For those of you who have never visited (or perhaps even heard of) the Museum of the City of New York, I’d highly recommend a visit.

Located uptown on Fifth Avenue between 103rd and 104th streets, it’s housed in a beautiful 1930’s building overlooking Central Park, with statues of Alexander Hamilton and DeWitt Clinton flanking either side of the facade on your way in — fitting as they’re the two most responsible for the trajectory of the city’s future (Hamilton could also lay claim to the same for the country’s economic future, and could share the claim for its political future), and unfitting as DeWitt’s uncle, George, was one of Hamilton’s most reviled enemies.

Looks like the pigeons found a perch on this leg...Hamilton, north facade on 5th Ave

I’d suggest starting with the ~20 minute video upstairs which provides a brief but engaging overview of the city’s history (narrated by Stanley Tucci) and then wandering around the various exhibits.

The two that I enjoyed the most (both are open through April 15th) were:

  1. On the first floor, “The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan, 1811-2011“, which provides a engrossing overview — with lots of maps and pictures! — of the city’s 1811 grid plan and how the city was transformed over time.  In the ‘Trivia To Impress Your Friends’ category, I learned that Union Square was so named as it marks where three pre-grid roads converged:  Broadway, Bowery (now Fourth Ave), and Bloomingdale Road (what is now upper Broadway…in fact, I’d never even heard of Bloomingdale Road, but it was built in 1703 through upper Manhattan).
  2. On the second floor (the same floor as Stanley T’s video), “The Unfinished Grid: Design Speculations for Manhattan“, includes eight architects’ and designers’ renderings of what the city might look like in the future. Their ideas were the winners of a competition hosted by the Architectural League of New York, in partnership with the Museum of the City of New York and Architizer.

So put your Metro Card to good use and pay the museum a visit — you’ll be glad you did.

Note: MCNY is open seven days a week, 10am-6pm.  Admission is $10.  For additional details, click here.   And for a full list of the museum’s current exhibits, click here.