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They have been described as “the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best.” They are our national parks, and this year marks the hundredth anniversary of the National Park Service, signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson in August 1916, to preserve our nation’s most spectacular scenery and its most sacred sites. Beginning with Yellowstone, the first national park, the National Park Service today oversees more than four hundred sites, encompassing 84 million acres and 21,000 buildings, including a dozen sites in New York City.

Open House New York is proud to partner with the National Park Service to present Celebrating a Centennial – National Park Service, a special 2016 OHNY Weekend celebration of the nation’s most treasured sites and to help kick-off a second century of preservation and stewardship.

Experiences include after-hours tours of Hamilton Grange National Memorial, the historic home of Alexander Hamilton, and the General Grant National Memorial, the final resting place of Ulysses S. Grant; NPS Ranger-led tours of the African Burial Ground National Monument, the hallowed ground where free and enslaved Africans were buried through the late 18th century, and the Stonewall National Monument, one of the National Park Service’s newest site.

Open House New York an the National Park Service are also presenting “Empty Ellis”, a special tour of Ellis Island that lands at sunrise before it opens the public. On Saturday, October 15, twenty lucky winners will have the opportunity to explore the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration as the early morning sun bathes the Great Hall in a quiet stillness rarely experienced by the site’s four million visitors each year. Tickets to this tour are being raffled here. Entries will be accepted through 5pm on Tuesday, October 5. Winners will be randomly selected and announced that day.

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Celebrating a Centennial – National Park Service Sites

African Burial Ground National Monument
Civic Center, Manhattan

Battery Weed
Rosebank, Staten Island

Castle Clinton National Monument
Financial District, Manhattan

Castle Williams & Fort Jay
Governors Island

Empty Ellis
Ellis Island

Federal Hall National Memorial Historic Site
Financial District, Manhattan

General Grant National Memorial
Morningside Heights, Manhattan

Hamilton Grange National Memorial
Harlem, Manhattan

Lower East Side Tenement Museum
Lower East Side, Manhattan

Ryan Visitor Center at Floyd Bennett Field
Marine Park, Brooklyn

Stonewall National Monument
Greenwich Village, Manhattan

Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National
Gramercy, Manhattan

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Most Celebrating a Centennial – National Park Service sites are Open Access and may be visited free-of-charge on a drop-in basis. National Park Service Ranger-led tours and re-enactments will be performed at select sites. Full tour descriptions and information about how to visit these sites will be available on October 5.

The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world.

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Images: General Grant National Memorial by Don Stanko; Battery Weed courtesy of the National Park Service; Hamilton Grange National Memorial courtesy of the National Park Service; Floyd Bennet Field by Yi-Chin Lin; Ellis Island courtesy of the National Park Service; and African Burial Ground National Memorial courtesy of the National Park Service.