The National Museum of the American Indian–New York, the George Gustav Heye Center, is located within the historic Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House. The museum’s permanent and temporary exhibitions—as well as a range of public programs, including music and dance performances, films, and symposia—explore the diversity of the Native people of the Americas.
Featured Exhibition: Infinity of Nations, a permanent exhibition featuring more than 700 objects from 200 Native communities across the Western Hemisphere
Home of the NMAI's George Gustav Heye Center, the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House is one of the most splendid Beaux Arts buildings in New York. Rich in architectural and historic significance, the custom house is a National Historic Landmark, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Before the imposition of the income tax in 1916, customs duties were the greatest single source of revenue for the U.S. government, and the Port of New York was the country's most prosperous trade center. In 1899, the government invited twenty architects to submit designs for a new custom house. The design chosen was by Cass Gilbert (1859–1934), a well-known young architect from St. Paul, Minnesota. Gilbert, who had once worked in the offices of McKim, Mead & White, felt that a public building should reveal the "imponderable elements of life and character."
The custom house Gilbert built, in collaboration with other renowned artists and craftsmen, was begun in 1900 and completed in 1907. The vast seven-story structure, with its 450,000 square feet, covers three blocks in lower Manhattan, immediately south of Bowling Green at the foot of Broadway. The exterior features forty-four columns, each decorated with a head of Mercury, the Roman god of commerce. On the building's huge entrance pedestals are four large sculptures—seated female figures representing America, Asia, Europe, and Africa—by Daniel Chester French (1850–1931), who also created the statue of Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Above the columns of the main facade are twelve heroic statues representing the sea powers of Europe and the Mediterranean, while above the main-floor windows are sculpted heads symbolizing the races of humanity. The exterior also features a giant cartouche depicting the shield of the United States, with a serene head of Columbia, sculpted by Vincenzo Alfano (1854–1918) in 1903, presiding over the building's main entrance.
Shells, marine creatures, and sea signs abound throughout the interior, as befits a tribute to New York's preeminence as a seaport. Monumental arches and columns highlight the symmetry of the great hall. Off this spectacular lobby is the ornate Collectors Reception Room, its walls oak-paneled by the Tiffany Studios. The immense arch of the custom house's magnificent elliptical rotunda was built according to the principles of Spanish-immigrant engineer Rafael Guastavino (1842–1908). The ingenious design allowed the rotunda's 140-ton skylight to be constructed without visible signs of support.
In 1937, celebrated New York painter Reginald Marsh (1898–1954) accepted a low-paying position with the Treasury Department to produce murals for the rotunda dome. Working with astonishing speed, Marsh and eight young assistants depicted early explorers of the Americas in one series of paintings and traced the course of a ship entering New York's harbor in the other.
The National Museum of the American Indian–New York is accessible to people with disabilities. Groups and those with special needs are asked to use the ground floor entrance to the museum. All exhibitions are wheelchair accessible. Wheelchairs are available free of charge on the ground floor of the museum, and may be obtained on request from the security staff. Additional accessibility services can be provided at no cost, with two weeks advance notice. To request accessibility services or for specific accessibility questions, call 212-514-3794 or email email@example.com.
HOW TO REACH
The National Museum of the American Indian–New York, is located on the south side of Bowling Green, in lower Manhattan, adjacent to the northeast corner of Battery Park.
4 & 5 trains to Bowling Green
1 train to Rector Street or South Ferry
R train to Whitehall Street
J & Z trains to Broad Street
2 & 3 trains to Wall Street
M5, M15, and M20.
See the NY MTA for maps and service updates for subways and buses.
Drop-off & Parking
Buses may drop off groups at State Street or Whitehall Street. There is no parking at the museum. There are several parking garages located nearby.
1 Bowling Green
10004 New York City