by Declan O'Kelly
The United Nations Headquarters—located on 1st Avenue in New York since 1951—is not part of the U.S. but is an international territory with its own critical services.
The US Senate and House of Representatives voted in 1945 to allow the UN to have its HQ in New York. The United Nations Head Quarters occupies the area from 1st Avenue to FDR Drive, 405 East 42nd to East 48th in Manhattan.
John D. Rockefeller, Jr. donated 8.5 million dollars of his own money to pay for the 18 acre site and ensure the construction of the building in the city.
Construction of the 39 floor 544 ft tall building took place between 1949 and 1951 and it was officially opened on January 9, 1951.
The UN site is an international territory that has it's own fire dept, security force and postal service.
One of the most popular tourist activities here is sending mail and postcards with UN stamps, which can only be mailed from the United Nations.
Along First Avenue in front of the United Nations Headquarters is a display of flags representing each member state, beginning with Afghanistan at 48th street right up to Zimbabwe at 42nd Street. The flags are only raised when members are in congress in The General Assembly.
As you enter the Plaza you will see one of the UN's signature pieces of art, a gun with a knot in the barrel. Donated by Luxembourg ten years ago, this piece was created by the Swede Fredrik Reuterswärd and is called 'Non-Violence'.
Another donation of note is the Japanese Peace Bell, made by coins gathered by children from over 60 different countries.
Also worth visiting is the park on the east side near the river that has numerous International exhibits. One of the most prominent is the Evgeniy Vuchetich sculpture, 'Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares', a gift from the Soviet Union in 1959.
Tours of the United Nations building offer a wide range of information on both the history and day to day running of the UN. Visual highlights on the tour include the Chagall Stained Glass Peace Window to honor Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjøld installed at the East side of the Public Lobby.
The Foucault Pendulum can be found in the General Assembly Lobby and artifacts from the nuclear holocaust of Hiroshima and Nagasaki can be seen during the visit. For anyone who enjoys art, history and supports world peace then the UN building on the East River is definitely worth including on any itinerary.
Slideshow—all photos on this page
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