Google Street View of Federal-style rowhouses on VanDam Street
It’s an often-overlooked enclave with the largest concentration of Federal and Greek Revival style houses in New York City. Its origins can be traced back to historical figures as esteemed as George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jacob Astor, but it’s just as deeply connected to Italian immigrants and radical 20th-century innovators. The most dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker will have trouble telling you if it’s in Greenwich Village, SoHo, or Hudson Square.
The tiny Charlton-King-VanDam neighborhood is, as its name would imply, located along charming Charlton, King, and VanDam Streets between Sixth Avenue and Varick Streets, with a little arm extending up the southernmost block of MacDougal Street just below Houston Street. It was only the fourth designated historic district in New York City when it was landmarked on August 16th, 1966, and for good reason.
Find out the full history
“Public squares, parks, and places in the City of New York.” Via NYPL Digital Collections.
Built to emulate Great Britain’s enviable squares, which were actually square, Manhattan’s public squares were created in the celebrated New York City tradition of being whatever they pleased–and definitely not square. According to the New York Daily News, Manhattan doesn’t have any actual squares at all: Lisa Keller, executive editor of the Encyclopedia of New York City, said “Americans just call it a square if it’s bigger than a breadbox.” But those 40 squares from Madison to Foley, Herald and Greeley have been vital in defining the city’s public spaces; they were its first parks, and a predecessor to the granddaddy of all squares, Central Park.
Squares that shaped the city
Photo by 6sqft
It’s hard to miss the two floors of flashing, chili pepper light-adorned Indian restaurants on First Avenue and Sixth Street in the East Village. The origin of these two stacked eateries, though, is much more frequently overlooked, as is the fact that the neighborhood’s adjacent “Little India” is really more “Little Bengal.” New York’s main Bangladeshi community is often cited as being in Jackson Heights, which boasts a large South Asian population and a great representation of its diverse culture, including the beloved Patel Brothers grocery store. Less well known is that East New York also has a large Bangladeshi community, and in the 1990s, the East Village’s “Curry Row” worked to identify itself as Indian, a culture more Americans at the time were familiar with. Ahead, we look at the whole history and break down the best places to experience Bangladeshi culture in NYC.
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.
Learn more about Early Latin NY!
Broadway Arcade Railway, 1884, New York Transit Museum, via Wikimedia Commons
Post-Civil War, pre-subway New York City had–surprise–a traffic problem. The number of horse cars and stages that clogged the streets was growing at an alarming rate. Among the proposed solutions was a railway that would be built beneath Broadway, branching out to the east and west at 23rd Street all the way up to the northern tip of Manhattan. The idea was gaining political support, but not everyone was onboard with the idea.
So what happened?
The Grand Central Hotel in the late 1800s, via Wiki Commons
In the mid-1970s, New York City was falling apart. Its finances, infrastructure, and social cohesion were, figuratively speaking, crumbling. But in one very tragic case, they were literally crumbling, too. And it all came tumbling down on August 3, 1973, when what was once one of the world’s grandest hotels (which had more recently become known for mayhem of both a musical and criminal sort) collapsed onto Broadway at Bond Street in Greenwich Village. From serving as the scene of one of the time’s most notorious murders to a connection to the National Baseball League, the Grand Central Hotel certainly had a grand history.
Get the whole story
Photo via Wiki Commons
With 12 million visits a year from tourists and residents alike, Washington Square Park has plenty of things to see and do. And Parkies worth their salt know the basics: it was once a potter’s field where the indigent were buried, and a roadbed carried vehicles through the Park for almost 100 years. But the Park holds some secrets even the most knowledgeable Washington Square denizen might not know, like its connection to freed slaves in NYC and the fact that it was the first place the telegraph was publicly used.
Read on to discover if you’re a Park newbie or a Park expert
Early designs for Central Park. Image courtesy of the National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site.
When thinking of influential creators of New York City’s most memorable places, it’s hard not to imagine Frederick Law Olmsted near the top of the list. Considered to be the founder of landscape architecture–he was also a writer and conservationist–Olmsted was committed to the restorative effects of natural spaces in the city. Perhaps best known for the wild beauty of Central and Prospect Parks, his vast influence includes scores of projects such as the Biltmore estate, the U.S. Capitol grounds and the Chicago World’s Fair. In preparation for the bicentennial of Olmsted’s 1822 birth, the Library of Congress has made 24,000 documents providing details of Olmsted’s life available online, Smithsonian reports. The collection includes journals, personal correspondence, project proposals and other documents that offer an intimate picture of Olmsted’s private life and work. The collection is linked to an interactive map at Olmsted Online showing all Olmsted projects in the United States (and there are many). You can search the map according to project name, location, job number and project type.
Explore the documents and map
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
While we take for granted the paths and roads we use on a daily basis, it’s interesting to find out how they came to be. It’s not a new concept that paths worn by the comings and goings of early dwellers and subsequent settlers in a particular area became roads, streets and thoroughfares, often with names that reflect their beginnings. Brooklyn Heights Blog (via Viewing NYC) shares some insight into Brooklyn’s familiar roads that began as Native American trails on a 1946 map titled “Indian Villages, Paths, Ponds and Places in Kings County.”
Peruse the map