Select Page

The Dead of Antietam: Alexander Gardner’s powerful images from the battle

“ You will see hushed, reverend groups standing around these weird copies of carnage, bending down to look in the pale faces of the dead, chained by the strange spell that dwells in dead men’s eyes.”

— New York Times, Oct 20th 1862

In October 1862 a groundbreaking exhibition happened in New York City.  At Mathew Brady’s studio at 785 Broadway at 10th Street, people lined up around the block to enter an exhibit of photographs taken at the front of the Civil War taken by his assistant Alexander Gardner.  Above the entrance was a sign simply saying, the ‘Dead at Antietam.’   Inside were some of the most chilling and morbid images that had ever been put on public display.  This was to rank as one of the most important visual arts exhibitions in the history of New York, and it helped establish Mathew Brady as the ‘father of photojournalism.’

A field strewn with dead bodies.  Time Magazine chose this photo as one of the 100 ‘Most Influential Images of All Time’.

It was said that during the Vietnam War, television journalists brought the war into our living rooms.  Mathew Brady accomplished this with his photos a century earlier.  The images showed grisly scenes of carnage from the battlefield many of the viewers had never seen before.  Fields littered with dead bodies of soldiers and animals.  Also shown were damaged buildings and a battered landscape.  In today’s era when the military often censors photos of dead soldiers, it is striking that many of the dead bodies had their faces and even their eyes visible with ghastly stares.  An anonymous New York Times author wrote, it was as if Brady had “brought bodies and laid them in our dooryards and along the streets.”

Gardner made an effort to highlight dramatic contrasts in his photos.  Here we see an unburied Confederate soldier right next to a grave of a buried Union soldier.

The Battle of Antietam was fought on September 17th 1862 near Sharpsburg, Maryland. The battle resulted in no significant victory for either side but the Union held the battlefield at the end.  In a single day there were 3,700 soldiers killed and 22,700 total casualties.  It was the bloodiest single day of battle in US history.  The site, like Gettysburg, is now a national battlefield preserved by the National Park Service.

  Sharpsburg Lutheran Chuch, damaged in the fighting.

Immediately after the battle, Brady dispatched his assistant Alexander Gardner to Antietam to photograph the scene.  He arrived two days later and it was the first time a battlefield was photographed with the dead still on the field.  Though Union soldiers were largely buried by the time of Gardner’s arrival, the field was under Union control and thus Confederate soldiers remained largely unburied.  Gardner would return two weeks later, this time photographing Abraham Lincoln’s visit to the site.

Mathew Brady’s ‘National Portrait Gallery’ inside his 10th Street Studio.  It was a popular attraction and a precursor to later museums.

By the start of the Civil War in 1861, Mathew Brady was the most famous photographer in America.  He had studied daguerreotypes in New York under Samuel Morse (of the telegraph), who himself had traveled to Europe and studied under Louis Daguerre.  Brady opened his first photography studio in 1844 at Fulton and Broadway (he later moved uptown).  At the beginning he mostly made studio portraits.  He won a prize in 1851 at the World’s Fair in London for the best daguerreotype.  He became world renowned and people came from all over the US and abroad to sit for photos with Mathew Brady, including Edgar Allen Poe, Daniel Webster, Edward the Prince of Wales, Jenny Lind, and most famously Abraham Lincoln.  In addition to taking photos, his studio was a gallery of photos of famous Americans, which became popular attraction a precursor to later museums and art galleries.

Alexander Gardner in 1863

Alexander Gardner was born and raised in Scotland and worked as a journalist.  He traveled to the 1851 World’s Fair in London and was impressed by Brady’s photographs.  He later immigrated to the US and found work at Brady’s studio.  In 1858 Brady sent him to Washington to run Brady’s Washington studio.  Starting in the late 1850s, Brady’s eyesight began to fail and his work was increasingly done by assistants (though always credited as a ‘Brady’ photograph).  During his lifetime, Gardner took 14 photos of Abraham Lincoln, more than any other photographer, including three at Antietam.  Brady sent his top photographer Gardner to Antietam to document the battlefield.  After Antietam, Gardner would leave Brady and work independently, eventually taking several other of Brady’s assistants.

Through most of his career, Brady had specialized in studio photography, which of course was largely due to the limits of early photography which required subjects to sit for a prolonged period of time to get the required exposure.  In 1851 British photographer Frederick Scott Archer made a significant breakthrough using glass plates and a chemical called collodion, which allowed photos to be taken with only a few seconds of exposure.   Brady would take this technology and develop a travelling darkroom–a carriage darkroom that allowed him to take photos outside his studio.  When the Civil War began he immediately started travelling with his darkroom to battlefields.  In fact he was nearly captured at the First Battle of Bull Run.  Before Antietam he had already displayed several photos from the war at his gallery.  But no battle had been covered like Antietam.

One of Gardner’s most striking photos: the dead horse of Confederate colonel Henry Strong

Gardner took approximately 90 photos at Antietam.  After he transferred the images onto glass plates, he sent them to New York so Brady could exhibit them.  Gardner was not credited at all for the photos, as was Brady’s standard practice with his assistants.  Another innovation Gardner and Brady employed was the stereograph.  For most scenes Gardner took two simultaneous shots.  They could be viewed in stereo using a special viewer Brady set up in his studio.

Lincoln at Antietam

For weeks crowds lined up to see the photos.  For middle and upper class New Yorkers, this was often the first time they were forced to confront the reality of war face to face.  The Times wrote, “ You will see hushed, reverend groups standing around these weird copies of carnage, bending down to look in the pale faces of the dead, chained by the strange spell that dwells in dead men’s eyes.”  Oliver Wendal Holmes Sr, who went to the battlefield to search for his son (Holmes Jr  was injured but survived and later became a Supreme Court Justice), wrote for the Atlantic Monthly, “a truthful sunbeam has delineated in all  their (the battlefield scenes) dread reality….Let him who wishes to know what war is look at this series of illustrations. These wrecks of manhood thrown together in careless heaps or ranged in ghastly rows for burial were alive but yesterday.”

“Let him who wishes to know what war is look at this series of illustrations. These wrecks of manhood thrown together in careless heaps or ranged in ghastly rows for burial were alive but yesterday.”

— Oliver Wendal Holmes Sr,, Atlantic Monthly 1863.

It was not yet possible to produce the images in newspapers (the first newspaper photo was printed in 1880 and it only became commonplace in the 20th century).  Brady’s photos were made available for sale, and he made brisk business from Civil War photos.  Brady did not appear to be concerned with the potential impact his photos had on public sentiment for the war effort.  They were available in different sizes and made their way to mantels and walls of homes in the city.  They were also reproduced in woodcuts and sketches which could reappear in newspapers.  Other than Jacob Riis’ landmark publication  How the other Half Lives, perhaps  no collection of photos has had such an impact.

Gardner entitled this photo, 'The Lone Grave'. Gardner entitled this photo, ‘The Lone Grave’.

In 2012 the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum in Washington DC held an exhibit of Gardner’s photos marking the 150 year anniversary of the battle.  The National Portrait Gallery held a major exhibition of Gardner’s work in 2014, giving Gardner full credit that Mathew Brady had always denied his assistants.  The photos can be be seen at the website of the Library of Congress, and many are also shown at National Park Service’s page for the Antietam National Battlefield.  But many more Americans experienced the Antietam photos through Ken Burns’ monumental PBS documentary The Civil War, which made heavy use of the photos of Brady and his assistants.   Thus, the Civil War was truly brought into our living rooms.

On this day: Abraham Lincoln arrived at the Astor House Hotel in New York

On this day in New York History, Abraham Lincoln arrived in New York at the Cortland Street ferry and made his way to the Astor House Hotel at Broadway and Vesey Streets just north of St. Paul’s Chapel.  His journey from Springfield took three days.  He changed trains four times and arrived from Jersey City by ferry.

The Astor House Hotel, arguably New York’s first luxury hotel when it opened in 1836.  It had gaslights and bathrooms on every floor, then the height of comfort.  Lincoln stayed here several times.

Where to celebrate Presidents’ Day in and around NYC

Until the election of the 45th President, New York City didn’t immediately conjure up presidential imagery.  The most popular attractions–the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty or Central Park aren’t closely connected to the presidency.  But New York has deep roots connected to the US presidency. Two presidents were born here.  Three died here.  Two were inaugurated here.  Three presidents and one vice-president studied at Columbia University in New York.  One president is interred here. Five First Ladies were born in New York, and nine from New York State.  Four vice-presidents died in New York.  And nearly every president came to New York City at some point.

Aside from Donald Trump, the US presidents that loom the largest in New York are George Washington and Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt.  There are numerous attractions related to all three in and around New York City.

The Washington Square Arch in Greenwich Village, built to commemorate Washington’s inauguration in NYC

Washington was from Virginia of course but he spent much time in New York.  He commanded the Continental Army in New York during the Revolutionary war and there are several buildings in New York or the surrounding area that Washington used has headquarters, including the Morris Jumel Mansion in Washington Heights.  The Old Stone House in Brooklyn is a museum that documents the Battle of Brooklyn between Washington’s Continental Army and the British.

Bust of Franklin Roosevelt at Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island

From 1785-1791, New York City was the capital of the United States.  Thus, in 1789, the first presidential inauguration took place in NYC.  Washington lived in two homes during his time in NY, neither of which survive but plaques mark their spots.   There are nine full-sized statues of the 1st US president in NY, as well as the Washington Square Arch in Washington Square.

However, the presidential family that has the deepest ties to New York, with due respect to the 45th president, is the Roosevelt family.  Descended from Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam, the Roosevelts represented old New York society.  Franklin and Theodore came from different branches of the family and were 5th cousins.  Both families were from New York, but they spent summers in two different countryside locations–Theodore’s side in Oyster Bay on Long Island, and Franklin’s side in Hyde Park in upstate New York.  Both lived in New York for significant periods of time.

Aside from Washington and the Roosevelts, many other presidents have ties to New York City.  Below is a list of 10 places you can visit in New York City that have connections with one or more presidents–most are buildings that presidents visited.  Also there are three worthwhile sites outside of New York that are accessible by car or train.  Most of the sites in New York City are free to visit.

Federal Hall on Wall Street, site of Washington’s 1st inauguration.  In front is a statue of Washington by John Quincy Adams Ward

Federal Hall

Model of the original Federal Hall and Washington’s Inauguration.

Federal Hall was the first Capitol of the United States, and the site of George Washington’s inauguration in 1789, as New York City was the capital of the US until 1791.  Though the actual Federal Hall was destroyed in 1812, you can visit the Federal Hall National Memorial on Wall Street at the same location.  The building was built in 1842–a beautiful Greek Revival building that originally served as the United States Customs House.  The Memorial is free to visit and contains many wonderful artifacts and exhibits including the pavestone where Washington stood for his inauguration, the Washington Bible, and a scale model of the original Federal Hall.  Outside is an 1882 statue of George Washington by sculptor John Quincy Adams Ward.

Fraunces Tavern

Fraunces Tavern at the corner of Pearl and Broad Streets

Fraunces Tavern, originally founded by Samuel Fraunces in 1762, is situated a short walk down Broad Street from Federal Hall.  Though most of the building is a reconstruction, it stands a a beautiful example of Colonial Revival architecture.  It still functions as a tavern and a museum on the upper floors.  The highlight of the museum is the Long Room, a recreation of the banquet hosted by George Washington on December 4th 1783 when he resigned from the Continental Army.  Other exhibits highlight New York’s role in the American Revolution.

Historically Fraunces Tavern played a significant role in the Revolution and the early American Republic.  Revolutionaries often met here.  The owner Samuel Fraunces is believed to have served as a spy for the Americans during the war.  After the Revolution Fraunces Tavern was the location of many US government offices.  And in 1804 Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton shared a civilized meal together at Fraunces Tavern a week before their famous duel.

The Long Room, where Washington celebrated the end of the American Revolution in 1783 The presidential pew with painting of the Great Seal of the United States above.

St Paul’s Chapel

St Paul’s Chapel is the oldest building in Lower Manhattan and the most physical direct link in the neighborhood to the time that President and General George Washington spent in New York City.  During the two years he lived in New York as president from 1789-91, he attended services here.  His pew is preserved.  The surrounding graveyard contains the remains of several soldiers in the American Revolution including General Robert Montgomery.  5 US presidents have attended services here including Washington and George W Bush.

Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site

Teddy Roosevelt’s birthplace

Located at 28 East 20th Street near Madison Square is a reconstruction of the brownstone townhouse where Theodore Roosevelt was born and lived until he was 14.  Though the original 1848 rowhouse was demolished in 1916 (Theodore Roosevelt himself had no interest in preserving it.), the Women’s Roosevelt Memorial Association purchased the lot after his death in 1919 and rebuilt the brownstone in its original Greek Revival style.  Today it is open as a house-museum and is filled with actual furnishings of the Roosevelt family or authentic period furnishings.  Guided tours by National Park Service rangers are free.

Roosevelt’s boyhood reading chair at the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace

City Hall

New York City’s City Hall, built in 1812, has hosted dozens of presidents visiting New York City.  One of the city’s nine full-sized statues of George Washington is inside, an 1857 cast of Jean-Antoine Houden’s 1792 statue of the first US president.  The highlight is the Governor’s Room, which contains George Washington’s desk as well as 108 portraits, one of the richest collections of personal portraits in the United States.  Among the paintings are nine John Trumbull portraits inclduing George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay.   The Trumbull Hamilton is the basis for his face on the $10 bill.  City Hall is closed to the public except for guided tours, currently on Thursdays at 10:00 a.m.  Registration is required.

Aside from visits by many US presidents, President’s Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S Grant both lay in state at City Hall after their deaths.

The Great Hall of the Cooper Union

The Great Hall of the Cooper Union, where 8 presidents have spoken. An exhibit outside the Great Hall

The Cooper Union was built by the philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859 to provide free higher education as well as to provide a venue for ideas to be debated.  Inside the Union’s Italianate brownstone Foundation Building at Cooper Square is the Great Hall of the Cooper Union, where at least 8 presidents have spoken, most significantly (then-candidate) Abraham Lincoln in 1860.  Lincoln’s Cooper Union Address was seen as vital for Lincoln gaining the Republican nomination for the 1860 US Presidential Election.

From the outset, Peter Cooper intended the Great Hall to be open to a wide range of political ideas.  Cooper was a Democrat (though an abolitionist as well) and happily opened the doors to Republicans like Lincoln in 1860.  Other speakers here have included Ralph Nader, Hugo Chavez, Joseph Cambell, members of the women’s suffrage movement, and others.  An exhibit of the Hall’s history is located inside.  The Cooper Union is not open for visitors but events are held at the Great Hall which are open to the public.

Waldorf Astoria Hotel

The 1893 clock inside the Waldorf-Astoria

The Waldorf Astoria Hotel was the home of US Presidents in New York from Herbert Hoover to Barack Obama.  The presidential suite is specifically designed to emulate the White House.  The lobby, built in an elegant Art Deco style, is open to the public and one of the city’s amazing pubic spaces.  The centerpiece in the lobby is a clock that was cast in England in 1893 and was displayed at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893.  Topped by a miniature of the Statue of Liberty, the bronze column also has reliefs of 6 US presidents along with Queen Victoria and Benjamin Franklin.

Along with several US presidents, innumerable kings, queens, diplomats, politicians, and celebrities have stayed or lived at the Waldorf Astoria.  Herbert Hoover lived here until his death in 1964.  Songwriter Cole Porter lived her for 30 years and his grand piano is in the lobby.  The Khrushchev family stayed here in 1959.

Roosevelt House

in 1908 Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt moved into a Neo-Georgian townhouse purchased by Franklin’s mother Sara Delano Roosevelt.  They lived here until the Roosevelt’s moved to the White House in 1933.  It is today owned by Hunter College, which Eleanor Roosevelt had a long relationship with.  It’s named the Sara Delano Roosevelt Memorial House, or the Roosevelt House.

The house is not a museum and lacks the rich collection of authentic furnishings that you see at the Theodore Roosevelt House.  However, free guided tours on Saturdays go over the Roosevelts’ lives and political careers.  After he was elected, Roosevelt assembled his political team here and planned much of the New Deal at this house.  Here he appointed New Yorker Frances Perkins Secretary of Labor, the first woman to serve in the cabinet.  One of her proposals would become what we call Social Security.  The house contains many portraits of the Roosevelts and several political posters from the time.

Grants Tomb

Grants Tomb, officially dedicated in 1897 Sarcophagi for Ulysses and Julia Grant

Two presidents have been born in New York City, and one is interred here.  Ulysses S Grant is entombed the stunning Neoclassical General Grant National Memorial, popularly known as Grant’s Tomb.  Grant was not from New York but lived his final years here.  Late in his life, after many financial difficulties in his post-presidential years, he enjoyed renewed popularity due to the publication of his memoirs.  He become a very popular citizen of the city, and when he died in 1885 unexpectedly of throat cancer, there was a public push to have him interred in New York City and build a suitable memorial.  It took 12 years to plan and build and was dedicated in 1897.  For many years it was New York’s most popular attraction, outdrawing the Statue of Liberty.  In particular it was visited by Civil War veterans.

Mural of Grant and Lee at Appomattox inside Grants Tomb

Even in a city with so many architectural riches, Grant’s Tomb is impressive.  The design was inspired by the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus in ancient Turkey (a popular inspiration at the time, found in many New York buildings) and the Roman building Tropaeum Alpium in France; while inside it bears resemblance to Napoleon’s Tomb in Paris.  The interior is rather simple, containing the two giant wooden sarcophagi–one for Ulysses S Grant and one for his wife Julia Grant.  Inside are mosaics illustrating events in Grant’s career and busts of five Civil War generals.

Columbia University

The Low Memorial Library at Columbia.  It is the main building open to the general public and hosts a visitor center.  Daniel Chester French’s Alma Mater statue stands in front.

Columbia University, besides Harvard, Yale and the College of William and Mary, is perhaps the university most associated with US presidents.  Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt studied here along with Barack Obama, while Dwight Eisenhower served as its president.   The Roosevelts both studied law here but did not complete their degrees; both were awarded JDs posthumously.  Barack Obama transferred to Columbia from Occidental College and finished with a B.A. in Political Science.  Daniel D Tompkins, the sixth Vice-President of the United States, also studied at Columbia.

The campus in Morningside Heights, between 114th and 120th Streets.  Built in the Beaux-Arts style by the architects McKim, Mead and White in the late 19th Century.  It is considered one of the USA’s most beautiful college campuses.  Though today most buildings are off limits to non students, the campus is still well worth a visit for the architecture alone.  There is a visitor center at the Low Memorial Library building (open only Monday-Friday) and the university maintains a visitor information website with a self-guided tour.

Sagamore Hill National Historic Site

Sagamore Hill is Theodore Roosevelt’s summer home in Oyster Bay on the north shore of Long Island (the ‘Gold Coast’) and his primary residence for much of his adult life.  He’s buried in nearby Youngs Memorial Cemetery.  It is primarily accessible by car; it’s approximately one hour from the city.  However, it is possible to take a train (to either Syosset or Oyster Bay) and then either take a taxi or a shuttle which is available in the summer only.  See the Website for details.

Hyde Park: Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site

Theodore’s side of the family summered on Long Island, whole Franklin’s side summered at Hyde Park in the Hudson Valley. Springwood, the house where Roosevelt was born, was built around 1800 in the Federal Style, though portions have been added on since.  It was purchased by Roosevelt’s father James in 1866 and Franklin was born here in 1882.  Franklin would spend most of his life here, though he and Eleanor would also have the townhouse in the city.  Roosevelt spent much of the summer here during his presidency.  And the first Presidential Library was established on the grounds by FDR himself in 1941.  Franklin and Eleanor are buried at the estate.

Again, Hyde Park is easiest to visit by car.  It’s about an hour and a half north of NYC.  You can also take a train to Poughkeepsie and either transfer by taxi or a shuttle service available in the summer.

Lincoln Depot Museum

Statue of Lincoln in front of the Lincoln Depot Museum in Peekskill

This wonderful museum is a surprising find.  It was opened only in 2014.  It is located in Peekskill  NY (very near Bear Mountain State Park) 40 miles north of New York in the Hudson Valley inside a restored train station where Lincoln stopped en route to his inauguration in Washington from Springfield IL.  He stopped briefly at the station and was greeted by William Nelson, a local lawyer with whom Lincoln had served in Congress years earlier.  He spoke in front of 1,500 people who gathered to see the President-elect.

The small museum is filled with artifacts with a focus on Lincoln’s connections to New York State as well as the Civil War. Though easily walkable from the Peekskill train station, visiting by car would allow you to easily combine the visit with surrounding sites.  Unfortunately the museum opens in April for the summer only but does host events on February 18th.

On this day: The Gettysburg Address

Seven score and 13 years ago today on November 19th 1863, Abraham Lincoln gave one of the most important speeches in modern history–the Gettysburg Address.  In July that year, Union and Rebel forces had met at the battlefield in the bloodiest battle of the war.  Four and a half months later, Abraham Lincoln and several members of his cabinet (including Secretary of State William Seward) gathered to consecrate the battlefield.

Article in the New York Tribune covering the day’s events.  Lincoln’s ‘dedicatory remarks’ were preceded by a 2-hour oration by former Massachusetts governor Edward Everett.

Lincoln’s speech was part of a full-day program of events, including a two-hour oration by former Massachusetts Governor and Secretary of State Edward Everett, who was considered by some to be the finest American orator at that time.  Also a band played and a benediction was read.  Lincoln was scheduled to deliver ‘dedicatory remarks’.

Text of the speech in the New York Times. Text of the speech in the New York Times.

Lincoln’s speech was reported in newspapers nationwide as well as across the Atlantic.  Reactions at the time varied.  The New York Times (a Republican-leaning paper then) reported that the speech was interrupted by applause five times and followed by ‘long and uninterrupted applause.  The full speech was printed in the major New York newspapers including the Times and the New York Tribune.

There are five known copies of the speech written by Lincoln himself.  One of them, the Bancroft copy, is kept at Cornell University in upstate New York.  It was written for the historian George Bancroft in 1864.

The Bancroft copy of the Gettysburg Address kept in the Carl A. Kroch Library at Cornell University. The Bancroft copy of the Gettysburg Address kept in the Carl A. Kroch Library at Cornell University.

Abraham Lincoln’s New York City: Places you can visit associated with Abraham Lincoln in NYC and beyond

Sculptor Henry Kirke Brown’s 1875 statue of Lincoln at Union Square Park

Abraham Lincoln visited New York six times in his life, and his body passed through the city en route to Springfield IL after he was assassinated in 1865.  Though his time in NYC was extremely short, his visits were significant, particularly his visit in February 1860 to speak at the Cooper Union (or the Cooper Institute).  That speech in front of 1,500 influential New York Republicans such as Horace Greeley, William Cullen Bryant, and Henry Raymond is credited with making Lincoln into a viable candidate for the president, which he ultimately won.

The New York that Lincoln saw was very different than that of today.  In Lincoln’s time the tallest structure in the city was Trinity Church.  Public transport was extremely limited.  The tallest office or residential buildings had 5-6 floors.  Most buildings were still wood-frame structures.  And demographically, while the city was experiencing tremendous growth through immigration, the city had yet to experience the massive waves of immigrants that would later arrive from southern and eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America.  But there are still a number of places you can visit that Lincoln actually visited himself.  For visitors who want to learn about Lincoln in NY, here are my most recommended sites:

The Cooper Union, where Lincoln spoke on February 27th 1860.

1: The Cooper Union

The Cooper Union’s Foundation Building (30 Cooper Sq,) was built in 1859 as a college founded by philanthropist Peter Cooper.  The building featured, and still does, an auditorium at the basement level called the Great Hall.  Over the years the Hall has hosted many famous speakers including 7 US presidents, including (prior to his presidency obviously) Abraham Lincoln.  His speech in 1860, sometimes referred to as the ‘Might makes right” speech, played a pivotal role in making Lincoln a major candidate for President in 1860.  

Officially the Great Hall is closed to the public except at events, which are frequently hosted and cover a variety of interest topics.  However, it is possible sometimes to wander in during the day–it depends on the mood of the guard.  Go in the south entrance facing Cooper Square and go down the ramp to the right to the Great Hall.  The Hall still has the original lectern that Lincoln used.  On the side of the Hall are several portraits of figures associated with Cooper Union, including a portrait of Lincoln as he looked in 1860.  There’s also an accompanying small but excellent exhibit on the history of the Great Hall, with several busts, statues, infographs, artifacts pictures and more.

Relief of Lincoln outside Plymouth Church

2.  Plymouth Church

Lincoln’s original invitation to speak at in NY was to the Plymouth Church in today’s Brooklyn Heights on Orange St, the church of the famous abolitionist minister Henry Ward Beecher.  (It was referred to in the invitation as ‘Beecher’s Church’.).  Though the venue was moved to Manhattan, Lincoln did attend a service here twice, on Sunday May 26th and then two weeks later as Lincoln journeyed back to Springfield.  The exterior wall of the church features a relief of Lincoln sitting in the church, along with statue of Beecher.   Inside the seat where Lincoln sat is marked (facing the pulpit, on the left side of the middle row near the front).  Outside the sanctuary, there is an arcade with wonderful exhibits on the history of the church, particularly its role in the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement.  You can tour inside the church on Sundays at 12:30 after the services.

Bust of Lincoln at the Cooper Union with the most famous words from his speech in 1860.

3: The Lincoln Depot Museum in Peekskill NY.
Though an hour from NY by train or car, this modest museum is in a former train station that Lincoln actually visited in 1861   The museum, which can be taken in in less than an hour easily, is solely devoted in Lincoln and particularly covers events in New York State.  Featuring a number of artifacts from the time, it’s a wonderful spot for Lincoln-lovers.  It’s currently open on weekends only from May to November, from 1-4.  It may not be worth a day trip from New York City by itself, but if you combine it with other sites in the Hudson Valley (Bear Mountain State Park and West Point are both nearby and the city also boasts the Peekskill Museum.).  Though car is probably the best way to visit so you can easily combine it with other area attractions, it is a 5-minute walk from the Peekskill Metro-North station which you can reach from Grand Central Terminal.

4. City Hall Park

City Hall and the surrounding Commons was still the center of much of the city’s life in 1860.  The city’s premier hotel, the Astor House, where Lincoln stayed, was across the street.  It was closed and torn down in 1913 and the Astor Building stands in its place..  Many of the best shops were nearby.  The city’s publishing industry was across the road at Printing House Square.  And the city’s Financial District was a short walk away on Wall Street.  The only building in the area still standing that Abraham Lincoln actually visited is City Hall, where he was received as President-Elect in 1861 and lay in state in 1865.  But Lincoln did much else in the area.  He bought a hat at Knox Hat store at 212 Broadway, just south.  He probably visited the offices of the New York Tribune which stood near the statue of Benjamin Franklin near 42 Park Row.  And north of the park is the Sun Building, built in 1846 as A.T. Stewart’s Marble Palace, the city’s first department store and one of several places visited by Mary Todd Lincoln on her shopping visits.

Statue of Lincoln outside the Lincoln Depot Museum

Statue of New York Tribune publisher Horace Greeley in City Hall Park Statue of New York Tribune publisher Horace Greeley in City Hall Park

Other locations:
The Haughwout Building at Broome and Broadway in SoHo.  This is where Mary Todd Lincoln purchased the Lincoln China Service for the White House in 1861.  The 1857 cast iron gem was then Eder V. Haughwout’s Emporium.  It also featured the first ever passenger elevator in a commercial building.

359 Broadway in Tribeca.  This relatively non-descript 5-story structure is the only existing building that housed one of Mathew Brady’s photo studios.  Though Lincoln actually visited his studio on Bleecker and Broadway, that buliding no longer exists.  Brady was the most famous photographer of the time and photographed Lincoln on the day of the Cooper Union speech, and several times later on.  That photograph was widely distributed during the 1860 election.

The Morgan General Mail Facility on 10th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen between 28th-30th Streets was the location of the Hudson River Railroad Depot where Lincoln arrived in 1861 as President-Elect.  He was the first passenger in the newly opened station.  A plaque on 30th Street marks the history of the location.

There are statues of Lincoln at Union Square, Prospect Park (both are by Henry Kirke Brown), the Lincoln Houses at Madison and 133rd in Harlem, and outside the New-York Historical Society.  The NYHS and other area museums also frequently feature exhibits related to Lincoln, many of which are still viewable online.  Also check the Museum of the City of New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Morgan Library, the New York Public Library, and others.

McSorley’s Old Alehouse on 7th Street just east of the Cooper Union.  Contrary to popular myth, Lincoln did not drink here.  But who cares?  It was open during Lincoln’s lifetime and is one of New York’s most celebrated olde drinking taverns and a good spot for lunch while touring New York.  Its interior is filled with New York history and they claim that Lincoln’s chair still hangs from the ceiling.

Brady's 1860 photograph of Lincoln

Brady’s 1860 photograph of Lincoln