History

Chinatown, History, Manhattan

Photo on the left courtesy of Lloyd Trufelman; Photo on right courtesy of Wikimedia

The intersection that formed the notorious Five Points neighborhood in Manhattan will now be officially part of New York City’s street grid. The city has installed a sign at Baxter and Worth Streets in Lower Manhattan, marking the exact location of the original Five Points, a notorious 19th-century slum that was home to a diverse group of immigrants. Before this year’s street co-naming, there was no official marker at the site to honor the historic spot, considered to be one of the country’s first “melting pots.” But a successful effort spearheaded by Lloyd Trufelman, who is a tour guide with the Municipal Art Society of New York, along with groups like the New York Adventure Club and the Historic Districts Council led to the street co-naming, symbolizing the return of Five Points to the city 125 years later. Ahead, hear from Trufelman about his campaign to recognize the legendary neighborhood and learn how to sign up for his upcoming walking tour.

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History, Hotels, Midtown East

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

October 1 marks 90 years since the Waldorf Astoria opened its doors on Park Avenue. It was the world’s tallest hotel for 32 years and became perhaps the most famous hotel on the globe, too, attracting Hollywood’s elite, world leaders, and famed cultural events and galas. Since 2016, the landmark has been closed for a restoration and reimagination that will bring 375 hotel rooms and suites, along with 375 luxury condos as part of The Towers of the Waldorf Astoria. In anticipation of the reopening in early 2023, and to mark its nine-decade-long history, a new website called Waldorf Stories will “honor, document, and preserve the oral history of the world’s most famous hotel through stories told by the people that lived them.”

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Features, History, immigration

Latin in Manhattan: A look at early Hispanic New York

By Lucie Levine, Thu, September 16, 2021

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.

Learn more about Early Latin NY!

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Features, History, holidays, Manhattan

In 1882, Labor Day originated with a parade held in NYC

By Emily Nonko, Fri, September 3, 2021

labor day, first labor day, labor day parade, new york city

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 138 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

City Living, Harlem, History

New York’s famous 369th (Old 15th) Infantry Regiment arrives home from France. From the National Archives via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most decorated all-Black American regiments is finally getting nationally recognized more than a century after World War I. President Joe Biden last week signed into law the Harlem Hellfighters Congressional Gold Medal Act, which posthumously honors the 369th Infantry Regiment. Made up mostly of New Yorkers, the Harlem Hellfighters spent 191 days on the front-line trenches, longer than any other American unit. Despite their courage and sacrifice, the soldiers returned home to face racism and discrimination.

Get the details

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Features, History, Landscape Architecture, Upstate

Photo © 6sqft

Located just over an hour from Grand Central Terminal on Metro North’s Hudson line, the renowned Untermyer Gardens is a 43-acre historic park in Yonkers that features a Persian Paradise garden, a small amphitheater, a classical pavilion, the “Temple of Love,” and a “Vista” staircase. The park was developed in the early 20th century by philanthropist Samuel Untermyer, who purchased the estate in 1899. For 40 years, Untermyer transformed the sprawling greenery into some of the most acclaimed gardens in the United States, known today as “America’s Greatest Forgotten Garden.” Following his death, the property was not well maintained and fell into disrepair. For the last ten years, the Untermyer Garden Conservancy has worked to restore the site to its former glory and to provide a beautiful public space for all.

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Features, History, Williamsburg

Photo of Willis Carrier (left) courtesy of Wikipedia; Photo of air conditioners in NY building courtesy of Marcel Oosterwijk on Flickr

It figures, but history shows us yet another way Brooklyn was cool, like, forever–though this particular example is a bit more literal. A classic New York City heatwave was just enough to turn up the Brooklyn ingenuity in a junior engineer named Willis Carrier, who devised a system of fans, ducts, heaters, and perforated pipes that became the world’s first air conditioner. The problem: blistering temperatures that were literally melting the equipment in a Williamsburg printing house. The solution was one that had eluded centuries of inventors through sweltering summers. The system was installed in the summer of 1902, according to the New York Times, and Carrier went on to found Carrier Corporation. He had hit on the idea while walking in the fog.

It’s the humidity

Brooklyn, Events, Greenwood, History

Battle of Brooklyn reenactment in Green-Wood Cemetery; Photo by Allison Meier on Flickr

The first major battle to take place during the Revolutionary War after the United States declared independence took place in Brooklyn on August 27, 1776. During the Battle of Brooklyn, fighting took place across the borough, including throughout present-day Prospect Park, Fulton Ferry Landing, and Green-Wood Cemetery. To commemorate the 245th anniversary of the historic struggle, Green-Wood Cemetery is hosting a family-friendly event this month with Revolutionary War reenactors, music, demonstrations, and other activities.

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Features, History, Midtown

“A Scene in Shantytown, New York” appearing in the March 4, 1880 edition of the New York Daily Graphic, via Wikimedia Commons

Following the October stock market crash of 1929, there was an unprecedented number of people in the U.S. without homes or jobs. And as the Great Depression set in, demand grew and the overflow became far too overwhelming and unmanageable for government resources to manage. Homeless people in large cities began to build their own houses out of found materials, and some even built more permanent structures from brick. Small shanty towns—later named Hoovervilles after President Hoover—began to spring up in vacant lots, public land and empty alleys. Three of these pop-up villages were located in New York City, the largest of which was on what is now Central Park’s Great Lawn.

Learn more here

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Features, History, Transportation

Image via Rawpixel/ Wikimedia Commons

Nearly 150 years ago, something quite momentous happened in New York history: the first subway line was opened to the public. The system was the invention of Alfred Ely Beach and his company Beach Pneumatic Transit Company. Beach put up $350,000 of his own money to build the first prototype and tunnel and his company managed to put it together, somewhat covertly, in just 58 days. The tunnel measured about 312 feet long, eight feet in diameter, and was completed in 1870.

more on the history of NYC’s 1st subway line here

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