So much about New York City is ubiquitous to the billions of people around the world who view it as the center of the universe. Times Square holds relatively few secrets. Yet it is the more obscure quirks that really make the city interesting and give it character. From the Bronx to the Battery, New York’s lesser-known history allows both visitors and locals alike to discover a New York City they may never have known existed.
Had things gone a little differently, New York today wouldn’t only be the biggest city in the United States, but it would be our nation’s capital as well. In fact, from 1789 to 1790, it was just that. Our nation’s first president was inaugurated in New York City. Never intended to be a permanent capital, New York quickly lost the title, first to Philadelphia, and eventually to Washington, D.C.
Today, one of New York’s most popular attractions is Central Park. Spanning over 1.3 square miles, the park is home to more grass than anywhere else on the island of Manhattan. And soon after the park was built, some unique lawn-mowers were brought in to keep a portion of that grass under control. Beginning in 1864, herds of about 200 sheep grazed the appropriately named “Sheep Meadow” section of Central Park. There they remained until 1934, when the height of the Great Depression made city commissioners fear that hungry people would try to turn the sheep into a hearty dinner. The sheep were removed to the Catskills for their own safety.
A trip aboard the New York City subway often includes impromptu serenading by musicians busking to earn a living. While many of these performers maintain a renegade status as they hop from subway car to subway car, most people don’t realize that many of them are vetted by the city. In order to perform in some of the most crowded subway stations, including Times Square and Union Square, performers must audition and be granted approval. Since almost 60 million people travel through the busiest stations per year, the city wants to make sure the entertainment actually is entertaining.
New York has so many things to discover on its surface. People can live there for their whole lives and never visit some of the most popular tourist attractions. But if you take the time to learn more about the city and explore its lesser-known features, it’s a place that will never cease to surprise you.
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