Next week is Fleet Week, and soon New York will be awash in sailors. If you’re moved by all the festivities and want to get in on the maritime merriment, there are sites exploring New York’s links to the sea throughout all five boroughs. From barges to schooners to yachts to dry docks, here are 10 sites where you can celebrate New York’s seafaring spirit.
All posts by Lucie Levine
Photo via Flickr cc
What do Woody Guthrie, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Frank Schubert (the nation’s last civilian lighthouse keeper) have in common? They all lived in Sea Gate, a private community at the westernmost tip of Coney Island. Sea Gate began as a 19th-century playground for the rich, turned into a hotbed of Yiddish literature and Socialist labor activism in the 1930s, and sported at least one commune in the early ‘70s. Today, Sea Gate is home to about 8,000 residents who enjoy private beaches and expansive views of the Verrazano Bridge. If you want to “get in the Gate,” as the locals say, but aren’t ready to relocate west of the Wonder Wheel, you can snag a summer membership at the Brooklyn Beach Club, where even non-residents can while away the hours under a cabana. Or, you can read on for the history of a Coney Island beach town you’ve probably never visited.
Casino Roof Garden, 1899 via NYPL Digital Collections
How many summer evenings have you spent at a rooftop bar? While the rooftop bar was indeed born and bred in New York City, it’s nothing new. Even before New York was a city of skyscrapers, denizens of Gotham liked to take their experiences to vertical extremes. And when it comes to partying, New Yorkers have been conquering new heights, drink in hand, since 1883. That year, impresario Rudolf Aronson debuted a roof garden on the top of his newly built Casino Theater on 39th Street and Broadway. The rooftop garden was soon a Gilded Age phenomenon, mixing vaudeville and vice, pleasure and performance, for well-heeled Bon-Vivants who liked to spend their summers high above the sweltering streets.
Central-Park Winter, 1862, via NYPL Digital Collections
While we haven’t had much snow yet this year, New York is already a winter wonderland thanks to the many ice skating rinks found across the city. If you choose to glide through the season on ice, taking a spin anywhere from Central Park to Coney Island, you’re sliding into a New York winter tradition that includes the nation’s first organized ice rink, a decade of “Icetravaganzas” that drew millions, a glittery trend of hotel ice gardens throughout Midtown, and even a relationship to the origins of baseball. So lace up, and read on for a history of ice-skating in New York City.
Ever the New Yorker, Santa catches the trolly to Bloomingdales! The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection, The New York Public Library, NYPL Digital Collections
Saint Nicholas arrived in New York with the Dutch and became the Patron Saint of New York City in the early 19th century, but Santa, as we know him, is a hometown boy. New York’s writers and artists were the first to depict the modern Santa Claus, transforming the figure of Dutch lore into a cheerful holiday hero. The illustrious Claus gained his sleigh in Chelsea and his red suit on Franklin Square. With a little help from the likes of Washington Irving, Clement Clarke Moore, and Thomas Nast, jolly old St. Nick became the merriest man in Manhattan.
St. Paul’s Chapel via Flickr cc
‘Tis the season to voluntarily spook yourself! But if haunted houses and tourist-friendly ghost tours are not for you, New York’s bustling burrows are home to a slew of the more naturally born spirits. You’ll find Dracula’s extended family on 23rd Street, a host of oracles on Orchard Street, and the site of the cruel crime that led to the nation’s first recorded murder trial on Spring Street. If you’re searching for a necropolis in the metropolis, here are ten of the best sites in New York to spot specters.
New Amsterdam in 1671, via Wiki Commons
Every year starting on September 15, we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month to recognize the contributions and accomplishments of Hispanic Americans. Over 2.4 million New Yorkers, or nearly one-third of the city’s 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. Ahead, learn about early Hispanic New York, starting with the arrival of Juan Rodriguez, the first non-Native American person to live in New York City.
“Mourners from the Ladies Waist and Dressmakers Union Local 25 and the United Hebrew Trades of New York march in the streets after the Triangle fire” 1911. Reproduction. The National Archives, via Wikimedia Commons
Around 4:30 p.m. on March 25, 1911, a fire broke out on the eighth floor of the Asch Building at Washington Place and Greene Streets, just as the young employees of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, who occupied the building’s top three floors, were preparing to leave for the day. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire killed 146 people, nearly all of them Jewish and Italian immigrant women and girls who toiled in the city’s garment industry. Triangle stood out as the deadliest workplace tragedy in New York City before 9/11. It served as a bellwether in the American labor movement, galvanizing Americans in all walks of life to join the fight for industrial reform. It also highlighted the extraordinary grit and bravery of the women workers and reformers – members of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, and the Women’s Trade Union League – who fought and died for fairer and safer working conditions in New York and around the country.
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. (1878). New-Year’S-Day In New Amsterdam. Courtesy of NYPL Digital Collections
Every year on December 31, the eyes of the world turn to Times Square. New Yorkers and revelers worldwide have been ringing in the New Year from 42nd Street since 1904 when Adolf Ochs christened the opening of the New York Times building on what was then Longacre Square with a New Year’s celebration complete with midnight fireworks. In 1907, Ochs began dropping a ball from the flagpole of the Times Tower, and a tradition for the ages was set in motion. But long before Ochs and his proclivity for pyrotechnics, New Yorkers had been ringing in the New Year with traditions both dignified and debauched. From the George Washington and the old Dutch custom of “Calling,” to the rancorous tooting of tin horns, one thing is clear, New York has always gone to town for the New Year.
By the end of World War II, the Croix de Guerre, France’s highest military honor, would be awarded to the 369th Infantry Regiment. Better known as the Harlem Hellfighters, the regiment was an all-black American unit serving under French command in World War I, and they spent a stunning 191 days at the Front, more than any other American unit. In that time, they never lost a trench to the enemy or a man to capture. Instead, they earned the respect of both allies and enemies, helped introduce Jazz to France, and returned home to a grateful city where hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers turned out to welcome home 3,000 Hellfighter heroes in a victory parade that stretched from 23rd Street and 5th Avenue to 145th Street and Lenox.