The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

NYC Podiatrist Recommended Walking Tour: 1866 New York

Posted by on Friday, October 14th, 2016


It may be surprising, but NYC walking tours have been around since the 1800’s—although they were considered “supplemental hints” back then. As Curbed New York points out, local historian James Miller included a DIY walking tour of the city in his 1800’s guide book: Miller’s New York As It Is; or Stranger’s Guide to the Cities of New York, Brooklyn, and Adjacent Places. Back in the days before cars, life was tough, but even Miller had the good sense to advise against attempting to walk the entirety of New York City. So, his pedestrian tour focused on Broadway, from the Bowling Green to Union Square. What little nuggets of truth still relate to the New York we see before us in 2016? If you love history, why not consult this map and find out for yourself? As leading NY podiatrists, we love to see people getting out and enjoying the City.

castle clinton
Start your walking tour of NYC at Battery Park’s Castle Clinton, which was once known as the Castle Garden Theater. Image Source: Wikimedia user Charvex.

First Stop: Battery Park

Hop off the subway at South Ferry and head to the giant castle that’s impossible to miss—known as “Castle Clinton” to modern day folks or “Castle Garden” to the New Yorkers of 1866.

The National Park Service describes the castle’s significance as: “Located at the southern tip of Manhattan Island, Castle Clinton stands where New York City began and represents not only the city’s growth, but the growth of a nation. Initially intended to prevent a British invasion in 1812, the fortification has transformed over the years to welcome theatergoers, immigrants, sightseers, and now, millions of visitors to New York Harbor.”One of the castle’s claims to fame is that it served as an entertainment venue with a restaurant, theatre, and exhibition center. The “Swedish Nightingale,” opera singer Jenny Lind, made her American debut there. New Yorkers came to the castle to see new inventions such as the telegraph, Colt revolvers, and steam-powered fire engines.According to the guide book, new immigrants were often “robbed and cheated in every direction” and left penniless within a few hours of landing—fortunately, its use as an immigrant landing depot from 1855-1890 improved the situation.

Next Stop: Bowling Green

From Castle Clinton, head south and hang a left onto the Battery Bikeway for 0.1 miles. Make a slight right to reach Bowling Green, a small public park at the foot of Front Street. At one time, a lead statue of George III stood there—but, as you can imagine, it was the first “work of art” to go once the American Revolution started. It allegedly was “torn down and molded into bullets.”

In 1866, the number of horse-drawn omnibuses surrounding the small park was staggering. You may think NY traffic is atrocious today, but try to imagine nearly 700 coaches making the loop up and down Broadway each day! Pedestrians looking to scamper across the street did so “at the peril of life and limb.” Several decades later, nearly 8,000 horse carriages passed the intersection of Broadway and Pine! Don’t forget to take a look at the iconic charging bull statue before you go.

Next Up: A 10-Minute Walk To Trinity Church

Head north on Broadway toward Beaver Street. Turn right on Morris and then another right on Greenwich. Turn right on Rector and left on Trinity Place. Soon you’ll see Trinity Church.

The 1866 traveler could see bustling stores and warehouses brimming with products from every nation on earth, making it hard to believe the whole area had been wilderness purchased from the Indians just over 2oo years earlier—for the equivalent of 2,400 tankards of beer. The Trinity cemetery holds noteworthy figures such as Alexander Hamilton, William Bradford, Robert Fulton, and Commodore James Lawrence. A walk down Broadway back in 1866 would have taken you past places like billiards factories, drugstores, sewing machine shops, and the oh-so-fancy Knox’s Great Hat and Cap Establishment. Today, you’ll see a whole new rotation of trendy shops.

In the 1860’s, the spire of Trinity Church represented the tallest tower in the city—a “must-see” for any city walking tour back then. People paid 10 cents to walk up the 808 steps for a bird’s eye view of New York. The 284-foot elevation is laughable by today’s standards, given that the tallest buildings in New York are well over 1,200 feet now. In fact, the Trinity Church steeple closed its doors to visitors in 1883 since the number of tourists had diminished to an inconvenient trickle due to all the other tall buildings that had sprung up around town.

Be sure to step inside St. Paul’s Chapel (located at Broadway and Fulton)—it was a sight to see back then and is a stop for more than one million annual tourists on modern-day tours as well. The nation’s first president, George Washington, attended regular services here along with his wife, Martha. The parish was home to a thriving community outreach program that helped a great many New Yorkers who had fallen on hard times. Surprisingly, when the World Trade Center tumbled just blocks away during the 9/11 attacks, this “little chapel that stood” remained relatively unscathed.

Continue on to: City Hall

Head northwest and hang a right on Trinity Place. Continue onto Church Street. Turn right on Barclay and continue onto Park Row. The next sight you’ll see is City Hall, a favorite stop on 1866 tours of Manhattan. Guides called it “an imposing edifice” that was built between 1803 and 1810 and claimed all of New York was governed by the $4,000 clock in the cupola. (That would be the equivalent of a clock costing over $78,000 today.) With 2’6″ wheels and a pendulum weighing 300 pounds, you can imagine it’s size! The original structure did not stand the test of time, but was restored under Mayor Giuliani’s guidance in 1998. 

Don’t Miss: Surrogate’s Court and the Tweed Courthouse

In 1866, there was much excitement surrounding the creation of a “new City Hall,”which you will find by walking east on Park Row onto Centre and turning right on Chambers Street. First, you’ll see a breathtaking structure that was rumored to be the new center of government but ultimately became the Surrogate’s Court.

The Tweed Courthouse is located at 52 Chambers. The cornerstone of “the new City Hall” was laid in 1862, and it was presumed to be finished in 1867—but the project was headed by the notoriously corrupt William M. “Boss” Tweed and bogged down by a series of kickbacks and robbery. By 1871—the year Boss Tweed was arrested for fraud—only the impressive Italian-style exterior of the building was standing. The plasterer on the project allegedly made $133,187 for two days’ work, which is equivalent to over $3 million today and more than half of the project’s original budget back in those days. Architect Leopold Eidlitz—best known for designing the New York State Capitol Building in Albany and the private Connecticut home of Circus magnate P.T. Barnum—jumped in and finished the interior of the structure in the Romanesque Revival style in 1876. Court was held there until 1927, when they moved a few blocks north to the new New York County Courthouse on Centre Street. Now the City Department of Education is held in the old Tweed Courthouse, which is the second oldest government building in NYC (after City Hall).

Keep Your Body Healthy & Your Feet Happy!

Whether you live in the NYC area or you’re just visiting, you can contact a Manhattan podiatrist here, or continue reading about more of the best NYC walking tours.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.