New York is a city made for lazy adventurers.
In fact, it’s one of the aspects I miss most about living in Manhattan. Perhaps because despite all my planning and checklists, I am- at the core- a lazy adventurer.
I like when adventures present themselves to me. When something fun & interesting & brand new is served up, unexpectedly, in front of me. Los Angeles laughs in my face at this request (not only do I have to find my own fun, but I have to drive there, too), but New York City shrugs and hands over the goods.
Living in New York, there was rarely a need to plan free time. I would simply pick a direction, walk, and impossibly, invariably, discover a street fair, a yummy new restaurant, a festival, a heretofore undiscovered historical plaque… sometimes all within the same outing.
And so it was with the Irish Hunger Memorial, which settles, almost imperceptibly, among the towering skyscrapers of Battery Park in lower Manhattan.
Day #11,321: Unbeknownst to me (having lived a few blocks away… for a year and a half), in between this…
… existed this!
Mr. M & I were escorting his visiting family out to see the Statue of Liberty and happened to spot this swathe of green (Green! In downtown Manhattan!) along the Hudson River Park.
There you go, New York seemed to say. How’s this, you lazy adventurers?
The Irish Hunger Memorial was created as a reminder of the Great Irish Famine & Migration that occurred in the mid-nineteenth century. When disease struck Ireland’s staple potato crops in 1845, millions were left starving. In search of subsistence, hundreds of thousands fled to New York City in the five years that followed, taking residence in the tenements that surrounded my old stomping grounds, the Five Points neighborhood of Manhattan.
As you enter The Hunger Memorial from Hudson River, there are glowing lines of text describing the history of the Great Famine and also providing information about the state of world hunger today.
Artist Brian Tolle left little to chance in creating the memorial; every detail swelled with significance and historical information.
A winding pathway leads through the ruins of a real, live Irish stone cottage and contains thirty-two large stones- one donated from each of Ireland’s 32 counties.
At the end of the pathway, visitors reach a viewpoint overlooking The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island- the first sights many of the emigrants encountered after their journey from Ireland.
Even the quarter-acre size of the lot housing the memorial is significant. The Irish Poor Law of 1847 denied government assistance to any person owning more than a quarter-acre of land. As a result, many of the Irish were forced to abandon their family land just to survive.
Although it technically focuses on the Irish narrative, I was struck by how successful the Hunger Memorial was in promoting global consciousness and the role immigrants have in shaping culture.
The afternoon ended up being a virtual treasure trove for us lazy adventurers out for a springtime stroll.
You never know what a weekend walk will uncover. Especially in New York City.
You Can Do It, Too!
The Irish Hunger Memorial is located at the intersection of Vesey Street and North End Avenue in the Battery Park neighborhood of New York City. It’s an easy detour from a visit to Ground Zero or on your way to take the ferry out to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Even aside from all the information you’ll glean, it’s worth a visit just to see such a delightfully incongruous space in the middle of modern downtown.