Category Archives: New York

Saint Paul's Church National Historic Site

Overview

St. Paul’s parish in Mount Vernon, New York dates back to 1665, with the first church constructed in 1700.  It was deconsecrated so the federal government could take ownership in 1980.  This was the site of an important election in 1733 when Quakers were prohibited from voting, which led to a change in the law the next year.  That election was covered in a newspaper opposed to Royal Governor William Cosby that subsequently went to court for libel, in a trial that helped established the freedom of the press in America.

Highlights

Church tour, 1833 pipe organ, film, cemetery

Must-Do Activity

Start your visit at the former carriage shed-parish hall where there is a small museum and a short film about the church’s historical significance.  A volunteer will then give you a guided tour of the church that was built between 1763-87, interrupted by the American Revolution.  In 1942, the pews were restored to their original configuration based on a historical document.  If you are lucky, your guide will play the 1833 pipe organ and let you ring the bronze bell that was cast in 1758 at the same foundry in London that made the Liberty Bell.  We met fellow National Park blogger Theresa here on a Saturday morning in September 2019.  She posted about the visit on her excellent blog National Parks with T.

Best Trail

None, but you can walk next door to Dunkin Donuts if you arrive before the site opens.

Instagram-worthy Photo

St. Paul’s cemetery covers five acres and contains about 9,000 graves, dating back to 1704.  Your guide will spend a bit of time covering some famous ones, but be sure to seek out the common grave for Hessian soldiers that used the church as a hospital following the October 1776 Battle of Pell’s Point (fought a mile from here).

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/sapa/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

There is a small parking lot on site, which is far enough outside Manhattan that driving is feasible.  We took the subway and had a short walk through an industrial neighborhood.

Camping

None

Related Sites

Saratoga National Historical Park (New York)

African Burial Ground National Monument (New York)

Morristown National Historical Park (New Jersey)

Explore More – Who was the New York City publisher who in 1733 printed the inaugural issue of the New York Weekly Journal that later went to trial for libel?

Gateway National Recreation Area

Overview

Approximately 9-million visitors utilize the 26,600 acres of Gateway National Recreation Area annually, ranking it the fourth busiest unit in the National Park Service (NPS) System.  This is not surprising when you consider the number of people that live around New York Harbor.  The park is divided into three units: New Jersey’s Sandy Hook, and New York’s Staten Island and Jamaica Bay.

Highlights

Fort Wadsworth, Sandy Hook Lighthouse, Fort Hancock, Floyd Bennett Field, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

Must-Do Activity

On Staten Island, tours are offered of Fort Wadsworth, which sits at the base of the beautiful Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to Long Island.  It was part of the coastal defense system created to protect New York Harbor in the 1800s, which is clearly displayed at the outstanding NPS museum on the cliff above Fort Wadsworth.  In 1913, President William Howard Taft attended a ceremony dedicating the National American Indian Memorial to be built inside the fort, but it never came to fruition because of World War I.

Best Trail

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is a great spot for birdwatching or watching airplanes take off and land at JFK Airport.  The trail around West Pond takes about an hour to walk and feels worlds away from Manhattan, which is visible on the skyline.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area is located on a spit of sand that sticks out from the New Jersey shoreline.  It offers beaches, tours of Fort Hancock, and a lighthouse that dates back to 1764 (making it the oldest continuously operated one in the U.S.).  For photos of Sandy Hook, check out our fellow National Park blogger Theresa’s website.  Below is one of her excellent photographs of Sandy Hook Lighthouse.

Peak Season

Summer for the beaches

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/gate/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None, except for beach parking at Sandy Hook and Jacob Riis Park in Queens (plus toll roads/bridges).

Road Conditions

All roads are paved, plus many of the units of Gateway National Recreation Area are accessible by public transportation.

Camping

The NPS offers camping at all three units of Gateway National Recreation Area, so check the NPS website for details.

Related Sites

Statue of Liberty National Monument (New York-New Jersey)

Fire Island National Seashore (New York)

Thomas Edison National Historical Park (New Jersey)

Explore More – What famous U.S. coin was first publicly displayed at the 1913 dedication of the National American Indian Memorial at Fort Wadsworth?

Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River

Overview

Authorized in 1978, this 73-mile stretch of the Upper Delaware River is the longest free-flowing river in the northeast United States.  Forming the Pennsylvania-New York borderline, only 30 of its 55,575 acres are federally owned.  Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River is one of 43 designated National Wild and Scenic Rivers, 10 of which are managed by the National Park Service (NPS).

Highlights

Zane Grey Museum, Roebling Aqueduct, fishing

Must-Do Activity

The Upper Delaware River is famous for year-round bald eagle viewing, Class I and II whitewater rafting, and fishing for smallmouth bass and walleye.  The NPS runs the Zane Grey Museum, which celebrates the “Father of the Western Novel” who lived in Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania from 1905 to 1918 and loved fishing here (and throughout his worldwide travels).  It was in this house that the former dentist (Zane Grey) wrote many articles about his outdoor adventures, as well as his novels, including Riders of the Purple Sage (published in 1912).

Best Trail

There are six trails you are required to complete in order to earn your Upper Delaware Hikes patch from the NPS, ranging in length from the quarter-mile Minisink Battleground (Revolutionary War) to the three-mile Tusten Mountain Trail, which provides an excellent view of the river valley.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Within eyeshot of the Zane Grey Museum, the Roebling Aqueduct operated between 1848 and 1898 to allowed coal-laden canal boats to cross over the Upper Delaware River.  Its architect is better known for the Brooklyn Bridge, but this aqueduct was converted to a one-lane car bridge before being purchased by the NPS in 1980.

Peak Season

Spring through fall

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/upde/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All major roads paved, with Highway 97 in New York following the river for most of its length.

Camping

There are no NPS campgrounds, but many private ones along the Upper Delaware River.

Related Sites

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (Pennsylvania-New Jersey)

Buffalo National River (Arkansas)

Minute Man National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

Explore More – Although they live in the Delaware River for most of their lives, what is the name of the sea in the Atlantic Ocean where eels migrate to spawn and die?

Stonewall National Monument

Overview

A raid by New York City police officers at the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969 was not out of the ordinary, but the response by its patrons secured its place in history.  At the time, it was illegal to serve alcohol to homosexuals, so the Stonewall Inn was operated by the Mafia as a “private” club.  The police raid resulted in six nights of civil rights protests outside the bar around Christopher Park, gathering approximately 2,000 supporters on the second night.  It was not the first gay pride protest in America, but it did have a lasting impact with more than a thousand LGBTQ groups forming in the following year.

Highlights

Christopher Park, George Segal sculpture

Must-Do Activity

In 2016, President Obama designated Stonewall National Monument in Christopher Park, across the street from the Stonewall Inn.  During the summer, park rangers are on site approximately 11-1 and 3-4 every day, but we were told it is best to call beforehand to verify.  The Stonewall Inn is still a business and not owned by the National Park Service (NPS), so nobody under age 21 is allowed in. 

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

A sculpture by George Segal entitled Gay Liberation Monument was commissioned in 1979, but not installed in Christopher Park until 1992 due to public opposition.  It depicts two standing men and two seated women comforting one another in their shared struggle for acceptance.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/ston/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

Roads are heavily trafficked and there is no designated parking so we recommend you take the subway.

Camping

None

Related Sites

Women’s Rights National Historical Park (New York)

Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site (Arkansas)

César E. Chávez National Monument (California)

Explore More – The original bar closed following the protests, so when did the current iteration of the Stonewall Inn open?

Women’s Rights National Historical Park

Overview

In 1848, Seneca Falls was a small rural town in New York and it still remains that way, but on July 19 of that year it became the focus of the world when it hosted the first Women’s Rights Convention.  Women’s Rights National Historical Park was established on seven acres here in 1980.  Some of the National Park Service (NPS) museum exhibits have not been updated since then, but they still make you think, which is the important point.

Highlights

Museum, film, sculptures, 1843 Wesleyan Chapel, Declaration Park, Elizabeth Cady Stanton house

Must-Do Activity

Nearly two centuries after the convention, some positive changes have been made, but walking through the second-story NPS museum reminds you that we have a long way to go.  The reactions in the newspapers from 1848 are not very different to those written in response to the women’s marches of 2017.  Next door, visitors can enter the reconstructed 1843 Wesleyan Chapel where the two-day meeting was held and read the still relevant Declaration of Sentiments written during the convention.  The NPS also offers free tours of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton house, a short drive away.  Two other houses in Waterloo, New York are also part of the park.

Best Trail

There is a walking tour through historic downtown Seneca Falls that includes the National Women’s Hall of Fame (admission charged), only a short distance from the NPS museum. 

Instagram-worthy Photo

Declaration Park between the NPS museum and the Wesleyan Chapel has a waterfall wall inscribed with the Declaration of Sentiments and its signers’ names.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/wori/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None, except at the unaffiliated National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Road Conditions

All roads paved, but street parking is limited.

Camping

Cayuga Lake State Park has a large campground only 4 miles east of Seneca Falls, New York.

Explore More – Why is there a sculpture of abolitionist Frederick Douglass in the lobby of the visitor center?