Reporting Jay Lloyd
Monuments stand tall to the trials and hardships of the Irish as they arrived on American Shores and began the long road to assimilation. A getaway on St. Patrick’s Day weekend can highlight the history of the Irish experience. And it’s as close as New York City and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Let’s take the tour by starting in New York’s lower Manhattan.
Ellis Island as an immigration center was not even on the horizon in the middle of the 19th century when thousands were fleeing famine in the Emerald Isle. Then Castle Garden in Battery Park was the point where starvation fleeing Irish immigrants first set foot on American soil. A memorial to their perseverance stands at a prominent corner on the lower tip of Manhattan.
By 1890 Ellis Island became the American landfall for the next major wave of Irish families to begin a new life in America. Their story is vividly told in displays, art, family histories and archives that record their arrivals. Many have found listings here for the own immigrant ancestors. The ferry to Ellis Island is located near Battery Park.
The lives of actual families have been re-created in this restored tenement building where immigrants found their first homes in America. Visit the apartment of the Moore’s, late 19th century Irish arrivals. Experience their life of loss and hope. Walk the streets where pushcarts met daily needs and life was a study in mingled ethnic cultures.
The ill fated maiden voyage of the Titanic in May of 1912 had made its last stop to pick up America bound passengers in Cobh, Ireland. The ship itself had Irish ancestry. It was built in Belfast by an Irish designer. When it sailed from Cobh in County Cork it was carrying 164 Irish immigrants, most in steerage. 110 perished, 54 survived. A memorial to the tragedy is a lighthouse that once stood on the East River.Now it can be visited at the entrance to the South Street Seaport.
What would a St. Patrick’s ramble be without a break at an Irish Pub? When in Lower Manhattan, my public house of choice is the Dubliner on Stone Street, convenient to Battery Park, the Staten Island Ferry, the new World Trade Center and Wall Street. If I could choose only one dish here – it’s the Guinness Stew.
No. Not the Notre Dame football squad, but the 69th Infantry Regiment known as the “Fighting Irish.” It was formed in mid-19th century New York of immigrant Irish volunteers. It has fought in every American conflict since the Civil War. One of their most epic engagements was at the Battle of Gettysburg. A monument to their tenacity stands where fighting Irish fell. If your St. Patrick’s weekend getaway takes you to the west, visit Gettysburg, the battlefield and the Irish Brigade Memorial.
The Pub, in the heart of Gettysburg has a wide ranging menu for family size taste diversity from pizza to Seafood samplings. The closest we get to Irish here is a corned beef wrap. But you won’t be disappointed. As for Irish flavors, the “Garryowen” Pub named for the tune that peppered the 69th regiment marching style, rolls out the full bill of Irish fare from Bangers and Mash to a Guinness stew. And it’s all washed down by an impressive array of Irish beer.