New Amsterdam in 1671, via Wiki Commons
New York is the largest Latino city in the United States. Over 2.4 million New Yorkers, or nearly one third of the population, identify as Hispanic or Latino. The city’s thriving Latin community marks the most recent chapter in the history of Latin New York, which stretches over 400 years.
In the spring of 1613, Juan Rodriguez (also known as Jan Rodrigues), a free mixed-race Dominican man from Santo Domingo, became the first non-Native American person to live in what would become New York City. He arrived aboard a Dutch trading vessel, declined to leave with the rest of the crew, and stayed on until 1614, as a fur trader. Rodriguez’s settlement pre-dates the first settlers of New Amsterdam by a full 11 years, making him the first immigrant, the first black person, the first merchant, and the first Latino to live in New York City.
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When the Piccirilli Brothers arrived in New York from Italy in 1888, they brought with them a skill– artistry and passion for stone-carving unrivaled in the United States. At their studio at 467 East 142nd Street, in the Mott Haven Section of the Bronx, the brothers turned monumental slabs of marble into some of the nation’s recognizable icons, including the senate pediment of the US Capitol Building and the statue of Abraham Lincoln that sits resolutely in the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall.
The Piccirillis not only helped set our national narrative in stone but they also left an indelible mark on New York City. They carved hundreds of commissions around the five boroughs, including the 11 figures in the pediment of the New York Stock exchange, the “four continents” adorning the Customs House at Bowling Green, the two stately lions that guard the New York Public Library, both statues of George Washington for the Arch at Washington Square, and upwards of 500 individual carvings at Riverside Church.
Chisel away at this tale
Roger Horne, a Mohawk Ironworker in the Raising Gang, ca. 1970 via the Smithsonian
The Empire State Building. The George Washington Bridge. The United Nations. The Woolworth Building. 30 Rock. The Seagram Building. Lincoln Center. The Waldorf Astoria. Virtually all of New York’s most iconic structures were raised in part by Mohawk Native American ironworkers. Since 1916, when Mohawk men made their way to New York to work on the Hell Gate Bridge, ironworkers from two Native communities, Akwesasne (which straddles Ontario, Quebec, and New York State) and Kahnawake (near Montreal), have been “walking iron” across the city.
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Photo by Tia Richards for 6sqft
Coinciding with the 170th Anniversary of the Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention, members of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund unveiled on Thursday the official design of the first statue of non-fictional women in Central Park. Designed by Meredith Bergmann, the sculpture includes both legible text and a writing scroll that represents the arguments that both women — and their fellow suffragists — fought for. There is also a digital scroll, which will be available online, where visitors are encouraged to join the ongoing conversation. The sculpture of Stanton and Anthony will be dedicated in Central Park on August 18, 2020, marking the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote nationwide.
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Historic Hunterfly Road Houses via the Brooklyn Historical Society
It’s a mighty sounding moniker, but the name “King’s County” also speaks to Brooklyn’s less-than-democratic origins. At the turn of the 19th century, the city of Brooklyn was known as the “slaveholding capital” of New York State and was home to the highest concentration of enslaved people north of the Mason-Dixon Line. But, after New York State abolished slavery in 1827, free black professionals bought land in what is now Crown Heights and founded Weeksville, a self-supporting community of African American Freedman, which grew to become the second-largest free black community in Antebellum America. By 1855, over 520 free African Americans lived in Weeksville, including some of the leading activists in the Abolitionist and Equal Suffrage movements.
More about free black Brooklyn
On June 24, 1936, thousands of Lower East Siders turned out for a spectacle the likes of which New York had never seen. They jammed Hamilton Fish Park, filled Pitt Street, and perched on surrounding fire-escapes and rooftops to get a glimpse. With great fanfare (and the swim stylings of the Jones Beach Water Troupe) Mayor La Guardia and Parks Commissioner Robert Moses officially opened Hamilton Fish Pool. The dedication kicked off New York’s “Summer of Pools.” One by one, for each week of the summer, 11 gleaming outdoor pools, financed and built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), opened in underserved neighborhoods across the city, providing recreation and relief to millions of heat-addled, Depression-strapped New Yorkers.
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Eleven blocks of Rockaway Beach will be closed this summer due to erosion, but that’s just one setback in a long history of resilience on the peninsula. Four-and-a-half miles of the beach are open right now, with every block steeped in history. The Rockaways ushered Henry Hudson into the New World; Walt Whitman into paradise; Hog Island into oblivion; and the Transatlantic Flight into existence.
As “the brightest jewel within the diadem of imperial Manhattan,” the pristine beaches of the “Queens Riviera” became the preferred summer locale for New York’s most illustrious citizens. Later, the “people’s beach” at Riis Park helped make the Rockaways accessible to more New Yorkers. From, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, to Patti Smith to Robert Mosses, everybody wanted to be at Rockaway Beach.
Get the full history here
Photo via Jeffrey Zeldman/Flickr
The New York Public Library first roared into existence on May 23, 1895, educating and inspiring countless millions, free of charge. The Library’s 92 locations include four research divisions and hold over 51 million items. Out of all these tomes, the greatest tale might be Library’s own history: Founded by immigrants and industrialists, it was equally admired by William Howard Taft and Vladimir Lenin; open to all, it has counted among its staff American Olympians and Soviet spies; dedicated to intellectual exploration and civic responsibility, it has made its map collection available to buried treasure hunters and Allied Commanders; evolving with the city itself, it has made branch locations out of a prison, a movie theater, and most recently, a chocolate factory. The history of the New York Public Library is as vital and various New York itself, so get ready to read between the lions.
The 123-year-old history of the NYPL
A 1939 photo of an atom-smasher (cyclotron) at Columbia University. Via Wiki Commons.
Most people assume that “The Manhattan Project” is a clever codename, a misnomer for the famous test sites in New Mexico. But, with over 1,200 tons on uranium stashed on Staten Island, and a nuclear reactor whizzing away at Columbia University, the top-secret wartime program began in Manhattan, and fanned out across the island, from its southern tip to its northern reaches, from its dimmest docks to its brightest towers. Ultimately 5,000 people poured into New York to work on the project, so duck, cover and get ready for an atomic tale of scientists, soldiers, and spies.
Learn all about the Manhattan Project in Manhattan
Today, Brooklyn is home of all things avant-garde, but King’s County has always led the pack. Beginning as early as 1868, the women of Brooklyn established one of the first suffrage organizations in the country and began advocating for women’s enfranchisement and political equality. The “wise women of Brooklyn,”as they were lauded in suffrage literature, made some of the foremost contributions to the movement. From the Silent Sentinels, who organized the first March on Washington, to the African American women who established the nation’s first suffrage organization by and for black women, Brooklyn was home to extraordinary advocates. Here are 8 badass Brooklynites who brought us the ballot.
Learn their histories here