The Big Apple was the capital of the new nation until 1800, when the construction of the first official buildings and urbanization projects were completed in the city of Washington. The City of the revolutionary period grew around the commercial port area in what was the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam and is now the island of Manhattan, a name adopted by the English when they took over in 1664. Its pulse was dictated by the extremely important commercial activity of its ports and docks, its fish and meat markets, and the many shops and businesses on Broadway (the widest street) and Wall Street (the street near the wall).
On September 30, 1789, George Washington was sworn in as first president of the United States in the old city hall, later renamed Federal Hall. Today, in its place in the heart of Wall Street, stands another neoclassical building; a statue of Washington rises before its front steps, greeting visitors to the site. Diego de Gardoqui attended the inaugural ceremony as first Spanish ambassador to the United States and a guest of honor. Docked in New York harbor during the ceremonies was the Galveztown, the brigantine once owned by Bernardo de Gálvez. The ship’s cannons fired a fifteen-gun salute in honor of the first president. Gardoqui lived in a mansion located at the start of Broadway, and on inauguration night he hosted a splendid reception for members of Congress and other government dignitaries. Nearby, in Barclay Street, one finds Saint Peter’s Church, the first Catholic church in the city. Built in 1785, its construction was funded through various donations, including 1,000 pesos from Gardoqui and 6,000 pesos sent by the bishop of Mexico.
Across one of the rivers separating Manhattan from the other boroughs is Fort Greene Park, in Brooklyn, a mini-version of Central Park. There, one can visit a memorial to the prisoners who died in captivity aboard British prison ships during the U.S. War of Independence. At the foot of the gigantic commemorative column is a bronze plaque installed by King Juan Carlos I in 1976, honoring the more than one hundred Spaniards who died and are buried there. The plaque, which was in a state of disrepair, was removed by the city authorities some years ago for renovation and is in the process of being restored.