As I race to work in the mornings, I literally run into throngs of tourists all doing the same thing: looking up. Wherever I am – near the Stock Exchange, at the Seaport, or just trying to pick up some coffee on Broadway – they’re always looking up. I would always just roll my eyes, huff and mutter, and work my way through the seemingly endless crowds drawn to Lower Manhattan.
One day the question that had always plagued me – what are they looking at – bothered me enough that I stopped, looked at a group of tourists, and then looked up. I had always known that Downtown is the birth of New York City and the epicenter of historical architecture. I work for the Downtown Alliance; it’s my job to know these things. But words and pictures printed in glossy marketing brochures cannot possibly describe the feeling I got that day when I first looked up.
What I saw was not just the unexpected and beautiful contrast of centuries-old buildings and modern steel and glass structures. I saw the timeline of the city and everyone who’s been a part of it: from George Washington to Alexander Hamilton (who is buried right in the Trinity Church churchyard) to the tourist standing next to me wondering, “What is she looking at?”
Not sure where to start? Art Deco lovers should try 70 Pine Street and 20 Exchange Place. More of a modernist? The World Financial Center Winter Garden and 7 World Trade Center reflect the setting sun in a strikingly beautiful, almost surreal way.
Since then, I’ve taken every chance I get to look up in Lower Manhattan. Only then can I truly appreciate exactly where we are. So next time you’re stuck in the hubbub of crowded streets and honking horns in Lower Manhattan, don’t fret – just look up (and don’t bump into anyone).