Europe in the thirties, the Philharmonic received international fame and acclaim. Now the renowned musicians play at historic Avery Fisher Hall.
Skills learned in the Lincoln Centre can be taken to Broadway. Thirty-nine distinguished theatres line the street, part of the theatre district, which hosts world-class productions like Phantom of the Opera and Cats. Showbiz boomed in New York. During the silent film era, the Kaufman-Astoria film studio was built in Queens and used by stars such as the Marx Brothers. Soon the film industry headed westward, toward California. Television took over in the Big Apple. The Kaufman-Astoria building was used for filming hits like Sesame Street and The Cosby Show. Of course, many smash hit movies have been filmed there, including Spider Man, Splash, King Kong, The Godfather, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Ghostbusters.
With a state motto like “excelsior”, which is Latin for “forever upwards”, New York businesses are bound for success. Vaudeville was started there in 1881. The talent shows presented performers of all kinds as long as they had impressive acts. Everything from monologues to animal acts might be accepted. Amateur performances (along with beauty pageants) were held on the subway. Performers had opportunities aplenty when vaudeville was popular.
New York is one of the social and cultural melting pots of the world, and people of all creeds make the city their home. Catholics, Jews and Muslims all worship in this versatile metropolis, and there are many beautiful buildings dedicated to the pursuit of religion.
Located on Third Avenue between 96th and 97th street, the New York Mosque is the primary site of worship for practitioners of Islam in New York. This modern masterpiece evokes many traditional aspects of Islamic worship, including alignment to Mecca and the distinctive dome that forms a smooth curve in the sharp corners of New York’s lower skyline.
With its twin emerald domes, the Central Synagogue is a key location to the Jewish community, exploring both modern and traditional forms of prayer. Design
ed by Henry Fernbach, this synagogue is truly awe-inspiring. Tours are available at certain times of day, and it is well worth a visit to admire the stunning stained glass and architectural detail of an incredibly distinctive building that has kept its roots firmly in the teachings of Judaism.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, constructed in the Neo-Gothic style, can be considered alongside Notre Dame and Westminster as one of the most graceful and influential cathedrals of the world.
As the seat of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, it is a centrepiece for Catholicism in the city. Built of white marble, with towers rising more than 300 feet into the air, this building has a commanding presence. With a rose window designed by Charles Connick, and minor alters designed by the jeweller Tiffany & Co., the cathedral perfectly blends modern and traditional elements, which culminate in a stunning representation of New York’s catholic community.
With such a vast diversity of religions; churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship are commonplace amidst the commercial and residential areas of New York, each with its own distinct flavour and interpretation of the cultural influences of religion on this great city.
New York is full of wonder. Ten intriguing subjects in particular deserve mention.
- Niagara Falls has receded seven miles in the last 10,000 years due to erosion. Now some people tumble in barrels over the falls; a 167 foot plummet.
- In July of 1945, a B-25 bomber crash landed into the seventy-ninth story of the Empire State Building. It was an unfortunate accident.
- Babe Ruth’s first home run was during the first Yankee Stadium game ever played.
- The New York State Canal System is over 500 miles long.
- George Washington took his oath of office at Federal Hall on Wall Street.
- New York was first of the states to require license plates displayed on vehicles.
- Dairy farming is the most prolific agricultural business in the state.
- Adirondack Park has much more acreage than Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon combined.
- The first New York City pizzeria was opened by Gennaro Lombardi in 1895. Its original recipe pizza is still served to this day.
- Sam Wilson was a meatpacker from Troy, NY, who sent products labelled U.S. Beef to soldiers. They thought U.S. stood for Uncle Sam.