More New York Illustrations From Around 1870
Part II – Familiar Names – Vanished Sites
We continue our look at New York of 150 years ago from Reverend J.F. Richmond’s New York and Its Institutions 1609-1871 (E.B. Treat; 1871).
The names may be familiar, but possibly not the building or site.
While Central Park has remained a constant presence in New York City for over 160 years, it has constantly changed.
There were always developers looking to infringe upon the park with buildings and schemes. A fair portion of Central Park has managed to keep its original spirit, but many of its early additions have changed or no longer exist.
The Children’s Playground in Central Park. There was no “Great Lawn” when Central Park was built. The Great Lawn opened in 1937, the result of filling in one of the two receiving reservoirs located within the park. The Central Park Playground seen above is an open field where children can play within its great expanse. This section was located in the southern end of the park, now site of the Heckscher playground and ballfields. Continue reading
Illustrations Of New York As Seen By Artists Around 1870
Part I – Demolished & Mostly Forgotten
Demolition of anything old goes on every day without regard for New York’s history. I believe a day will come when all the pre-20th century buildings not given landmark protection will be gone. Demolished in the name of progress. Real estate values rule, not history values. That’s always been the way of New York.
When a historic structure like The St. Denis Hotel is obliterated instead of renovated it is a shame.
I see more and more ordinary tenement and commercial buildings falling at an astonishing rate. So I look around trying to see vestiges of things my great-grandparents might have known and been familiar with.
What did they see?
Recently I took out my copy of Reverend J.F. Richmond’s New York and Its Institutions 1609-1871 (E.B. Treat; 1871) and started to re-read it. I had forgotten how many excellent illustrations were in the book. Belying the name, New York and Its Institutions is not solely focused only upon hospitals, asylum, charity and worship facilities. The book thoroughly covers other important sites and buildings with their respective histories. Though it was not written as a guide book, it essentially is one.
What my ancestors saw were these historic buildings which are now not even memories to most New Yorkers, most having been taken down over a hundred years ago,
Let’s take a look at what New York City looked like around 1871 and take in what the visitor and native New Yorker would have seen.
Part I – Buildings No Longer In Existence
Very few lamented the loss of the old Post Office at the corner of Nassau and Liberty Street – — until they saw what replaced it in 1875.
The Grand Central Hotel stood on the west side of Broadway opposite Bond Street between Amity and Bleecker Street. Illegal alterations caused a major collapse of the Broadway facade on August 3, 1973. Incredibly only four people were killed. The remaining section of the hotel was soon demolished. Continue reading
Was New York’s Prince Street’s Name Derived From Royalty?
Some of the original names given to the streets of New York when under Dutch and English rule have survived to the present day.
Many streets owe their name to local landmarks or the aristocracy and heroes of 17th and 18th century New York, including Delancey Street, Duane Street and Houston Street named after James De Lancey, James Duane and William Houstoun. Continue reading
The New York Crystal Palace Gave Americans A Building To Be Proud Of
On the site of the future Bryant Park on 42nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues stood The New York Crystal Palace. It was only there for a little more than five years. Built of cast iron, timber and glass the building was unlike anything previously built in America.
Edwin G. Burrows book, “The Finest Building in America The New York Crystal Palace 1853-1858” Oxford; (2018), is a short, entertaining account of the impact the building and the wonders displayed inside, had on the city. Continue reading
These 59 Books About New York City Were Recommended To Anyone Who Was Considering Working For The City
In 1936 New York librarian Rebecca Rankin was asked to compile a list of books with good stories which have New York as a background by the Municipal Service Commission. Along with Miriam Mayer of the Municipal Library, the two came up with a list of hundreds of good books that they would recommend to anyone considering working for the city. Continue reading
While rare books abound at the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair, you can spend as little as $10 for something very readable and collectable.
Or you can plunk down as much as $85,000 and walk away happy with your purchase. The Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair, going six years strong, is currently at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint, 72 Noble Street.
Greenpoint, if you haven’t been there recently, is worth the trip alone. It is hip and revitalized with many unique shops and trendy restaurants filled with customers. The pubs in the area lure you with sweet aromas of barley and hops with their Brooklyn craft beers. Flea markets are nearby and you have great views from the waterfront.
Getting back to the fair, I didn’t spend $85,000 which was the asking price of a magnificent first edition copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Continue reading
Book Review: Maverick In Mauve The Diary Of a Romantic Age
Lifelong New Yorker, Florence Adele Sloane kept a diary from 1893 – 1896. That in itself is not unusual. What is out of the ordinary is that the diary covers Florence’s life from the age of 19 through 23 and her observations on life and her surroundings are written with astute wisdom beyond her years. Continue reading
Postcard Views 1910 – 1949 & A Short History Of Chinese Restaurants In New York City
Along with Chinese immigration to the United States in the 1850s, came Chinese food. It wasn’t long before Americans took a liking to the transoceanic cuisine. The Chinese population in New York City was only 747 in 1880. By 1900 it had grown to 6,321.
There “are eight thriving Chinese restaurants that can prepare a Chinese dinner in New York, almost with the same skill as at the famous Dan Quay Cha Yuen (Delmonico’s) of Shanghai or Canton,” according to Wong Chin Foo in the October 1888 Current Literature Magazine. With only one day off, Chinese patrons, usually working as laundrymen, would crowd the Chinese restaurants on Sunday’s.
Robert Underwood Johnson Tells Of New York In 1873 and How It Changed Over 50 Years
Everything today seems to be moving at the speed of light. Changes of all sorts have greatly altered our everyday living in ways that might have been unimaginable 20 or even 10 years ago.
Some might argue there was more change at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century than there is today. All the people who lived through and witnessed that change are long dead. Maybe if you heard it from someone first hand, it might make a greater impression upon you.
Fortunately we have people like Robert Underwood Johnson (1853-1937) who put down his memories in his book, Remembered Yesterdays (Little, Brown & Co., 1923) which serves as a living time capsule of that period.
Johnson was a long time editor at The Century Magazine, a leading monthly periodical which covered news art and literature. Johnson also wrote regularly for Scribner’s Magazine. Along with John Muir, Johnson was one of the main forces behind the creation of Yosemite National Park. Johnson personally knew every major personage imaginable during his lifetime and his memoir reflects that.
What I found particularly interesting was a brief chapter entitled “New York in the 70’s” (meaning the 1870s). In that chapter, Johnson compares the New York City he arrived in, in 1873 with the present (1923).
This is what had occurred over 50 years. Below is an excerpt from the book:
A STUDY IN CONTRASTS
LOOKING back it is difficult to identify the New York of that time, just beginning to feel its strength, with the brilliant metropolis of to-day. Think of the points of contrast! In 1873 there were no electric lights, no skyscrapers, no trolleys, no blazing, twirling or winking signs and thus, of course, no Great White Way, Broadway being preéminently the street of business and there being little or no shopping on the cross streets above Fourteenth. Continue reading