What began as a grazing common and then served as a poorhouse and a jail eventually became the site of New York City Hall. Finished in 1812, this marble palace looked south over the city. To the north was all farmland. Pictured here in 1819, St. Paul’s Chapel is at far left, barely visible; beside it is the newly built mansion of John Jacob Astor, beaver magnate and real estate investor. Broadway is graded with dirt, and livestock still scamper among the buggies and wheelbarrows. The future financial capital of the world still had a long way to go.
But the pace of urban development will soon accelerate beyond anyone’s expectation. Within a generation, New York’s population will double and then double again, and this bucolic life of country gentry will be buried under by an insatiable city dominated by indomitable men: Astor, Boss Tweed, Horace Greeley, Joseph Pulitzer, PT Barnum.
Our New York Walking Tours explore all of the hidden history: the heroes and villains, the crooks and coppers, the showmen and freaks, the great men and the common working stiff, the titans who built the city and the politicos who tried to steal it all. Our New York walking tours put you on the spot and tell the story as never told before: with audio narration, hundreds of photos, video clips, trivia quizzes, and local recommendations. It’s fully interactive and fully fun, and you can share all of our photos and stories on Facebook and Twitter. Go ahead. Get walking. Download Racontrs now to your Iphone or Android.