Thursday, February 26, 2015

Postcard Thursday: 1939 World's Fair


At some point, we will examine the New York World's Fair of 1939-40 in greater depth. Today, let's just enjoy this picture of the Electrical Products Building, which housed, among other things, the exhibits from Remington who introduced the electric ("dry") shaver at the fair that year.

courtesy of http://www.worldsfaircommunity.org/

The building was designed by Walker & Gillette, whose work in New York City includes the Fuller Building on 57th Street and the Jacob Riis Houses, a public housing project on the East River that we talk about in Footprints in New York.

Speaking of which....



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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Postcard Thursday: Soliders' and Sailors' Monument


Today's postcard shows the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in Riverside Park; the card was mailed February 13, 1905, less than two years after the memorial had opened.

Based on the Lysicrates monument in Athens (as are many Beaux-Arts structures in New York, including the towers atop the San Remo apartment building), the memorial was designed by Charles and Arthur Stoughton, who won a public competition for what was to be the city's major memorial to the Union Army. (It has, however, always been eclipsed by that other Civil War monument in Riverside Park: Grant's Tomb.)

The monument was opened Memorial Day 1902. A parade of Union Army veterans marched up Riverside Drive, where they were greeted by President Theodore Roosevelt who presided over the dedication. Yet, just two years after this postcard was sent, the monument was already in bad shape. On March 27, 1907, the New York Times reported the structure was "in such bad repair" that marble was in danger of falling at any time. Indeed, three marble slabs had already crashed down. Renovations were made in the 1930s, again in the 1960s, and today the Riverside Park Conservancy is hoping to raise $5.5 million for additional repairs.

As you can see, the message is crammed into the narrow white border on the card's right side. This reads:

Dear Amy,
Your card received. Glad you are improving in health. Hope you will continue to do so and that we will see you again sometime. Did your sister get my card? How is she? Let us hear from you again.
With kindest regards from 
Georgianna Rice

As we've noted before, postcards sent before 1907 could only have the address on the back, so whatever white space was left on the picture side was used for the message. In this case, a relatively wide border allowed Georgianna Rice to fit in a message longer than the usual, "Received your card."


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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Postcard Thursday: Thomas E. Davis


The stereo view above shows the Pavilion Hotel on Staten Island, which was originally built to be the home of 19th-century real estate developer Thomas E. Davis.

Who?

You're not alone: Davis -- who by some accounts was the third-largest land owner in the city -- has been almost totally passed over by history.

To rectify that, James wrote a piece for CurbedNY that appeared yesterday. Read it at: http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2015/02/11/the_forgotten_developer_who_transformed_19thcentury_nyc.php.

The only picture James was able to dig up of a Thomas Davis shows this fellow:



Is that our Thomas Davis? Alas, we may never know.

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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Postcard Thursday: The Evolution of the Metropolitan Museum


We recently added this early 20th-century view of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to our collection. This photo highlights two major additions to the museum's original floorplan: the 1888 Theodore Weston wing (in red at the back) and the Richard Morris Hunt Fifth Avenue entrance (in limestone at the front).

The Weston facade is often mistaken for the original entrance to the building. However, as the photo (below) shows, the squat 1880 Vaux and Mould building that was the original museum had a rather quaint staircase leading up to its main entrance, which in those days faced into Central Park.

courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Pieces of this Vaux and Mould building are still visible inside today's museum. The Central Park facade seen here in the left side of the photo is now where the Lehman Wing begins. The Weston addition was designed to harmonize with Vaux and Mould's work. You can judge for yourself by visiting the European Sculpture Court, where Weston's south facade is entirely preserved.

courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Hunt's 1902 addition shifted the museum's entrance to Fifth Avenue. Notice in the postcard the blocks of stone atop the colonnade that spans the facade. Those were destined to become large statues that were never carved and the rough-hewn limestone blocks still sit there, unfinished, to this day. Also notice that at the far left of the postcard is Cleopatra's Needle, which was erected in 1881, and has recently been restored.

To see how the museum has grown over the past 135 years, the Met has put together this terrific 38-second video:


(Can't see the video embedded above? Go to http://youtu.be/7oJrJJoTSaI.)

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Postcard Thursday: Poe Cottage

Poe Cottage in the Fordham section of the Bronx; courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York
Courtesy of the New York Public Library
170 years ago today, on January 29, 1845, Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Raven" was first published, for which Poe netted a whopping $9.00.

Poe did not write "The Raven" at Poe Cottage, his only extant home in New York City. If you've read Footprints in New York, you know that we have an entire chapter dedicated to tracking down Poe sites in the city, including the Brennan farmhouse (below), where "The Raven" was composed, the mantelpiece that was saved from that house when it was demolished, and the boardinghouse at 85 Amity Street (today's W 3rd Street) where Poe lived when "The Raven" was published. [And if you haven't read Footprints, what are you waiting for? It's on sale at Amazon RIGHT NOW.]

Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York
There are many spots associated with Poe in the city, but if you want to bundle up and seek the poet's muse, head to Riverside Park. Between 82nd and 83rd streets on Riverside Drive is Mount Tom. This rocky outcropping was a short walk from the Brennan farmhouse and it's said that Poe would come here to stare out at the Hudson and that it's where he composed "The Raven."


Poe Cottage, the third-oldest building in the Bronx, is open for visitors on weekends. If you want to travel farther afield, you can actually stay in a full-sized replica (above) of the house at the Dearborn Inn in Michigan.


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Friday, January 23, 2015

40 Years Ago: The Fraunces Tavern Bombing

Tomorrow, January 24, marks the fortieth anniversary of the deadly bomb that ripped through historic Fraunces Tavern in the Financial District.

Five years ago, we wrote a post about the bombing, which remains one of the most-read entries on this blog: http://blog.insidetheapple.net/2010/01/bombing-of-fraunces-tavern-january-24.html.


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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Postcard Thursday: When Met Life was the World's Tallest


Today's postcard shows the Met Life tower on Madison Square, which held the title of tallest building in the world from 1909 (beating out the now-demolished Singer Tower) until 1913, when it was bested by the Woolworth Tower, which remained the world's tallest until the opening of the Chrysler Building in 1930.

This postcard was actually mailed in August 1908, meaning that it was printed before the Met Life tower was actually finished, but that's par for the course--how many tchotchkes of the "Freedom Tower" were on sale before they'd even laid the foundation for WTC1?

The Met Life building was designed by Napoleon Le Brun & Sons (noted for the Gilded Age fire stations in New York), and the bulk of the work fell to sons Michel and Pierre Le Brun, who modeled the tower on the campanile in Piazza San Marco in Venice.



The building cost $6.5 million to build, and while it was praised at the time of its completion as the "most meritous work of the year" by the American Institute of Architects, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company was annoyed to only hold the title of world's tallest for four years. In the late 1920s, work began on the annex building to the north, which--at least in early blueprints--would have been spectacularly tall, dwarfing the Empire State Building that was being erected at the same time. However, the Depression derailed Met Life's plans and the annex was capped at 30 stories.

The clock tower is owned by Marriott; in April 2015, an Ian Schrager-designed hotel, "New York Edition," is slated to open.



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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Postcard Thursday: New York City's Oldest Buildings


If you did not see it, James has a piece at CurbedNY this week in which he tracks down the oldest buildings in all five boroughs of New York City. This postcard, above, shows the Britton Cottage, which today is part of Historic Richmond Town, and is the second oldest standing building on Staten Island.

You can read the full story at http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2015/01/12/the_20_oldest_buildings_in_new_york_city.php


Each borough also gets an honorable mention: a building that is old, but didn't quite make the cut. For Manhattan, that building is Fraunces Tavern, which, according to The New York Times, is celebrating its birthday today. On January 15, 1762, Samuel Fraunces bought the house from the heirs of Stephen Delancey to open what was then called the Queen Charlotte or Queenshead Tavern. While only a few fragments of the building Sam Fraunces bought are still there, the tavern is an important relic nonetheless.


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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Postcard Thursday: The First State of the Union Address


Today marks the 225th anniversary of the very first State of the Union address, delivered by George Washington to a join session on of Congress on January 8, 1790, at Federal Hall on Wall Street.

Washington had been sworn in on April 30 of the previous year and Congress had been meeting since early March, so it was a good time for the president to take stock of how much progress had been made. That progress included the passage of the Bill of Rights over the summer, which was not only the underpinning of many American freedoms, but was also the document that persuaded North Carolina to finally ratify the Constitution, which it did on November 21, 1789, bringing the total number of states to twelve. Only Rhode Island was a holdout, and perhaps some of Washington's address--which was circulated in newspapers at the time--was aimed at getting Rhode Island on board.


The address--which covers everything from the need "to be prepared for war" with the "proper establishment of troops," to the "terms on which foreigners may be admitted to the rights of citizens" and the needs for "uniformity in the currency, weights, and measures of the United States"--was likely drafted by Alexander Hamilton, the Treasury Secretary and Washington's de facto Prime Minister. It ends with a plea to Congress for support of the establishment of public credit, a topic near and dear to Hamilton's heart.


The entire speech can be read at http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=29431.

Of course, the building that stands today at the intersection of Wall Street and Nassau Street isn't the Federal Hall (below) of Washington's era. The original seat of government was torn down in the early eighteenth century so that the Treasury Department could build a new custom house on the spot. After later serving as the federal subtreasury, the old custom house become the museum it is today, where a few pieces of the original building where Washington spoke are on display.



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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Postcard Thursday: Greetings from (the newly unified) New York City


On Saturday, January 1 1898, New Yorkers awoke not just from the hangover of the revelry from the night before, but to find themselves citizens of the newly expanded, five-borough New York City.

As we write in Footprints in New York, when the Brooklyn Bridge had opened in 1883 (back when Brooklyn and Manhattan were separate cities):

New York’s Mayor [Franklin] Edson probably scared Brooklynites by invoking a marriage metaphor: “What has thus been joined together shall never be put asunder.” Edson then peered twenty-five years into the future to 1908: “Will these two cities ere then have been consolidated into one great municipality, numbering within its limits more than five millions of people?”
The consolidation of the two cities would happen even quicker, on January 1, 1898, but Edson was very close on the population. In the 1910 census, the population of the new City of New York—which, in addition to Brooklyn and Manhattan, included the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island—was 4.76 million. The fifteen years between the bridge’s opening day and five-borough consolidation were ones of great change for Brooklyn and New York. Some were eager to see the two cities join together. Others had to be reluctantly cajoled into the relationship.
Most of that cajoling happened in Brooklyn. While some prominent Brooklynites--chief among them former Mayor Seth Low--were eager for five-borough unification, it was a hard sell.
Low’s brother Abbot joined the League [of Loyal Citizens] to register his opposition.They wrote a new anthem for Brooklyn, “Up with the Flag,” which began:
Up with the flag! / The flag that long / Has waved o’er Brooklyn’s city fair, / To keep her sons in union strong / To bid them heed the motto there: / “Right makes Might.”
Brooklyn’s motto—in Dutch Eendracht maakt macht—not only rooted the city to its colonial heritage, but “Right makes Might” were the same words used by Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator. Lincoln’s armies had fought for freedom—should Brooklynites give their precious rights up so easily?
Ultimately the matter was put to a vote. Nearly 130,000 ballots were cast, with pro-consolidation squeezing out a victory of only 277 votes.

More from Footprints in New York:

On December 31, 1897, an electric trolley car wended its way across the span of the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time. Employees of the trolley company made last-minute adjustments to the electric cabling and then, a few minutes before midnight, the Columbia and the Amphion—two “sumptuous” trolley cars (in the words of the New York Times)—ferried a delegation of Brooklyn dignitaries to Manhattan to celebrate New Year’s Eve. When the trolleys took them home again at the end of the party, their city was gone. At the stroke of midnight, Brooklyn had ceased to exist as an independent entity. It was now just one of five boroughs.
On the Manhattan side, a celebration thrown by William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal was hampered by rain that turned to snow by midnight; still, an estimated 100,000 people came out to cheer the beginning of the new city. 
In Brooklyn, things were much more somber. Mayor Frederick Wurster welcomed Seth Low and other former mayors for an “observance” at Brooklyn City Hall. Though the reception was held for pro-consolidation advocates, it can’t have been a cheery occasion. The official poem written for the festivities ends its first stanza with “You, with me, must die.”

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If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy of Footprints yet,
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