Publication Date

November 1, 1996

New York City remains one of the world's most remarkable human inventions. Even though January weather is unpredictable, the city can be counted on to be eternally exciting. In the midtown area of Manhattan, where the annual meeting will be held, you will find yourself only a walk away from the newly revivified Times Square and just two to three blocks from the old Hell's Kitchen, where some of the best, cheapest, and most varied ethnic cuisines in New York City can be found. A short subway ride (or a brisk walk) will take you to the concert and opera halls of Lincoln Center, and you'll be able to walk to Carnegie Hall, Radio City, Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Church, and the windows of the elegant Fifth Avenue shops, which will still be adorned with their Christmas decorations.

If you walk down Seventh Avenue, you will come to the Duffy Square tickets booth, where half-price Broadway seats are sold for the same evening. If you take the Fifth Avenue bus down to 42nd Street you will be at the 42nd Street Library: (The fare is now $1.50; you need exact change, a token that can be purchased in subway stations, or a Metrocard. Metrocards, which can be bought in subway stations, work on buses and subways.) If you continue to 34th Street, you will be at the new Science, Business, and Technology Branch of the 42nd Street Library (in the old B. Altman landmarked building).

Eating Out

The city has become a mecca for food lovers. Dining out in New York is an art form, a festivity, an entertainment, and the likely subject of future doctoral dissertations. Restaurant guides are published with dizzying frequency. If you rely on any of them, call the restaurant you select before leaving your room because restaurants go in and out of business frequently. A list of restaurants has been compiled especially for the annual meeting. (It provides the names of restaurants that were in business in September, when this article was written.) The list emphasizes moderately priced establishments in and around midtown, with a focus on the mostly inexpensive multicultural eateries of Ninth Avenue. It also includes famous four-star establishments where you'll need reservations, as well as some special places in Chinatown and Little India. The list is not, of course, complete; indeed, the total number of restaurants in the city can only be approximated. It will, however, help you move beyond the hotels' offerings. The list will be published in the December issue of Perspectives and distributed at the annual meeting.

Walking Tours

The Local Arrangements Committee for the 1997 annual meeting has investigated and arranged walking tours that meeting attendees might want to take during their stay in New York City. The tours were selected because they focus on topics of interest to many historians. We are recommending four possibilities. You must make your own arrangements to go on the tours. There are coupons on page 14 of this issue of Perspectives for two of the offerings suggested here.

Historic Downtown Area. George Stevens, who teaches the history of New York City at Dutchess County Community College and Columbia University, will lead a tour of the historic downtown area. Participants will depart from the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel on Friday, January 3, at 12:30 P.M. Twelve people will be able to take this tour, which will take about three hours for those who choose to start at City Hall and go to the Battery Area and about four hours for those who choose to stay on the tour to visit Chinatown and Little Italy. Only a major blizzard will prevent Stevens from giving the tour. The cost is $10.00. If you are interested, please fill out the appropriate coupon on page 14 and send it directly to Stevens.

Big Onion Walking Tours. The Local Arrangements Committee is also recommending Big Onion Walking Tours, which offer a variety of possibilities-a tour of Central Park, a tour of historic Harlem, a tour of historic lower Manhattan and immigrant New York, a . tour of Greenwich Village, and a multiethnic eating tour. Founded in 1991, Big Onion is run by two graduate students who are finishing doctorates in American history; they are licensed by the city of New York. Fees are from $12 to $15, the latter fee covering all of the food on the eating tour. Please complete and return the appropriate coupon on page 14 to sign up for Big Onion tours.

The walking tour of Central Park will take you through New York's collective backyard to explore what is the largest work of art in the city. Central Park was designed by Olmsted and Vaux as a place for spiritual uplift, but today's inhabitants of the city use it for much more. Stops include the site of the African American community of Seneca Village, Strawberry Fields, the site of the all-but-forgotten Rocking Chair Riot, and the site of Robert Moses's smallest, yet greatest, defeat.

As the center of African American culture, Harlem is one of New York's most intriguing neighborhoods. The walking tour of historic Harlem emphasizes the history and people of the neighborhood. Stops include the Abyssinian Baptist Church, Striver's Row, and the Theresa Hotel.

The tour of lower Manhattan, New York's first area of settlement and the heart of the financial district, will explore New York's role in the American Revolution, the development of the Stock Exchange, and the many ethnic peoples of the colonial city. Stops include Trinity Church, Federal Hall, Fraunces Tavern, and sites associated with Alexander Hamilton, John Peter Zenger, and Wouter Van Twiller.

Taking the Greenwich Village tour will allow you to spend an afternoon strolling through the district made famous by artists, writers, and radicals. The tour will emphasize the architecture and history of this diverse area. Stops will include the Jefferson Market Courthouse, the Hanging Elm, and sites associated with Edgar Allan Poe, Jimi Hendrix, Edith Wharton, and John Sloan.

The guided multiethnic eating tour will allow you to sample the historic and gastronomic delights of Chinatown, Little Italy, and the Jewish East Side. While visiting the Jewish Daily Forward building, Mulberry Bend, and sites associated with Sun Yat Sen, Emma Goldman, and Mother Cabrini, you will nosh on neighborhood specialties. Food stops include Cantonese Dim Sum, Guss’s Pickles, Kossars’s Bialy, and an Italian mozzarella factory.

Women's History Walking Tours. A tour with a focus on women’s history will be provided by Harriet Davis-Kram, who will cover the Flat Iron District and the Ladies’ Mile. The tour will emphasize the role of women in the development of the professional theater, in “polite society,” and in the retail market. The fee is $10 per person. The time and date of the tour have not been established yet; a late afternoon walk is possible, assuming weather conditions are appropriate. If you are interested in going on the women’s history walking tour, please contact Harriet Davis-Kram, 444 E. 82nd St., Apt. 7N, New York, NY 10028, (212) 628-9517. Please provide your full name, address, and telephone number.

Municipal Arts Society Tours. For those interested in architectural and aesthetic sites, the Municipal Arts Society offers a wide variety of tours. Most of the tours have a particular focus, such as the Flat Iron District or Downtown Skyscraper Evolution. Tours cost $10 ($8 for students). To receive a brochure, write to the Municipal Arts Society, 457 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022. (212) 439-1049.

Exploring on Your Own

For those visitors who want to “doit themselves,” the Local Arrangements Committee recommends obtaining the excellent map of Manhattan available at the Hilton’s concierge desk. Alternatively, visitors may want to purchase Hope Cooke’s Seeing New York: History Walks for Armchair and Footloose Travelers (Temple Univ. Press, 1995), the soft-cover edition of which is available for $18.95. The book interweaves useful historical information with warm, personal reminiscences and commentary in a style unique to guide books.

More standardized, commercial bus tours covering large swaths of the city also exist. These tours usually run from Harlem to the Battery and allow riders to get on and off as they please. In winter, schedules are a bit less regular than at other times, but for a good overview of the city, including double-decker trips, call the reliable Grey Line Sightseeing Tours at (212) 397-2600. If Grey Line's services do not fit your schedule, you may also want to try Big Apple Tours. Call (800) 876-9868 for details.

Read the relatively new publication Time Out, to find out what is going on in the city. It is a weekly and is sold at newsstands for $1.95. It covers movies, theaters, restaurants, exhibitions, flea markets, high and low culture, and odds and ends of all kinds. For especially good performance reviews, get the New Yorker.

The concierge stations at both of the annual meeting hotels will make all kinds of arrangements for you, including reserving theater tickets. You might also want to walk up to Columbus Circle (59th St., where Broadway and 8th Av, meet) to the New York City Convention and Visitors Bureau. There, the brochure display will propose an array of places and events too numerous to mention here. At the meeting, members of the Local Arrangements Committee will on hand to help you out with any New York City problems or questions you may have. We will be located in room 548 of the New York Hilton Hotel. We look forward to seeing you in January.

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