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Ana Jean Healy | Photo: Courtesy of Fraunces Tavern Museum | February 7, 2014
This Presidents Day weekend, celebrate our nation’s great leaders by visiting some of NYC’s most notable historic sites and venues where our commanders in chief have lived, dined and made history.
1. Feast like a Founding Father
Originally built in 1700 as New York’s City Hall, Federal Hall later served as the nation’s first capitol building, and is where the Bill of Rights was first introduced to congress and where George Washington took his oath of office. Although the original structure was demolished in 1818, it was rebuilt and is now designated as a national historic landmark. Also in the historic Financial District is Frances Tavern, where Washington gave his famous farewell speech to his troops at the end of the Revolutionary War. Conclude your tour of the tavern’s museum with meal and a cold beer at The Porterhouse at Fraunces Tavern. Details Federal Hall, 26 Wall St., nps.com/feha; Fraunces Tavern, 54 Pearl St., 212.425.1778
2. From Speeches to Spaghetti
Presidents Lincoln, Grant, Cleveland, Taft, Theodore Roosevelt and Obama have all given speeches in Cooper Union’s famous Great Hall before being elected to office. It was here that Lincoln gave his “Right Makes Might” speech, which helped him to secure the Republican nomination and soon after, the presidency. While you are in the neighborhood stop into Greenwich Village hot spot Il Mulino, where Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were spotted having lunch together after they delivered an important address to congress at Federal Hall. When asked if the food was good, Clinton responded, “It was Il Mulino, how could it not be?” Details Cooper Union, 7 E. 7th St.; Il Mulino, 86 W. 3rd St.; 212.673.3783
3. Who’s Buried in Grant’s Tomb?
General Grant National Memorial, a beautiful marble and granite mausoleum overlooking the Hudson River, is the largest in the United States and serves as the final resting place for the nation’s 18th president and his wife, Julia. After admiring the monument’s art and architecture, take a walk down to Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too to try some of their Southern fried chicken, a favorite of former president Clinton. Details General Grant National Memorial, Riverside Park, Riverside Drive and West 122nd Street; Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too, 336 W. 110th St., 212.865.6744
4. Speak Softly and Order a Big Steak
The only president born in Manhattan, Theodore Roosevelt spent much of his young life in this Flatiron District brownstone before going on to become a Rough Rider, Nobel Peace Prize winner and one of our nation’s most notable leaders. Visitors can take free guided tours of the house to see various artifacts and furnishings from Roosevelt’s childhood. For dinner, head uptown to Keens Steakhouse, a regular dinner destination for Teddy, whose pipe can be seen hanging on the wall. Request a seat in the Bull Moose room, a dinning area with a Roosevelt-inspired Americana decor. Details Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace, 28 E. 20th St.; Keens Steakhouse, 72 W. 36th St., 212.947.3636
5. Get the Presidential Treatment
This Presidents Day weekend treat yourself to a day fit for the first family. Start by spending the day relaxing at the Waldorf Astoria, where every president since 1931 has stayed. You might even bump into the ghost of Herbert Hoover, who passed away at the New York Landmark in 1964. When dinnertime comes around, skip the room service and head over to 21 Club. A notorious speakeasy during prohibition, 21 Club is famous for having served every president since FDR, excluding George W. Bush. It was a particular favorite of John F. Kennedy, who dined there on the eve of his inauguration. Details Waldorf Astoria, 301 Park Ave., 212.355.3000; 21 Club, 21 W. 52nd St., 212.582.1400