Olana, Hudson, NY
New York is, and always seems to have been a place of treasures, both natural and manmade. So many firsts, bests, innovations, and achievements. New York City is hailed by many as the cultural capital of the United States; however, the Empire State overflows with treasure troves of art and culture, progress, and other wonders.
Our country literally could be said to have started in Manhattan. After all, it was the country’s first capital; Washington, D.C. did not gain that title until 1790. The year before, George Washington was sworn in as the United States’ first president, standing on the balcony of Federal Hall on Wall Street.
Since then, and in fact, even before Washington was sworn in, New York is, was, and may always be, the first state where really cool things reside and happen. Here are just a few of our favorite New York Treasures -- some that might not first come to mind!
Deep Hollow Ranch: Cowboys got their American start in the Hamptons of all places. At Deep Hollows Ranch, located in Montauk amid thousands of acres of gorgeous coastal property, visitors step back in time to the country’s first cattle ranch, established in 1658.
Brotherhood Winery: In 1810, Jean Jacques began planting grapes in the Hudson Valley. In 1837, he bought additional acreage in Washingtonville and began what is now the oldest continually operating winery in the U.S.
Photo: Brotherhood Winery
NATURAL (AND NOT) WONDERS
Niagara Falls: A set of three waterfalls — Horseshoe, American and Bridal Veil — seemingly never without multiple rainbows, pour more than 700,000 gallons of water course down vertical heights that reach 176 feet in some places. Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in America, with more than 8 million visitors annually. Four of the five Great Lakes drain into the Niagara River, before emptying into Lake Ontario; these lakes make up an astounding one-fifth of the world’s freshwater supply.
The Erie Canal: Built across New York between 1817 and 1825, the Erie Canal was an engineering marvel that helped New York City become a worldwide trading center and helped develop and bring prosperity to the Midwest.
Herkimer diamonds: Like the love child of a head shop and Tiffany’s, Herkimer diamonds are gorgeous double-terminated quartz crystals found in the town that bears their name. They are at once works of nature and gloriously sophisticated jewels that visitors can extract from the earth and keep or purchase made into sparkling jewelry. We just happen to have some.
The Statue of Liberty: A gift from the people of France to honor the United States in its dedication to freedom and democracy, this iconic statue was erected in 1886 on what is now known as Liberty Island in New York Harbor. It served as a welcome to the more than 14 million immigrants who came to America through New York until 1924, and endures today to people on different sides of the political fence as a symbol of freedom and liberty... for all.
Grand Central Terminal: The current iteration was opened in 1913, on the site of two previous stations, the first of which was opened in 1871. Located in the middle of Manhattan’s Midtown on 42nd Street, it is both practical (bringing commuters and visitors via subway and rail all over the city, and surrounding towns in New York and Connecticut) and a thing of beauty. Designed by the architectural firms Reed & Stem and Warren & Wetmore, the sprawling station was built in Beaux-Arts Style. Hovering above everything is massive celestial ceiling depicting constellations; it was last restored in 1998. A much-celebrated quirk: the sky is backwards, and the stars aren’t aligned correctly, because it was modeled after a medieval manuscript that reflected what the sky might look like to God from outside the celestial sphere. Surrounding the commuting hubbub is a warren of shops selling everything from artisanal olive oil to diamonds.
JOURNALISM & WRITING
The New York Post: The oldest-running newspaper in the U.S. was established in 1801 by Alexander Hamilton, a Federalist and Founding Father. It evolved into a broadsheet in the 19th century under the name New York Evening Post, and was scooped up by Rupert Murdoch in 1976 for $30 million. He sold in 1988, then bought it again in 1993.
The New York Times: Easily the most respected, and criticized, and read newspaper in the country, the NYT has been happily embroiled in one controversy after another since 1851. The biggies: allegations of bias in reporting the Russian Revolution, the Jayson Blair plagiarism scandal, the Los Alamos investigation regarding Wen Ho Lee, the 1619 project, and coverage of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Authors: Some of the most beloved poems, stories, and novels were inspired by, and written in, New York. A handful of the icons who claim New York as key to their success: James Baldwin, Elizabeth Bishop, Zora Neale Hurston, Edith Wharton, E.B. White, Langston Hughes, Herman Melville, Dorothy Parker, Walt Whitman, John Cheever, Toni Morrison, Washington Irving, Henry James, Pete Hamill, Kurt Vonnegut, Allen Ginsberg, William Kennedy, Jennifer Egan, Edwidge Danticat, and Maya Angelou.
Books: A few of the classics set in New York: Betty Smith’s “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” M.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye,” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” Bret Easton Ellis’ “American Psycho,” Edith Wharton’s “The Age of Innocence,” Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” Toni Morrison’s “Jazz,” Jonathan Lethem’s “Motherless Brooklyn,” Truman Capote’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” James Baldwin’s “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” Patt Smith’s “M Train” and Henry James’ “Washington Square.”
The Frick: In a Gilded Age mansion built on Manhattan’s Upper East Side by Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919), the Frick houses masterpieces of Western painting, sculpture, and decorative art. It also showcases the incredible wealth of men like Frick and his unusual desire to share his love of art with the public. The collection is considered a testament to the country’s greatest art collectors, with works by Holbein, Titian, El Greco, Rembrant, Velázquez, Vermeer, Goya, Van Dyck, Constable, and Corot.
Storm King Art Center: Founded in 1960 in the Hudson Valley’s Mountainville, Storm King was envisioned as a museum devoted to Hudson River School painting, but it quickly became a center for modern sculpture set in the great outdoors. Now, visitors can wander through 500 acres and see work by post-modern masters like Barbara Hepworth, Ronald Bladen, Zhang Huan, Louise Bourgeois, Donald Judd, David Brooks, Isami Noguchi, Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, and David Stoltz.
Olana: A 250-acre jewel-like landscape set amid the Hudson Valley’s splendor, Olana offers one of the most stunning artist-designed spaces in the United States. It also features the home of Frederic Church, an artist central to the Hudson River School, who meticulously laid out the large-scale working and ornamental farm, meadows, outbuildings, and artificial lake within the natural woodlands, with five miles of carriage roads leading visitors throughout. The house is an impressive Victorian manse with Middle Eastern decorative motifs. Inside, the home features eclectic furnishings gathered from Church’s travels around the world, he and his wife Isabel’s acquired paintings, sculptures, and antique and artistic specimens.
Hip Hop: DJ Kool Herc (born Clive Campbell) changed the world on a sweltering summer night in the Bronx in 1973. As the story goes, the then-16-year-old introduced what is now recognized as the first expression of hip hop at his sister Cindy’s party in the Bronx. While Herc’s performance rocked the party-goers, and eventually the culture, he never cashed in on the movement that brought Jay-Z and Puff Daddy worldwide fame. According to an iconic history of the evening published in New York Magazine, Herc had been remixing records in his bedroom for weeks, ignoring much of the record to focus on the wilder grooves at the beginning or middle of the song, and blending two copies of the same record with extended percussion and bass. The remixed track became known as “the break.” Love it or leave it, hip hop has redefined everything that ends up in our ears.
The Juilliard: Founded in 1905 by Dr. Frank Damrosch, the godson of Franz Liszt, The Juilliard School has provided one of the best artistic and educational experiences available to young musicians, who come from around the world to attend the prestigious academy. Since the beginning, a who’s who of talented greats have emerged, from Jessica Chastain, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Patti LuPone, and Robin Williams to Miles Davis, Yo-Yo Ma, Philip Glass, Renée Fleming, and Jon Batiste.
Toilet Paper: Joseph Gayetty invented this necessity of life in New York City in 1857. The pandemic drove home just how much this invention means to our quality of life. Prior to Gayetty’s work, people used everything from seashells, to paper, sponges, and fur to stay clean.
See New York Maker’s article “REVOLUTIONARY | New York Inventions You Couldn’t (?!) Live Without” for more cool New York innovations.
Seneca Falls: New Yorkers gathered at Seneca Falls for the first Women’s Rights Convention in 1848. Widely considered the birthplace of the women’s rights movement, icons like Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton paved the way, first, for women’s right to vote in 1917, and, now, for a place in the White House for Kamala Harris, the country’s first female vice president.
Stonewall: The Stonewall riots are considered by many to be the launching pad for the LGBTQ movement in the country. In the early hours of June 28, 1969, police raided a gay club in Greenwich Village called the Stonewall Inn. The raid sparked a riot, then six days of protests and violent clashes.
This is a mere selection of gems in New York’s heaving treasure chest. We can think of dozens of others that belong on the list, but our question to you is: what New York treasures would you add to this list?