While New York is a city continually changing and evolving in almost every aspect, it’s hard to top the upheaval of Manhattan in the 1830s. Between the worst fire in New York City history to absolute pandemonium surrounding Moving Day — when all NYC leases expired simultaneously — it was truly one of the city’s wildest periods. On this new walking tour, you will hit the streets and uncover the stories and remnants of 1830s New York!

Burning Gotham: Life in 1830s Manhattan

Fraunces Tavern

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The Great Fire of 1835 tore through Lower Manhattan on a cold December day. By the time the smoke settled, nearly 700 buildings were destroyed. The cost of the damage done was estimated to be around $600 million in today’s money. Blustery winds and a frozen East River made containing the flames impossible.

On this tour, you’ll learn about the contentious issues plaguing New York City in the lead-up to the fire by uncovering the stories behind headlines on the “Great Moon Hoax,” going to war with France, and a lack of clean drinking water. As you trace the path of the fire’s devastation, you’ll learn about buildings that were lost and landmarks from the time that still stand like Fraunces Tavern, Bowling Green, and the South Street Seaport. You’ll meet characters of the age from showman P.T. Barnum to the wealthy Astors who built the world’s largest hotel. Though no public blame was ever assigned for the cause of the fire, you’ll investigate the details and see how Manhattan was ultimately able to rebuild from the ashes.

  • Alexander Hamilton Customs House
  • Bowling Green Fence
  • Stone street
  • Lower Manhattan

This tour is led by James Scully, a native New Yorker and creator of Burning Gotham, a radio-drama podcast centered around the Great Fire of 1835. James is also behind Breaking Walls, a docu-podcast on the history of American network radio broadcasting. He’s directed, post-produced, adapted, and acted in scripted audio fiction productions and is an actor in the Fireside Mystery Theatre troupe. He’s also a Salmagundi Club member and a member of The Podcast Academy.

Burning Gotham: Life in 1830s Manhattan

Great Fire of 1835

Join us to uncover why the 1830s was one of the most tumultuous decades in New York City’s history! 

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