Tag Archives: NYC

The Birth of ‘The Nation': A New York Story


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Nation Founding ProspectusJust across Union Square from The Nation’s headquarters on Irving Place there stands a hole-in-the-wall falafel joint that some of the magazine’s employees— including, rumor has it, the author of this blog post — are known to frequent. Habitually. Like, every day. Sometimes twice. Like salmon swimming home.

Until recently, this behavior had long puzzled scholars — defying, it seems, all we think we know about the instinct to self-preservation. But actually it makes eminent good sense: the falafel joint’s address — 26 East 17th Street — once belonged to the first headquarters of the Union League Club, and it was there, one fateful night in the early summer of 1863, just days before the Battle of Gettysburg, at a clap of divine lightning, at the end of an eternal drum-roll, for good or for ill, depending on whom you ask, the magazine now known the world over as America’s oldest weekly was summoned from the ether and was born. Continue reading

July 4th Parade Returns to Lower Manhattan


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Fourth of July NYC paradeThe Lower Manhattan Historical Society (LMHS), a group formed just last August, sponsored the first Independence Day parade in almost forty years in Lower Manhattan on July 3rd.

The parade included marchers from patriotic groups such as the New York Veteran Corps of the Artillery, the Sons of the Revolution of the State of New York Color Guard,, the Color guard of various chapters of the Sons of the American Revolution, the Colonial Dames of America, the French Air Force Reserves, the Chinatown partnership, and native New Yorkers. Continue reading

This Week’s New York History Web Highlights


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Voodoo Opera from Harlem Renaissance


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Barry Robinson as Fojo, the voodoo priest and Janinah Burnett as Lolo, a thwarted lover who resorts to voodoo rites.Magic rites in the jungle seal the fate of a love triangle in the long-forgotten opera of H. Lawrence Freeman restaged on Friday and Saturday at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre. Voodoo was composed in 1914 and had its last performance in 1928. The music and libretto come from a composer who was a friend of Scott Joplin. author of more than 20 operas, and founder of the Harlem Renaissance’s Negro Grand Opera Company. The revival features Gregory Hopkins of Harlem Opera Theatre conducting in a production that drew on collaboration with the Harlem Chamber Players and the Morningside Opera. Continue reading

Stonewall Inn Named Historic Landmark


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Stonewall Inn circa 1965On June 23, the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC) voted unanimously to designate the Stonewall Inn an Individual Historic Landmark. The site is the location of the Stonewall riots of June 1969, an event that helped spark the current LGBTQ Pride Movement.

The building is already protected as part of the Greenwich Village Historic District and its significance derives entirely from its historical, social and cultural importance, rather than architectural, marking it a unique designation for the LPC. Continue reading

Bronx Stories of Courage, Commitment


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Bronx Faces and VoicesIn Bronx Faces and Voices: Sixteen Stories of Courage and Commitment (Texas Tech University Press, 2014) sixteen men and women – religious leaders and activists, elected officials and ordinary citizens tell their personal, uncensored stories of the New York City borough — before, during, and after the troubled years of arson, crime, abandonment, and flight in the 1970s and 1980s.

The interviews are drawn from the Bronx Institute Archives Oral History Project’s interviews with hundreds of Bronx residents in the early 1980s, now held in the Special Collections division of the Leonard Lief Library of Lehman College, CUNY. Continue reading

Spectacle: The Life of Ota Benga


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Ota BengaIn Pamela Newkirk’s Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga (Amistad / Harper Collins, 2015) the award-winning journalist reveals a little-known and shameful episode in American history, when an African man was used as a zoo exhibit — a shocking story of racial prejudice, science, and tragedy in the early years of the twentieth century.

Ota Benga, a young Congolese man, was featured as an exhibit at the St. Louis World’s Fair. Two years later, in 1906, the Bronx Zoo displayed him in its Monkey House, caging the slight 103-pound, four-foot eleven-inch man with an orangutan. The attraction became an international sensation, drawing thousands of New Yorkers and commanding headlines from across the nation and Europe. Continue reading

Lilac Arts Series Launched At NYC’s Pier 25


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Lilac Arts ExhibitThe Lilac Arts Series, a contemporary art exhibition aboard the historic ship Lilac, will run through August 15, 2015 and focus on three themes inspired by the ship’s story – “Steam”, “Work + Labor” and “Restoration/Reinvention“.  The visual art exhibition will feature the work of over 25 artists within the ship’s unique spaces, including several site-specific installations.  The exhibition and events are free and open to the public.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Lilac was built in 1933 and is America’s only surviving steam-powered lighthouse tender. Lilac is currently being restored as a unique vehicle for maritime education and community activities and is berthed at Hudson River Park’s Pier 25. Continue reading

New Basquiat Exhibit In Brooklyn


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HollywoodAfricans.Basquiat.1983.WhitneyThe tragically short career of Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) has created a penumbra of martyred glory around his work. This must give him a chuckle wherever his spirit looks down on the shuffling hordes trekking to view his work reverently installed at the Brooklyn Museum.

Basquiat was born as a spray-can wielding street artist who liked mess, disorder and chaos. How different was he, when beatified by art gallery recognition and patron purchases? In his art world heyday he got his fine new designer clothes just as stained as his thrift shop threads from his early days. Continue reading

Modern Ruin: A World’s Fair Pavilion


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modern ruinA film screening of “Modern Ruin: A World’s Fair Pavilion,” Matthew Silva’s documentary about an abandoned structure designed by modernist icon Philip Johnson for the 1964 World’s Fair.The film tells the story of the Pavilion from the glory days of the fair, through the years of neglect, up to present day advocacy.

The filmmakers hope this project will be the first step in engaging and informing people about the building in new and exciting ways. This whimsical, futuristic, and soaring structure, constructed for the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens, has been left abandoned for the greater part of 50 years. Continue reading

At Morris-Jumel Mansion, The Story of Eliza Jumel


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Morris-Jumel MansionEliza Jumel rose from poverty to become one of New York’s richest women with the help of a fortune acquired from her first husband, Stephen Jumel. His own origins, until now shrouded in mystery, will be revealed in an illustrated lecture at the Morris-Jumel Mansion on Saturday, May 16, at 2 pm.

Speaker Margaret A. Oppenheimer, author of a forthcoming, legend-busting biography of Eliza, will disclose previously unknown details of Stephen’s parentage and youth. Continue reading

Interview: City Of New York’s Municipal Archives


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NYC Department of Records and ArchivesKen Cobb joined me on “The Forget-Me-Not Hour” podcast this week, talking about one of the richest repositories in New York City: the New York Municipal Archives.

Ken, Assistant Commissioner of Department of Records and Information Services for the City of New York, talked about the collections of the archives – vital records, tax records, police records, almshouse records, mayoral records, legislative records, and more. Continue reading

Religion and Society in Early New York City


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Religion played a large role in why some Europeans settled in British North America.

In episode 20 of the “Ben Franklin’s World” podcast, Kyle T. Bulthuis, author of Four Steeples over the City Streets: Religion and Society in New York’s Early Republic Congregations (NYU Press, 2014), takes us on an exploration of early American religious life. Religion played a large role in why some Europeans settled in British North America. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/020

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NYC Hip-Hop History Photograph Exhibit Planned


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Hip-Hop - 1The Museum of the City of New York is presenting HIP-HOP REVOLUTION: Photographs by Janette Beckman, Joe Conzo, and Martha Cooper, an exhibition that shows the historic early days of hip-hop culture and music, with its roots firmly in New York, and how it evolved towards the worldwide phenomenon it is today.

Bringing together for the first time the work of three renowned photographers of the hip-hop scene, the exhibition shows the birth of a new cultural movement – with its accompanying music, dance, fashion and style – as it quickly and dramatically swept from its grassroots origins into an expansive commercial industry. Continue reading

50 Yrs of NYC Landmarks Exhibit Planned


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Astor Place, NYCThe Museum of the City of New York will present a new exhibit, Saving Place: 50 Years of New York City Landmarks, a comprehensive exhibition exploring the roots and impact of a landmark preservation movement and its impact on New York City. The exhibit will run Tuesday, April 21 through September 13, 2015.

New York’s landmark preservation movement developed over many years, but was galvanized by large historic losses in the early 1960s, most notably the demolition of the world famous and architecturally significant Pennsylvania Station in 1963. Continue reading

Historic District Council’s Landmarks @50 Conference


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unnamed(40)The New York City Historic District Council’s 2015 Preservation Conference “Landmarks @50″ celebrates the milestone 50th anniversary of the New York City Landmarks Law and imagines what preservation might look like in the future.

Since 1965, preservation activities have had a tremendous positive effect on New York City showing that historic preservation is neither weepy nostalgia nor dusty museums.  Preservation is active work, which engages diverse communities across the city and both reflects and informs New York’s cultural, political, and economic milieu. Innumerable successes have been won in the last 50 years, but there is still great work to be done. Continue reading

Brooklyn Museum Exhibit Highlights Retiring Director


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Brooklyn Museum ExhibitA selection of 100 works from the nearly 10,000 acquired during the tenure of the Director of the Brooklyn Museum Arnold Lehman will be presented in his honor on the occasion of his retirement in the summer of 2015.

Diverse Works: Director’s Choice, 1997-2015, will be on view from April 15 through August 2, 2015, and includes works in a wide range of media from every corner of the globe. Spanning many centuries, the exhibition brings together important objects from all of the Museum’s collecting areas. Continue reading