Category Archives: New York

Old New York In Photos #89 – The Flatiron Building Nears Completion 1902

A Previously Unpublished View Of The Flatiron Building 1902

There is nothing extraordinary about this photo of old New York. But because it is previously unpublished and taken by an amateur photographer at an interesting time, we’re sharing it here.

This sepia photograph is from an old personal photo album and was taken sometime in the summer of 1902. It shows the Flatiron Building as it neared completion. The scaffolding had been removed at the end of June 1902. If you look carefully you can see a sign in front of the building announcing space for rent.

The Flatiron Building is located at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway at 23rd Street. When it was completed it was not the tallest building in New York at 307 feet, but the slenderest and most aquiline. It was, and still is considered by many to be the most remarkable building in New York. In 1902, hundreds of people would stop and just stare at the building for five or ten minutes. Then many of them would move to a slightly different  vantage point and continue looking at the building with amazement. Continue reading

What Was In A New York Newspaper 100 Years Ago – June 16, 1918

A Look Back At What Was In The New York Tribune Newspaper 100 Years Ago, June 16, 1918

Immigrant Aliens, Child Labor and Of Course Entertainment

What was occurring 100 Years Ago? The Fairbanks Twins and Lillian Lorraine were about to appear in The Ziegfeld Follies of 1918 at The New Amsterdam Theatre.

It’s interesting to see what newspapers of the past contained. 100 years ago, June 16, 1918 the Great War (World War I) was still raging and battle news dominated the news. What else would you see in the newspaper as far as local matters?

Here are seven of the things I thought were worth highlighting from The New York Tribune. Click on any image to read the entire story.

The hostility towards immigrants who are not citizens has always existed. During World War I anti-German sentiment ran high. The government required that all alien (non-citizen) German women 14 and older register at their local police stations, take a loyalty oath and provide five photographs of themselves! Women who failed to register would be arrested and severely punished.

German women register with police

It seems like paranoia, but German espionage and sabotage were a real threat during the war. But usually the reason an entire group gets demonized is because they are an easy target when the populace gets inflamed. One man took matters into his own hands printing 3,000 signs to be distributed at shops along Fifth Avenue declaring, “Speaking of German Prohibited On These Premises.” The unnamed man ran out of signs within walking three blocks. Volunteers grabbed as many as they could to help pass them out. The thinking was this will “Americanize” those Germans.

There would be a big uproar if someone tried to do something similar today pointing the finger at any ethnic group, even when we are at war, which by the way, we still are. The never-ending “war on terrorism.” The language those barbarians who commit terrorist acts doesn’t matter, does it?

German language prohibited

You could say lawyer Albert W. Gray was henpecked, but the things Mrs. Gray did are a little more extreme than henpecking. Mrs. Gray made poor Albert account for every penny he spent and explain every moment and movement he made. Mr Gray had 11 years of being told when to wake, eat and sleep, before deserting his overbearing spouse. Mrs. Gray in her separation decree said if she only knew her husband was unhappy she would have changed her system of housekeeping!

Wife controlled every aspect of husband’s existence

The Tribune reprinted a whole page from the San Antonio, TX based Kelly Field military newspaper. Continue reading

The New York Rules Of Etiquette 120 Years Ago

The Extremely Formal & Somewhat Strange Greetings and Salutation Rules Of New York City Etiquette In 1899

A gentleman opens a door for a strange lady, holds it open with one hand and lifts his hat
with the other, while she passes through in advance of him. He always offers her the precedence; but he does it silently, and without resting his gaze upon her, as if he would say,
” You are a lady and I am a gentleman. I am polite for both our sakes. You may be young
and charming, or you may be old and ugly; it is all the same to me. I have not looked at you
to discern, but I am certain that you are a lady.” –  Social Etiquette of New York – Abby Buchanan Longstreet (D. Appleton & Co. – 1899)

“Ladies and gentlemen.” We’ve heard those words countless times, but what is it to be a lady or a gentleman? A century ago it applied to people who followed proper etiquette.

A society dinner c.1899

In the 19th and early 20th century etiquette was taken pretty seriously by some Americans. It was a time when etiquette meant proper behavior, civility and deportment. Manners and politeness were taken to heart.  The rigid rules and lessons were adhered to not just by wealthy society, but those who aspired to be true “ladies” and “gentlemen.”

If you were unsure of certain situational  behavior, scores of books were written on etiquette. Some books specifically concentrated on New York City etiquette.

“Everything which refines the habits of a people ennobles it, and hence the importance of
furnishing to the public all possible aids to superior manners.”

The sentiments are those of the doyenne of proper behavior,  Abigail Buchanan Longstreet (1833-1899) who wrote a number of books on good manners during the 19th century.

Longstreet’s book, written anonymously, Social Etiquette of New York, went through many editions and revisions between 1879 -1899, the year of  Longstreet’s death.

Depending on how you look at it,  you will see these rules as antiquated nonsense or quaint and dignified guidelines that are delightful to contemplate.

Today almost all of these forms of etiquette have been completely discarded or heavily modified.

Here are just a few of the rules for greetings and salutations. From the rules of Social Etiquette in  New York:

A gentleman always lifts his hat when offering a service to a lady, whether he is acquainted with her or not. It may be the restoration of her dropped kerchief, or fan, the receiving of her money to pass it to the cash-box of a car, the opening of her umbrella as she descends from a carriage — all the same ; he lifts it before he offers his service, or during the courtesy, if possible. She bows, and, if she choose, she also smiles her acknowledgment ; but she does the latter faintly, and she does not speak. To say ” Thank you ! ” is not an excess of acknowledgment, but it has ceased to be etiquette. A bow may convey more gratitude than speech.

Two ladies may extend hands to each other, and so also may two gentlemen, although hand-shaking is not so common as formerly. Continue reading

Incredible Film Footage Of Yankee Stadium On Opening Day 1931 With Sound!

The Sights & Sounds Of Yankee Stadium 1931 – Yankees vs. Red Sox

What follows is a rare and amazing 14 minutes of film.

Yankee Stadium on opening day April 14, 1931. Yankees versus the Red Sox. Happenings before and during the game.

What makes it so unusual is that the film crew was experimenting with syncing the sound to the action. So there are microphones recording what was being said or the resonant sounds of baseball. The players don’t quite know what to say when asked to speak. The natural sounds of the ballpark are just so different from today.

Batting practice with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Mayor Jimmy Walker throws out the first ball. An IRT train passes and stops beyond the left field bleachers. Everyone in the stands is well dressed as you’d expect. Large signs remind everyone that “Betting is prohibited.”

The lack of technology is pure pleasure. The advertising is on billboards same as now, but no ads or deafening music being blasted from speakers.  Your visual senses are not assaulted by a jumbotron. Fans look at the field, no distractions.

No P.A. system. A guy with a megaphone comes out and announces each team’s battery – a term rarely used today – for pitcher and catcher.

Then there is not only a patriotic marching band entertaining fans, but all the players from both teams march along with the band.

The game itself is great to see, but the things you notice while the game is going on seem so foreign to a modern viewing audience. Continue reading

Alexander Hamilton, The Grange & A Dubious Story Of 13 Trees

Alexander Hamilton’s Final New York Home, The Grange & The Mythical Legend Of Its 13 Trees

With A Description Of Hamilton’s Grange In 1872

Alexander Hamilton’s home, The Grange as it appeared in 1872. print: Appleton’s Journal

In New York City where “preservation” can be a dirty word, an impediment standing in the way of “progress,” it is miraculous that Alexander Hamilton’s home, The Grange, still exists.

Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton and the subsequent smash musical Hamilton by Lin Manuel Miranda, spurred an awareness and appreciation to a long dead founding father. Alexander Hamilton has been firmly reestablished in the pantheon of great Americans.

1867 New York City Atlas showing original location of Alexander Hamilton’s home The Grange

Alexander Hamilton’s original property of about 30 acres once stretched from about Tenth (Amsterdam) Avenue to St. Nicholas Avenue and from 138th to 145th Street. Hamilton’s Grange built between 1801 and 1802, had been threatened with demolition many times over its 200 plus year existence. The Grange was moved from its original location, not once, but twice.

As described in an 1872 Appleton’s article (reprinted at the end of our story), the author takes note that the house had survived late into the 19th century and should continue well into the 20th century.

“(The Grange) is constructed in the most substantial manner, and is good for a century yet, if the exigencies of city improvement do not demand its destruction.”

Those exigencies did arise a few years later. Hamilton’s home was first moved a couple of blocks south and a half block east in 1889. Real estate development had the Grange in the path of the street grid, laid out in 1811,  which had slowly but steadily worked its way north to upper Manhattan.

Thirteen “Union” Trees Planted By Hamilton print: Appleton’s Journal

After the move the Grange remained safe for the time being, but there was the matter of its famous group of trees, supposedly planted by Alexander Hamilton. The story was recounted by the Appleton’s article:

“A grove of thirteen stately gum-trees on the lawn in front of the mansion, which were planted by General Hamilton in token of the union and perpetuity of the thirteen original States of the republic. The beautiful star-like leaf of this tree rendered it peculiarly appropriate for the purpose.”

By March 1892 the Amos Cotting estate which now owned the parcel of land where the trees stood at Amsterdam Avenue and Convent Avenue between 142nd and 143rd Streets was set to be auctioned off. Destruction of the trees seemed imminent.

Wealthy businessman Orlando B. Potter bought the tracts of land where the trees stood for $140,500 and vowed to preserve the grove.

There was only one problem which seems to have escaped most historians notice, even up to this day – the trees were probably not planted by Alexander Hamilton. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #88 – 14th Street & 6th Ave. c. 1905

The 14th Street Store of Henry Siegel – 14th St. & 6th Ave c. 1905

    

These two photographs were taken by the Detroit Photographic Co. on the same day, likely minutes apart. They show Henry Siegel’s 14th Street Store (1904-1914) and the Sixth Avenue Elevated Railroad looking towards the southeast corner of Sixth Avenue and 14th Street.

There is much to see, especially when zooming in on the details by clicking to enlarge the photos.

Besides the orientation of landscape versus portrait there are slight but noticeable differences in the two photos.

In the first photo at the 14th Street elevated station the northbound passengers wait for the next train and all sorts of advertising can be seen along the station walls.

On top of the southbound station, a man is painting the roof with two cans of paint, one in front of him, the other behind him. In the other photo the painter is not in frame, but both cans of paint are near one another.

    

On the fourth floor of the store, two women appear to be watching the photographer as he set up to take his picture. The window openings are in the exact same position as the other photo, but the women are gone. Continue reading

The Empire State Building Opened On This Day – 1931

The Empire State Building Opens May 1, 1931

You probably won’t recognize this building unfortunately, though it is certainly New York’s most famous landmark. Every sightseer who has studied it up close will know it’s the Empire State Building. credit: Acme 9/7/51

There are not many 87-year-olds that look this good.

The remarkable Empire State Building may no longer be the tallest building in the world or New York City for that matter, but it still is one of the most iconic and beautiful.

The Empire State Building opened May 1, 1931. Dedicating the Empire State Building, President Herbert Hoover pressed a symbolic button in the White House that put on all the lights in the building.  (A worker in New York actually turned on the lights.)

Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #87 – East 69th Street 1931

69th Street Looking East From First Avenue – 1931

This is an ordinary view of an ordinary street, East 69th Street taken on April 4, 1931 from the northeast corner of First Avenue. But even though it is ordinary, there is a lot to notice.

Still under construction at the end of 69th Street and York Avenue are the art deco inspired buildings of New York Hospital-Cornell Medical College. The hospital began construction in 1929 and was opened in September 1932. What had previously been the site of the Central Brewing Company and some row houses, became the home of buildings that housed New York Hospital, Cornell University Medical College, New York Hospital School of Nursing, and the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic.

On the right side of 69th street is the Roman Catholic Church of St. Catherine of Siena. The church had been located there since 1897 and was soon to be demolished. The congregation moved to a new building on East 68th Street in 1932.

Even with the paucity of pedestrians and traffic on 69th Street, there is activity near the church. Continue reading

Natural Beauty In Green-Wood Cemetery

Photographs Of Green-Wood Cemetery & Nature

Late autumn at Green-Wood Cemetery

Besides the tombstones, monuments and mausoleums in Green-Wood Cemetery there is an abundance of natural beauty.

These photographs were taken over the past few years. (click on any to enlarge.)Many of the plantings near the old monuments and obelisks are carefully cultivated.

Other bucolic views have developed naturally over 170 years.

William Williams elaborate Celtic cross is behind these flowers.

A lonely winter scene in which Stephen Whitney’s large mausoleum dominates the top of the hill.

Two roads converge here and a tree canopy forms a natural tunnel.

When the trees are in bloom, it is an amazing sight.

Many of the roadways are lined with trees like this.

A setting fit for eternity. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #86 – The End Of The Classic Lower Manhattan Skyline c. 1956

Lower Manhattan’s Classic Skyline Seen Aerially From Battery Park c. 1956

And What Became of It

Classic lower Manhattan skyline before the late 1950s transformation. Battery Park is in the foreground. (c.1956)

Every time I’m in Brooklyn and gaze across the East River at the lower Manhattan skyline I feel I’m looking at a city I don’t recognize.

It’s not because I’m old, but it might be because the buildings that have been going up since the late 1950s are cut from the same mold, glass sheathed pinnacles with no flourishes, adornments or personality.

For the first half of the twentieth century, when you came upon New York whether by ship, train or car and got your first glimpse of the skyline you knew you were coming into New York City.

For a native New Yorker coming upon New York today, you may as well be entering the architectural equivalent of the Mall of America, any-city USA. Examples sprout up everywhere of New York’s architectural monstrosities, ugly and tall for the sake of being tall.

Classic lower Manhattan skyline form Brooklyn waterfront in the 1930s. photo: Acme

Commercial Cable Building

The skyline of lower Manhattan had remained pretty much static from 1931 through 1957 Continue reading