As the owner of an outdoor walking tour company I always have an eye on what Mother Nature is bringing our way from the west. When I started the company four and a half years ago I never imagined giving tours year-round. I always thought it would be a three-season-a-year type of endeavor. Well, I've been proven wrong time and time again! Last year on January 4th, as a birthday present to me from Mother Nature, I was treated to the coldest tour we'd ever given: 18 degrees Fahrenheit! I remembered everyone being bundled up and shivering for a lot of that ACT II Tour! Anyone looking on must have thought we were crazy people!
This year takes the cake for coldest winter we've experienced yet here at BUC. This February we managed to break a few records as the mercury in our local thermometers dropped below 4 degrees Fahrenheit numerous times. Our local meteorologists tell us that it's one of the top ten coldest winters since they started recording weather patterns here in NYC in 1896! Our coldest tour was given the second week of February: when the tour started it was 9 degrees Fahrenheit! I have to confess that I don't like seeing people shiver in the cold so a few years ago we decided to start handing out complimentary hand warmers to all of our guests. We are the only walking tour company in NYC to do so and I find that it provides a little bit of warmth to get you through your trek with us.
The picture above of the Hudson River was taken last week by me just north of the city. As you can see the river was almost completely frozen across to New Jersey with large ice floes everywhere you looked. Further downstream on the east and west of the city the river rarely freezes. In fact, the Hudson River has reportedly only ever frozen across ONCE! On the morning of January 25, 1821, New Yorkers awoke to find the Hudson River completely frozen from the shores of Manhattan to the shores of Hoboken, New Jersey. Always a city with an entrepreneurial spirit, a few city dwellers wasted no time in seizing on this rare opportunity. As travelers began walking across the ice-coated river they were greeted mid-journey by makeshift taverns set up serving "eatables and drinkables".
The East river is much shallower than the Hudson River and has frozen a few times in the past two hundred years but is still a rare occurrence. This etching below illustrates the freezing of the East River in 1871:
You'll notice one thing missing from this picture: The Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge wasn't completed until the 1884 and took 14 years to build. Prior to this Brooklyn and Manhattan were two completely separate cities that were linked by ferries that dotted the river. With the East River frozen during a blizzard in 1867, commuters were forced to cross the icy terrain to get back and forth between the two cities. City law makers were acutely aware of how vulnerable they were to Mother Nature's wrath so because of the frozen river in 1867 they decided to form the New York Bridge Company and began formulating plans and funds to build a suspension brigde that would span the river. Over a 130 years later commuters still daily cross the Brooklyn Bridge blizzard or not.
I can't help but hope warm Spring weather is just around the corner. We officially have only 20 days of Winter left which is definitely something to celebrate this calendar year! Until then we will continue handing out our hand warmers and bundling up until we can shed those layers and complain about the brutal Summer heat!!
See you on the sidewalk!