The Sites of Exquisite Folly Today

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Reade Street (north side, looking west)

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Reade Street (south side, looking west)

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Site of fictional Colegrove mansion

Now “way downtown,” Reade Street was the northern edge of town in 1765. Cultivated fields or orchards would have faced the Nugents’ backyard. Farmyard animals for neighbors!

This is also the middle block. Mrs. Williams’ house—and the riot she caused—are imagined to have been in the far block, which would have been terminated then at the river’s edge.

It is almost as difficult to imagine lower Manhattan being composed of houses as it is of farmland. City houses were, however, compressed together for overall security.

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Broadway & Liberty Street (looking east)

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140 Broadway (looking up)

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Zuccotti Park (north side, looking west)

Where I imagined ten elegant houses, with backyards, separated by an alley, is now one giant skyscraper, 140 Broadway. The streets would have been narrower, the plaza nonexistent.

Known originally as the Marine Midland Building, the 51-story tower, built in 1967, is still among the city’s tallest structures. The plaza’s red cube is not an 18th Century artefact.

Originally created as Liberty Plaza Park in 1968, the public space is actually privately owned and maintained. It is directly across Broadway from the Marine Midland Building.

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Zuccotti Park (looking west)

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Zuccotti Park (south side, looking west)

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Site of Ranelagh Gardens

In 2011, the fact of its private ownership led to its selection as the stronghold of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which camped out in the park for fourteen months.

The park was damaged in the 2001 attack, restored, and renamed for businessman John Zuccotti. As zuccotti are Italian desserts, I too coyly placed Sweet’s public house on the site.

When the gardens were created in 1765, Church Street was beyond town. Here we see the east side of Church, from Duane Street north to Leonard, roughly the location.

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Original site of King’s College

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Broadway (looking south from Morris Street)

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Looking south toward the Customs House

This structure takes up the bulk of the south side of Murray Street between Church and West Broadway. It was once home to a building with a green in front that became Columbia University.

The locus of many a ticker-tape parade in the last century, Broadway has been central to New York City events since the Dutch laid it out. The protests of 1765 repeatedly traversed it.

In 1765, Bowling Green was the most coveted residential address of the city. My guess is that the park was actually a green lawn, and the trees were around the periphery, next to the houses.

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Bowling Green (looking south)

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Site of Fort George

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State Street (looking south)

The equestrian statue of George III that once adorned the Green was erected in 1770—in entirely erroneous gratitude for the king’s supposed efforts against the Stamp Act.

The Customs House/Museum stands right where the fort used to be. The fort was probably about as high as the second story windows of the museum, with a single, massive gate.

The fort had roughly the same footprint as  the Customs House. It included several buildings. Its sheer walls sloped outward. Trees were planted along its formidable sides.

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Eastern edge of Battery Park

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Site of Vauxhall Gardens

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Chambers Street (looking west)

From the edge of the fort, the land sloped  quickly to the river—much closer than today. Cannon were at the extreme edge—to batter any enemy warship that got so far.

Looking east and south across the corner of Chambers Street and “the road to Greenwich Village,” Vauxhall was a briefly-flourishing private park akin to Grammercy Park.

View from the previous corner, simply facing the opposite direction.  Included only because of the curiosity that this spot was then the edge of the Hudson River.

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Murray Street (looking east)

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City Hall Park and Broadway (facing south)

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Vesey Street and Broadway (looking west)

Major Thomas James’ house was “on the square facing the park.” But the maps don’t indicate a square. Therefore I placed it on Greenwich Street between Warren and Murray.

What is now City Hall Park was an open public green space, usually called “the fields” in 1765. In addition to being literally common pasturage, it was ideal for any large public assembly.

The venerable St. Paul’s Chapel, which survived the fire of 1776 and the attack of 2001, was not there in 1765. It was built as an extension of Trinity Church … in 1768.

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West 230th Street (looking southeast)

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West 230th Street (looking east)

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The 230th Street bridge looking south)

There are probably surveyor’s plots on file that give a more precise locus for the Kingsbridge that stood in the vicinity beginning in 1693—until well into the 19th Century the only bridge.

When the Channel was created in the 1880s, the blocks of Manhattan that were suddenly separated by water from the island and joined to the mainland remained in New York County.

For hundreds of yards, the Major Deegan Expressway follows the original route of the Harlem River/Spuyten Duyvil Creek. Large commercial boats could not navigate it.

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Harlem River (looking west from Broadway)

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Mamaroneck Harbor entrance

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McMichael’s boatyard, Mamaroneck

This section is an artificial canal, a deep, half-mile shortcut created in the same decade that Hell Gate was widened. The Alexander Hamilton Bridge and New Jersey are in the distance.

Mamaroneck is like most Long Island Sound harbors: a creek leading to a shallow tidal estuary. Before boats had auxiliary motors, only muscle would bring in a boat in adverse wind.

Far more conveniently arranged than anything was in the 18th Century boats, the wharf here is two hundred yards down a slight slope from the Boston Post Road.

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Mamaroneck harbor (looking outward)

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Mamaroneck United Methodist Church

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City Island (looking south)

This looks somewhat more open than it practically is. A cruising yacht that draws a mere six feet needs to follow a marked channel almost two miles in order to reach deep water.

Located at the top of a rise a hundred yards up East Boston Post Road from the boatyard,  the site of this 1859 church is a logical place to imagine Aaron Colegrove’s family estate.

A mile and a half from end to end, City Island is a charming anomaly: a self-contained village with a centuries-old history of fishing and boat-building, located in The Bronx, New York City.


Photos of sites that were visited in previous novels of the series:

Hanover Square

Peck Slip

City Hall

Maiden Lane

Trinity Church

Stone Street

New Utrecht





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