Tag Archives: Immigration

Irish Heritage Museum Moving to Albany


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The Irish American Heritage Museum has announced that it is moving into a new home at 370 Broadway in downtown Albany, NY. The Museum is completely modernizing the ground floor of the historic 19th century Meginniss Building in what has been a gutted century-old space to transform it into a state-of-the art, year-round exhibit and educational facility that also will house its O’Dwyer Research Library.

“In celebration of our 25th year of meeting our educational goals and the vision of our late founding Chair of the Board of Trustees Joseph J. Dolan, Jr., the Museum is moving into a new year-round, multi-faceted and expansive exhibit facility that will allow us to host large numbers of visitors as well as school and public groups for exhibit viewing, lectures, and other presentations throughout the year,” stated Edward Collins, Chair of the Museum’s Board of Trustees. “Further, our new Museum facility will be more accessible to the general public and provide downtown Albany with new vitality.”

Collins said of the Museum’s decision to move into downtown Albany from its part-time, summer seasonal exhibit facility in East Durham, Greene County: “The Irish have played such a central role in the history of this great city and region, from literally building Albany – and surrounding cities, villages and towns – from the earth up to protecting these areas and their people, to leading the people in every aspect of life in Albany and the surrounding region. Name a profession, occupation, leadership position or community service, and the Irish have had a central role in Albany’s life and the lives of those throughout the great northeast. The Museum’s Trustees, especially the late Joe Dolan, value greatly this rich legacy and seek to pass it forward to new generations of New Yorkers and Americans.”

The Museum expects to formally open its new, renovated facility at 370 Broadway, Albany, in September. It will move from The Michael J. Quill Irish Cultural and Sports Centre in East Durham, Greene County, which owns the summer seasonal exhibit facility previously leased by the Museum on Rt. 145 in that hamlet; the Quill Center will assume residency in that facility. The Museum will continue to partner with the Quill Center through loans of its exhibits to the Quill Center.

Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings joined in lauding the Irish American Heritage Museum’s move to the city. In a statement, Mayor Jennings said, “This museum is an important part of our community, inspiring countless residents and visitors to discover the story and may contributions of the Irish people and their culture in America, and even learn a bit about their own heritage along the way.”

Museum to Launch New Fundraising Campaign

The Museum will be launching a new fundraising campaign to help it sustain its mission and to provide future Capital Region generations a sense of the importance of their own heritage compass – whatever their heritage legacy might be – to help guide them in their lives. “In an age when we are all connected to each other through the internet, cell phones and so many other electronic devices, we would serve younger generations well by helping them stay connected to their heritage,” Collins explained. “The Museum is committed to the basic tenet that preserving one’s heritage is vital to providing a cultural and historical foundation to future generations of Americans. To paraphrase the Pulitzer Prize winning historian David McCullough, ‘Our heritage is who we are, and why we are who we are.’“

CCNY Historian Edits Book on Pakistan


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Since its inception 64 years ago, Pakistan’s quest for democracy has been tenuous. In Pakistan: From the Rhetoric of Democracy to the Rise of Militancy, edited by Dr. Ravi Kalia, professor of history at The City College of New York, readers get an idea of why.

Published by Routledge (2011), the book comprises essays by scholars and diplomats from three continents. They reflect on the political, social, military and urban history of Pakistan with focus on its search for democracy as well as its pivotal role in the global war on terror. It is the only non-NATO country aligned with the United States in the war on terror.

Pakistan was carved out of British India in 1947 as a homeland for Indian Muslims and has alternated between military and civilian rule since. While the political rhetoric by successive leaders from both sides has indicated a desire for democracy, liberalism, freedom of expression and other such progressive concepts, the reality has been starkly different.

Instead, the world’s sixth most populous nation, nuclear-armed with a population exceeding 170 million, has continued to drift towards increasing authoritarianism, religious extremism and intolerance against minorities.

“This chasm between animated political rhetoric and grim political reality has baffled the world as much as Pakistanis themselves,” said Professor Kalia, an expert in South Asian studies. “In this volume, scholars and practitioners of statecraft from around the world have sought to explain the dichotomy that exists between the rhetoric and the reality.”

A major obstacle to democracy highlighted by Professor Kalia is a society based on powerful tribal loyalties and kinship associations.

“Pakistani institutions operate on the premise of tribal loyalty and kinship and while these help keep the country together, they hinder its transition into the 21st century. The military is the only entity that bares any resemblance to a western institution,” he said.

Contributors to the book are:

Dr. Gilles Boquerat, head of the South Asia program at the French Institute of International Relations in Paris.

Ainslie T. Embree, professor emeritus of history, Columbia University

Frederic Grare, charge de mission for Asian Perspectives, Department of Strategic Affairs, Ministry of Defense, France.

J. Andrew Greig, retired Foreign Service Officer, U.S. Department of State and United States Information Agency.

Annie Harper, social anthropologist, Trinity College, Conn.

Nazir Hussain, associate professor, Department of International Relations, Quaidi-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan.

Zafar Iqbal, sociologist, political activist, Pakistan.

T.C.A. Rangachari, retired Indian diplomat, visiting professor, Academy of Third World Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi.

Tahmina Rashid, associate professor, International Studies, Faculty of Arts & Design, University of Canberra, Australia.

Oskar Verkaaik, associate professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Amsterdam.

About Professor Ravi Kalia

A graduate of the University of Delhi (BA Hons., MA) and University of California-Los Angeles (MBA, PhD), Professor Kalia specializes in South Asian studies. His focus is urban-architectural history in colonial and post-colonial India. His books include “Chandigarh: The Making of an Indian City” (Southern Illinois Univ. Press & Oxford Univ.Press, 1987; revised, 1999), “Bhubaneshwar: From a Temple Town to a Capital City” (Southern Illinois Univ. Press & Oxford Univ. Press, 1994), and “Gandhinagar: Building National Identity in Postcolonial India” (Univ. of South Carolina Press & Oxford Univ. Press, 2004). Professor Kalia has been published in numerous journals including “Habitat International,” “India Quarterly,” “Journal of Urban History,” “The Encyclopedia of Conflicts Since World War II” (2006), as well as many international newspapers. He’s the recipient of three Fulbright scholarships and numerous other research awards.

Buffalo: Through Their Eyes Exhibit


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In collaboration with Journey’s End Refugee Services and CEPA Gallery, Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society presents “Buffalo: Through Their Eyes,” photography by international refugees living in Buffalo.

For their silver anniversary, Journey’s End asked recently arrived refugees to document the experience of adjusting to life as Buffalo’s newest residents. The participants received disposable cameras and training from CEPA Gallery. Their resulting images, reminiscent of early photographs of the ancestors of fellow Buffalonians, capture intimate moments in their homes, workplaces, communities; in essence the details of “their” Buffalo.

Twenty-five images from the “Buffalo: Through Their Eyes” project will be displayed from Friday, April 1 to Sunday, June 26, in the Historical Society’s Community Gallery. Admission to the gallery is free with paid museum admission.

There will be an opening reception, which is free and open to the public, on Sunday, April 3 from 12 to 5 pm.

Coverage of 1911 Triangle Factory Fire


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The New York Times City Blog has been running a series of posts commemorating the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, which happened 100 years ago today on March 25, 1911.

There are links to the posts below, but first, here’s a brief description of what happened from Wikipedia: “[The Triangle Fire] was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city of New York and resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in U.S. history. The fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers, who either died from the fire or jumped to their deaths. Most of the victims were recent immigrant Jewish and Italian women aged sixteen to twenty-three.”

“Many of the workers could not escape the burning building because the managers had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits. People jumped from the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors. The fire led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, which fought for better working conditions for sweatshop workers.”

Here is a round-up of the City Room’s outstanding coverage:

Liberating Clothing Made in Confinement

A Half Hour of Horror

A Frontier in Photojournalism

Editorial Cartoons

One Woman Who Changed the Rules

New Leaders Emerge

Labor Laws and Unions in the Fire’s Wake

In a Tragedy, a Mission to Remember

Garment Work in New York 100 Years After the Triangle Fire

The Building Survives

Remembering the Triangle Fire, 100 Years Later

Remembering Triangle Fire’s Jewish Victims

Clinging to Memories

In Search of Today’s Sweatshops

Labor Event: 1911 Triangle Factory Fire


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FIRE! PLEASE HELP US WE ARE TRAPPED! These were the words screamed on Saturday afternoon on March 25, 1911. It was the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York’s Greenwich Village that took the lives of 146 mostly young immigrant women and changed the course of history.

To mark the centennial anniversary and recognize the significance of the Triangle tragedy, members of the public are invited to a special free program, which will be presented at the New York State Museum Friday, March 25, at 4 p.m. to coincide with the date and time of the fire. Sponsored by the Capital District Triangle Fire Centennial Coalition, the event will honor those who lost their lives and focus on the wide range of labor, health and safety laws that required better worksites in the aftermath of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire.

State Assemblyman John McEneny will emcee the event. U.S. Representative Paul Tonko, WCNY – Syracuse News Director Susan Arbetter and Dr. Christopher Breiseth, a Frances Perkins scholar and former president of Wilkes University, and Paul Cole, Executive Director of the American Labor Studies Center will all be part of the program.

Albany Roman Catholic Diocese Bishop Howard J. Hubbard is also scheduled to participate and help close the New York State Labor-Religion Coalition annual 40-hour fast for social justice, as part of the Triangle Commemoration.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was the greatest work place tragedy New York has seen, prior to the World Trade Center attacks in 2001. This tragedy changed the course of history by shining a bright light on the injustices that occur in the work place. It paved the way for the unyielding efforts to protect workers on the job and reminds us that we must not take work place safety for granted.

Frances Perkins was the first woman to hold a U.S. cabinet post when she served as secretary of labor under President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s. Perkins witnessed the Triangle fire, which galvanized her commitment to reforming labor laws. She later served on the New York State Factory Investigating Commission, which recommended reforms in the aftermath of the Triangle fire.

The Capital District Centennial Coalition includes the NYS Department of Labor, NYS Department of Education (NYS Museum, NYS Library, NYS Archives), NYS Archives Partnership Trust, American Labor Studies Center, Catherwood Library-Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations, University at Albany, Capital District NY National Association of Women in Construction Chapter, Coalition of Labor Union Women-Kate Mullany Chapter Capital District, NYS Labor-Religion Coalition, Occupational and Environmental Health Center of Eastern NY, OSHA-Albany Office, NYS AFL-CIO, New York State United Teachers, Public Employees Federation, and CSEA.

NYSUT, PEF, CSEA, the New York State Department of Labor and the American Labor Studies Center provided support for the program.

Olana to Host Irish History Themed Tours


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Events such as the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s and 1850s led to a major influx of Irish immigrants to the United States in the mid-nineteenth century. Like many other families in this area, the Churches hired numerous Irish immigrants for their staff at Olana during the years Frederic Church lived on this property (1860-1900).

Two of the longest-serving employees were the Churches’ coachman and head cook, Michael and Jane McKenna – a brother and sister – both of whom were employed here for over a quarter-century. Olana will present special Irish-themed tours Friday-Sunday, March 11-13 & 18-20, at 10 and 11AM, 12, 1, 2 & 3PM.


Photo: Frederic Church’s coachman Michael McKenna is shown here with one of the Church’s horses. Collection Olana State Historic Site, NYS OPRHP.

New Genealogy Tools at NY State Archives


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The New York State Archives recently announced the creation of two tools, called “pathfinders,” to help genealogists and researchers locate naturalization and probate records created throughout New York, from the colonial period to the present.

Naturalizations grant the full legal rights and privileges held by native-born individuals to someone born in another country. Legal jurisdiction over naturalization has changed repeatedly since the colonial period, so the records can be found in various locations. They may be in the county clerk’s office, the New York State Archives, the National Archives branch in New York City, or U.S. District Court clerk’s office. The pathfinder highlights books, links to indexes, and directories where researchers can find more information about an ancestor and the places that may hold these naturalization records.

Probate records include wills, estate inventories, letters of administration, and other documents relating to the administration and settlement of a deceased person’s estate. The State Archives holds probate records created or compiled by predecessor courts that had legal jurisdiction over probate matters prior to 1787. A limited number of probate records after 1787 are held by the Archives because they are filed and retained by the Surrogate’s Court in each county. For that reason, the probate pathfinder is divided into two chronological sections: before 1787 and after 1787. This pathfinder identifies collections within the State Archives as well as books and links to guides and locations that may help researchers.

The pathfinders can be found on the State Archives’ website.

New York State Historic Preservation Awards Announced for 2010


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The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has announced the recipients of the 2010 New York State Historic Preservation Awards. Established in 1980, the State Historic Preservation Awards are given each year to honor excellence in the protection and rejuvenation of New York’s historic and cultural resources.

“The Historic Preservation Awards honor the efforts and achievement of individuals, organizations and municipalities that make significant contributions to historic preservation objectives throughout New York State,” said Ruth Pierpont, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Historic Preservation. “The range of awards this year reflects the many ways that historic preservation serves as an important tool for economic development, creating affordable housing, and providing an effective approach to sustainable building design while preserving the unique character and heritage of our communities.”

The awards follow:

OUTSTANDING NATIONAL REGISTER NOMINATION:

New York City’s Chinatown and Little Italy Historic District

Presented to: Two Bridges Neighborhood Council (Victor Papa, president and director) and architectural consultant Kerri Culhane, for a project that illuminates the common heritage and shared future of New York

New York City’s Chinatown and Little Italy Historic District was listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places in February 2010 as being nationally significant in the history of immigration. The project’s success was due to the inspired leadership of the sponsor, the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council; exemplary scholarship of their consultant – architectural historian Kerri Culhane; and the support of Chinese-American and Italian-American organizations. Key to the process was educating the public about the significance of two ethnic groups whose 150 years of interwoven immigrant experiences had been previously overlooked. This nomination has proven to be a catalyst for a planning process aimed at enhancing economic development opportunities while respecting the important history of these neighborhoods.

PROJECT ACHIEVEMENT:

The Montour House, Village of Montour Falls, Schuyler County, 1850

For Outstanding Adaptive Use and Commitment to Community Revitalization

Presented to: Bruce Nelson, Nelson Development, Village of Montour Falls and Schuyler County Partners for Economic Development

Set in motion by a Restore New York grant and assistance from the Schuyler County Partners for Economic Development (SCOPED), the Village of Montour Falls hired developer Bruce Nelson to bring the 1850 Montour House back to life. Nelson, of Nelson Development in Vestal, worked closely with SHPO staff to determine the best approach to adapting the former hotel for apartments and commercial spaces while adhering to historic preservation standards. Over 20 years of neglect had caused severe water damage and other deterioration, and the village was in danger of losing the central landmark. A mason employed on the job for 18 months and a millwright who restored 118 historic wood windows were joined by other team members who restored and replaced decorative plaster elements. The project fulfilled the Village’s goals of attracting new and long-time residents as tenants, and helped inspired other local rehabilitation projects.

PROJECT ACHIEVEMENT:

257 Lafayette Center (The Former Annunciation School), Buffalo, 1928

For Outstanding Adaptive Use and Commitment to Community Revitalization

Presented to: Karl Frizlen, The Frizlen Group Architects and Paul Johnson, Johnson and Sons Contractors

After having served as an integral part of the community for over 80 years, the school closed and the building stood vacant for several years. Karl Frizlen, of The Frizlen Group Architects, and Paul Johnson, of Johnson & Sons General Contractor, recognized that the well-designed school would be ideal for an adaptive, mixed-used development that would incorporate green building design and historic preservation. The partners attracted tenants for the commercial portion of the building before beginning the project, including a day-care center and several firms for the incubator offices. In converting former school rooms, the work exhibits a high degree of creativity in reusing historic elements in place, such as pivoting blackboards, or recycling materials for new uses in the building. The project is an outstanding example of how historic tax credits can be used for a mid-sized rehabilitation project. Having obtained LEED certification, the project demonstrates that historic preservation and sustainable design are mutually supportive approaches to development.

PROJECT ACHIEVEMENT:

44 West 87th Street, New York City, 1910

For Outstanding Adaptive Use and Commitment to Community Revitalization

Presented to: The West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing, Inc. and Red Top Architects

In adapting the 1910 townhouse at 44 West 87th Street in New York City for senior and transitional housing and program services, the West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing, Inc. and Red Top Architects needed to upgrade the building to meet accessibility requirements; provide affordable rental units and smaller, transitional housing units; and also insert meeting and office space. Project partners worked through a highly collaborative process to solve design challenges. Preservation tax credits helped make the difference in the remarkable quality of workmanship and historic character preserved by the adaptive use project on a tight budget.

PROJECT ACHIEVEMENT:

P. S. 124, High School of Telecommunication Arts & Technology, Brooklyn, 1917

For an Outstanding Rehabilitation Project and Commitment to Community Revitalization

Presented to: New York City School Construction Authority and STV Group, Inc.

In planning a new wing for the overcrowded school building, the School Construction Authority staff and STV Group architects had to design a structure that would fit on the limited land available, would be compatible with the materials, massing and scale of the existing building and that would also meet with the approval of both SHPO and the community. The end result included a well-designed new wing and restoration of the school’s original auditorium, portions of which had previously been converted to classroom space. In returning the auditorium to its former grandeur, the team recreated missing decorative elements and restored stained glass windows.

PROJECT ACHIEVEMENT:

Dunderberg Creek Walls and NY Route 51 Stone Arch Bridge over Dunderberg Creek, Village of Gilbertsville, Otsego County

For an Outstanding Rehabilitation Project and Commitment to Community Revitalization

Presented to: Village of Gilbertsville and New York State Department of Transportation, Region 9

The historic Village of Gilbertsville’s picturesque setting was threatened in June 2006, when storm waters overflowed the Dunderberg Creek banks and came roaring through the village. The historic stone walls lining the creek were washed away, debris carried by the waters destroyed one of the piers supporting the historic Gilbert Building, and the NY Route 51 Bridge was damaged. Village officials, committed to preserving the historic character of the village, worked closely with the NYSDOT to coordinate repairs to the 1919 bridge and creek walls in a manner that retained the historic pattern of the stonework.

INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT:

Anne H. Van Ingen, former director of the Architecture, Planning and Design and Capital Program of the New York State Council on the Arts.

Recently-retired as director of the Architecture, Planning and Design (APD) and Capital Aid Programs at the New York State Council on the Arts, Anne Van Ingen was recognized for her extraordinary leadership in and commitment and contributions to the field of historic preservation, both as a public servant and a private citizen.

For 27 years, she served as NYSCA’s representative on the New York State Board for Historic Preservation, reviewing and approving nominations to the State and National Registers for Historic Places. Her focus as APD director was on what quality planning and design work – including historic preservation – could do for arts organizations and the communities they serve. She is a founding director of the Deborah J. Norden Fund of the Architectural League, established in memory of a talented NYSCA colleague, the Lower Manhattan Emergency Preservation Fund, and is president of the St. Regis Foundation, a land trust in the Adirondacks.

More recently, she purchased a traditional “shotgun” house in New Orleans’ Hurricane Katrina-ravaged Ninth Ward and invited friends and family down to help undertake the extensive rehabilitation needed to turn the property into affordable housing.

Recognition for OPRHP Agency Best Practices in Historic Preservation

Taconic Regional Headquarters Adaptive Use Project

The Preservation awards program initiated a new component this year to recognize projects undertaken within the OPRHP agency that demonstrate best practices in historic preservation. Ruth Pierpont, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Historic Preservation explained, “by highlighting high-quality rehabilitation and restoration projects, we hope to encourage similar approaches throughout all state parks.” The project chosen this year was the adaptive use of the former Staatsburg School for the OPRHP Taconic Regional Headquarters.

The project was initiated with a gift from Dr. Lucy R. Waletsky, chair of the New York State Council of Parks, who stipulated that the project use sustainable, green building practices and become LEED certified. In order to retain the proportions of the 1930 school, the wide corridors were retained and glass walls were inserted in former classrooms to divide the work spaces and allow the distribution of natural light. On the exterior, instead of separating the accessible entrance from the main door, a “universally accessible” entry was created by redesigning the building site and locating the main entrance at the former rear of the building. This approach also avoided alterations to the stately, historic façade which was restored.

The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), which is part of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, helps communities identify, recognize, and preserve their historic resources, and incorporate them into local improvement and economic development activities. The SHPO administers several programs including the state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credit program, state historic preservation grants, the Certified Local Government program, and the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places, which are the official lists of properties significant in the history, architecture, and archeology of the state and nation.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees 178 state parks and 35 historic sites.. For more information on any of these recreation areas, call 518-474-0456 or visit www.nysparks.com.

Walking Tour Explores the Mafia in America


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A new walking tour examines the roots of the Mafia in America including the often overlooked early lives of such criminal heavyweights as Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Al “Scarface” Capone, Giuseppe Morello, Joe “The Boss” Masseria, Meyer Lansky, “Bugsy” Siegel, and more.

The weekly walking tour with guide Eric Ferrara is hosted by the Lower East Side History Project and runs every Saturday and Thursday at 2:00 pm, through March 2011. The cost is $20 per person.

The tour details the Sicilian and Italian immigrant experience and conditions which led to organized gangsterism in America. From the arrival of Sicilian Black Handers and Neapolitan Camorra to New York in the 1890s, to the forming of the Mafia Commission in 1931, tour participants visit the early homes, headquarters, hangouts and assassination locations of some of the most powerful criminals in American history, and explore the wars which shaped the future of organized crime.

Sites visits include “Black Hand Block,” headquarters of the “first family” of the American Mafia; the headquarters of Paul Kelly’s notorious Five Points Gang, the gang responsible for breeding the likes of Al Capone, Johnny Torrio, “Lucky” Luciano, and hundreds more; the home of prohibition era’s “Boss of Bosses;” and the childhood homes and teenage haunts of “Lucky” Luciano, “Bugsy” Siegel and Meyer Lansky.

Ferrara deciphers the myths and realities of the Mafia in Hollywood, including Boardwalk Empire and The Godfather series. Ferrara is a published author, educator, and founder of the Lower East Side History Project and the first museum in America dedicated to gangsterism. He is a fourth generation native New Yorker with Sicilian roots in Little Italy dating back to the 1880s, and has assisted several movie, tv, and media projects world wide, including HBO, SyFy, History Channel and National Geographic.

Ferrara says that he has consulted the families and estates of crime figures discussed on the tour, as well as law enforcement agents, collectors, authors and historians to provide unique first-hand accounts, images and documents in over five years of research.

For more information visit the Lower East Side History Project online.

A Progressive History of Union Square, NYC


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Even in the supersized world of New York City, Union Square stands out for its astonishing legacy. Yet most of that rich history was lost in the square’s descent from a city showplace to an area approached only at personal peril.

Union Square’s 300-year story is finally told by author/photographer James Isaiah Gabbe in The Universe of Union Square, a coffee-table book and companion DVD (Visions & Voices) that marks the first time the history of the square has been captured from a progressive cultural perspective.

The book relates the people, places and events that shaped so much of America’s progressive tradition while the DVD brings the chronicle up to the moment through 60 lively interviews with city officials, business owners, artists, activists, clergy and others whose lives are intertwined with this remarkable place. More information about the book and a full list of interviewees can be found online.

Gabbe, a former journalist and historian is a longtime resident of Union Square and was for many years the president of the Union Square Partnership – the nation’s first business improvement district.

As president of the Union Square Partnership Gabbe thought he knew the area’s history well enough to create a nicely illustrated brochure, but wherever he turned, Gabbe heard stories that led him through a warren of intrigue and Dickensian characters.

Three years, hundreds of interviews and site visits later, The Universe of Union Square spans 265 pages of fascinating vignettes and nearly 1000 archival images and contemporary photographs. Visions & Voices, the companion DVD, brings the chronicle up to the moment through 60 lively conversations with city officials, community activists, business leaders, academics, clergy, artists and others whose lives are intertwined with this remarkable place.

Gabbe’s exploration extends to an eight-block radius beyond the confines of the park, touching nine adjacent neighborhoods that together form Union Square’s “Universe.”

“Who knew that such a small area of land would become a cauldron in which an unprecedented diversity of people would shape America’s restless, progressive soul,” Gabbe said. “By turns violent and peaceful, with triumph and dismay, Union Square was witness and party to the growth of a nation.”

The Universe of Union Square explores the area’s people, architecture, institutions and happenings through eight thematic chapters – highlights include:

* Peter Stuyvesant’s Harvest: From the Lenape Nation and European Walloons to “blue bloods” and immigrants, a look at the area’s changing populations, including the criminal fringe, from prosperity through hard times between World War I and the 1980s. Includes notable architectural landmarks, the Greenmarket and acts of violence.

* Democracy’s Stage: The “universe’s” history – and legacy – as New York’s center of free public expression. From Civil War protests and Lincoln proclaiming “right makes might” to serving as headquarters for the nascent labor movement and political activists of all persuasions – through to providing the world a haven to mourn and heal after 9/11.

* Creative Cauldron: Celebrating the impresarios, actors, writers, artists and musicians who have made their mark here. Covers the area’s role as the original “heart” of Broadway and the Yiddish theater; the earliest center for American opera; the birthplace of American vaudeville and the modern nightclub; and home to many famed arts clubs and enterprises that founded the film industry.

* Inventive Ventures: This is where gutsy entrepreneurs built the peerless Ladies’ Mile, a collection of urban shopping emporiums that set the stage for modern department stores but have never been equaled. And where scores of other fascinating enterprises were fostered, including world-famous Strand Book Store, Blatt Billiards and the landmarked Bowlmor bowling alley.

* Fibers of the Future: Past and present, individuals and organizations exemplifying compassionate and visionary citizenship, from the selflessness of baker Charles Fleischmann, who fed anyone willing to wait in line for bread, to Tammany Hall, which began as a noble civic and political service to immigrants but ended in infamy. This was also home to Peter Cooper, Helen Keller, Teddy and Eleanor Roosevelt, Ida Tarbell, Margaret Sanger and Bill Wilson – all of whom changed society in momentous ways.

The Universe of Union Square also covers the area’s 60 institutions from preschools to universities, libraries to museums – many like NYU, New School, Cooper Union, Stuyvesant and Washington Irving High Schools – created to serve the working class, immigrants and women, who had no access to education. And Gabbe recounts tales of Emma Goldman, Andy Warhol and the Mad Bomber among scores of other famous and infamous characters as it documents the area’s modern resurrection from decades of urban decay.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

Travel Channel to Feature Ellis Island Museum


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Travel Channel’s new series, Mysteries at the Museum, will be featuring New York tonight at 9 EST. The show will be highlighting the Ellis Island Immigration Museum.

The episode will feature literacy tests given to all new arrivals at Ellis Island. In theory the test should have prevented thousands of poor, illiterate immigrants from gaining entry into the U.S., but what many immigrants lacked in literacy, they made up for in cunning and guile. How could they possibly have beat the test that was designed to keep them out of America?

Troy’s Little Italy Midwife Records Online


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Troy area researchers will be interested in the almost 200 midwife records covering 600 surnames that have just been added to the Troy Irish Genealogy Website. These records mostly are for infants born to Italian immigrants who lived in the little Italy section of South Troy. A number of the records, however, are for Syrian immigrants. The records, which range from 1909 to 1923, were completed by the midwife Alesandra Matera, a nurse who lived at 250 Fourth Street in Troy.

The Rensselaer County Historical Society in Troy, New York provided the Troy Irish Genealogy Society access to their copies of these records to develop this on-line database.

You can view these records by going to the Troy Irish Genealogy website at www.rootsweb.com/~nytigs/ and click on PROJECTS and then click on MATERA MIDWIFE RECORDS. There are three separate files for the records covering the child’s name, the father’s name and the mother’s name. Clicking on the alphabetical listing of names on the left side of the page will bring up the individual record for that name.

Illustration: 1880 Map of Troy’s Little Italy Neighborhood.

Alien Resident Files Opened to Public


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For the first time, more than 300,000 case files on alien residents of the United States who were born 1909 and prior are now open to the public at the National Archives at Kansas City. These files, known as “Alien Files” (commonly referred to as “A-Files”) were transferred to the National Archives from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and are only a small part of the millions of case files that will eventually be transferred and opened to the public.

“The A-files are a key to unlocking the fascinating stories of millions of people who traveled to the United States in search of opportunity, including my own grandfather” said Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero. “They include information such as photographs, personal correspondence, birth certificates, health records, interview transcripts, visas, applications and other information on all non-naturalized alien residents, both legal and illegal. The snapshot of American life that develops from each file can, in some cases, serve as a one-stop-shopping for researchers.”

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the predecessor agency of USCIS, began issuing aliens Alien Registration numbers in 1940, and on April 1, 1944, began using this number to create the A-Files. A-Files document the famous, the infamous, the anonymous and the well-known, and are an historical and genealogical goldmine. These files contain an abundance of relatively modern immigration documents in one file, making them a rich source of biographical information.

A-Files are eligible for transfer to the National Archives when 100 years have passed since the birth date of the subject of a file. These transfers to the National Archives ensure that these records will be saved and made available to the public. The National Archives at Kansas City will maintain A-Files from all USCIS district offices except San Francisco, Honolulu, Reno, and Guam. These files will be housed at the National Archives at San Francisco because of the significant research use of related immigration files there. Files to be housed at the National Archives at San Francisco are currently being prepared for transfer.

A-Files may be viewed in person by appointment at the National Archives at Kansas City or copies of files may be ordered for a fee. Additional information on requesting A-Files may be found here.

For more information about these records, contact Elizabeth Carrington, archivist, at 816-268-8093 or afiles.kansascity@nara.gov.

Ellis Island Museum Celebrates 20 Years


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September marks the 20th anniversary of the historic restoration of Ellis Island and the opening of its Immigration Museum on September 10, 1990, which was funded by the American people through The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. This world class museum has quickly become one of the most popular tourist destinations in New York City, welcoming over 35 million visitors to date.

Just half a mile from the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, the museum’s exhibits highlight the growth of America during the peak immigration years of 1880-1924. The galleries illustrate the Ellis Island immigrant reception process, the immigrants’ arrival and settlement throughout the United States and feature their “Treasures From Home” – the cherished personal objects, photographs and papers they brought with them from their homelands. And the American Immigrant Wall of Honor celebrates the immigrant experience with the inscription of the names of over 700,000 individuals and families who have been honored by their descendants.

The Ellis Island Oral History Archive, created by the Foundation, contains the reminiscences of over 1700 individuals who either immigrated through or worked at Ellis Island during its heyday as the country’s largest immigration processing center. Excerpts from these oral histories are incorporated throughout the museum’s popular audio tour, which allows visitors to vividly relive the immigrant experience as if they were the “new arrival.”

The American Family Immigration History Center, which opened in 2001, offers easy access to the arrival records of more than 25 million immigrants, travelers and crewmembers who entered through the Port of New York and Ellis Island between 1892-1924, and is also available online at www.ellisisland.org.

The restoration of Ellis Island—the largest in U. S. history—began in 1984 as the second part of a multi-million dollar project by the Foundation, in partnership with the National Park Service/U.S. Department of the Interior, which included the Centennial restoration of the Statue of Liberty in 1986. All funds came from private donations, with more than 20 million Americans contributing to the cause.

The Museum is currently undergoing a $20 million expansion to be called The Peopling of America Center. Designed by ESI Design, this exciting new Center will enlarge the story currently told of the Ellis Island Era (1892-1954) to include the entire panorama of the American immigration experience, with exhibits dedicated to those who arrived before Ellis as well as those who arrived after it closed, right up to the present. “The Foundation is proud of what it has accomplished over the last 28 years with the support of the American people in raising over $550 million for the ongoing restoration and preservation of these two most beloved monuments to freedom and opportunity,” said Stephen A. Briganti, President and CEO of The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. “With the Peopling of America Center scheduled to open in 2012, we will bring the ever-growing story of the populating of America to life, making the Ellis Island Museum both more relevant and a truly living testament to this Nation of Immigrants.”

For more information on the Ellis Island Immigration Museum visit www.ellisisland.org.

Online: John Timon – Buffalo’s First Bishop



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New York History Review has just published online John Timon – Buffalo’s First Bishop
: His Forgotten Struggle to Assimilate Catholics in Western New York

 by Paul E. Lubienecki. Timon assimilated Catholics and Catholic women into the culture of western New York and established Catholicism while battling the local Protestant clergy and the Catholic hierarchy. You can read more about him here.

Mr. Lubienecki is a doctoral student of History at Case Western Reserve University. His dissertation topic is on the history and influence of the Catholic Church on the American labor movement. The article can be found here on the New York History Review website

Illustration: Bishop John Timon Bust, The Right Rev. John Timon, Bishop of Buffalo, 1847-1867, plaster, A. Pellegrini, Buffalo, 1885. On display in 2002 at Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society.

CFP: Staten Island, Am. History, 21st Cent. Education


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A Call for Papers has been issued for a conference entitled Staten Island, New York in American History and 21st Century Education, to be held at the College of Staten Island (City University of New York) on March 19-20, 2011.

An understanding of the role of place and the attachment to community in America has never been more critical than in our rapidly changing global environment. This conference seeks to explore major turning points and issues in American history as experienced by the residents of Staten Island past and present. Located at the entrance to New York harbor, Staten Island is one of the five boroughs that comprise New York City.

Since 1661, Staten Island has been the home of settlers and migrants from around the globe. Staten Island’s cultural diversity and its regional and global interconnections are reflected in its institutions, cuisine, art and architecture, businesses, social movements, recreational tourism, transportation heritage, and in the service of its military veterans. The organizers’ goal is to rethink the significance of Staten Island and its important historic sites, as part of New York City, the region, the nation, and the world through the interdisciplinary lenses of history and Place-based
Education.

In celebration of Staten Island’s 350th Anniversary in 2011, the organizers invite
innovative proposals from scholars, curators, teachers and public historians related to community history and education. Proposals must be relevant to and illustrate the conference theme, including but not limited to the following topics:

*History of ethnicity and immigration
*History of race, gender, sexual orientation, and disabilities
*Staten Island in the transatlantic world, e.g. Huguenot refugees, the Loyalist Diaspora, the Free Trade Zone
*Staten Island in the history of New York City, e.g. Civil War Draft Riots, Consolidation, 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
*History of the arts, architecture, health, business, military, sports, transportation, religion, food and drink, education, childhood, or of the environment
*Geography, politics, and economics in the study of local history
*The historical interconnectedness of Staten Island to the New York/New Jersey region
*The role of the museum in public history and preservation
*Pedagogy, including Place-based Education, civic engagement and community-based research
*Memory and oral history

Proposals for complete panels and/or individual papers for this peer-reviewed conference are welcome. Proposals for panels must include the following: 1) a cover sheet with the panel title, paper titles, and the name, address, affiliation, and email addresses of the chair/commentator and of the panelists; 2) a 350-word abstract of the panel as a whole; and 3) a 350-word abstract for each paper included on the panel. Individual paper proposals for twenty-minute papers should include the following: 1) a cover sheet with the paper’s title, and the name, address, affiliation,
and email address of the participant and 2) a 350-word abstract of the paper.

All materials should be e-mailed to Dr. Phillip Papas, Associate Professor of History and co-chair of the SI 350 Academic Conference/Education Symposium at papas@ucc.edu. Proposals for panels and/or individual papers must be received no later than October 15, 2010. Successful applicants will be required to send a completed paper no later than February 7, 2011. E-mail Dr. Margaret Berci, Associate Professor of Education and co- chair of the SI 350 Academic Conference/Education Symposium at berci@mail.csi.cuny.edu with questions.

For more information and resources please refer to their website at www.si350.org.

The event is co-sponsored with Wagner College, St. John’s University and SI350, Inc, with major support from the Staten Island Foundation.

Saratoga Battlefield Celebrates July 4th, Immigration


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Independence Day on Sunday, July 4 will be celebrated at Saratoga National Historical Park on Routes 4 and 32 in Stillwater, with a 10:00am Citizenship Ceremony and traditional readings of the Declaration of Independence with free lemonade toasts at 1 and 3pm.

10:00am – On the anniversary of our nation and upon the grounds where independence was won, 20 immigrants from countries all over the world will become new citizens of the United States of America. Fife and drums, color guard, musket and cannon firings frame this special event organized by Sons of the American Revolution, Daughters of the American Revolution, Friends of Saratoga Battlefield and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

1:00 and 3:00pm – As a messenger from 1776, park ranger Joe Craig reads from the Declaration of Independence with authentic 18th century toasts reflecting the insightful wit of the document signers. Enjoy free lemonade to share in the toasts, followed by celebratory musket and cannon firings.

Saratoga Monument in Victory and the General Philip Schuyler House in Schuylerville, both located 8 miles north of Saratoga Battlefield, will also be open from 9:00am to 5:00pm. The Battlefield is open daily from 9am to 5pm.

Saratoga National Historical Park, located on Routes 4 and 32 in Stillwater, offers a variety of special events throughout the season. For further information, please call (518) 664-9821 ext. 224, or visit www.nps.gov/sara.

Wild, Wild East: NY’s Westward Expansion Lecture


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New York’s early frontier was America’s first “Wild West” with Westward Expansion, blocked by two “obstacles”: Native Americans and Nature. Combining dramatic images and fresh research, Robert Spiegelman details this forgotten New York, where settler dreams encounter native lifeways during a free lecture on Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 7 pm at the Fort Montgomery Historic Site.

Spiegelman will explore a “magical crossroads” where immigrants change into nomad farmers, neighbors into rivals, colonists into fighters, soldiers into settlers, land speculators into “second creators,” Indian Country into military tracts named for Roman conquerors, and untamed forests into real estate grids.

Participants will revisit Syracuse and Buffalo’s emergence from the ashes of attempted Indian removal and controversial land treaties that have shaped today’s Empire State. Then grasp Manhattan’s rise to prominence via the Erie Canal, which in turn, inflames a religious upheaval across Central New York that America calls “The Burnt Over District.” The lecture will end with an appreciation of how – against all odds – indigenous New Yorkers retain a toehold in their deforested ancestral homelands.

The Fort Montgomery Visitor Center is located at 690 Route 9W,1/4 mile north of the Bear Mountain Traffic Circle in Fort Montgomery, Orange County, NY 10922. For more information call (845) 446-2134.

Folklore Society Sponsoring Events for Latino Artists


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The New York Folklore Society will be sponsoring three gatherings for Latino artists in New York State. Supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the gatherings will take place on three locations on three separate dates over this fall and next spring.

Designed for musicians, dancers, craftspersons, and others who are practicing a traditional artform with its origin in any of the Spanish-speaking communities of North and South America, the gatherings will assist artists in sharing resources and experiences. They will provide an opportunity for future collaborations and technical assistance. For additional information, or to find out how to become a “delegate” for the gatherings, contact Lisa Overholser at the New York Folklore Society.

The gatherings will be held as follows:

October 24, 2010 at Long Island Traditins, Port Washington
March 19, 2011 at Go Art!, Batavia
May 14, 2011 at Centro Civico, Amsterdam

2010 Scholars Conference on American Jewish History


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The 2010 Biennial Scholars’ Conference on American Jewish History will examine the notion of American Jewish “exceptionalism,” or uniqueness that has shaped conceptions of American Jewish history from its beginning. The conference, to be held in New York City on June 15-17, 2010 is sponsored by the American Jewish Historical Society and hosted by the Center for Jewish History.

According to many historical accounts, American Jews have enjoyed an unparalleled degree of freedom, acceptance, and prosperity throughout their history in the United States. This has enabled Jews to blend their ethnic identities with the demands of American citizenship far more easily than other diasporic Jews. At the same time, the notion of American Jewish exceptionalism holds that Jews have differed from other ethnic groups in the United States by virtue of their educational and economic attainment and, often, by virtue of Jewish “values,” including a devotion to educational and social/political liberalism.

Yet to what extent are these notions about American uniqueness, on the one hand, and Jewish uniqueness, on the other, accurate? Does the concept of exceptionalism continue to provide a useful framework for understanding American Jewish history? Should it be qualified for greater nuance or discarded altogether?

Papers will be given by a range of prominent academics and doctoral candidates from around the U.S., Canada, and Israel. The keynote will be offered by Professor David Sorkin and an evening roundtable will feature the esteemed U.S. historians Jon Butler and Ira Katznelson in dialogue with Beth Wenger and Rebecca Kobrin, outstanding scholars in the field of American Jewish history. A pre-conference tour of Harlem will be led by Professor Jeffrey Gurock. A tour of the Tenement Museum led by Annie Polland is optional at the conclusion of the conference.

Full conference details are available online at http://www.ajhs.org/scholarship/conference.cfm. For more information contact Rachel Lobovsky, Director of Development at 212.294.6164 or rlobovsky@ajhs.org

Illustration: “East Side Soap Box” Shahn, Ben (1898-1969) © VAGA, NY. East Side Soap Box, 1936. Gouache on paper, 18 1/2 x 12 1/4 in. (47 x 31.1 cm). Purchase: Deana Bezark Fund in memory of Leslie Bezark; Mrs. Jack N. Berkman, Susan and Arthur Fleischer, Dr. Jack Allen and Shirley Kapland, Hanni and Peter Kaufmann, Hyman L. and Joan C. Sall Funds, and Margaret Goldstein Bequest, 1995-61. Photo by John Parnell. The Jewish Museum, New York, NY, U.S.A. © The Jewish Museum, NY / Art Resource, NY