Monday, July 26, 2010

Empire Rising

Magnet # 303:  Retro Greetings from New York

Material:  Metal, Paper, Mylar Shell

Purchased By:  Mom & Dad

Congratulations are in order to New York, which celebrates the 222nd anniversary of its statehood today.  It was the 11th state to join the Union, but it has gone onto become one of the most densely populated and economically prosperous in the nation, thanks mostly to New York City, the largest metropolitan area in the United States.

Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazano, who set sail for King Francis I of France, was most likely the first European to make it to what would later become the state of New York.  Later, in 1609, Henry Hudson explored the area for the Dutch, sailing up the Hudson River in search of a Northwest Passage to Asia.  His voyage ended in failure and his death, but the river is now named in his honor.  At around the same time, Samuel de Chaplain, a French navigator, also came to the area and likewise had a body of water named after him - Lake Champlain.  It was the Dutch who finally began to settle the area around 1613, establishing fur trading posts in the Hudson River Valley and eventually forming New Netherland there.  Peter Minuit, its leader, acquired Manhattan Island from the natives and had a fort built there along with a fur trading settlement.  The area would temporarily be known as New Amsterdam.  But English settlers from nearby Massachusetts and Connecticut began to settle in the area and tensions grew between the two nationalities.  In 1664, the British captured the Dutch holdings in the area, renaming it New York in honor of the future King James II, who was then the Duke of York.  France had begun to take over northern parts of the area with the intent of obtaining all of New York.  When war broke out between the two nations in Europe, it spread over to New York, where four wars broke out until Britain finally emerged victorious.  And as we all know, once Britain took control over the area, the colonists there grew angry over their policies,  joining with the rest of the colonies to declare independence.  Plenty of battles of the American Revolution were fought there.  However, when the time came to join the new nation of the United States, New York hesitated, fearing an overly powerful federal government but joined nonetheless.  After it joined the nation, it became perhaps the most prosperous state of all, an empire in its own right.

I've been to the Empire State several times in my life and I know I've mentioned on here that I've visited New York City twice.  But I've been able to see a bit more of the state as well.  On my first trip to the state, we visited relatives who live in Long Island and even stayed at the somewhat notorious hotel where Long Island Lolita Amy Fisher met up with the married Joey Buttafouco.  I don't think that's why we booked it, and I sure hope we didn't stay in one of the rooms they used.  It was interesting to see my relatives' home there - space is at a premium, so it was narrow, but stretched out over several stories.  And it was the place where I first tried true New York style pizza - I was definitely impressed.  I remember after we left there and headed toward Connecticut being surprised with just how long the state of New York seemed to stretch out and how small and idyllic the towns we passed through were.  I guess before then I just thought New York City and large metropolitan areas accounted for most of the state, but I no longer have such mistaken beliefs.  I know realize that the city is only a tiny part of the state and there are all sorts of different places to be found there, from rural farm areas toward the center to the lovely Adirondack Mountains and Hudson River Valley to the spooky Sleepy Hollow to industrial Buffalo.  The furthest north I've been in the Empire State is Niagara Falls, where I had a great time.  I didn't see much of nearby Buffalo, however, and I'd like to check out some of its historic sites, including the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site.  Also, I'd be curious to see Boldt Castle in the Thousand Islands, a six-story 120-room home made of stone - it sounds very impressive. And I'd love to see the stunning State Capitol Building in Albany, which is at one end of the Empire State Plaza, a very impressive complex joining many of the downtown buildings.  And yes, I'd also like to see more natural areas of the state, like the Adirondacks and the Catskills.  Of course, there's also more that I could see in New York City, but there is so much spread out over the rest of the state, I think it merits its own trip.  Someday, I'm sure I'll make it back there to check out all that the Empire State has to offer outside of the Big Apple.

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