The Irish have made their mark on Manhattan for centuries, building the skyscrapers, policing the streets and eventually running city hall.
That’s why when you visit the Big Apple you won’t be short of fascinating historical sites of enduring importance to the Irish.
Here’s a list of New York’s top 10 Irish historical sites.
1. Ellis Island
Ellis Island, located at the mouth of the Hudson River in New York Harbor was from January 1, 1892, until November 12, 1954 the main entry facility for immigrants entering the United States. Its importance to the story of the United States is inestimable.
More than 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954 but the very first immigrant to pass through Ellis Island was Annie Moore who arrived here from County Cork aboard the steamship Nevada on January 1, 1892, her fifteenth birthday. As the first person to be processed at the newly opened facility she was presented with an American $10 gold coin.
2. Irish Hunger Memorial
One and a half million people died between 1846 and 1850 in the famine in Ireland. New York’s new Irish Hunger Memorial, located at is located on a one-half acre site at the corner of Vesey Street and North End Avenue in Manhattan, is a monument to those who perished during An Gorta Mor (The Great Hunger), and is a symbol to highlight areas of the world affected by hunger today.
Comprising in part a quarter-acre of land, arrayed with barren potato furrows, flora from County Mayo, the memorial features rocks from each of Ireland’s 32 counties.
3. The Five Points
The Five Points was a notorious slum centered on the intersection of Anthony (now Worth Street), Orange (now Baxter Street), and Cross (now Mosco Street) in New York City. The swampy, insect-ridden conditions led to most middle and upper class inhabitants fleeing, leaving the neighborhood open to the influx of poor immigrants that started in the early 1820’s and reached a torrent in the 1840’s due to the Irish famine.
Five points was the original American melting pot, consisting mostly of newly emancipated African Americans and the Irish. Although the tensions between the two groups were legendary, they also frequently intermarried and their community became the first large-scale instance of volitional racial integration in American history.
4. Castle Garden
Castle Garden, today known as Castle Clinton National Monument, is the major landmark within Battery Park, the 25-acre waterfront park at the tip of Manhattan. From 1855 to 1890 the Castle was America’s first official immigration center, a pioneering collaboration of New York State and New York City.
5. The American Irish Historical Society
In 1940, the Society moved to a Beaux-Arts townhouse on Fifth Avenue, which it still occupies The society’s 50 founding members included Theodore Roosevelt, who was part-Irish (on his mother’s side) and the society’s formal purpose is: “to place permanently on record the story of the Irish in America from the earliest settlement to the present day, justly, impartially, fully, and sympathetically correcting neglect and misrepresentation by certain historians of the part taken in the founding, upbuilding and safeguarding of the Nation by persons of Irish birth and descent.”
The Society hosts cultural and historical events, publishes a journal entitled The Recorder, and annually awards a Gold Medal to an Irish-American or Irish-national of significant accomplishment.
6. Ground Zero
The first recorded casualty of the September 11 attacks was Father Mychal Judge, the beloved Irish American priest who was a beacon in New York’s Irish community. But the heroics of firefighters, police officers and emergency workers will also be remembered alongside office workers and plane passengers who displayed unfathomable courage.
Many who died were leaders in their chosen professions: success stories of the Irish diaspora built on the many sacrifices of their forebears. A visit to this site may not be a wrenching experience, but it will also make you take fierce pride in your ancestry.
7. Saint Patrick’s Cathedral