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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Reminder: July 3rd Revolutionary War Walking Tour

There are a handful of spaces left for our walking tour this Sunday, July 3, at 4:00 p.m., which examines the history of the Revolutionary War in New York. And, even though the price to the general public is now $15 per person, readers of this blog can still get the special, $10 discounted price if they reserve and mention the word MONTPELIER somewhere in their email.

To read more about the tour--including what you need to do to reserve a space--see our previous blog entry at:

Hope to see you Sunday! But hurry.... once the tour is full, we will have to cut off reservations.

(Bonus points if you know why Montpelier is the secret code word....)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Born Today: Judy Holliday

Word came down yesterday that the Broadway revival of Born Yesterday is closing next week. The play's Tony-nominated star, Nina Arianda, has been earning great reviews—and favorable comparisons to Judy Holliday, who originated the role in 1946. That spurred us to read about Holliday and, lo and behold, it turns out today would have been her 90th birthday.

Holliday was born on June 21, 1921, in Sunnyside, Queens. Her birth name was Judith Tuvim—Tuvim is a variant of the Yiddish word for holiday. She attended Julia Richman High School on the Upper East Side (a couple of years ahead of Lauren Bacall) and got her first job in show business working the switchboard at Orson Welles’s Mercury Theater.

Holliday’s first Broadway role was Alice in Kiss Them For Me in 1945. But her big break came in Born Yesterday—and it almost didn’t happen. The role of Billie Dawn had been written by Garson Kanin for his friend Jean Arthur. Arthur, however, was reluctant to take the part and during out-of-town tryouts in New Haven and Boston, Kanin was constantly rewriting the play to accommodate her needs—and to answer the critics, who were lukewarm, both in their response to Arthur and to the play.

When Arthur sat out a string of performances in Boston due to "ill health," Kanin began looking around for a replacement and found Holliday, who’d been recommended on the strength of her role in Kiss Them For Me. Kanin hired her to replace Arthur—but on the condition that she could learn the part in four days for the opening in Philadelphia. She did and it made her a star.

Holliday played Billie Dawn for 1,200 performances on Broadway and then reprised the role in the 1950 film version, winning both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award. The 1950s were rocky for Holliday: she was investigated for alleged Communism, and though cleared by the Senate committee, she found less work. In 1956, she returned to Broadway, winning a Tony for her role in Comden and Green’s Bells are Ringing.

Starting in 1953, Holliday lived at the venerable Dakota Apartments on Central Park West. She died on June 7, 1965, of breast cancer at Mount Sinai Hospital.

Read more about "The Great White Way" in

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

General Slocum Disaster: June 15, 1904

One hundred and seven years ago, New York suffered the greatest tragedy in its history (up to that time), the sinking of the ship General Slocum in the East River.

We wrote about the ship in Inside the Apple and on our blog two years ago:

Friday, June 10, 2011

Revolutionary Walking Tour | Sunday, July 3, at 4:00 p.m.

As readers of our blog know, we like to think of America's birthday as not just taking place on a single day -- July 4th -- but over the course of week from July 2nd (the day we actually declared independence) to July 9th (the day New York finally got on board).

So, it's only fitting that as part of our week-long celebration of America's 235th birthday, James will be leading a walking tour of Revolutionary and early American sites in Lower Manhattan on Sunday, July 3, at 4:00 p.m.

Planned stops will include famous places, like Federal Hall, Fraunces Tavern, and Bowling Green (depicted above on night of July 9, 1776), but we’ll also talk about lesser-known sites, such as Archibald Kennedy’s house; George Washington’s presidential mansion on Broadway; Jefferson’s home where he brokered the deal to move the capital of the United States to Washington, DC; and many more. This will be a fast-paced, entertaining, and informative walk back in time.

Copies of Inside the Apple will be available for purchase at the tour.

To reserve, send an email to with

  • Your name
  • The number in your party
  • A contact cell phone number
  • A good email address where we can send you information about where the tour will start.

PLEASE NOTE that if you reserve no later than Tuesday, June 28, the cost is just $10 per person.

This tour will have only a limited number of spaces, so please reserve early to avoid disappointment.

Payment will be taken at the start of the tour by cash only. Directions to the tour’s starting point will be sent out after your reservation is confirmed. 
All reservations received starting Wednesday, June 29, will be $15 per person.

Hope to see you there!

Read more about New York's role in the Revolution in

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Temperature's Rising....

As temperatures rise and cooling centers open around the city today, it’s good to remember how wonderful air conditioners are. Our predecessors have weathered some terrible heat waves in New York.

The hottest June day on record is in some dispute, but June 29, 1934, June 27, 1966, and June 25, 1952, are each contenders, with the mercury perhaps reaching 101 degrees. The New York Times reported in 1934 that the official temperature reached 97 degrees (101 in Central Park, which was not then the official reading) and that temperatures soared to 137 degrees in the full sun in the park. To gain relief from the scorching heat, children frolicked in city fountains (including Civic Virtue, then still in front of City Hall), and perhaps as many as 8,000 people brought blankets to Coney Island to sleep at the beach.

Back in the 19th century, stifling heat waves were less frequent—but certainly more deadly. On September 7, 1881, the temperature reached 101 degrees and the Times wrote:  “Sept. 7, 1881, will long be remembered, not merely as the hottest day of the year, but as one of the hottest of the century.” The streets of the city were deserted except for those forced out in the heat, which unfortunately included the city’s many horses, some of whom died of heat stroke as they worked. The only crowds to be found were those “crowded all day long around the bulletin boards giving the news from the bedside of President Garfield.” (Garfield had been shot July 2nd and clung to life until September 19, when he finally succumbed to the assassin’s bullet.)

By far the worst heat wave to strike the city came in August 1896, when over 1,300 people died in the city, many of them stifled to death in tenement apartments that since 1879 were supposed to allow access to light and air, but many of which did not. As Edward Kohn points out in Hot Time in the Old Town: The Great Heat Wave of 1896 and the Making of Theodore Roosevelt, the heat wave was a test for Police Commissioner Teddy Roosevelt and an important moment in cementing his progressive credentials. Unlike in 1934, no one flocked to the beach during this heat wave: there was a ban on the public sleeping in public parks, and so many people crammed on to the roofs of their tenements, hoping to escape the brutal, stagnant temperatures. Among Roosevelt’s attempts to mitigate the disaster included hosing down the streets and handing out free ice. Alas, much of Roosevelt’s good work came too late: the city only began to address the heat wave in a coordinated way on its tenth—and last—day.

* * *

Read more about Teddy Roosevelt--NYC's only homegrown president--in

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