Irish Hunger Memorial
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Setting foot on Irish soil in New York
The Irish potato famine ("An Gorta Mor") is in the mid 1800s saw the migration of a million people to America following a blight destruction of potato crops in Ireland. Visitors to Battery Park City can appreciate the depth and beauty of Ireland (complete with original soil from Carradoogan from the parish of Attymass in County Mayo) if they visit the Irish Hunger Memorial memorial located on Vesey Street and North End Avenue. Haunting, exquisite and deeply moving in a raw agrarian way, the Memorial was designed by artist Brian Tolle and landscape architect Gail Wittwer-Laird. What I loved about the memorial is its quiet beauty. There are no ostentatious plaques or audio system; instead, the landscaped plot tells a story in and of itself, using stones, soil, native vegetation and an original cottage which belonged to the Irish Slack family which was deserted in the 1960s because of their move to the United States. Visitors can wander freely on the path at all hours of the day (there is no gate or entry times) and gaze at a peach-colored sunset settling into the skyscrapers. A powerful memorial located close to the World Trade Center and smack opposite to the Conrad Hilton in New York (my hotel room had a direct view), the memorial deepens your appreciation for the cultural and ethnic melting pot that is New York.
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A Bit of Ireland, in Memorial to the Famine
Just a couple of blocks from the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan is the Irish Hunger Memorial, a work of landscape architecture so modest and unassuming that it's easy to walk right by without even noticing it. But take a few moments to enter through the dark passageway lined with quotations and facts about world hunger and spend a few quiet moments in reflection here. As you emerge from the passage, you enter a roofless ruin of a fieldstone cottage brought over from County Mayo. Follow the winding path past grasses, shrubs, and flowers from Ireland and notice the 32 stones scattered throughout the grounds, each inscribed with the name of its county of origin. From the top of the memorial you can look across to New Jersey and to the Statue of Liberty in the harbor. A beautiful commemoration of those who lost their lives in this tragic event, and well worth a visit if you are in the area.
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