Downtown Manhattan is not only filled with history, but it is also filled with numerous permanent art installations – many of which are part of the history we so lovingly preserve. Beginning at Bowling Green in The Battery, view artifacts of the oldest man-made structure still in place in Manhattan, look down into a cistern from the 18th-century, and view remnants of a tavern from the 1800s. Ponder artists’ portrayals symbolizing hope, optimism and whimsy. Many survived the attacks of September 11, proudly showing their dents and holes.
Excavations have often given us glimpses into life in the early days of the colony. An early 18th century well was uncovered that is said to have resided on land belonging to longtime residents, the Philipse family of Philipse Manor. The well extended down to the waterline, reminding us that the East River’s waterfront once ran along what is now Pearl Street, and that a portion of downtown Manhattan was actually physically constructed as the colony grew.
The cistern provided water to the entire block, and when the waterline was pushed back, and it was no longer used, it was filled with everyday items – it became a trash receptacle. Having a cistern installed at this location tells us that the neighborhood was evolving, with old buildings coming down and new buildings going up. The cistern can be viewed on the plaza at 85 Broad Street.