Tuesday, May 3, 2016

3rd Annual Alexander Hamilton Memorial Day Weekend Walking Tour

THIRD ANNUAL ALEXANDER HAMILTON MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND WALKING TOUR
with JAMES NEVIUS author of "Footprints in New York" and "Inside the Apple"

Sunday, May 29, 2016, at 1PM



Before HAMILTON was a Broadway sensation (nominated for a record 16 Tony Awards), there was Alexander Hamilton the statesman, Revolutionary War hero, and lousy duellist.

Join author and Hamilton expert James Nevius for a walk back in time as we explore the New York City that Hamilton would have known. We'll look at spots important to his life, to the founding of America, and to his untimely death.

The two-hour walk will take place rain or shine on SUNDAY, MAY 29, at 1PM.

*****
$20 per person (EARLY BIRD SPECIAL) if you sign up on or before Tuesday, May 18.
$25 per person for reservations taken May 19 or later.

Need a copy of "Footprints in New York?" Reserve a signed copy of the book when you register for an additional $15 (the book retails for $20), and we'll bring it to the tour.

****
Payment by cash or credit card at the time of the tour.

Details of where we will meet will be emailed to you when you reserve.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Postcard Thursday: Happy Birthday, General Grant


Yesterday marked the 194th birthday of Ulysses S. Grant, the general who won the Civil War and later served two terms as president of the United States. Happy birthday, Mister President!

Grant's Tomb, on Riverside Drive, is the largest presidential burial place in the country. But is he buried there? As we write in Inside the Apple:
If you are older than a certain age, you’ve likely heard the riddle: “Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?” It was a consolation question on Groucho Marx’s quiz show, You Bet Your Life. Like other consolation questions—“What color is an orange?” “What year did the War of 1812 start?”—it was designed to have such an obvious answer that no one could get it wrong. Most people answered, “Grant, of course!” and won $25, though a few poor souls thought it was a trick question. 
But while Groucho would accept that answer, it isn’t correct. Technically, no one is buried in Grant’s Tomb: both the former President, Ulysses S. Grant, and his wife, Julia Dent Grant, are entombed there, above ground, in marvelously monumental stone sarcophagi. So those You Bet Your Life contestants who thought it was a trick question were correct. It was a trick question—no one is buried in the building. 
Grant died in 1885, having lived the last four years of his life in New York. His tomb sits at 122nd Street and Riverside Drive, at one of the highest points in Riverside Park, and is the largest mausoleum in North America. It is also a remarkable testament to the high esteem in which Grant was held after his death (despite two terms as president marked by scandal and perceived mediocrity) as well as to New York’s growing obsession in the 1890s with becoming the premiere American city. First, New York beat out other places Grant had lived—including Galena, Illinois, and St. Louis, Missouri—for the right to bury the president. Then, the Grant Memorial Association held two contests to determine who would design the structure, the second contest being held because none of the entries the first time around was deemed grand enough. The tomb, by John Duncan, is modeled on the mausoleum at Halicanarssus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In 1897, the tomb was officially opened and it fast became the leading tourist attraction in the city. Indeed, more people visited Grant’s Tomb in the early years of the Twentieth Century than went to the Statue of Liberty.






Thursday, April 21, 2016

Postcard Thursday: TONIGHT! Footprints in New York at the Mid-Manhattan Branch of the New York Public Library


A short and sweet reminder today that we'll be speaking at the Mid-Manhattan Library (455 Fifth Ave @ 40th Street) tonight at 6:30PM. The talk is free and will feature nearly 100 images (like the one below), many of them drawn from the collections of the NYPL.


Hope to see you there! Read more about the event on Facebook -- and follow us there if you haven't already: https://www.facebook.com/events/452455121618285/







Thursday, April 14, 2016

Postcard Thursday: Fraunces Tavern + Talk at the Mid-Manhattan Branch of the New York Public Library

courtesy of the New York Public Library
Today's postcard comes from the voluminous digital archive of the New York Public Library (http://www.nypl.org/research/collections/digital-collections/public-domain). We will be drawing on this collection for a number of images for our talk a week from today at the Mid-Manhattan Branch of the library (more details below).

Fraunces Tavern was originally built as the home of Stephen DeLancey and his family, who are the subjects of the second chapter of Footprints in New York. As we write:
In 1700, Stephen married Anne van Cortlandt, the daughter of the former mayor and granddaughter of Oloff Stevenson van Cortlandt, whose Stone Street brewery had made him one of the richest early colonists.

As a wedding present, Stephen and Anne received a lot at Broad and Pearl Streets, one of the newest and best pieces of property in the city. Fourteen years earlier...the shoreline on the east side of Pearl Street had been back-filled to create new lots. Anne’s father, Stephanus van Cortlandt, was mayor at the time, and he’d purchased the corner property. Having never developed the land, he now presented it to Stephen and Anne, though they, too, would leave the lot undeveloped for almost two decades.... In 1719, Stephen applied for a strip of land on Pearl Street, three-and-a-half feet wide, to straighten his lot so that he might “build a large brick house, etc.” 
By 1720, the Pearl Street house was likely finished, and would have been the family seat until Stephen built their next home, ca. 1730, on Broadway near Thames Street.... It was a large house—a mansion, really, with fourteen fireplaces and a huge kitchen. I can picture the DeLancey children running around inside the house...so it’s jarring that the first thing I encounter upon entering the Pearl Street building is a sign for whiskey. 
But I shouldn’t be surprised—no one comes here anymore because it was Stephen DeLancey’s house; they come because this is Fraunces Tavern, George Washington’s final headquarters during the Revolutionary War. It’s this notoriety that has marked the building’s place in history. In some form or another, it has served as a tavern ever since.
Want to know more? Join us next Thursday as we explore all the chapters of Footprints in New York is a fast-paced, image-laden talk at the New York Public Library's Mid-Manhattan Library (40th Street and Fifth Avenue, across from the famous main branch).

We'll highlight some of our favorite stories from the book, including exploring the last days of Alexander Hamilton, the Edgar Allan Poe house in the Bronx, and Jane Jacobs's fight to save Soho.


 We look forward to seeing you there! Copies of both Footprints in New York and Inside the Apple will be available for purchase and signing.


Read more about the event on Facebook -- and follow us there if you haven't already: https://www.facebook.com/events/452455121618285/






Thursday, April 7, 2016

Postcard Thursday: Longacre Square


If you had purchased this postcard exactly 112 years ago today, on April 7, 1904, you might have been doing so to commemorate the end of an era. For on April 8, the official name of the little triangle of land depicted here was changed from Longacre Square to Times Square.

As we write in Inside the Apple, at the time, the IRT was hard at work building the first subway line in the city. At the same time, the subway's main backer--financier August Belmont--was
lobbying his friend Adolph Ochs, the publisher of the New York Times, to relocate his paper’s headquarters to Longacre Square. 
In theory, it was enough that the new subway connected the growing residential neighborhoods on the Upper West Side and Harlem to the city’s business district below City Hall. However, Belmont realized that to make the subway indispensable, he needed to develop real estate along the 42nd Street corridor as its own, independent business district. So, he turned to Ochs and encouraged him to consider building the Times a new all-in-one editorial and printing plant along the path of the IRT. 
Ochs had purchased a controlling interest in the Times in 1896 and quickly boosted the paper’s circulation (by dropping the price to a penny) while raising the standard of its journalism. Belmont had long held a financial stake in the paper and saw the marriage of the newspaper and his new subway as a mutually beneficial enterprise.... 
To sweeten the deal, Belmont persuaded Mayor McClellan to rename Longacre Square after its new tenant. One of the Times’ chief rivals, James Gordon Bennett Jr.’s New York Herald, had moved to 34th Street in 1894 and their square soon became Herald Square. Belmont argued that the Times deserved the same courtesy; on April 8, 1904, Mayor McClellan presided over the opening of Times Square.
The Times Building was the second-tallest skyscraper in the city in 1904 and the paper boasted that it could be seen from 12 miles away. This, of course, made it an ideal spot to shoot off New Year's Eve fireworks. Three years later, the fireworks were nixed in favor of the famous ball drop.

Of course, today Times Square is known for a lot more than just the newspaper (which is still headquartered in the neighborhood, but no longer on the square). Even when it was still Longacre Square, the area was already becoming the center of the city's theater district.

The Olympia Theater (image courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York)

Again, from Inside the Apple:
In 1895, Oscar Hammerstein opened the Olympia Theater on 45th Street, just around the corner from what was still called Longacre Square.... Though most theaters centered on Union and Madison Squares, the new Metropolitan Opera House had opened in 1883 at Broadway and 39th Street and a cluster of other theaters soon joined it. However, no one before Hammerstein wanted to build farther north. Longacre Square was known for livery stables and—much more important for theater-goers—its lack of electric lights, leading some to call it the “thieves’ lair.” Hammerstein, however, needed lots of space for his next venture, and land north of 42nd Street was cheap. The Olympia promised something for everyone: restaurants, opera, comedies—even a Turkish bath. Most of these features never came to fruition, but the theater itself was a success, proving that audiences would travel to 42nd Street to see a show. 
In 1900, Hammerstein opened the Republic on 42nd Street. Three years later, the New Amsterdam had opened across the street, the Lyric a few doors down, and the Lyceum on 45th Street; by the end of the first decade of the 20th century, serious theater goers had abandoned Union Square and were happily coming to the new Broadway theater district. In 1902, the area received a new appellation, “The Great White Way.”
(Why is it called "The Great White Way"? You'll have to read the book to find out.....)

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JOIN US AT THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY

On Thursday, April 21 at 6:30pm, we'll be at the Mid-Manhattan Library (455 Fifth Avenue, across the street from the main research branch) talking about Footprints in New York.

We hope you can join us! Our illustrated lecture will look at some of our favorite stories from the book and highlight some of New York's most interesting characters, from Alexander Hamilton to Jane Jacobs to Edgar Allan Poe.

Copies of both Footprints in New York and Inside the Apple will be available for purchase and signing at the event.

Read more about the event on Facebook -- and follow us there if you haven't already: https://www.facebook.com/events/452455121618285/





Friday, April 1, 2016

Thursday, April 21, at the Mid-Manhattan Branch of the New York Public Library

Postcard Thursday was preempted this week to bring the following announcement:


On Thursday, April 21 at 6:30pm, we'll be at the Mid-Manhattan Library (455 Fifth Avenue, across the street from the main research branch) talking about Footprints in New York.

We hope you can join us! Our illustrated lecture will look at some of our favorite stories from the book and highlight some of New York's most interesting characters, from Alexander Hamilton to Jane Jacobs to Edgar Allan Poe.

Copies of both Footprints in New York and Inside the Apple will be available for purchase and signing at the event.

Read more about the event on Facebook -- and follow us there if you haven't already: https://www.facebook.com/events/452455121618285/

...and speaking of Edgar Allan Poe, since today is April Fool's, here's a story we ran some time ago about Poe's balloon hoax: http://blog.insidetheapple.net/2011/04/balloon-hoax-of-1844_13.html, a prank that Poe pulled on The New York Sun.



Thursday, March 24, 2016

Postcard Thursday: Triangle Shirtwaist Factory


The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory at the corner of Greene Street and Washington Place, March 25, 1911
Tomorrow, March 25, marks the anniversary of the deadly fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in 1911. It remains one of the deadliest industrial fires in American history and a turning point for worker safety and unionization in America.

The factory was predominantly staffed with young women who lived in Little Italy and the Lower East Side, and when we are giving walking tours of those neighborhoods, our clients are sometimes surprised to discover that the factory was in Greenwich Village. So much of that neighborhood—including the Asch Building, where the fire occurred—is now dominated by NYU that it is easy to forget that the stretch of the Village on both sides of Broadway was once a vital part of New York’s garment industry. In Inside the Apple we note:



Long before the fire broke out, the factory was infamous for its poor labor practices. In 1909, New York’s largest job action, known as the “Uprising of the 20,000” began when workers walked off the job at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. For months, the majority of the city’s shirtwaist factories were crippled by the strike, but the factory owners refused to budge. Though the International Ladies Garment Workers Union brokered a settlement in 1910 that stopped short of forcing the recognition of their union, the owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, refused to agree to it. The factory’s workers went back to work having gained few concessions. 
On the day of the fire, a Saturday, only about half of the factory’s 500 employees had come to work. Just as the afternoon shift was ending, a fire broke out on the eighth floor. Typical of garment centers of the day, the factory floor was a virtual tinderbox, with clothes, scraps of cloth, and unswept trimmings everywhere. When the fire started, the majority of the workers on the eighth and tenth floors were able to escape,* but those on the ninth floor had been locked in. This was done, some speculated, to cut down on unauthorized breaks, though it is also likely that it kept union organizers off the factory floor. Soon the elevators stopped working, which meant that the only remaining exit was the fire escape. Tragically, the fire escape had been poorly installed and maintained, and when too many young women began to climb down, it collapsed beneath their weight, sending them plunging to their death. The rest of the women on the ninth floor were then faced with jumping out of windows or waiting to burn to death. Many chose the former, raining down on the assembled crowd from above. The fire department did arrive, but as their ladders reached no higher than the sixth floor, it did little to save the women. In the end, 146 women died, most of them at the scene—some were only thirteen years old.
* Blanck and Harris, the owners, were able to get up to the roof and escape from there.

The building today, courtesy of Google street view

Though the fire forced the Triangle's owners to abandon the factory, the building still stands at the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street. Then known as the Asch Building, it was renovated and reopened the next year. However, a New York Times article from 1913 noted that the building's tenants hadn't learned many lessons from the fire -- "they were, in fact, heaping its floors with scraps of clothing and flimsy material... and permitting smokers to stand near these heaps--(revealing) once more the singular carelessness of humanity." The building was purchased by NYU in 1929 and renamed the Brown Building; today, it houses university classrooms.

This post in adapted from an earlier entry in 2009, and one marking the centennial of the fire in 2011.


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SAVE THE DATE

Thursday, April 21, at 6:30pm

we will be talking about Footprints in New York at
The Mid-Manhattan Branch of the New York Public Library

details to come


****

Read more about NYC history in

 




Thursday, March 17, 2016

Postcard Thursday: Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup


"The Mother's Friend," pictured above, was actually a tincture of opium and was wildly popular in the United States in the 19th century.

Earlier this week, James had a story published in The Guardian that traced some of the history of opiate use in America, which goes back at least as far as the Pilgrims who came over on the Mayflower.

One opiate user was President Thomas Jefferson, who grew his own poppies on his Monticello estate. Though this part got cut from the final Guardian story, it turns out that Monticello was still growing poppies in the 1980s in its historic garden. One day in 1987, the DEA raided. They yanked out the poppies, removed the seeds from the gift store, and scared the living daylights out of everyone who worked there. The gift shop employees were so spooked they even removed all the t-shirts that sported an image of a poppy and burned them so that they couldn't be accused of promoting drug use.

You can read James's entire opiate piece -- including more about Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup -- at http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/15/long-opiate-use-history-america-latest-epidemic

* * * *

SAVE THE DATE

Thursday, April 21, at 6:30pm

we will be talking about Footprints in New York at
The Mid-Manhattan Branch of the New York Public Library

details to come


****

Read more about NYC history in

 







Thursday, March 10, 2016

Postcard Thursday: Lillian Wald


On March 10, 1867, the pioneering nurse Lillian Wald was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is the subject of one our chapters in Footprints in New York. As we write, Wald
came to New York City in 1889 to study nursing; three years later, having worked for a time in the overcrowded conditions at New York’s Juvenile Asylum on Tenth Avenue, Wald decided to improve her training, enrolling in medical school. 
While studying, Wald also volunteered at a school on Henry Street; it was there that an encounter with a young girl—in the midst of a lesson on how to make a bed—changed her life. As Wald recalled in her memoir:

The child led me over broken roadways—there was no asphalt, although its use was well established in other parts of the city—over dirty mattresses and heaps of refuse . . . through a tenement hallway, across a court where open and unscreened [water] closets were promiscuously used by men and women . . . and finally into the sickroom. . . . That morning’s experience was a baptism of fire. Deserted were the laboratory and the academic work of the college. 
It wasn’t long before Wald hit upon the notion of a “settlement” house— unaware that other progressive health professionals were having the same idea. The idea was simple: Too often, charity work consisted of throwing money at the poor, or convening panels or government agencies to study a problem.... Wald wanted something different—a place where professionals would actually help the poor on an ongoing basis. In order to do that, they would need to live, or “settle” in the neighborhood. Wald and her friend, a fellow nurse named Mary Brewster, moved to a tenement on Jefferson Street, originally dubbed Nurses’ Settlement.

 

There were few doctors on the Lower East Side, and most tenement dwellers would not have been able to afford them anyway. Wald’s team of nurses made the rounds to the tenements (today’s Visiting Nurse Service of New York is the direct descendant of Wald’s settlement house), helping expectant mothers, acting as midwives, and focusing on preventative care. Wald coined the term “public health nurse” to describe her work, and over the course of her lifetime, thousands of families benefited from her care. In 1895, financier Jacob Schiff bought Wald an old townhouse at 265 Henry Street as the settlement’s new headquarters. Over a century later, the organization is still there.

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SAVE THE DATE

Thursday, April 21, at 6:30pm

we will be talking about Footprints in New York at
The Mid-Manhattan Branch of the New York Public Library

details to come


****

Read more about NYC history in

 








Friday, March 4, 2016

Postcard Thursday: Andrew Jackson and Donald Trump

James wrote a piece earlier this week for the Guardian wondering if there are parallels between the 2016 presidential campaign and that of 1824, when four Democratic-Republicans squared off for the nation's highest office.

In 1824, Andrew Jackson won both the popular vote and the most electoral votes, but it wasn't enough to secure victory. Instead, the election was shunted to the House of Representatives, where John Quincy Adams was selected to be next president in what became known as the "corrupt bargain."

You can read the story James wrote here:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/02/dont-believe-trump-could-win-weve-elected-xenophobic-presidents-before

which really isn't about xenophobia, no matter what the headline says.

Before it was edited to fit in the Guardian's format, the original piece also looked at the election of 1828, in which Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams squared off against each other again. That time, Jackson won in a landslide, but not before the Adams campaign did everything possible to derail his candidacy.



1828 was really the first campaign to use negative advertising, and the Adams camp printed up what have come to be known as the "coffin handbills," that alleged that Jackson -- a general and war hero -- had sent militiamen to their deaths. Jackson was also branded an adulterer and a possible cannibal.

You can read more about the handbills at

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_vault/2014/03/05/andrew_jackson_the_coffin_handbill_distributed_by_opponents_in_the_1828.html

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SAVE THE DATE

Thursday, April 21, at 6:30pm

we will be talking about Footprints in New York at
The Mid-Manhattan Branch of the New York Public Library

details to come


****

Read more about NYC history in

 









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