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History tour of Tri-State area on the cheap

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My parents and I will be roaming around New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey for almost a week this month, with a love of history but not much cash. These are some notes for an itinerary.

The keystone of our trip will be the Durham Fair, famed for its draft-animal pulls -- a popular form of entertainment since colonial times!

I was surprised how interesting the Fraunces Tavern Museum was, something that the website gives you very little idea of.

This was a meeting spot for George Washington and his officers during the Revolutionary War, and the site of their farewell dinner. For some reason it's quite touching to see the furniture and dishes, and see how LITTLE everything was at the time.

The famous account of Washington's farewell:

"At 12 o'clock the officers repaired to Fraunces Tavern in Pearl Street where General Washington had appointed to meet them and to take his final leave of them. We had been assembled but a few moments when his excellency entered the room. His emotions were too strong to be concealed which seemed to be reciprocated by every officer present. After partaking of a slight refreshment in almost breathless silence the General filled his glass with wine and turning to the officers said, 'With a heart full of love and gratitude I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable.'

After the officers had taken a glass of wine General Washington said 'I cannot come to each of you but shall feel obliged if each of you will come and take me by the hand.' General Knox being nearest to him turned to the Commander-in-chief who, suffused in tears, was incapable of utterance but grasped his hand when they embraced each other in silence. In the same affectionate manner every officer in the room marched up and parted with his general in chief. Such a scene of sorrow and weeping I had never before witnessed and fondly hope I may never be called to witness again."

Six years after General Washington went home to Mt Vernon, he returned to New York to be sworn in as the first President at Federal Hall.

Apparently Occupy Wall Street has taken over the front steps of the monument in order to exercise their/our First Amendment rights, but the building can still be accessed by the back door.

One of the most beautiful buildings in NYC is one of the oldest, St Paul's Chapel of Trinity Church Wall Street:

George Washington worshipped here, and the workers at the 9/11 site sought relief here.

I love how off-kilter the proportions and materials of the building are by now, after repairs and hard use and violence and the subway and everything.

It's sort of a pain to visit the 9/11 site directly -- there are a lot of security restrictions and hoo-ha. Might be better to have lunch or a drink overlooking it:

If you plan to visit the Immigration Museum and/or the Statue of Liberty, you'll be passing through Battery Park on the very southern (and therefore old) tip of Manhattan.

I am a first generation emigrant myself, so I know I have no relatives who came through Ellis Island. Everyone should adopt a friend's ancestors before they visit. I am going to search for the Panda's great-grandparents, who I believe stowed away on a ship from Vladivostok!

When studying history, it's crucial to remember where the ports are. It's easy to forget that New York was an important harbor... but you can get a glimpse at the South Street Seaport Museum.

If your visit coincides with one of the Downtown Boathouses's free public kayaking sessions, you'd be a fool to miss it:

There is nothing like paddling in the Hudson River with friendly people while the sun goes down...

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