Monday, February 1, 2010

Building One Big Apple

Magnet # 157: Deco New York City

Material: Wood, Laminated Paper

Purchased By: Dad

Tomorrow, back in 1653, New Amsterdam officially became incorporated as a city. Of course, it would soon be given another name - New York City.  Nowadays, all existence of its first settlers have disappeared in fires and development, but in its place are some of the most impressive sites to be had in all the world.

The island of Manhattan was first discovered by Europeans when an Italian explorer who sailed for the French found it in 1524. But the Dutch were the first Europeans to actually settle there, and they eventually bought the island from the local Lenape Indians. There is an old story that tells they only bought it for about twenty dollars or so worth of trinkets, but that's not true. The Dutch actually paid 60 guilders, a much more substantial sum. But some scholars hold that the Lenape, who were nomads and constantly roamed from site to site, never realized the Dutch would occupy the land there from then on, as they had no concept of permanent land ownership. Regardless, the Dutch remained in their New Amsterdam for almost 40 years when the British conquered the island in 1664 and renamed it New York, after their Duke. After the Second Anglo-Dutch War was over, the British were given complete control of New York.  They took an island that was of little consequence, and greatly increased the importance of its trading post.  More people moved into the area, building it up, and opening Columbia University, the fifth institute of higher learning established in the colonies.  Important events in the colonies' path toward the American Revolution, such as the Stamp Act Congress, occurred there.  And when war broke out with the British, the area was captured by the British after a series of important battles broke out there.  When the city had been freed and the war was over, it temporarily became the nation's capitol.  Although that obviously changed, New York City was clearly becoming very important to the United States and it soon outgrew Philadelphia to become its largest city.  The 19th century saw a complete overhaul of the city, as immigrants flooded there from around the globe, and the entire island was divided into street grids.  Skyscrapers began to dominate the skyline, as a subway underneath it connected its growing population.  By the early 1930's, over ten million people lived in new York City, and it had surpassed London and become the first megacity ever.  After World War II, scores of returning vets settled in the city, helping its economic growth.  Although crime grew there during the sixties and seventies, by the nineties, determined leaders had taken back their city, making it much safer for residents and tourists.  Nowadays, New York City remains one of the most powerful and populated cities in the world.

I may have not spent much time in the Big Apple, but the paternal side of my family has long-standing ties to the city.  They arrived in the late 1800's and some have stayed there, while others have spread across then nation.  My dad's grandfather was a city councilman of New York City representing the borough of Queens in the 1940's, and he later ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Representative.  And my Dad's aunt and some of his cousins still live in the outskirts of the city.  As I've mentioned on here before, I have visited the city twice in my life, once mainly sticking to its outlying areas, and then right in the heart of the city for a week.  I saw some of the most impressive attractions the Big Apple has to offer, like Central Park, Times Square, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rockefeller Center, and Lincoln Center - and, of course, the Twin Towers.  I rode in both the ubiquitous yellow taxis and the subway.  I sampled all sorts of delicious offerings, like the cheesecake at Stage Deli, and a very unique pizza with lasagna-like layers on it.  And, as amazing as it was, I realize there is still plenty more to be seen and sampled in this gigantic city.  Let's face it, even its citizens would be challenged to take in everything it has to offer.  I wouldn't mind taking another trip to the City that Never Sleeps, as it seems it will just keep growing bigger and greater, on almost a daily basis.

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