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Friday, October 20, 2017

Postcard Thursday: Seward's Folly


This past Wednesday was Alaska Day, the holiday when the denizens of our 49th state commemorate the finalization of the purchase of Alaska from the Russians. This took place on October 18, 1867 -- 150 years ago -- in Sitka, Alaska, then known as New Archangel, which was the capital city of Russian America.

We visited Sitka in March for the kickoff of the town's 150th events and James wrote a piece for The New York Post which was published this week. Read all about it here:
http://nypost.com/2017/10/16/the-fascinating-place-where-the-us-bought-alaska-from-russia/

William Seward, the Secretary of State who oversaw the transfer (dubbed by some "Seward's Folly"), was governor of New York and very nearly the 1860 Republican candidate for president. As Lincoln's Secretary of State,Seward was attacked on the same night that the president was killed as part of John Wilkes Booth's attempt to throw the Union into chaos. Today, a handsome statue of Seward sits in Madison Square Park.




Friday, October 13, 2017

Androboros at Fraunces Tavern


Three hundred years after it was written, America's first published play, Androboros: Villain of the State, has just had its world premiere at Fraunces Tavern in Lower Manhattan.

The play was written by Governor Robert Hunter as a commentary on the fractious political climate of New York in the early 1700s. Following the English takeover of New Amsterdam in 1664, a succession of governors were appointed by the crown, each of whom had his own conflicts with the local populace. At the heart of Androboros lies the fact that three factions were constantly vying for power in the colony: the appointed governor (always an outsider), the colonial assembly (made up of locals, but fractured from within by its own disagreements), and the church. The rector of Trinity Church, William Vesey, had a particular dislike for Hunter. When someone befouled the vestments in the church sacristy in 1714, Vesey blamed Hunter, while Hunter -- as evidenced in this only lightly veiled satire -- clearly thought it was an inside job designed to make Hunter look bad.

If you are a student of early American drama or fascinated by the real-life drama that was New York in the English colonial era, then this play is for you. An able cast under the direction of the Peculiar Works Project's co-artistic director Ralph Lewis inhabits these roles with glee. In keeping with the commedia dell'arte origins of the play, the characters are all given ridiculous names (Vesey is Fizzle, Hunter is the Keeper, and the pompous man meant to save them all is Androboros ("man eater")), and the actors live up to their monikers, particularly Matt Roper as Androboros and Caiti Lattimer as Aesop, who is always quick with a story -- whether anyone wants to hear it or not.

The company also does a good job keeping the 80-minute play moving at the brisk clip that farce necessitates. While Fraunces Tavern is mostly a 1907 recreation of a colonial building, it is nice to see the work staged in a building that at least has its origins in Hunter's era.

The play runs on weekends through the end of October; tickets are $20 each and are available at www.frauncestavernmuseum.org.




Monday, October 9, 2017

The History of the Bowery; The Fall of a Slumlord


In case you missed it, James had a wonderful story in Curbed this week tracing the history of New York's oldest street, The Bowery. Originally a deer path, the trail was used by subsequent generations of Native Americans and then widened by the Dutch settlers into a road to their farms, or bouwerij. The English corrupted the name to "Bowery" and the street became -- and remains -- a crucial thoroughfare in New York.

Read the entire story at https://ny.curbed.com/2017/10/4/16413696/bowery-nyc-history-lower-east-side.

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Last week, notorious slumlord Steve Croman was sentenced to a year in jail for his shady dealings. James highlighted Croman in his exploration of Hans Haacke's conceptual artwork in a piece he wrote for Curbed back in 2015. You can read that interesting walk through the Lower East Side at https://www.curbed.com/2015/9/2/9924926/hans-haacke-photography-slumlord.



Thursday, September 28, 2017

Postcard Thursday: The 1973 ITT Bombing



In the early morning hours of September 28, 1973, a bomb exploded at the ITT (International Telephone and Telegraph) Building at 437 Madison Avenue. A few minutes before the explosion, a caller who identified himself as a member of the Weather Underground phoned to warn the company of the bomb and to let them know it was a protest against ITT's role in the coup earlier that year in Chile.

No one was injured, though that was not normally the case with Weather Underground bombings. Since 1969, a series of robberies, bombings, and "National Actions" by the Weathermen, as they came to be known, had targeted what the members saw as corrupt government practices. In 1970 alone, there had been over 25 bombings or attempted attacks, many of them in New York City. Perhaps most famously, on March 6, 1970, the townhouse on West 11th Street that Weathermen were using as a bomb factory blew up, killing three of the bomb makers. (Kathy Boudin and Cathy Wilkerson would escape, becoming fugitives.)

That Greenwich Village explosion did not set the Weather Underground back; in fact, bombings increased. On June 9, 1970, the New York City Police Headquarters was bombed; on March 1, 1971, the Weathermen placed an explosive device in the US Capitol to protest US military action in Laos; on May 19, 1972 (Ho Chi Minh's birthday), the Pentagon was attacked -- and these were just the most high-profile cases.

ITT had been founded in 1920 after the purchase of telephone interests in Puerto Rico and Cuba. The company expanded greatly over the next fifty years, but continued to have a strong Latin and South American presence, including owning 70% of the Chilean telephone company. Alarmed at Salvador Allende's government (and likely facing the loss of the monopoly on Chilean communications), the company helped finance Pinochet's military coup. In retaliation, the Weather Underground bombed both 437 Madison (a 1967 skyscraper by Emory Roth and Sons) and ITT's headquarters in Rome, Italy.

You can read more about the bombing at https://nyti.ms/2fAPsJA.

By 1976, the Weather Underground had reorganized and most violent actions stopped, though Kathy Boudin -- who had fled the 1970 Greenwich Village townhouse explosion -- was part of the 1981 Brinks truck robbery at the Nanuet Mall near Nyack, New York in which two police officers and a security guard were murdered. Paroled in 2003, Boudin now teaches at Columbia University's School of Social Work.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Walking Tour of Riverside Park | Sunday, October 8 | 10am




Another Walk in the Park with James Nevius

author of "Inside the Apple" and "Footprints in New York"

For our autumn public walking tour, we are going to explore the monuments of Riverside Park. From the largest presidential mausoleum in the United States to statues of patriots, politicians, and fallen soldiers, Riverside Park has a little of everything.

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 8, at 10:00 AM (the tour will be approximately two hours)

$20 per person for those who reserve on or before Monday, October 2, 2017

PLEASE NOTE: This tour covers a lot of ground and not all of it is paved, so please be prepared! There are some stairs and a lot of undulating terrain.

TO RESERVE:

Email walknyc@gmail.com with
  • Your name
  • The number in your party
  • A cell number where we can contact you in case of last-minute changes
  • The tour's meeting place will be emailed to you within 24 hours of receiving your reservation.





Thursday, September 14, 2017

Postcard Thursday: Frank Lloyd Wright in NYC


In today's New York Post, reporter Lauren Steussy takes a peek inside Crimson Beech, the only home in New York City designed by celebrated architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

To accompany that article, James has written a piece about other ways to explore Wright's legacy in New York. You can read it at http://nypost.com/2017/09/13/experience-frank-lloyd-wrights-work-across-nyc-and-beyond/

And to read more of James's work on Wright check out:

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Postcard Thursday: Last Chance to Sign Up for Central Park

We still have a few more spots left for our tour of the northern sections of Central Park this Sunday, at 10:00 am. All the details are below.


Join us for Walk in the Park -- Central Park, that is....

On Sunday, September 10, at 10:00 AM, join us a walking tour of the northernmost -- and often least-visited -- section of Central Park.

Some potential highlights (though the itinerary is still in flux):
  • The block house from the War of 1812 (above)
  • The Harlem Meer
  • The memorial the "Father of Greater NYC"
  • The loch
  • The Conservatory
The tour costs $25 per person.

PLEASE NOTE: This tour involved many stairs and a certain amount of uphill climbing and uneven terrain. While not exactly a strenuous hike, this isn't the best outing for those who aren't as nimble as they used to be.

To register send an email to walknyc@gmail.com
  1. Your name
  2. Number of people in party
  3. A cell number where we can reach the day of the tour in case of emergency
The meeting place will be emailed to you within 24 hours of your reservation.

Best wishes,
Michelle and James Nevius
www.walknyc.com | authors of "Inside the Apple" and "Footprints in New York"


Thursday, August 31, 2017

Postcard Thursday: Carriage Houses


Once upon a time, the only wheeled mode of transport around New York City was via horse and carriage. But what happened to all the stables that once housed those four-legged forerunners to the automobile? James looks at that question in the Home section of today's New York Post -- read the whole story at:

http://nypost.com/2017/08/30/the-fascinating-history-behind-nycs-stables-turned-real-estate/

(And get caught up on his travel/real estate pieces at http://nypost.com/author/james-nevius/)

* * * 

Have you signed up for our Walking Tour of the northern section of Central Park on September 10th?

Click on last week's blog post (here: http://blog.insidetheapple.net/2017/08/postcard-thursday-walking-tour-in.html) for all the details -- there are a few spots left!


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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Postcard Thursday: Walking Tour in Central Park on September 10


Join us for Walk in the Park -- Central Park, that is....

On Sunday, September 10, at 10:00 AM, join us a walking tour of the northernmost -- and often least-visited -- section of Central Park.

Some potential highlights (though the itinerary is still in flux):
  • The block house from the War of 1812 (above)
  • The Harlem Meer
  • The memorial the "Father of Greater NYC"
  • The loch
  • The Conservatory
The tour will cost $20 per person for early-bird subscribers who sign up between now and Tuesday, September 5.

PLEASE NOTE: This tour involved many stairs and a certain amount of uphill climbing and uneven terrain. While not exactly a strenuous hike, this isn't the best outing for those who aren't as nimble as they used to be.

To register send an email to walknyc@gmail.com
  1. Your name
  2. Number of people in party
  3. A cell number where we can reach the day of the tour in case of emergency
The meeting place will be emailed to you within 24 hours of your reservation.

Best wishes,
Michelle and James Nevius
www.walknyc.com | authors of "Inside the Apple" and "Footprints in New York"

Friday, August 11, 2017

Postcard Thursday: Hedy Lamarr and the Invention of Wi-Fi


An actual postcard for "Postcard Thursday"! (OK, so it's Friday, but one step at a time.)

The home above belonged to the woman in the inset, actor Hedy Lamarr, star of such films as Ziegfeld Girl, Tortilla Flat, and Samson and Delilah, the highest-grossing film of 1949.

But on August 11, 1942 -- 75 years ago today -- Lamarr's most lasting contribution to the world happened with little fanfare: she was awarded a patent for a frequency-hopping spread spectrum communication system. The system, which she invented with composer George Antheil, was not the first to use random sequences to create a covert communications system, but the method patented by Lamarr and Antheil was later adopted by the US Navy and became the basis for both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies.


There's a brief article at CultureLab that's worth reading in full about Lamarr's contributions to science, but here's a brief excerpt:
The invention was not her first. Lamarr previously experimented with cola-flavoured bouillon cubes for homemade soft drinks. But her new idea, which officials would only say was "related to remote control of apparatus employed in warfare", would become a signal innovation of the century, the technology now underlying cellphones and Wi-Fi. Expertly explaining the genesis and consequences of Lamarr's invention, in Hedy's Folly, Richard Rhodes transforms a surprising historical anecdote into a fascinating story about the unpredictable development of novel technologies. 
When Lamarr turned her attention to national defence, following the tragic sinking of a ship full of refugees by a German U-boat in 1940, she knew far more about armaments than most movie stars. Before arriving in Hollywood, she had been married to the Austrian munitions manufacturer Fritz Mandl, who supplied the Axis powers. Dining with Nazi generals, Lamarr not only learned about the latest submarines and missiles but also the problems with them: notably the challenge of guiding a torpedo by radio, and shielding the signal from enemy interference. 
Her insight was that you could protect wireless communication from jamming by varying the frequency at which radio signals were transmitted: if the channel was switched unpredictably, the enemy wouldn't know which bands to block. But her ingenious "frequency-hopping" idea was just a hunch until Lamarr met fellow amateur inventor George Antheil at a Hollywood dinner.

Notorious in the music world for avant-garde compositions featuring airplane propellers and synchronised player pianos, prior to the war, Antheil had galvanised Paris, and incited riots, with his cacophonous Ballet Mécanique. He had also attempted to invent an open-top pianola with which to teach basic keyboard technique. It flopped, but this background came in handy. To realise Lamarr's idea, Antheil proposed coordinating transmitter and receiver by controlling the switching between channels with two identical piano rolls running at the same speed.
Lamarr died in 2000, but not before being recognized in 1997 with the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award for her contributions to modern technology. In 2014, she was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

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