24 July 2010, 2:50 PM – Downtown Manhattan
“To be buried in the city is to become part of the city.”
I had been to Trinity Church, briefly, last October as part of a school trip walking through downtown Manhattan and seeing the Magna Carta at the Fraunces Tavern Museum (a trip made even more memorable by my passing out at the museum). It was sort of an in-and-out job – Fraunces Tavern was the final part of the journey, this was just a quick stop – and while I got to take a quick glance at the inside of the church, I didn’t get to see either of the churchyards.
The Key to the City allowed it – though the gate was already open. (It wouldn’t be the last where people forgot to lock the locks – or even have locks there – on our journey.) Over about a half-hour, we looked at old gravestones (mostly those of 18th century men and women, alongside their children who died before adulthood – a frequent occurrence in that time), and the monuments dedicated to Robert Fulton and Alexander Hamilton.
Hamilton had a prominent role between the churchyard and the Trinity Museum (in fact, one of the things Kelly and I joked about was that the Museum had an enlarged $10 bill with a hole in it so that people could take pictures of themselves as Alexander Hamilton). But the big thing I took from it was that New York has an incredibly long history, with people long forgotten later gaining obscurity out of invisibility, for things as trivial as having their headstone lasting longer than others. The city does pay heed to fame and fortune, of course – look who we have as our current mayor/usurper of the public will – but in the “6 million stories in the naked city”, about 5.999 million of them are fairly boring ones. We all just live, and then we die. To be buried in the city is to become part of the city, perhaps, but were we ever really a dedicated part of the city at all?
The Unlocking the City journey continues at the Brooklyn Museum in – you guessed it – Brooklyn, which you can read about here.