Historic Lower Manhattan
In 1625, Dutch settlers founded New Amsterdam on a stretch of land that would eventually grow into one of the world’s most famous and populous cities. New York was briefly the fledgling nation’s first capital, when the colonies achieved independence from England in 1776. Since that time, lower Manhattan, the site of the early settlement, has continued to be a vibrant center of commerce, arts, and culture. It is defined as the 3.9 square kilometers of New York City that extend below 14th Street to New York Harbor and is a rich urban environment that includes 65 landmarks within six historic districts. On September 11, 2001, terrorists struck at the heart of this remarkable area, claiming the lives of nearly 3,000 people and destroying the twin towers and adjacent buildings at the World Trade Center, and severely damaging numerous structures in lower Manhattan. In the aftermath of tragedy, the historic district of Lower Manhattan was in great need of recovery and reconstruction.
How We Helped
World Monuments Fund added Historic Lower Manhattan as the 101st site on the 2002 Watch to show support for the mourning city and highlight the challenges of reconstruction and recovery ahead. Weeks after the listing was announced, WMF partnered with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Preservation League of New York State, the Municipal Art Society, and the New York Landmark’s Conservancy to form the Lower Manhattan Emergency Preservation Fund. The goal was to unite advocacy efforts to ensure good solutions for solving a series of conservation and planning issues that would arise as rebuilding the area took shape. Many buildings in the area were already listed on State or National registers of historic places, but several hundred architecturally significant structures still remained unprotected. WMF Watch-listed lower Manhattan again in 2004 to ensure that preservation of the district’s historic architecture was a priority during the planning period.
Why It Matters
Historic Lower Manhattan contains hundreds of landmarks, cultural heritage sites, and architectural gems, including some of the world’s earliest skyscrapers. Trinity church was once the tallest structure in New York while the Woolworth Building was once the tallest in the world. In fact, the emotional and cultural significance of the area was strengthened by the tragedy as the local, national, and international communities responded with abundant support. The buildings and neighborhoods of historic lower Manhattan together create an evolving architectural and cultural landscape that is a vital part of New York’s identity.