339 West 29th Street, aka the Hopper-Gibbons House in the Lamartine Place Historic District is a former Underground Railroad stop in Chelsea, Manhattan.
The house and the row was designated as an historic district for cultural reasons – the family of no. 339 was violently attacked in the 1863 Draft Riots for harboring runaway slaves. The abolitionists escaped via the rooftop, hopping house to house until ultimately making a safe exit through a neighboring home. Continue reading
In the latest episode of the “New Netherland Praatjes” podcast, the New Netherland Institute’s Senior Historian and Education Director Dennis Maika chats with Russell Shorto about Maika’s work on 17th-century New Amsterdam/Manhattan merchants and his work promoting the importance of the seventeenth-century Dutch colony to the New York State Education Department. Topics include the economic structure of the colony, including the role of the Dutch West India Company, and the role of state regulation in the economy. Listen to the podcast here. Continue reading
She’s the woman who dueled with Aaron Burr and won. Move over Alexander Hamilton. The life of Eliza Jumel is a tale about a woman who pulled hard on her Yankee bootstraps to make good on the American dream.
Margaret Oppenheimer’s splendid book, The Remarkable Rise of Eliza Jumel: Marriage and Money in the Early Republic (Chicago Review Press, 2015), takes readers along on a tale of intrigue, scandal and innuendo. Far from a steamy beach read featuring men in white wigs, this meticulously-researched tale paints a detailed and scholarly portrait of New York City and the way in which the city’s growth provided fertile ground for the ambitions of its heroine. Continue reading
“The street has provided generation after generation with a mystical flash of belonging… experiences of mortal peril, dissipation and adventure…” writes Ada Calhoun in her new book St. Marks’s Is Dead. Her wry and witty journey through history notes that each generation plunged in the excitement and grunge of the Lower East Side street proclaims its own moment “the golden age,” while bemoaning subsequent events as the death of the place’s “true essence.” That heart might be an immigrant’s dream, revolution, creativity, dissent, fashion experiment or altered consciousness.
Her bedlam of voices making these claims is entertaining and illuminating, the voluble chatter of participants, residents, business folks and dissidents who gave the street its gritty allure. Calhoun conducted over 200 interviews to assemble this history, and they range from obscure rantings of yesteryear to tales of the poor and famous. You will hear from Leon Trotsky, W.H. Auden, Debbie Harry, Klaus Nomi, street people, skate-boarders, drag queens and theater operators. Emma Goldman, famed anarchist, ran the Modern School for a while, where ardent revolutionaries could learn from the works of Mikhail Bakunin and Karl Marx. Pamela Moore, a pulp novelist of the 1960s described the creative invasion of the 1950s as “their own brand-new Beatnikville where the artists had moved in on the Slavic factory hands and all lived together in glorious, outrageous, dedicated poverty!” Continue reading
Through the lens of real estate transactions from 1890 to 1920, Kevin McGruder’s book Race and Real Estate: Conflict and Cooperation in Harlem 1890-1920 (Columbia Univ. Press, 2015) offers unique perspectives on Harlem’s history and reveals the complex interactions between whites and African Americans at a critical time of migration and development.
During these decades Harlem saw a dramatic increase in its African American population, and although most histories speak only of the white residents who met these newcomers with hostility, this book uncovers a range of reactions. Continue reading
In Crossing Broadway Washington: Heights and the Promise of New York City (Cornell University Press, 2014), Robert W. Snyder explores New York City in the 1970s.
When the South Bronx burned and the promise of New Deal New York and postwar America gave way to despair, the people of Washington Heights at the northern tip of Manhattan were increasingly vulnerable.
The Heights had long been a neighborhood where generations of newcomers — Irish, Jewish, Greek, African American, Cuban, and Puerto Rican — carved out better lives in their adopted city. But as New York City shifted from an industrial base to a service economy, new immigrants from the Dominican Republic struggled to gain a foothold. This was followed by the crack epidemic of the 1980s, and the drug wars. Continue reading
Grand Central Terminal, which turns 103 today, has recently produced a new history video series about the iconic building. The series features Grand Central Terminal historian Dan Brucker.
Among the Grand Central treasures Brucker shines a spotlight on, are the world’s largest example of Tiffany glass; the Main Concourse ceiling; the famous Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant; the whispering gallery; and The Campbell Apartment, Grand Central Terminal’s own speakeasy. Continue reading
Ella Madison was born in 1854 in Saratoga Springs, New York. Her parents were John and Caroline Robinson. Her sister, Caroline Victoria (usually called Victoria) was married to Solomon Northup‘s son, Alonzo. (Alonzo and his family later moved to Weedsport in Cayuga County). It was reported that Ella, while a teenager, had relocated to New York City, and marched in a parade in 1869 that commemorated the passage of the 14th Amendment, which guaranteed citizenship rights to former slaves. Her mother died that year, while visiting her daughter, Caroline, in Washington County, New York. Continue reading
Recently the Treasury Department has announced its intent to place a prominent woman of historical importance on the U.S. currency. There is no one who is more deserving of this honor than Frances Perkins, a New York woman, who was probably the most significant and important female government official of the 20th century.
As Secretary of Labor throughout President Franklin Roosevelt’s four terms and the first woman ever to hold a cabinet position, Frances Perkins designed most of the New Deal Social Welfare and Labor Policies, such as social security, the minimum wage, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and protections for unions, and reshaped America. Continue reading
Art deco murals, decorative brick work, mosaics – not quite what you expect to encounter at a women’s prison. The Bayview Women’s Correctional Facility at 550 West 20th Street in Manhattan was built in 1931 as a YMCA for merchant sailors. Converted to a prison, it was closed after Superstorm Sandy flooding and is now being converted to a Women’s Building. As an adaptive reuse, the main building will be preserved with some elements that reflect the history, even as the site is re-purposed as a women-focused community facility. Continue reading