Canyon of Heroes: A Multigenerational Walk
March 13, 2013

Canyon of Heroes: A Multigenerational Walk

Any given mile in New York City is loaded with fascinating history, but no stretch commemorates it all as well as the Canyon of Heroes along Broadway in lower Manhattan.  In just under a mile, from the Battery to City Hall, this  world famous parade route will prompt your family to think about some of the greatest heads of state, athletes, sports stars, historical events, and war veterans that the world has known since 1886. 

Two hundred and four individuals, troops, teams—and one statue—have been honored with ticker-tape parades along this short route. The Alliance for Downtown New York City has, in turn, commemorated the fanfare by embedding granite strips in the sidewalk along the way, each listing the names of honorees. Although the sidewalk can be crowded with pedestrians, the Canyon of Heroes is an excellent walk for history lovers of all ages, including those in strollers.  We recently visited it with the children’s grandparents Lambert, on a longer excursion that included St. Paul’s Chapel and the 9/11 Memorial.  

The Lady that Launched a Tradition

It all began on October 28, 1886, with an impromptu parade that erupted during the dedication of the Statue of Liberty.  Shredded ticker tape from the stock market cascaded from the office buildings which line the street, and a tradition was born.  The city quickly formalized the process, and in 1899 Admiral Dewey was honored the same way when he returned from Manila.  The most recent parade was held for the New York Giants, on February 7, 2012, celebrating their victory in Super Bowl XLVI.

Bring a pen and paper on this walk so you can jot down the names or events to look up later on.  It’s a sure bet that even the biggest history buff will be stumped on a few strips.  (Alternatively, if your need to know is more immediate, you can bring a device to search names as you go, but we prefer to go unplugged.) 

Honored heads of state hailed from:

* Africa (William V.S. Tubman, Ahmed Sekou Toure, Felix Houphouet-Boigny),
* the Middle East (David Ben-Gurion, King Mohammed Zahir Shah, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and Empress Farah),
* South America (Alberto Lleras Camargo, Jose Maria Lemos, Carlos Castillo Armas),
* and more (Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower, Princess Beatrix)
And this is to say nothing of Olympians, astronauts, and military troops!  Even as time-pressed workers and unaware tourists rush by, the Canyon of Heroes will give you pause to think about 127 years’ worth of great people and moments in history. 

Layers of History

This mighty, if easy, promenade travels in the shadow of the rising Freedom Tower complex and the thought-provoking 9/11 Memorial, which we wrote about last year and just visited again with the grandparents Lambert.  We also took a self-guided tour of St. Paul’s Chapel, on Broadway between Fulton and Vesey streets, which is the last colonial-era church in Manhattan.  It is here that George Washington came to worship after his presidential inauguration in 1789, and where many sought solace after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center buildings. 

Logistics

It seems practically all subways lead to lower Manhattan.  Take the 1, R, E, 5, J, Z, and walk north along Broadway, aka: the Canyon of Heroes in this part of town.  Visiting the 9/11 Memorial is free, but you must make reservations in advance.  There is a $2 processing fee per ticket.  St. Paul’s Chapel is free to enter and wander around. 

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