New York Know It All

Destination: New York City

Book: I Never Knew That About New York (NEW March 2014) by Christopher Winn

New York
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, NYC

Christopher Winn is a know-it-all. But I mean that in a good way.  He has written a series of “I Never Knew That” books about famous places, mostly in the British Isles. A year ago we talked about his collection of facts about London, here.

Now the British know-it-all has invaded New York City, with I Never Knew That About New York.  Does he know things about New York that even dedicated New Yawkers haven’t discovered? We’ll wager he does.

Except that the book should probably have been entitled I Never Knew That About Manhattan rather than New York, but I suppose for most people, Manhattan IS New York.  We’ll just have to hope he comes back and gives those other boroughs like Brooklyn, The Bronx, Staten Island and Queens some respect another day.

There’s a quiz on his website that asks some fairly easy questions compared to some of the more obscure facts in his book.  But if you’d like to challenge him, see how many you can answer without looking down at the answers at the bottom. For example, what is the oldest street in New York?  Even I knew that one.

Central Park

But…Did you know that we have Shakespeare to blame for starlings?  Not exactly the writer himself, but a Shakespeare afficiando–Eugene Schieffelin, who wanted to populate America with all of the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s work isi the culprit.  he released 60 starlings in Central Park in 1890, and they quickly spread across the country, now numbering 200 million pests.

Colonial New York

New York City
Fraunces Travern, New York City. Photo By Augie Ray, Flickr. Creative Commons License

My favorite part of Manhattan is found at the far south end of Broadway around Pearl Street where there is a tiny portion remaining of colonial New York.  In a city where things come and go with startling speed, it is somehow comforting to visit the Fraunces Travern Although it is rebuilt rather than original, you could swear you’re standing in the very rooms where owner Samuel Fraunces connived to spy for the Revolutionaries and where Washington gave his farewell address to the troops in 1783.

So naturally, I liked the informative walk through Colonial New York, but never fear,  whatever your interest, it’s covered in one of the eighteen chapters, organized from south to north.

Greenwhich Village–

home of the Salamugundi Club, and 20,000 bodies lying under Washington Square in a former potter’s field.

Tribeca–

means Triangle Below Canal, if you were wondering.

Chinatown–

New York Chinatown
Chinatown, New York City. Photo by Guney Cuceloglu. Fickr, Creative Commons

where Five Points was once a dispicable slum, publicized by Charles Dickens on a visit to America and subsequently cleaned up.

And in Chinatown stroll down Doyers Street through the “Bloody Angle” where, Winn says, more murders were committed in the early 20th century than anywhere else in America, because of Tong wars.

And so the information flows, as WInn leads you on walking tours of all the neighborhoods of Manhattan with a sprinkling of architectural detail, sociology and history thrown in for good measure.

His writing is witty. Frequent illustrations, pencil drawings done by his wife, Mai Osawa, will help you spot the landmarks. And you’ll have “I’ll bet you didn’t know…” stories to last a long time. You may think you have quite enough guidebooks to New York, but there is enough new and fun reading in this one to make it a good addition to the traveler’s library.

Note:  The book was provided by the publisher for review, but the opinions are my own.

Links to Amazon allow you to conveniently purchase the book in hard back, paper back or Kindle editions and although it costs you no more, when you shop through our links, you’re supporting A Traveler’s Library. Thanks.

The first photo is mine and the rest are from Flickr, used  with Creative Commons License. You can click on the Flickr photos to learn more.

 

Vera Marie Badertscher

About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She writes frequently for Reel Life With Jane and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.