Friday, June 26, 2015

Postcard Thursday: The Cylcone

Yikes! Another Postcard Thursday on Friday? We won't make a habit of it, we promise.

Nor will we make habit out of recycling material, but today is the birthday of Coney Island's famous Cyclone roller coaster, so below is the PT post we put up a year ago.

However, while we have your attention -- there are still a few slots left for our Upper Central Park walking tour this Sunday, June 28, at 1pm. Follow this link for all the details and registration information: 


Fans of wooden roller coasters probably already know that today is the 88th birthday of the Cyclone, which opened on June 26, 1927, and is still going strong.

However, the history of roller coasters at Coney Island is much older than the Cyclone; in fact, America's first roller coaster, the Gravity Pleasure Switchback Railway, opened on June 6, 1884, at an amusement park just off the boardwalk.

The switchback was the brainchild of LaMarcus A. Thompson. Visitors would climb to the top of a tower and board a car that then dropped six hundred feet over an undulating track. At the far end the car would be "switched back" to another track and returned to the tower. Thompson envisioned his ride as wholesome family entertainment -- in a period when amusement parks were often seen as dens of sin and iniquity -- and the cars, traveling at an "invigorating" six miles per hour, provided great views of the Coney Island beach and boardwalk. He charged 5 cents a ride and made back the $1600 he'd invested in the roller coaster in less than three weeks.

It is unclear how long the Switchback Railway lasted at Coney Island (or even precisely where it stood). Despite its early success, Thompson soon faced a host of competitors and his original coaster may only have stood for three years.

By the 1920s, roller coasters were all the rage at Coney Island, and the Cyclone was just one among a number of rides with names like the Tornado and the Thunderbolt.

Of course, when we think of Coney Island roller coasters, we think of this:


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Read more about Coney Island in
Footprints in New York: Tracing the Lives of Four Centuries of New Yorkers

If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy of Footprints yet, you can order it from independent bookstores across the country




And, of course, Inside the Apple is available at fine bookstores everywhere.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Postcard Thursday: New York City Clubs


Did you know that a little over a century ago, there were 157 private membership clubs in New York City, with over 38,000 combined members?

James wrote a piece on the proliferation (and, then, steady decline) of these clubs for Curbed this week. From alumni clubs like Yale and Harvard to arts clubs such as the Players and National Arts clubs on Gramercy Park to the rarefied halls of the Union and University clubs, these social organizations served as an important part of the framework of New York's high society.

Read all about it at http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2015/06/17/the_rise_and_fall_of_new_york_citys_private_social_clubs.php


What does this image have to do with New York City clubs? Nothing at all -- it's an arch in Central Park. But we posted it here to remind you that we're giving a tour on Sunday, June 28, at 1:00pm, of the northern section of the park. Read about it and make reservations by following this link: http://blog.insidetheapple.net/2015/06/public-walking-tour-exploring-upper.html


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Explore more NYC history in

If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy of Footprints yet,
you can order it from your favorite online retailers (AmazonBarnes and Nobleetc.) or
from independent bookstores across the country.



And, of course, Inside the Apple is available at fine bookstores everywhere.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Postcard Thursday: The Ferris Wheel at the 1964 World's Fair


While the movie Tomorrowland hasn't lived up to box office expectations, it does feature a wonderful sequence at the beginning at the 1964 World's Fair in Flushing Meadows. The scenes -- a mix of on location and CGI -- feature a number of real locations from the fair (including Disney's Carousel of Progress and "It's a Small World"), but alas, not one of our personal favorites: The Uniroyal Ferris Wheel.

The first Ferris wheel at the 1893 World's Fair.
Ferris wheels were first introduced at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893 in Chicago, the so-called "White City" World's Fair, and soon became a staple of amusement parks. To showcase its products outside the Travel and Transportation pavilion (where the Queens Zoo is now located), the Uniroyal Tire Company erected an 86-foot-tall Ferris wheel emblazoned with its logo and then-name "US ROYAL." As at many carnivals and fairs, the Ferris wheel was a hit in that it gave fair-goers a great view of the fairgrounds from the top. According to a 1997 article in the Detroit News, dignitaries such as the Shah of Iran and Jackie Kennedy rode the wheel on their trips to the fair.

After the fair's closing in 1965, the wheel was dismantled and shipped back to Michigan, where it was reassembled (sans gondolas) next to Uniroyal's sales office. Though that office later moved, the wheel remains. We snapped this picture last year:


While the wheel is today just a roadside oddity, it also serves as a reminder of the far-reaching marketing potential of these fairs. How many of the 51 million people who visited Flushing Meadows chose Uniroyal Tires after seeing this?

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ICYMI: We're giving a tour of Upper Central Park on Sunday, June 28th. Details are at http://blog.insidetheapple.net/2015/06/public-walking-tour-exploring-upper.html

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Explore more NYC history in

If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy of Footprints yet,
you can order it from your favorite online retailers (AmazonBarnes and Nobleetc.) or
from independent bookstores across the country.



And, of course, Inside the Apple is available at fine bookstores everywhere.



Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Public Walking Tour: Exploring Upper Central Park | June 28 at 1PM

Exploring Upper Central Park

A Walking Tour with Michelle and James Nevius

authors of Inside the Apple and Footprints in New York
SUNDAY, JUNE 28, 1:00 - 3:00PM

Kick off your summer by joining us on a ramble through the parts of Central Park that are often left off the itineraries of visitors and New Yorkers alike. We'll stroll the picturesque North Woods, climb the Great Hill, see the oldest building in the park, which was built for the War of 1812, visit the Harlem Meer and Conservatory Gardens, and even track down the memorial to the "Founder of Greater New York City," Andrew Haswell Green.

$20 per person or $30 if you'd also like a copy of "Footprints in New York" (a great deal!)

TO RESERVE:
email footprintsinnewyork@gmail.com
with your
  • name
  • number in your party
  • how many people are $20 (no book) and how many are $30 (with book)
  • a cell number where we can reach in case anything changes
THE MEETING PLACE WILL BE EMAILED TO YOU WHEN YOU RESERVE.

 
PS: If you missed the Alexander Hamilton walk last month, it is available as a private booking. Visit www.walknyc.com/lm.html to read about the area and just mention Alexander Hamilton when you make your reservation!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Postcard Thursday: Happy Birthday, George III



On June 4, 1738, the future King George III was born at Norfolk House in London. He became king in 1760 on the death of his grandfather, George II (his father had already passed away, putting him next in the line for the throne) and ruled for 60 years, making him at the time the longest reigning monarch. Of course, in America his reign ended much earlier--in New York City on July 9, 1776, when New York became the thirteenth and final colony to ratify the Declaration of Independence.

The above postcard was issued in 1909 as part of the massive Hudson-Fulton Celebration that year. One of the largest parties New York has ever thrown, the festival marked three centuries since Henry Hudson's arrival in New York Harbor and a hundred years since Robert Fulton's successful launch of the steamship Claremont.

One part of the celebration was a parade with floats depicting key scenes from New York history. In the image above, angry colonists are shown tearing down George III's statue in Bowling Green Park on the evening of July 9, 1776, having just heard the Declaration of Independence for the first time. The image is remarkably accurate considering how many depictions of the event are fanciful:



Interested in seeing this spot in person? Check out our Lower Manhattan tour, which can be customized to focus on colonial/Revolutionary War history.

* * * *
Explore more NYC history in

If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy of Footprints yet,
you can order it from your favorite online retailers (AmazonBarnes and Nobleetc.) or
from independent bookstores across the country.



And, of course, Inside the Apple is available at fine bookstores everywhere.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Postcard Thursday: Trinity Church (Redux)


Sure. we've done this postcard already -- you can read all about it here.

We posted it today to point you to yesterday's post, in case you missed it, which is our review of the new One World Observatory at the World Trade Center. Scroll halfway down the post to the video of the elevator ride to the 102nd floor. At approximately the 16-second mark, look for Trinity Church to appear in the center of the screen. The ride is awesome, but you might not find it worth $32 (or just less than $1 a second).

* * * *
Explore more NYC history in

If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy of Footprints yet,
you can order it from your favorite online retailers (AmazonBarnes and Nobleetc.) or
from independent bookstores across the country.



And, of course, Inside the Apple is available at fine bookstores everywhere.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

One World Observatory

The view south toward Battery Park and Governors Island.

Yesterday, we were lucky to be invited to a preview of the new observatory atop One World Trade Center, which opens to the public on Friday.

For a history buff, the best part is the elevator ride to the top (see video, below). In 47 seconds you are whisked from the bedrock level to the 102nd floor and during that time, state-of-the-art LED screens, which line three sides of each elevator, show the evolution of Lower Manhattan from the pre-contact era to the present day. As you’ll see in the video, it all goes by so quickly that you can’t take in a fraction of it in. We knew to look at the screen to the right (south) side of the elevator in order to see the old World Trade Center appear in the late 1960s and fade away in 2001.


The journey begins in the basement of One World Trade, where each person’s ticket is scanned and a light appears on the map to indicate what country (or, in the USA, which state) he or she is from.


A corresponding welcome message is displayed on a monitor nearby in the vistor’s language, showing a scene from New York City. We found it amusing that in addition to the Statue of Liberty representing France, another French scene is Washington Square, presumably since the famous arch there is modeled on the Arc du Triomphe.

Wending your way to the elevators, you pass video installations of construction workers talking about the building of the tower.


Then you pass through a bedrock chamber with facts and figures projected on the rock face. Except it’s not rock face. It’s all fake.


Then, the elevator ride:
video

Once at the top, you still don’t get to see the view until you watch a two minute video montage in the SEE FOREVER™ theater (ALL CAPS for some reason), which ends with the big reveal: the screen rises to give visitors their first look at the amazing view.

After being guided downstairs past the restaurant / bar / cafe, you reach the main observatory on the 100th floor. (By the way, the bar wasn't open yet, but looks great and might be worth the $32 admission price.)

The scenery is what you are here for, obviously:

The Lower East Side's "Blue" apartment building stands out.

Looking up the West Side Highway and the Hudson River Greenway.

A great view of the Tweed Courthouse.

Santiago Calatrava's new PATH station (under construction) and the World Trade Center museum and memorial pool.

Is this all worth $32 a person? It’s hard to tell. We were up there with two dozen other people and it was glorious to have the place to ourselves. Once operational, the observatory will admit approximately 200 people every 15 minutes with timed tickets. People are, of course, free to stay as long as they want, but David Checketts, the CEO of Legends, which operates the facility, told us that he expects the average visitor to stay between 45-60 minutes. In our best estimation, there will probably be 500-800 people on the 100th floor at any given time, which may feel like a madhouse. If you go, let us know what you think.

* * * *
Explore more NYC history in

If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy of Footprints yet,
you can order it from your favorite online retailers (AmazonBarnes and Nobleetc.) or
from independent bookstores across the country.



And, of course, Inside the Apple is available at fine bookstores everywhere.




















Thursday, May 21, 2015

Postcard Thursday: Lindbergh Air Mail Stamp


Instead of a postcard today, a stamp -- and a remarkable one at that. On May 21, 1927, Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly nonstop from New York to Paris. To honor that achievement, the U.S. Postal Service issued the above airmail (or "air mail") stamp on June 11, just three weeks after the historic landing. That was the same day Lindbergh received the Distinguished Flying Cross, but five days before he collected his $25,000 prize from Raymond Orteig for making the flight.


The competition to be first to fly across the atlantic, known as the Orteig Prize, was sponsored by hotelier Raymond Orteig who owned the Lafayette and Brevoort Hotels in Manhattan. Orteig, hoping to boost Franco-American relations, first offered the prize to complete a transatlantic flight in 1919. When no one had made an attempt in five years, Orteig extended the competition and by 1926 it had begun drawing serious competitors. However, the hazards of aviation meant that by the time Lindbergh began his historic flight, six of his fellow competitors had died.

Lindbergh's flight in the Spirit of St. Louis began on May 20 at 7:52 a.m. with his ground crew pushing the heavy plane down the muddy runway. The plane carried 450 gallons of fuel but Lindbergh had removed as much as possible from the plane, including his sextant -- meaning that Lindbergh would have to fly by the stars (if they were visible) or dead reckoning. Lindbergh dodged bad weather across the Atlantic (sometimes flying as low as twelve feet above the waves) and reached Le Bourget, France, at 10:22 p.m. on May 21st where he was mobbed by a crowd of eager well-wishers.


Upon his return (by steamship) to America, Lindbergh was feted in Washington, D.C., before heading to New York. On June 13th, the aviator was honored with a tickertape parade on Lower Broadway.

Three days later, he collected the Orteig Prize at a breakfast at the Breevort Hotel with Orville Wright in attendance. (The Breevort Hotel was demolished in 1953 to be replaced by the Brevoort apartments.)

The successful flight spurred tremendous interest in aviation and Lindbergh became America's most visible spokesman for commerical flight.

Alas, the stamp is not very valuable today. A mint condition single stamp is only $13.50.

[This post was adapted from an earlier entry.]


* * * *
Explore more NYC history in

If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy of Footprints yet,
you can order it from your favorite online retailers (AmazonBarnes and Nobleetc.) or
from independent bookstores across the country.



And, of course, Inside the Apple is available at fine bookstores everywhere.




Thursday, May 14, 2015

Postcard Thursday: Chelsea Piers


Last week was the centennial of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania, one of the events that pulled America into World War I. The ship had left on its final voyage from Cunard's Pier 54 on what was then still widely called the North River by mariners, even if the general public knew it as the Hudson. In the postcard above, Pier 54 is just off the frame of the postcard to the left. This image, ca. 1910, instead features is Pier 61, where White Star's Titanic was slated to dock; the survivors were ultimately brought to Pier 54.

When commerce left the Hudson River in the latter half of the 20th century, the piers fell into disrepair. Most of Pier 54 was demolished in the early 1990s and the northerly piers in this postcard were rebuilt as the Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment Complex.

The remnants of Pier 54 today. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Anyone interested in exploring this neighborhood more should check out our Chelsea walking tour.


* * * *
Explore more NYC history in

If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy of Footprints yet,
you can order it from your favorite online retailers (AmazonBarnes and Nobleetc.) or
from independent bookstores across the country.



And, of course, Inside the Apple is available at fine bookstores everywhere.



Friday, May 8, 2015

Postcard Thursday: The Singer Tower


Astute readers will note that today is Friday, but sometimes (as the late, great Douglas Adams once said), it can be hard to get the hang of Thursdays.

And speaking of late, great: the image above depicts the Singer Tower, Ernest Flagg's 1908 skyscraper in the Financial District. This was the second building Flagg completed for the Singer Manufacturing Corporation, America's premiere sewing machine company. The first, a 12-story manufacturing and retail space in SoHo, still stands at 561 Broadway, and is where Flagg tried out his unusual red-and-green color scheme. Before that tower was finished in 1904, he'd already received the commission to build Singer an office tower downtown -- and to make it the tallest in the world. The new skyscraper held that title for just two years (1908-1909) before being dethroned by the Metropolitan Life tower on Madison Square.

The Singer Tower, an increasingly unique structure among the uniformity of postwar design, stood until 1968, when it earned the dubious honor of being the tallest building in the world ever to be intentionally demolished. As James wrote in a piece for Curbed this past week:
Having been acquired by US Steel [in the mid-1960s], plans were underway to demolish the tower to build the company's new headquarters, today known as One Liberty Plaza. Though preservationists rallied to have the Singer Tower designated a landmark, the LPC hesitated. Having been unable to find an appropriate buyer for the Jerome mansion, the LPC was leery of designating the Singer Tower only to have to find a new buyer willing to move in and preserve it. Instead, the commission declined to save it and it fell to the wrecking ball in 1968.
Read the full story about New York's struggle to hold onto its landmarks at
http://curbed.com/archives/2015/04/29/how-some-of-nycs-first-landmarked-buildings-became-rubble.php


Today's postcard was sent 105 years ago on May 16, 1910. It is one of the first generation of cards where the message could finally be written on the back (Congress changed the law in 1907), but the bulk of the space is still reserved for the address. The message reads:
Hope you are all well as usual. I am just the same. Can see this bldg from where we are working. Will write some time this week. WDH

* * * *
Explore more NYC history in

If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy of Footprints yet,
you can order it from your favorite online retailers (AmazonBarnes and Nobleetc.) or
from independent bookstores across the country.



And, of course, Inside the Apple is available at fine bookstores everywhere.


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