Things to Do NYC history: Historic sites to visit without leaving the city By Meghan Glynn Special to amNewYork Updated August 21, 2016 11:19 AM Print Share fbShare Tweet Email There are some really, really old spots around town. Whether you're enjoying a staycation or just looking for something different to do on your day off, we've got some historic sites for you to visit in New York. Watch Tower Photo Credit: Emilio Guerra See something, say something. This fire watchtower in Marcus Garvey Park is one of an original network of 11 towers across the city, but is the only surviving example of this historic fire-detection system. Watchmen who staffed the tower would signal the fire department using a combination of bells, flags and lanterns. Marcus Garvey Park, Madison Ave, E. 120 St. to E. 124 St., Manhattan Sailor's Snug Harbor Photo Credit: Emilio Guerra How about this for retiring quietly? Sailor's Snug Harbor, located near the ferry along the north shore of Staten Island, was originally built as a home for retired sailors. In fact, the will of Capt. Robert Richards, whose estate provided the funds for the project, stated that a hospital for "aged, decrepit and worn-out seamen" should be started. 1000 Richmond Terr., Staten Island Poe Cottage Photo Credit: Emilio Guerra Now a historic landmark, this quaint cottage was once home to famous poet Edgar Allan Poe and his family. A place of great importance to Poe, the cottage is where he wrote some of his most acclaimed pieces, and is also the place where he lost his wife to tuberculosis. Today, the house is administered by the Bronx County Historical Society. 2640 Grand Concourse, Bronx City College of New York Photo Credit: Emilio Guerra We call it a success! Originally known as the Free Academy of the City of New York, the City College of New York was founded as an experiment in 1847. A luxury usually only afforded by money, the aim of the project was to give the children of immigrants and the poor access to free higher education based on academic merit alone. Today the college is also home to an expansive art collection. 160 Convent Ave., Manhattan Sylvan Terrace Photo Credit: Emilio Guerra Sylvan Terrace has rows of 10 little two-story wooden houses on each side, complete with cobblestone streets. Their high narrow stoops, set parallel to and tight against the house fronts, rise up to the entrances over the basement doors. Originally, these houses were meant as a passageway up to the Morris-Jumel Mansion. Sylvan Terrace, Manhattan Morris-Jumel Mansion Photo Credit: Emilio Guerra Talk about an important history. This house has played host to three past American presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. A strategic military headquarters during the Revolutionary War, this sprawling estate was built 11 years before the war in 1765. Now a memory of New York's rich history, the spot is still home to some incredible views: visitors can see the Harlem River, the Bronx, and Long Island Sound to the east, New York City and the harbor to the south, and the Hudson River and Jersey Palisades to the west. 65 Jumel Terr., Manhattan Riverdale Presbyterian Church Photo Credit: Emilio Guerra Known as "the beautiful stone church with the red doors," this building has been a constant among the changing Riverdale neighborhood since 1863. Take a trip here for a service or to look at the stunning stained glass windows. 4765 Henry Hudson Pkwy. West, Bronx General Ulysses S. Grant Memorial Photo Credit: Emilio Guerra Overlooking the Hudson River and Riverside Park, the General Grant National Memorial houses the earthly remains of President Ulysses S. Grant and his wife, Julia Dent Grant, in sarcophagi located side by side. Riverside Park, W. 72 Street to St. Clair Place. Columbia University Photo Credit: Emilio Guerra A longstanding icon of academic excellence, Columbia University was originally known as King's College when it was founded in 1754 by a royal charter of King George II of England. Having moved around the city a few times in its history, the campus at 116th Street and Broadway is home to more than 20,000 students each year. The Cloisters Photo Credit: Emilio Guerra A breath of medieval fresh air, this architectural gem is located in Fort Tryon Park. Completed in May 1936, The Cloisters is now a part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and plays home to a large portion of the museum's medieval art collection. 99 Margaret Corbin Dr., Manhattan Fort Tryon Park Photo Credit: Emilio Guerra Believe it or not, this beautiful outdoor space was actually a gift given to the City of New York from John D. Rockefeller in 1917. Still a haven for natural, open spaces, modern visitors can also monkey around at two playgrounds, grab some lunch at the New Leaf Restaurant & Bar, and even bring along man's best friend to the park's dog run. West 192 Street to Dyckman Street, Manhattan Harlem River Speedway Photo Credit: Emilio Guerra A long history for a long road. When the speedway was originally built, it was open only to carriage riders and equestrians, offering a location for the wealthy to watch horse and boat races and visit local amusement parks. In 1922, it was paved and opened to motorists. Eventually the road was incorporated into Robert Moses' vision to link all of Manhattan's driveways, a project that was completed in 1964. By Meghan Glynn Special to amNewYork Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Comments We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.