, Fri, September 11, 2020
1885 map showing 13th Avenue, via the New York Public Library
You may be scratching your head at the mention of the 13th Avenue in Manhattan, but it does exist–and it’s the shortest avenue in the whole city with a fascinating history behind it. The minuscule stretch covers prime Meatpacking District real estate, just west of 11th Avenue and between Little West 12th Street and Gansevoort Street. The single block across the West Side Highway is unmarked, but officially known as Gansevoort Peninsula. The avenue was created by the city in 1837, and in no way was intended to be so short. In fact, by the mid-1800s 13th Avenue encompassed nearly 15 blocks and was planned to stretch all the way up to 135th Street. But the block never left Chelsea and was mostly destroyed by the city at the turn of the century.
Read all about the life and death of the Avenue
Jean Leon Gerome Ferris’s painting “The Fall of New Amsterdam, which shows New Amsterdam residents begging Peter Stuyvesant to surrender to the British. Via The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
On September 8th, 1664, Dutch Director-General Peter Stuyvesant surrendered New Amsterdam to the British, officially establishing New York City. To take part in the fur trade, settlers from the Dutch West India Company first established the colony of New Netherland in 1624, which would eventually grow to include all present-day boroughs, Long Island, and even parts of New Jersey. The following year, the island of Manhattan, then the capital, was named New Amsterdam. But when Stuyvesant’s 17-year run as Governor (from 1647 to 1664) turned unfavorable, he ceded the island to England’s Colonel Richard Nicolls, who had sent four ships with 450 men to seize the Dutch Colony. The name was promptly changed to honor the Duke of York and his mission.
Get the whole history
An illustration of the first Labor Day parade, via Wiki Commons
Though Labor Day has been embraced as a national holiday–albeit one many Americans don’t know the history of–it originated right here in New York City as a result of the city’s labor unions fighting for worker’s rights throughout the 1800s. The event was first observed, unofficially, on Tuesday, September 5th, 1882, with thousands marching from City Hall up to Union Square. At the time, the New York Times considered the event to be unremarkable. But 137 years later, we celebrate Labor Day on the first Monday of every September as a tribute to all American workers. It’s also a good opportunity to recognize the hard-won accomplishments of New York unions to secure a better workplace for us today.
Keep reading for the full history
Photo via Wiki Commons
Between the United Nations building and Long Island City sits a tiny 100-by-200 foot piece of land, known as U Thant Island. The East River man-made enclave is just south of Roosevelt Island and legally part of Manhattan. As Atlas Obscura discovered, the land did not exist until the 1800s when a trolley tunnel was dug beneath the River to connect Manhattan and Queens. While U Thant looks like a nice place to get some sun and relax, the island remains closed to the public as a bird sanctuary.
Find out more
Photo by Tdorante10 via Wikimedia Commons
One of the surest ways to know an out-of-towner is if they pronounce it “HUE-stun” instead of “HOW-stun” Street. But have you ever wondered why we don’t say it like the Texas city? The Times received this question from a reader and turned to Gerard Koeppel‘s book “City on a Grid: How New York Became New York” for the answer. According to Koeppel, “Houston the city is named after Sam Houston. Our street was named after a fellow named William Houstoun, who was a prominent Georgian, from a long line of Scotsmen.”
The whole history right this way
Photo © James and Karla Murray
When the New York City subway opened on October 27th, 1904, it was the magnificent City Hall station that served as the backdrop for the festivities, with its arched Guastavino-tiled ceiling and skylights. But by 1945, the newer, longer subway cars could no longer fit on the station’s curved tracks, so it was closed. Today, the New York City Transit Museum occasionally offers tours of the abandoned station, which is how photographers James and Karla Murray were able to capture these beautiful photos. Ahead, see more of the station and learn all about its history.
All photos and video © James and Karla Murray
The deepest subway station in New York City lies 173 feet below ground (18 stories!) at the 191st Street stop of the 1 train. This stop is also known for the 1,000-foot-long tunnel that connects its station at St. Nicholas Avenue to an entrance on Broadway. Called “Tunnel Street,” this is technically the only underground street in the city. For years, however, it was a dark and dingy passageway that troubled locals, so about six years ago, the city commissioned six artists to paint the tunnel with colorful murals. Ahead, photographers James and Karla Murray give us a video tour of the tunnel, along with the insanely deep subway station. Read more
Screenshot of the 19th Amendment Centennial StoryMap, courtesy of Village Preservation
Next week, on August 18th, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. Though the fight to give women the right to vote was a national effort, much of the movement had roots in New York City. And like most 20th-century advocacy efforts, a lot of that action was centered downtown. To mark this momentous occasion, Village Preservation has created an interactive 19th Amendment Centennial StoryMap that showcases the remarkable number of people and places in Greenwich Village, the East Village, and Noho that played a key role in the women’s suffrage movement.
Created by the Olmsted and Vaux firm, this map shows the original plans for Prospect Park, as well as the historic reservoir at Grand Army Plaza (1871); Courtesy of the Brooklyn Historical Society
The Brooklyn Historical Society on Thursday launched a user-friendly online portal that contains the institution’s collection of nearly 1,500 maps of Brooklyn dating back to 1562. While researchers will no doubt appreciate the new accessibility to the unique maps, the tool is also a fun way for all residents of the borough to explore the evolution of their neighborhood over the last four centuries. From rare Revolutionary War maps and original plans for Prospect Park to a subway map detailing how to get to Ebbets Field, the maps span more than 450 years and include transit maps, cultural maps, survey charts, and more.
More this way
Photo of the Stonewall Inn, a cultural landmark, by NPCA via Flickr cc
When it comes to landmarking in NYC, some of the biggest news as of late is that the LPC has calendared a building in Downtown Brooklyn that was home to abolitionists before the Civil War. If landmarked, the decision will be based on the structure’s cultural merit, not necessarily its historic architecture. And with more and more people realizing the importance of preserving cultural history, the Historic Districts Council is asking New Yorkers to suggest the cultural sites that they believe are worthy of landmark designation.