Lower East Side Students: It’s Time to Properly Recognize “First White House”

George and Martha Washington's mansion on Cherry Street.  Source: New York Historical Society.

George and Martha Washington’s mansion on Cherry Street. Source: New York Historical Society.

Here’s an Election Day diversion. We thought it would be a good time to revisit a part of the Lower East Side’s presidential history this morning.

As you may or may not know, George Washington lived in a mansion on Cherry Street from the time of his inauguration in April of 1789 until the following February. For a 10 month period, the home of importer Walter Franklin served as  this country’s first White House. There’s a sad, inaccessible plaque in recognition of the landmark, which was torn down in 1856. But a group of students at P.S. 126/Manhattan Academy of Technology on Catherine Street are trying to change that.

During the past few years, we have covered their previous efforts under the auspices of a program called the Lower East Side Young Historians.  It is a curriculum devised by teachers Alfonso Guerriero, Jr. and Christopher Piccigallo to engage students in American history through the rich legacy of their own neighborhood. In the spring, two new historical plaques were unveiled on Catherine Street, after a successful campaign by the teachers and students to document the Lower East Side’s tap dancing history. The initiative was part of the New York City Parks Department’s Historic Signs Project.

The other day, we heard from Guerriero, who said the Young Historians are taking up a new project. In 1899, a plaque was placed near George Washington’s former home and office by the Mary Washington Colonial Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. It acknowledges the “first presidential mansion” at 1 Cherry St. (some argue it was actually at 3 Cherry St.)

george washington plaque

washington plaque 2

washington plaque 3

For years, various organizations have unsuccessfully pushed to move the plaque, which is located in an obscure spot under the Brooklyn Bridge. If you’re looking really hard, you can spot it at Dover and Pearl streets, where it’s been largely hidden from public view since 9/11.  Guerriero told us, “there is a concrete barricade and fence that blocks anyone from noticing the plaque. Moreover, the real story is also that the conditions around the plaque are truly a travesty to our nation’s history.” He took these pictures of the area this past spring (the gate has since been opened).

Maybe a little youthful enthusiasm and resourcefulness will finally prompt city agencies to act. Guerriero explained, “I contacted the Mary Washington Colonial Chapter… and I explained what our goal is, which is to relocate the sign. We already know that the police authorities deem the location a security concern and thus the area cannot be compromised… The Mary Washington Colonial Chapter… has agreed to collaborate with us.”

The next step is to convince the city. The students plan to create a pamphlet to bring attention to the situation. It will be handed out to parents and community residents, as well as tourists.

We’ll keep you posted on their efforts.

Follow-up: Water Main Ruptured on Cherry Street

Shooting on Cherry Street; Students Kept in School Building During Search

Elected Officials: Barnett Agrees to Grocery Store on Former Pathmark Site (Updated)

The site of the former Pathmark store has been purchased by Gary Barnett.

The site of the former Pathmark store has been purchased by Gary Barnett.

Here’s a Friday afternoon press release from Lower East Side elected officials Sheldon Silver, Margaret Chin and Daniel Squadron:

As part of our ongoing effort to ensure that our Lower East Side neighbors have access to fresh food and other essentials, we met with the developer of the former Pathmark site at 227 Cherry Street and received a commitment that a full-service supermarket will be built as part of the project.  This is an area that is underserved when it comes to the availability of fresh and affordable food. That is why we fought plans to close the Pathmark and have been advocating for another supermarket to replace it. Extell Development Company has assured us that a food market will be built and we look forward to seeing it open. We are also advocating for a temporary market to open while construction is underway.

Man Stabbed Near Rutgers and Cherry Streets

Image via Google maps.

Tonight about 7:30 p.m., a male victim was stabbed near the intersection of Cherry and Rutgers streets. A NYPD spokesman says a man, in his mid-30’s, was rushed to Bellevue Hospital. He is expected to survive.  No other information is being released this evening; an investigation is ongoing; no arrests have been made. DNA Info reported the victim is in stable condition.