Organizations with deep roots in Lower Manhattan have come together to once again bring the celebration of July 4th to Lower Manhattan. Their efforts reflect Founding Father John Adam’s original admonition back in 1776 that the day of our independence be celebrated forever more in ways that will appeal to all Americans.
More than two hundred years ago Independence Day celebrations in Lower Manhattan helped give rise to the American government. More than a hundred years ago July 4th celebrations were the vehicle by which thousands of new immigrants to America learned about this country and its history. This year, the July 4th Festival Committee, a coalition of institutions, individuals, and organizations with an interest in Lower Manhattan and its history, intends to revive the American spirit by returning to Lower Manhattan’s roots with patriot celebrations. Continue reading
This morning New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio announced his choice for Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair – architect and urban planner Meenakshi Srinivasan.
Srinivasan, a native of India, has a bachelor’s degree in architecture from New Delhi’s School of Planning and Architecture and a master’s degree in city planning, urban design, and architecture from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1990 she began work at the Department of City Planning, and in 2000 was named deputy director of Planning’s Manhattan office where she led the Special Midtown District Theater Subdistrict rezoning, the Sixth Avenue rezoning, and the Hudson Yards Master Plan. Continue reading
Rescuing the Past in New York City opened May 1, 2014, at The Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden and will remain on view until September 7, 2014.
In celebration of the Museum’s 75th anniversary, this exhibition highlights the commitment of heritage societies, like the Colonial Dames of America, to historic preservation, and honors the dedication of the Colonial Dames to the rescue and restoration of the Museum building, culminating in its opening to the public to coincide with the 1939 World’s Fair. Continue reading
Since its publication in 1995, John Tauranac’s The Empire State Building: The Making of a Landmark, focused on the inception and construction of the building, has stood as the most comprehensive account of the structure.
Moreover, it is far more than a work in architectural history; Tauranac tells a larger story of the politics of urban development in and through the interwar years. In a new epilogue to the Cornell University Press edition (2014), Tauranac highlights the continuing resonance and influence of the Empire State Building in the rapidly changing post-9/11 cityscape. Continue reading
On Tuesday, April 29th, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted to designate the Park Avenue Historic District as the city’s 111th historic district.
I am thrilled about this designation and is especially thankful for the LPC’s swift action on this item. However, the commissioners’ deliberate decision to specify the Park Avenue Christian Center’s rectory and parish house as “no style” is confusing. When you think of a place with “no style”, Park Avenue is not what usually comes to mind. Continue reading
From 1971 to 1985, battles raged over Westway, a multibillion-dollar highway, development, and park project slated for construction New York City. It would have projected far into the Hudson River, including massive new landfill extending several miles along Manhattan’s Lower West Side.
The most expensive highway project ever proposed, Westway also provoked one of the highest stakes legal battles of its day, the subject of Fighting Westway: Environmental Law, Citizen Activism, and the Regulatory War that Transformed New York City (Cornell University Press, 2014), by William W. Buzbee. Continue reading
On May 3, 2014, John Jay Homestead State Historic Site in Katonah, N.Y. will sponsor a walk through lower Manhattan titled John Jay’s Not-So-Big City. The walking tour will trace John Jay’s haunts in New York in the late 18th century.
Founding Father John Jay, New York’s second Governor and America’s first Chief Justice, was born and educated in New York City, and spent much of his life there. The walking tour will trace his haunts, visiting the locations of the places where he lived and worked as one of New York’s leading lawyers and politicians, as well as U.S. Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Chief Justice of the United States, and Governor of New York. The tour will recall the time when New York was the capitol city of a young republic, and present a reminder of how the geography and architecture of Manhattan Island have changed since the arrival of the first European settlers in the 17th century. Continue reading
In a new pictorial history from author William Alan Morrison, Images of America: Waldorf Astoria (Arcadia Publishing, 2014), honors the world-renown grand hotel.
Vintage images take readers on a journey through the magnificent history of the hotel and the many glamorous guests that it housed. The Waldorf Astoria has been host to emperors, rajahs, potentates and plutocrats — not to mention every US president since Grover Cleveland — its name has become synonymous with the epitome of glamour, luxury and sophistication. Continue reading
It is the Historic Districts Council’s firm belief, backed up by decades of observation, that the New York City Landmarks Law and the Commission empowered by it have enhanced and improved New York City. Landmark designation stabilizes neighborhoods, enhances property values, empowers communities and attracts private investment into the city. More importantly, landmarks and historic districts provide a physical continuity to our city’s past, enabling residents and visitors alike to physically experience New York’s history.
With all this in mind, it’s no mystery that the still unfilled de Blasio appointment for Landmarks Chair is a matter of great interest to us and we have thought a great deal about the type of person whom we’d like to see in the role. Continue reading
The OBIE Award winning Metropolitan Playhouse will present the fifth annual East Village Theater Festival, a three-week celebration of the life and lore of New York City’s East Village.
The festival features four different evenings of new plays and solo-performances, as well as the work of local artists, and a panel discussion on the neighborhood’s changing identity. Continue reading
Over the years much has been written about Pieter and Jonas Bronck. Pieter is responsible for the erection of the Bronck House in Coxsackie, Greene County, NY, 351 years ago. Jonas is considered the founder of the Bronx.
Over the years there has been much confusion about the relationship of these two individuals – father and son, brothers or cousins. Both were Swedish and there is strong evidence that they were related. I prefer to accept research done by Shelby Mattice, Curator of the Bronck Museum. Ms. Mattice has concluded that the two men were first cousins and shared the same grandfather. Today I would like to focus a bit on Jonas Bronck because this year the Bronx is commemorating the 375th anniversary of the year Jonas first settled there. Continue reading
Lawrence R. Samuel’s New York City 1964: A Cultural History (McFarland, 2014), connects the events of a single year in the city to the cultural threads of American life in the 1960s and beyond.
Five seminal events occurred in New York City in the pivotal year 1964: the “British Invasion” arrival of the Beatles in February; the murder of Kitty Genovese in Queens in March; the World’s Fair in Queens between April and October; the “race riots” in Brooklyn and Harlem in July; and the World Series in the Bronx between the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals. Continue reading
Beginning in the mid-1800s, steamboats carried people between New York City and the Albany area on the Hudson River. Romantic images lull us into believing it was a quiet means of travel, but a crowded river, faulty equipment and the bravado of the captains resulted in at least one major catastrophe every year. Night boats collided and sank, carelessness caused boiler explosions, races put passengers at risk and fires would quickly swallow the wooden vessels.
The grand Empire of Troy suffered many collisions. The Swallow broke in two on a rock, Reindeer’s explosion took forty lives at once and the Oregon and C. Vanderbilt entered into an epic and dangerous race. Collected from eyewitness accounts, these are some of the most exciting and frightening stories of peril aboard steamboats on the Hudson River. Now, local historian J. Thomas Allison has written Hudson River Steamboat Catastrophes: Contests and Collisions (History Press, 2013). Allison provides an entertaining look at the romantic but perilous age of steamboat travel on the Hudson River, including tales of reckless captains racing each other and passengers’ eyewitness accounts of collisions, crashes, explosions, and fires. Continue reading
Today, the owner of 51 and 53 West 19th Street in the Ladies’ Mile Historic District in New York City will request the Landmarks Preservation Commission for permission to demolish two buildings and to construct a 14-story building in their place. Unfortunately, this is not an April’s Fool joke.
51 and 53 West 19th Street are five-story, residential buildings built in 1854 which were converted to commercial and/or manufacturing use in the 1920s. Such a history is very much in keeping with the Ladies’ Mile Historic District. In fact, the designation report lists “converted dwellings” as a building type in the district along with “residential construction”, “office buildings”, “store and loft buildings”, and “retail stores/department stores.” The report points out that after World War I, the shopping district had moved north and the area’s focus shifted to manufacturing. The 1916 zoning resolution had prohibited the construction of tall buildings on mid-block sites, and so instead the surviving residential buildings were converted. Converted dwellings are obviously a part of the fabric of the district, and these two nicely-designed buildings are good examples of this typology. Continue reading
Where is the U.S. (Tennis) Open played? The tournament is located in the borough of Queens but people are more likely to think Flushing. The Brooklyn Dodgers and the Bronx Bombers are named or nicknamed for their borough, the Mets and the Jets (when they were in New York) are not. Letters to New York have borough names in the mailing address except for Queens. They are addressed to Forest Hills where the U.S. Open used to be played or to Astoria, Bayside, Long Island City and so on.
At a recent conference on Quintessential Queens held at Queens College, former Queens resident Nicole Steinberg, in a talk entitled “Many a Neighborhood – Astoria to the Rockways”, identified 74 different neighborhoods in the borough. While all of them might not have their own postal address, the large number highlights the problems: people in the borough may identify with their neighborhood the same way someone outside New York City identifies with a village, town or city and not with their county. In other words, Queens has an identity problem. Continue reading
Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries will host the reinterment of the 19th Century Immigrants at Court House (Marine Hospital) Cemetery at Central Avenue and Hyatt Street in Staten Island on April 27th. The event is open to the public by seating is limited.
Between 1799 and 1858, Staten Island was home to the Marine Hospital Quarantine Station. ALL ships entering New York Harbor during those years were stopped and if New York medical inspectors found anyone on the ships suffering from infectious diseases they were removed and held at the Staten Island facility to await their outcome. Local residents from Staten Island, Manhattan and the adjacent communities in New Jersey were also sent to this facility. Continue reading
Research projects sometimes take unexpected, but fascinating, twists and turns. I had reason a few years ago to look into the case of a woman called Madame Sherri. She is mostly known for an unusual castle-like house built for her in a rural area of New Hampshire–its ruins are now popular with hikers and lovers of the odd and mysterious.
My investigation dragged me far from New Hampshire–to the world of cabaret reviews in New York City, the vaudeville circuit, and “soldier shows” (popular during World War I, with Irving Berlin’s “Yip Yip Yaphank” being the most well-known). And, for good measure, toss in a scandal involving sex and blackmail. Continue reading
The Historic Districts Council has announced the winners of their inaugural Design Awards. These awards celebrate projects that broaden perceptions of the possibilities of design in historic settings.
For this year’s program, the jury selected three winning projects and four that merited an honorable mention. The Design Awards were presented on March 7, at Steelcase, and the three winning projects were presented to an audience of more than 100 community activists and professionals as part of the 20th annual HDC Preservation Conference on Saturday March 8. Continue reading
What is the Bronx state of history? Despite its long history, it is only 100 years ago when it was officially recognized as a county in New York State. Bronx County Historical Society educator Angel Hernandez will speak on the early history of The Bronx through its achieving county status on March 29 at The Bronx Archives Building.
On April 9, The Bronx County Historical Society will present an exhibition at the Museum of Bronx History titled “Bronx County – 100 Years.” One notes that this recognition of county status occurred subsequent to the creation of the expanded New York City. Continue reading
The working class Irish neighborhood of old and new law tenements immediately west of the theater district in Manhattan was once one of the toughest areas in the City where the Irish street gangs, bootleggers, gamblers and mobsters held sway. However, it is today home to major law, accounting and advertising firms, off-broadway theaters and trendy bars and restaurants as well as upscale apartment buildings in which actors and young professionals reside.
Nevertheless, many do not realize that the political leadership of the area has remained the same for the last 100 years. For the past 50 years, the Democratic party district leader of the area has been the legendary Jimmy McManus, fourth generation of the McMani of Tammany Hall, whose McManus Midtown Democratic Club is the oldest continuously functioning Democratic Club in New York City, and has controlled the area politically since 1892 when Jim’s great grand uncle defeated Tammany leader George Washington Plunkitt. Another notable figure the tour will discuss is Frances Perkins. Perkins, a social worker in Hell’s Kitchen who later became FDR’s Labor Secretary and creator of Social Security, got her start in New York politics in 1910 by a chance meeting with Thomas J. McManus. Continue reading