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Monday, April 29, 2013

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"East Side Stories" at the Metropolitan Playhouse

As you know, we're big fans of the Metropolitan Playhouse in the East Village, where we've spoken a couple of times in conjunction with main stage productions. In addition to the revivals that are the mainstay of the Metropolitan's season, each year they also produce an East Village theater festival, showcasing short new works about the East Village and the Lower East Side.

A few nights ago, we were able to see "Pioneers," one of four nights in this year's festival, and it was great. Michael Bettencourt's "The Origins of Zoos" pits birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger against Bronx Zoo founder Madison Grant in a Lower East Side coffee house. "The Invention of the Living Room," by Andrew R. Heinze imagines the birth of Levittown in a Lower East Side tenement. "Occupy Avenue A" (Josh Gulotta) brings the conversation into the present, and "Delicacy" (Toni Schlesinger) moves it into the world of Dreams -- and the Second Avenue Deli. If the other three nights are as good as this one, you're in for a treat no matter which night you go.

Tickets and more information at: http://www.metropolitanplayhouse.org/EVTF2013.


* * * *

Find out more about the Lower East Side and East Village in
our book:


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Reminder: West Chelsea Walking Tour on Sunday

Today, Tuesday, April 23, is the last day to sign up at the $15 price. 

All reservations from tomorrow onward are $20 per person


Join us Sunday, April 28, at 2:00pm, for an excursion through historic West Chelsea. Our walk encompasses everything from early 19th-century houses to industrial buildings and factories (including the birthplace of the Oreo). We'll see the General Theological Seminary, built on the apple orchard of Clement Clarke Moore, who was not only the author of A Visit from St. Nicholas('Twas the Night Before Christmas), but also a major real estate developer in early New York. We'll also talk about the High Line, which is either a triumph of urban renewal or the last nail in the coffin of the real Lower West Side. (The tour ends near the High Line for those who want to stroll it afterwards.)

To reserve:
Email info@insidetheapple.net with your

* Name
* Number of people in your party
* A cell phone where we can reach you before the tour in case of any changes

The meeting place for the tour will be emailed to you as your confirmation. (We try to get confirmations out in about 24 hours.) Reservations will be taken on a first-come, first served basis and in order for everyone to see and hear, we are going to cap the number of people who can attend, so do reserve as soon as you can.

You can pay by cash only at the start of the tour.

If you cannot make this date and time, the tour is, of course, available for private bookings. Email us and we'll set something up for you & your group.

Copies of Inside the Apple will be available for sale and signing.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Randel Farm Maps

One of the previously unsung heroes of nineteenth century New York--whose praises are actually being sung a bit more often these days--is John Randel, Jr. As chief surveyor of the 1811 Commissioners' Plan that established the Manhattan street grid, Randel perhaps had a greater effect on our day-to-day life in the city than any of his contemporaries. For the first time, Randel has been the subject of a major biography, The Measure of Manhattan: The Tumultuous Career and Surprising Legacy of John Randel, Jr., Cartographer, Surveyor, Inventor, which has just recently been published.

As we write in Inside the Apple:
With the population rapidly increasing and without any plan for regulating property sales and population growth, it seemed very possible that the city would simply collapse underneath its own weight, with too many people crammed into the area of the city below Chambers Street but not enough food, water, or sanitation to go around. The grid plan was overseen by a commission headed by Gouverneur Morris, the eminent politician who’d written the preamble to the Constitution. The survey itself was carried out by John Randel, Jr.; he and his team walked out every block of the city from Houston Street to 155th Street in Harlem, charting over 2,000 city blocks in all. It was enough room, as was noted at the time, “for a greater population than is collected at any spot this side of China.”
Though Randel finished his first survey in 1810, he then produced an even more important work--a detailed atlas of the island of Manhattan, showing both the existing farms and the new, superimposed grid. This atlas, known as the Randel Farm Maps, now resides in the office of the Manhattan Borough President.

In conjunction with the exhibition The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of the Manhattan, 1811-2011 at the Museum of the City of New York in 2011, the entire atlas was digitized and the maps "stitched" together so that anyone with a computer and some time to kill can examine Randel's marvelous work in detail. The maps are online at http://www.mcny.org/sidebars/randel-farm-maps-online.html and it really is a great way to time travel back to the early nineteenth century. Most recently, we've been consulting the maps in preparation for our new West Chelsea Walking Tour, which you can participate in on Sunday, April 28.



* * * *

Find out more about John Randel, Jr., and the 1811 grid in
our book:


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Thursday, April 11, 2013

West Chelsea Walking Tour: Sunday, April 28, at 2:00 pm

Walking Tour West Chelsea

Reservations made on or before Tuesday, April 23: $15 per person

Reservations made on Wednesday, April 24 or later: $20 per person

To reserve email info@insidetheapple.net

Join us Sunday, April 28, at 2:00pm, for an excursion through historic West Chelsea. Our walk encompasses everything from early 19th-century houses to industrial buildings and factories (including the birthplace of the Oreo). We'll see the General Theological Seminary, built on the apple orchard of Clement Clarke Moore, who was not only the author of A Visit from St. Nicholas('Twas the Night Before Christmas), but also a major real estate developer in early New York. We'll also talk about the High Line, which is either a triumph of urban renewal or the last nail in the coffin of the real Lower West Side. (The tour ends near the High Line for those who want to stroll it afterwards.)

To reserve:
Email info@insidetheapple.net with your

* Name
* Number of people in your party
* A cell phone where we can reach you before the tour in case of any changes

The meeting place for the tour will be emailed to you as your confirmation. (We try to get confirmations out in about 24 hours.) Reservations will be taken on a first-come, first served basis and in order for everyone to see and hear, we are going to cap the number of people who can attend, so do reserve as soon as you can.

You can pay by cash only at the start of the tour.

If you cannot make this date and time, the tour is, of course, available for private bookings. Email us and we'll set something up for you & your group.

Copies of Inside the Apple will be available for sale and signing.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Why Not Use the "L"?

Reginald Marsh, Why Not Use the “L”?, 1930. Egg tempera on canvas, 36 × 48 in. (91.4 x 121.9 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase  31.293  © 2010 Estate of Reginald Marsh / Art Students League, New York / Artists Rights Society, New York


A few nights ago, we were walking through the Whitney Museum's recently re-installed top floor, "American Legends: From Calder to O'Keeffe," when Reginald Marsh's 1930 painting "Why Not Use the 'L'?" caught our eye. If you've read Inside the Apple, you know that we're fans of Marsh's work in the US Custom House on Bowling Green.

In this work, Marsh captures a slice of the city that's now gone: riders on the elevated train. The train depicted appears to be the Third Avenue "L" (or, sometimes, "El"), but transportation aficionados should chime in if we are wrong about that. As in many of Marsh's paintings, there is a gauzy quality to the canvas, though a few things are in sharp focus. Above the sleeping man's head is a sign that gives the painting its title: "The subway is fast, certainly. But the open-air elevated gets you there quickly, too! And with more comfort. Why not use the 'L'?" Below the man's feet is a newspaper, the headline of which trumpets, "Did Sex Urge Explain Judge Crater's Disappearance?"

Judge Joseph Force Crater disappeared on August 6, 1930. Having had dinner with his mistress and a friend on Forty-fifth Street, he hailed a taxi, never to be seen again. At first, he wasn't even reported missing--the courts were in recess and he had been frequently commuting back and forth to his summer house in Maine. But when he didn't show up for work on August 25, the police were called in; the disappearance went public in early September and consumed the New York headlines for weeks. Had he been murdered? Kidnapped? Run off to a tropical island with a woman? It remains one of the great unsolved cases in New York history and anchors Marsh's painting in a very specific moment in time.

A few years after this canvas was painted, the Treasury Department's Section of Fine Arts hired Marsh to complete sixteen murals in the rotunda of the Custom House. As we write in Inside the Apple:
"[His] murals depict the dominance of American shipping; the eight larger panels show the stages of a steamship's entrance into New York harbor, from its approach to the Narrows to its discharge of passengers and cargo. In one panel, the ship pauses to take on the press so that they can interview an arriving celebrity--Greta Garbo.... Just before work was to begin in September 1937, Marsh received world that Joseph P. Kennedy, U.S. maritime commissioner, objected to the fact two prominent ships in the panorama were foreign vessels--the Queen Mary and the Normandie. Kennedy wrote that Marsh should instead depict 'the new passenger liner that we will probably commence building.'"
Marsh ignored Kennedy. Supposedly the word "Normandie" is smudged on the bow of that vessel, but it is still perfectly legible. The old Custom House is now the Museum of the American Indian and is open to the public free of charge so that you can check out Marsh's work yourself. The Whitney Museum is pay-what-you-wish on Friday nights. There are other Marsh works in the "American Legends" installation, as well as, of course, some of the finest works of American art in any New York collection.


* * * *

Find out more about Reginald Marsh in
our book:



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