Tag Archives: New York History

The “Prince” Who New York’s Prince Street Is Named After

Was New York’s Prince Street’s Name Derived From Royalty?

Prince Street Bromley & Robinson 1879 Atlas of New York

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

Old New York In Photos #110 – Bootblacks By City Hall Park During An Historic 1863 Moment

A Group Of New York Bootblacks At City Hall Park – July 1863

Bootblacks and other child workers New York City Hall posters theater advertisements 1863

A group of eight bootblack boys line up near City Hall for this stereoview photograph.

Taken by the pioneering stereoview firm of E. & H.T. Anthony of 501 Broadway, the view is entitled, “Brigade Of De Shoe Black, City Hall Park.” There is no date attached to the photo, yet, the timing of this photograph is of historical significance. How do we know?

The fence behind the boys is covered with broadsheets advertising several theatrical productions.

From the information on the advertisements we can narrow down the date the photo is from. Continue reading

Birds-Eye View Of New York 1870

A Panoramic View of Lower Manhattan Including The Unbuilt Brooklyn Bridge

Lower Manhattan Harper's Weekly 1870 Brooklyn BridgeOur view is from the November 19, 1870 Harper’s Weekly.  Entitled, “Bird’s-eye view of the southern end of New York and Brooklyn showing the projected suspension bridge and East River from the western terminus in printing house square, New York.”

That long title reflects a fairly accurate view of New York, Brooklyn and surrounding area drawn by Theodore R Davis. Marine traffic crowds the river and piers with ferries, paddle-wheelers, steamships, schooners and sloops of all descriptions. The building of the bridge would slightly alleviate this nautical congestion.

Construction on the bridge began on January 2, 1870.  Continue reading

Book Review – The Finest Building In America The New York Crystal Palace

The New York Crystal Palace Gave Americans A Building To Be Proud Of

burrows finest building in americaOn 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

New York Holds A Party For George Washington In 1889

 New York Celebrates The Washington Centennial 1889

Washington Centennial 1889 Union Square

Horse drawn floats make their way through Union Square celebrating the Washington Centennial in New York City May 1, 1889 – illustration Harper’s Weekly May 11, 1889

For the first year and a half while President, George  Washington was a New Yorker. Washington took the oath of office in New York City in 1789 and lived at 3 Cherry Street during his Presidency until 1790 when he moved to Philadelphia. Vice -President John Adams lived at 133 Broadway. Congress met in New York and the city was the center of the Federal government. Continue reading

A List Of 59 “Really Interesting” Books About New York City Compiled In 1936

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

Idiot or Autistic? New York’s 19th Century “Idiot Asylum”

New York’s Idiot Asylum Was A School / Prison For Children Who Were Often Not “Idiots”

The New York Asylum for Idiots Report 1867 coverWithout discussing the question how far down in the scale of idiocy the work of education can practicably go, this much may be said: that some idiots are teachable to an extent which will fully compensate for the amount of labor involved in their instruction. These certainly should be cared for by the State.

It will be seen by the report of the Superintendent, that according to the last census, there were in the State, 303 idiots under 15 years of age. No one can examine these returns without being convinced that the actual number is at least double the number so returned. Were only a third of these fit subjects for management and training in a public institution, even then it is obvious that the present provision made by the State falls short of their needs.

– from the 1867 Sixteenth Annual report of the New York Asylum for Idiots: transmitted to the Legislature, January 17, 1867

Today it would be politically incorrect to label anyone with mental disabilities or deficiencies as an idiot. The word mentally retarded has also fallen out of common usage.

Idiot.

Imbecile.

Moron.

In the early 20th century these words took on new psychiatric meaning, which has since been expunged from the nomenclature of psychiatry. In the 19th century those words were pretty much interchangeable for anyone considered mentally deficient or inherently stupid.

What Do We Do With “Idiots”?

The study and understanding of psychology and medical conditions related to learning and developmental disorders was virtually nonexistent before the 20th century. In a large state like New York, a facility was developed at public expense to deal with so-called idiots. Hence came the “Idiot Asylum.”

The Idiot Asylum Syracuse NY circa 1860Often parents couldn’t understand why a child wasn’t speaking. paying attention, responding to social cues, or learning like other children. Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #20 – Hotels Of The Past On The Upper West Side

Old New York Hotels Of The Upper West Side from 70th – 86th Streets

Hotel MAjestic 72nd St Central Park WestFor the past 150 years New York has had a thriving hotel industry. With real estate prices continually rising in Manhattan, more new hotels are opening now in Queens and Brooklyn.

The Plaza, The Waldorf Astoria and the St. Regis have over a century of  history. Those hostelry’s are the exception to longevity. Many of New York’s hotels are constantly in flux with ownership and name changes. Often smaller hotels have gone out of business because the real estate they sat upon was too valuable. Developers acquire the hotel and surrounding parcels and the hotel passes into history. Other times the buildings are spiffied up after years of neglect and converted from hotels to apartments.

Here are some views of the upper west side’s hotels of the past.

Hotel Emerson 75th Street off BroadwayThe Hotel Emerson at 166 West 75th Street off Broadway was a 300 room 16 story hotel opened in 1922, designed by Robert Lyons. In 1959 it became the Hotel Lincoln Square. The building has been remodeled and turned into rental apartments and is now named the Amstrdm. (That’s right, they cut out some vowels.) Continue reading

The General Slocum Disaster – 115 Years Ago Today

The General Slocum Steamship Disaster Wiped Out Entire Families – June 15, 1904

The New York Evening World General Slocum Cover June 15 1904 headline Over 1.000 Dead115 years ago today, a penny brought you news of a  massive calamity. It was a disaster unlike any other that had ever occurred in New York City.

Earlier that day, June 15, 1904, the General Slocum excursion boat caught fire. Women and children who comprised the majority of the passengers, were burned alive or drowned.

As news filtered in to the newspapers, the death toll continued to mount. The number of victims would rise from hundreds to over 1,000. Continue reading