With well over eight million people living in New York City and millions more visiting each year, it’s easy to think that every nook and cranny of the place has already been uncovered. While area landmarks such as the Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, and Carnegie Hall are famous sites known the world over, NYC actually does have a few gems that even longtime residents don’t know much about. Here are ten of the most obscure New York City points of interest.
1. Irish Hunger Memorial
What looks like a stack of stones at Vesey Street and North End Avenue is actually a memorial that was purposefully placed there. Get closer and you’ll see names of Ireland’s counties chiseled onto the rocks in remembrance of the one million people who died during the Irish Famine that happened in the mid-1800s. The significance of the event is that while one million Irish died, about one million survivors were able to make their way to New York. The stones used for the memorial actually came from Ireland and are a reminder of that point in history. Along with county names, quotes are also etched onto the rocks.
2. Life Underground Statues
Few realize that one of the most whimsical New York City points of interest is integrated into the subway system, but that’s exactly what Life Underground is. The series of bronze statues depicts cartoonish interpretations of different people and things — from construction works to sewer alligators — and they’re all incredibly detailed. One of the funniest and most adorable is located at the 14th Street and 8th Avenue station. The next time you head to a terminal, be on the lookout for the Life Underground statues.
3. Manhattan’s Berlin Wall
No, this isn’t a replica of the historic wall that fell in Germany in the early 1990s, it’s actual pieces of that wall put together and placed on public display in Manhattan. Few know that NYC hosts this piece of world history, but there are two places in the city where you can go to see it: Battery Park and the UN Plaza. Not only do these sections of the Berlin Wall serve as public art, but a reminder of how the world has progressed.
4. City Hall Station
We all know of Grand Central Station and how fabulously fascinating it is, but there’s another beautiful terminal that few realize exists because it’s abandoned: City Hall Station. The architecture inside the space is noteworthy in and of itself, and the building is wonderfully detailed. One of its original opulent chandeliers is still in place. City Hall Station was first opened in October 1904 and it closed in 1945. To get the chance to walk through it, your best bet is taking a tour from the New York City Transit Museum.
5. Paley Park Waterfall and Tunnel
This is one of those New York City points of interest that many locals aren’t aware of. Those who take a shortcut away from the hustle and bustle of midtown Manhattan may have seen it, otherwise you’d easily miss this pretty sight in Paley Park on 53rd and 5th. The first surprise is a waterfall that flows from a stone facade and makes a picture perfect backdrop for the area. The second is Waterfall Tunnel, which is located at 48th between 6th and 7th.
If you don’t easily get claustrophobic and you want to see a tiny oddity in NYC, go to Mmuseumm. It’s possibly one of the smallest museums in the country and is housed inside of a freight elevator at Franklin Street and White Street. The goal of the small space, which fits a maximum of three visitors at a time, is to showcase those things that are so easily ignored and overlooked around the world.
The exhibits are regularly rotated and have included a plastic glove from Montana and the very shoe thrown at former President George W. Bush when he was speaking at the Minister’s Palace in Baghdad. Surprisingly, Mmuseumm is sponsored by Kate Spade and was the brainchild of filmmakers Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie, and Alex Kalman.
7. The Roosevelt Island Smallpox Hospital
Two better known New York City points of interest on Roosevelt Island are St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Grace Church, which each sport magnificent architecture. However, the ruins that used to be a smallpox hospital are impressive in their own right. The James Renwick Jr.-designed Gothic Revival style building is crumbling today, but in the mid and late 1800s it housed 7,000 smallpox patients each year and was known as Renwick Hospital. It was abandoned by the city in the 1950s, become dilapidated, and is now a city landmark. The walls have been reinforced so the structure doesn’t completely fall down, and renovation efforts have started.
8. The Dream House
You can very easily miss this NYC attraction, and the only clue that it even exists is a sign over a black door at 275 Church Street that reads “The Dream House”. It’s a piece of art in motion created in 1993 by couple Marian Zazeela and La Monte Young, a visual artist and composer who wanted to establish a unique environment that combined new media, sound, and light. The Dream House is flooded with neon lights and sound waves that are meant to stimulate your senses in a new way. As you move through the space you’ll hear different pitches, and even standing still will yield a unique experience.
9. The Explorers Club
This interesting site at 46 East 70th Street was first opened in 1904 by a group of explorers who wanted to encourage others to go on their own expeditions and see what was in the world. It was a place where they shared stories, boasted of their travels, and even housed some of the treasures and trophies that they collected along the way. Most know the Club as the Lowell Thomas building today, but you can still go inside and see many fascinating objects from years past.
10. The Brooklyn Subway Exit
There are so many townhouses in NYC that they often go unnoticed, but one townhouse at 58 Joralemon Street isn’t a house at all. It’s a subway exit and the purpose of the building is to ventilate the lines that go to the Brooklyn subway system. If you’re trying to find it while walking along the street, look for the building with tinted windows — it’s the only one in the neighborhood.