By Arthur H. Gunther III
New York City -- When the runners in the half marathon here yesterday made their way from Central Park through midtown to the Hudson River, then downtown and under Battery Park, across town and up the East Side to the finish at the South Street Seaport, at least one participant was running through history -- his own family’s dating back to the 1840s.
My son Arthur 4th, 40, who is a fine runner and has been at it since he won a race in elementary school, really pushed himself and came in 42 of 15,336 runners, second in his age group. If Arthur Jr., Arthur Sr., Henry or Robert Gunther had been there or any of the Lyons or the Bonners, they would have been properly impressed. In a way, they were all there.
Arthur 4th may not have been aware, but when he began his run in Central Park at 64th Street, as he went up and down those wonderfully sculpted hills in the oasis that is Gotham’s sanctuary for sanity, he was covering territory which his triple-Great Uncle Hugh Bonner reviewed for fire protection as New York City’s first chief of department (later fire commissioner).
When Arthur emerged from the Park onto Seventh Avenue and took to the downhill course into Times Square, and with all the other runners saw the great lights of Broadway (always on), he passed the recruiting station where his grandfather Arthur Jr. joined the Marines in 1940.
Turning right onto 42nd Street, he headed for the now street-level West Side Highway and a long stretch toward the Battery in lower Manhattan. As he continued a 5:20-mile pace, he entered the Chelsea District where his Great-Grandfather Arthur Sr. worked as a 16-year-old in the Royal Baking Power Co., carrying a required World War I pass in the sensitive dock area. Arthur also went by the building that once housed the New York World-Telegram and The Sun, the newspaper where his other grandfather, Philip Golando, long worked as a printer.
When Arthur hit the Battery, he went underground, through the Battery Park Underpass that takes West Side Highway motorists to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive on the East Side. If he had been routed topside, he would have run in the Battery, where his Great-Great Grandfather Henry and his triple-Great-Grandfather Robert toiled in the brewery industry. It is also the site of Castle Garden, the pre-Ellis Island immigration port through which Arthur’s Prussian, Irish and English ancestors came to the United States in the 1800s.
Finally, running up the hill out of the underpass and heading for the finish at the Seaport, Arthur could look to the East River and imagine the seaman’s barge where his Grandmother Patricia lived for a time with Great-Grandparents John and Mary Lyons.
Now, my son was not alone in his run through history in New York City. So many can trace roots back to Gotham, to ports of immigration, etc. Many a spirit must have been cheering them on.