Little Syria and the Forgotten Immigrant Lower West Side

Remembering a vital immigrant neighborhood

Immigration is the classic New York City story, and when we think of it, we typically think of the Lower East Side. However, there is a lesser-known history of immigrants who arrived between the 1840s up to the 1960s in the “Lower West Side” (LWS) of Manhattan. These immigrants included Germans and Irish, Middle Easterners, and Slavic groups, among many others. In 1917, twenty-seven nationalities among 8,000 inhabitants were reported to have lived here. Today, we know the area as the World Trade Center and the Financial District.

The LWS’s Washington Street in particular was once home to the first Arabic-speaking community in the United States. Once known as the “Syrian Quarter” in the late 19th century, this area became the Mother Colony from which the Arab American diaspora sprung, and is today often recalled as “Little Syria.”

While the immigrant hubs called the “Lower West Side” and “Little Syria” by local preservationists no longer exist, this tour aims to uncover their history to remind us of what once was — and what could still be possible elsewhere. Today, only three buildings from the era remain, but this tour brings the stories of this neighborhood to life once more.

Tour Highlights Include:

  • A 3-D map of the original Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam
  • The site of the home of the first free Muslim settler to North America
  • Fraunces Tavern and its role in diplomacy with the Muslim world
  • The neighborhood of writers Kahlil Gibran, Ameen Rihani, and Edgar Allen Poe
  • The location slated to be the site of the first memorial to the Arab American community in the United States
  • The facade of an 1812 landmarked building that housed a Syrian Catholic church established in 1925
  • The Downtown Community House that served the poor since 1925
  • The “last tenement” of the Lower West Side
  • Based on availability, a meeting with a preservationist who lives in the last tenement of the Lower West Side

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The Tour

The tour lasts 2 hours and covers about 1 mile. It starts right outside the entrance to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.



Book online now!

Please contact us to set up a private tour!


2 hours


This tour is best suited for ages 12+

Tour Acknowledgement

This tour was made possible thanks to the guidance and mentorship of Joe Svehlak of the Friends of the Lower West Side and Linda Jacobs of the Washington Street Historical Society, two descendants and historians of the people who once called this neighborhood home.

Asad Dandia is a community organizer, museum educator, and local historian born and raised in Brooklyn. He is the founder of New York Narratives, a walking tour company and storytelling project aiming to advance the narratives of underrepresented communities in our city. 

Prep for the Little Syria and Lower West Side Tour by listening to Bowery Boys episodes: “A Trip to Little Syria: A New York Immigrant Story”