Tag Archives: Metropolitan Life Insurance Company

Old New York in Postcards #3

A Tale of Three Buildings: Franconi’s Hippodrome, The Fifth Avenue Hotel & The Fifth Avenue Building a.k.a. The Toy Center

The west side of Fifth Avenue between 23rd and 24th streets had been country land well into the middle of the 19th century. The land for many years had been occupied by a quaint tavern and horse changing station.

Franconi’s Hippodrome- Fifth Avenue 23rd -24th Streets (click to enlarge)

On this site in March 1853, Henri Franconi, a European from a long line of equestrian performers, arranged with investors to have an amphitheater built which was then called Franconi’s Hippodrome. This precursor of the modern day circus with performers, animals and chariot races was housed in a large structure shaped like an ellipse and was 338  feet by 196 1/2 feet that could seat 10,000 people and was covered by a red, white and blue canvas supported by a center pole 70 feet in height and a circle of smaller poles 40 feet in height.

It opened on Monday, May 2, 1853, and The New York Daily Times was not impressed with the class of people attending the Hippodrome shows. Attendees they said “…were blacklegs, gamblers, rowdies, and the miscellanea of polite roguery and blackguardism.”  The reporter added “The Hippodrome is badly conducted and Continue reading

One of the Strangest Deaths in New York’s History

Girls Chase A Boy to Give Him Birthday Kisses and He Dies

There is a book called Woodlawn Remembers: Cemetery of American History by Edward F. Bergman (North County Books, 1988.)  The book is mostly comprised of beautiful full page color and black & white photographs of monuments, tombstones and mausoleums with one page of text describing each person profiled.  The cemetery is located in the northern part of the Bronx and is on my shortlist of unusual places I recommend to visit in New York.

The book is fascinating to be sure. It covers many of the interesting and important historical figures at Woodlawn. But one story not mentioned, is the life and death of George Millet (misspelled as George Millitt by The New York Times in the story at the end of this article) who is interred at the cemetery.  The story is briefly recounted in Permanent New Yorkers A Biographical Guide To The Cemeteries of New York by Judi Culbertson and Tom Randall (Chelsea Green 1987.) This book contains photographs too, but has more detailed biographies than Woodlawn Remembers. It also covers the entire New York area, not just focusing on the two most famous New York cemeteries Woodlawn and  Greenwood. I highly recommend both of these out of print books.

It was February 15, 1909 and Millet must have been a very good looking boy, because when the girls he worked with at The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company found out that it was his 15th birthday, they all insisted on giving him a kiss.

Unfortunately while trying to avoid this avid throng of young women, he accidentally fell on a knife ink eraser and died.

The stenographer, Gertrude Robbins, who was arrested, was released soon after it was confirmed that it was an accident. The coroner exonerated her officially two weeks later.

Here below is the story from the February 16, 1909 New York Times, the tombstone, and the February 16, 1909 story from The Evening Sun (click on each to enlarge), proving that truth is stranger than fiction.

photo credit: www.cartoonbrew.com/ideas-commentary/looney-tombs.html