With so many buildings in the New York City skyline demanding our attention, we rarely train our eyes to the drab concrete and subway grates beneath our feet. But the city sidewalks also have much to offer. From a floating subway map etched in the ground to the ruins of the city’s first tavern, these five sidewalk spots make it worth watching your step next time you’re trying to dodge the crowds.
1. The Maiden Lane Clock
Next time you’re in the Financial District, if you happen to find yourself on the corner of Maiden Lane and Broadway, look down! You’ll find a beautiful (and working) clock beneath your feet, a sidewalk advertisement for William Barthman Jewelers located a few steps away. The store has been there for over 130 years, surviving multiple attempts at gentrification–so give them some credit and watch your step!
2. The Soho Floating Subway Map
Carved into the sidewalk of Green Street, the floating subway map by Belgian artist Françoise Schein is an actual model of the New York CIty subway map as it was in 1985. The piece is an attempt towards order, trying to understand the city. It gives urban construction some credit by offering a permanent small-scale model on the streets to remind New Yorkers there’s more to the subway than rats and filth.
3. Foundation of the Lovelace Tavern
Before becoming the city’s Financial District, downtown Manhattan was home to some of New York City’s oldest establishments. One of them, the Lovelace Tavern at 85 Broad Street, dates back to the Dutch settlement of Manhattan as one of the first taverns in the city. Built by former New York governor Franklin Lovelace in 1670, it served as a place to meet over wine and tobacco. The remains were discovered in 1979 and preserved for curious New Yorkers to find if they look down on their way to work.
See this and more in our Remnants of Dutch New Amsterdam tour:
Tour of The Remnants of Dutch New Amsterdam
4. Max Neuhaus’ sound installation in Times Square
Max Neuhaus’ sound installation features two things New Yorkers absolutely hate–Times Square and subway grates–but transforms them into instruments. He wanted to make something everyone would notice but no one would actually pay attention to. Next time you wander into Times Square and find yourself between Broadway and 7th Avenues (45th & 46th Street), stop and listen to the music of the city. Find out more secrets of Times Square here.
5. The Ear Inn
If you’re walking or driving around the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, you just might cross Manhattan’s original border and not even notice. It’s situated near 326 Spring Street, which used to be just five feet away from the shores of the Hudson River. It also houses a famous landmark – the Ear Inn – a former townhouse, brewery and speakeasy turned into a bar and art space in Soho.
When you’re done looking down, check out our Don’t Forget to Look Up series for sights equally worth stopping for.
Next, check out 20 permanent art installations in Downtown Manhattan and 10 indoor public spaces for your very own urban oasis.