Old New York In Postcards #17 – Riverside Drive

Postcard Views of Riverside Drive 1900-1920

Riverside Drive may not be the most famous street in Manhattan, but it is among the prettiest.

The natural beauty of the surrounding area made this parcel of Manhattan real estate an ideal setting for a park and residential development.

Up until the late 19th century there was not a whole lot of home building along this western portion of the city with the exception of a few mansions perched high along the river.

As transportation options continued to improve, Riverside Avenue began attracting wealthy New Yorkers and real estate developers to the west side. The opening of the Ninth Avenue Elevated in 1879 and the subway in 1904 made it possible to commute from the upper west side to New York’s business center downtown. In 1908 Riverside Avenue’s name was officially changed to Riverside Drive.

If Riverside Drive had been built as originally proposed by Park Commissioner William Martin in 1865, it would have been a 100 foot wide straight boulevard.

Fortunately that turned out to be impractical due to the natural topography of the area.

Riverside Drive looking north towards Grant’s Tomb 1912

In 1873 Frederick Law Olmsted the designer of Central and Prospect Park received the job of laying out Riverside Park and Drive. Olmsted realized that incorporating the existing landscape surrounding Riverside Avenue into a park was a better plan than grading and straightening the hills along the drive.

By the time work started on the park in 1875 Olmsted had left New York City. Over the next 25 years  a succession of designers, engineers and architects executed Olmsted’s proposal but not exactly sticking to his plan. Calvert Vaux, Samuel Parsons and Julius Munckwitz all had their turn in building up Riverside Drive and its park.

By the turn of the 20th century Riverside Drive was lined with expensive single family townhouses and row houses overlooking the Hudson River. Land speculation led to a spate of luxury apartment buildings in the upper parts of the boulevard.

A touring bus along Riverside Drive

The first portion of  Riverside Drive from 72nd to 85th Street was opened in 1879. Riverside Park terminated at 129th Street. The Riverside Viaduct completed in 1900, bridged the schism between 125th and 135th Streets. Riverside Drive then continued north to 181st Street.

Here are some of the views from 100 years ago.

postcard view Riverside Drive north from 72nd Street 1918

Riverside Drive north from 72nd Street 1918

This World War I era view shows Riverside Drive at 72nd Street looking north. The entire block between 73rd and 74th Streets and Riverside Drive and West End Avenue belonged to one man and his extravagant home. The french style chateau with the large front lawn is the 75-room Charles M. Schwab mansion.  Designed by Maurice Ebert and completed at a cost of $6 million in 1905, the home contained a gym, a bowling alley, a pool, and three elevators. Schwab had made his millions working with Andrew Carnegie. Schwab went on to head United States Steel. Continue reading

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The Night The Audio System Failed At Yankee Stadium

30  Minutes Of Baseball Bliss As The Audio System At Yankee Stadium Fails – September 14, 2017

9 14 17 Yankee Stadium audio difficulties signThey say if you go to a baseball game there’s always a chance you’ll see something you’ve never seen before.

But it’s not only what I had never seen before, but what I didn’t hear. What happened Thursday, September 14, 2017 during a Yankees – Orioles game was unusual.

For the first time in my life, I attended a major league baseball game and the national anthem was not played before the start of the game. No, it wasn’t the second game of a real doubleheader (remember those?)

Not only was the national anthem not played, no sound was heard in the ballpark except the cheers of the crowd, calls of the vendors and crack of the bat. Continue reading

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I Guess You Could Call It A Bikini

Circa 1910 Model Wearing A Unique Version Of A “Bikini?”

Honestly our headline is misleading. Our circa 1910 model is technically not wearing a bikini as her top looks more like coconut shells. While we can’t fully see the bottom of her costume, it is definitely not a bikini. It looks to be more like a Hawaiian hula outfit.

Even so, a photograph in 1910 of a woman in a two piece of any kind is unusual.

If you know your garment history, you know that the bathing suit called a “bikini” was coined in 1946 by French designer Louis Reard.  The bathing attire was named after the Bikini Atoll, where the testing of the Atomic bomb was taking place at the time.

A bikini is defined as a two piece swimsuit usually in the shape of triangles. The material on the top covers the breasts much like a brassiere. The bottom is similar to panties.

Denise Milani and her…bikini

When it was introduced Continue reading

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Classic Hollywood #63 – Abbott & Costello With Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy

Abbott & Costello With Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy

When I was growing up there were only seven television channels to choose from in New York City. Many weekend mornings I found myself laughing at the antics of Abbott and Costello on WPIX, channel eleven. A lot of other kids at that time shared that love for the fast-talking comedy duo.

Not just their movies were shown, but also the Abbott and Costello TV show was broadcast regularly as well. If today’s generation knows anything about Abbott and Costello, it is almost certainly their famous “Who’s On First” baseball skit. Unfortunately Abbott and Costello and their wordplay humor are fading into history.

But if Abbott and Costello have faded, then ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his puppet Charlie McCarthy are forgotten. Continue reading

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Brooklyn or is it Booklyn? Rare & Collectible Books At The Brooklyn Expo Hall

The Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair In Greenpoint

There’s new life in the used and rare book world. That’s the way it seemed to the many dealers who were exhibiting Saturday, September 9 at the Brooklyn Expo Center 79 Franklin Street, Greenpoint. The variety of material for sale here has made this show a go-to destination for bibliophiles seeking a great find.

It has sometimes been a challenge to interest new collectors considering an entire generation has been brought up in the digital age and do all of their reading on a screen.

Yet they they were. Younger people attending a book show and displaying interest in rare and collectible books.

Looking around the crowd it was noticed that there were quite a few people who were of Generation X , Y and even Z in attendance.

Exposing the passion of book collecting to the kids at the Brooklyn Expo Center.

This is a good sign for collectible book dealers that have been trying to reach younger people and share their knowledge and passion for collecting books printed on good old fashioned paper.

Dealer Peter Austern of Brooklyn said he tried to “exhibit things that were unusual and might appeal to the collectors who are very specific in their wants.” He added that the show being in this part of Brooklyn “tends to attract a different, younger sort of crowd.”

Regarding the venue itself, the natural light and high ceilings at the Brooklyn Expo Center are a nice change to the sometimes crowded and poorly lighted places that shows are often held in. Continue reading

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Gene Michael Architect Of Late 90s Yankees Dynasty Dies at 79

Gene “Stick” Michael Was More Responsible For The Yankee Championship Teams In The Late 90s Than Anyone Else

Gene Michael awaits the throw to second base as Chicago White Sox shortstop Luis Aparicio makes his slide (1970).

Former Yankees shortstop, manager and general manager Gene Michael died today September 7, 2017 at the age of 79 of a heart attack at his home in Oldsmar, FL.

Michael was a slick fielding light hitting shortstop who played on Yankees teams from 1968 – 1974, that were a shadow of the former Yankee teams.  From 1921 -1964 the Yankees had appeared in 29 World Series, winning 20 of them.

If The New York Yankees futility of the late 1960s and early 1970s was epitomized by their second baseman Horace Clarke, then Gene Michael would unfairly be attached to that failure with his double play partner.  Horace Clarke, was a career .256 hitter and average fielder who hit a total of 27 home runs with the Yankees from 1965 – 1974. Because Clarke’s career coincided with that of Michael’s the two were paired together unfairly as the face of Yankee ineptitude.

But there was never any question that Gene Michael was a decent ballplayer and a great competitor.

The “Stick,” as the six foot two skinny shortstop was nicknamed, had baseball smarts and could execute the plays a lot better than an average player. That is what kept Michael on the team. A .229 lifetime average usually won’t ensure your spot on a major league roster unless you can hit thirty or more home runs a year. Yet Michael was valued by teammates and some fans as a hard-nosed, crafty ballplayer.

One thing that Michael did that you rarely see anymore was pull the “hidden ball trick.”Michael said he would only pull it if his pitcher was in trouble.

Michael would have the ball in his glove as the pitcher would be getting ready to pitch and Michael would sneak up on an unsuspecting runner as he began to take a lead off second base and apply the tag. It’s called a bush league play today. Completely unprofessional. I disagree. It showed smarts and initiative to pull it off and I question why it is not tried more often today. I once witnessed Michael do this in person and didn’t realize what had happened.

Michael was smart in other ways. In a May 25, 1973 game against the Texas Rangers Continue reading

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Showering In Front of Richard Nixon

Is There A Better Way To Start Your Day Than Standing Naked In Front of Richard Nixon?

You never know what you’ll come across at the Stormville (NY) Airport flea market. Every time I think I’ve seen everything I get a sober reminder that I haven’t.

Who knew that a company actually marketed and sold a Richard Nixon shower head?

Can you think of anything less appealing than getting up every day, stepping into the shower and stand naked in front of a likeness of Richard Nixon as he sprays water on you? Continue reading

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Old New York In Photos #79 – Broadway & 79th Street c. 1890

This Pastoral Scene Is Broadway and 79th Street

While the quality of this photograph is far from perfect, we thought it was unusual enough to share.

With laundry hanging off a clothesline, a horse grazing near the front door of a tree filled yard, this bucolic area is Bloomingdale, near the corner of the Boulevard and 79th Street. At least that is what is written on the back of the circa 1890 photo.

As you may know, The Boulevard was the continuation of Broadway above 59th Street.

Robinson’s Atlas of New York City 1885

Checking Robinson’s Atlas of New York City from 1885, I’ve tried to figure out where this house stood and what direction the photograph was taken from.

The atlas key is as follows: structures shaded in yellow are made of wood, pink are brick and brown are stone. We can see our three story house is made of wood. In the background on the right there is another building. But which of these buildings fits the description?

The authoritative book on the Bloomingdale area (the Dutch name for Valley of the Flowers) is The New York of Yesterday (1908) by Hopper Striker Mott. According to Mott, the house that was nearest that site was the van den Heuvel homestead a two story stone and wood home built approximately in 1759.

The end is near for the former van den Heuvel / Burnham mansion c. 1905 photo: Robert Bracklow NYHS

Sometime in the early 19th century the van den Heuvel home had an additional story added after a fire destroyed the original slanted roof. Continue reading

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6 Uncorrected Baseball Card Errors

Topps Made A Mistake

When you produce thousands of baseball cards over many decades you’re going to make some mistakes. Eagle-eyed baseball card collectors usually catch the errors. They would then write in to Topps baseball card company and sometimes the cards would get corrected.  Some mistakes were pretty obvious and could have been caught and corrected.

None of these were.

For a couple of these cards, if you are an old time baseball fan, you might recognize what the mistake is. For the others it takes a sharp eye. See if you can spot the mistake on each of these cards.

First our lead photo of the 1957 Topps Hank Aaron card. The mistake is not that his proper name is Henry, not Hank. Look closely.

Second, the 1969 Topps Larry Haney card. The Seattle Pilots lasted only one season before moving to Milwaukee and becoming the Brewers. Haney’s error is difficult to discern.

Third up is the 1959 Topps card of 1957 World Series pitching star, Lew Burdette. Lew looks pretty serious doesn’t he?

Fourth is the man who is probably better known for the surgery named after him rather than his pitching career. Tommy John won 288 games. This is his 1969 Topps card.

Claude Raymond’s 1966 Topps card poses him looking up at something. Should he really be looking up?

Before Billy Martin’s multiple managing stints with the Yankees, he was the manager of the Detroit Tigers and before that the Minnesota Twins. This is his 1972 Topps card.

So what are the errors that Topps didn’t catch and never bothered to correct?

The first card of Hank Aaron is probably the easiest error to spot. The print is reversed. Look at Aaron’s uniform number 44. Most people know the great slugger batted right handed, not left.

Next, you probably wouldn’t pay much attention to Larry Haney’s card. It shows the catcher posed ready to catch a ball.  Ardent students of the game know that almost no left handed catchers have ever played major league baseball. No, Haney is not the exception, once again, Topps reversed the negative. It is the same photo Topps used of Haney for his 1968 card except they got that one right.

With Lew Burdette’s card, one mistake is right in print and it is not a big deal. It is “Lew,” not “Lou.” But that is not the big error. Lew Burdette had a sense of humor. He asked his teammate and future Hall-of-Fame pitcher Warren Spahn if he could borrow his glove. That would be fine except that Spahn was a lefty and Burdette was a righty. Many children wrote to Topps in 1959 informing them of the “mistake.” Continue reading

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It Can’t Happen Here. Can It?

Rainbow’s Apocalyptic Song 36 Years Later –

It’s Easy To Believe That Someone’s Gonna Light The Fuse

Hard rock band Rainbow’s lyrics, usually evoke the mystical or tongue in cheek double entendre imagery.

But one song, Can’t Happen Here from the album 1981 Difficult To Cure still resonates with issues that are as relevant today as the day the song was written in 1981.

With music by guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and lyrics by bass player Roger Glover, Can’t Happen Here asks the ultimate question: Is it possible someone will push the button and bring on Armageddon?

The lyrics:

Can’t Happen Here
(Blackmore, Glover © 1981)

Contaminated fish and micro chips
Huge supertankers on Arabian trips
Oily propaganda from the leaders’ lips
All about the future
There’s people over here people over there
Everybody’s looking for a little more air
Crossing all the borders just to take their share
Heading for the future

And we’re so abused and we’re so confused
It’s easy to believe that someone’s gonna light the fuse

Can’t happen here, can’t happen here, all that you fear they’re telling you, can’t happen here

Supersonic planes for a holiday boom
Rio de Janeiro in an afternoon
There’s people out of work but there’s people on the moon
Looking for the future
Concrete racetracks nationwide
Juggernauts are carving up the countryside
Cars by the million on a one way ride
Using up the future Continue reading

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