General Lee Avenue and Robert E. Lee’s former home on Fort Hamilton, via Jeremy Bender/Business Insider
When four Confederate statues were removed in New Orleans last month, many sided with Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s plan, but others felt it was an attempt to erase history. Nevertheless, the monuments all came down, prompting national elected officials to take notice–even here in NYC. As 6sqft previously explained, there exists a General Lee Avenue and a Stonewall Jackson Drive in Brooklyn’s Fort Hamilton, the city’s last remaining active-duty military base, and a group of local politicians has sent a letter to Army Secretary Robert Speer asking that they both be renamed, with Colin Powell and Harriet Tubman suggested as possible replacements (h/t Gothamist).
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Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux debuted Prospect Park to the Brooklyn masses in 1867. And this year, we get to celebrate. What has become Brooklyn’s most iconic park is in its 150th anniversary, and the history along the way is fascinating. Though Olmsted and Vaux had already designed Central Park, they considered this their masterpiece, and much of the pair’s innovative landscape design is still on display across all 585 acres. But it was the result of a lengthy, complicated construction process (Olmsted and Vaux weren’t even the original designers!) as well as investment and dedication from the city and local preservationists throughout the years. After challenges like demolition, neglect, and crime, the Parks Department has spent the past few decades not only maintaining the park but restoring as much of Olmsted and Vaux’s vision as possible.
It’s safe to say that these days, Prospect Park is just as impressive as when it first opened to the public. And of course, throughout its history the park has had no shortage of stories, secrets and little-known facts. 6sqft divulges the 10 things you might not have known.
All the juicy secrets ahead
Last June, President Obama formally recognized Greenwich Village’s Stonewall Inn and its surrounding area as a national historic monument, creating the first National Park Service unit dedicated to the gay rights movement. To expand the reach of this monument, Senator Chuck Schumer announced on Sunday a $1 million grant from Google to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center to begin a project preserving the oral histories and human experiences from early LGBTQ leaders present during the Stonewall Inn riots. According to the New York Times, the initiative will create an educational curriculum for students and a digital platform that’s expected to launch by the 50th anniversary of the protests in 2019.
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On this day in 1884, the country’s first roller coaster opened at Coney Island, sparking Americans’ obsession with amusement rides. Invented by LaMarcus Thompson, the ride, called the Switchback Railway, spanned 600 feet and traveled just six miles per hour. Unlike today’s coasters, the Switchback did not make a round trip loop, and passengers exited at the end of the track. The one-minute long ride cost only five cents.
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6sqft’s ongoing series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. In this installment, we share a set of vintage photos documenting Rockaway Beach in the 1940s. Are you a photographer who’d like to see your work featured on The Urban Lens? Get in touch with us at [email protected].
These days, beachgoers give nary a thought when stripping down to their skimpy bikinis and short-shorts, but 70 years ago wearing much more modest swimsuits was enough to get you a ticket from the NYPD. Noted LIFE magazine photographer Sam Shere (who’s best known for his iconic photo of the Hindenburg disaster) documented this “indecent exposure” phenomenon at Rockaway Beach in 1946. Starting with a sign that reads “wear robes to and from the beach,” Shere’s series shows women sunbathing in high-wasted two-pieces, men walking the boardwalk in just their shorts, and the way in which these beach bums seem unphased by the cops writing them summonses.
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The United States celebrates Flag Day as a way to remember the adoption of the country’s first official flag on June 14, 1777. Later in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that established June 14 as Flag Day. While all of us honor the American flag today, each borough in New York City has its own flag that can also be celebrated (h/t NY Times). The city of New York also has its own flag, which features the colors of blue, white and orange and has the city’s seal on the front. The colors are derived from the flag of the Dutch Republic as used in New Amsterdam in 1625.
Get the scoop on the borough flags
Hippies singing and playing music in Washington Square Park in the late 1960s. Photo: Peter Keegan
It has been 50 years since 1967’s “Summer of Love” when young people from around the world flocked to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district and to other urban neighborhoods, including New York’s East Village, to trip out at psychedelic dance parties, sleep in city parks, and live and do whatever they pleased. While the hippie subculture was already flourishing prior to the Summer of Love, by mid 1967, hippies and their music, style, and communal way of life had caught the attention of the mainstream media and as a result, reached a critical mass of young people who were now eager to ditch their suburban homes to “turn on, tune in, and drop out.”
Reactions to the Summer of Love in New York were predictably mixed. An estimated 50,000 young people descended on the city to join the movement, but many New Yorkers, including longstanding residents, police officers, and politicians, had little interest in spending the Summer of Love soaking up the good vibes. In the end, the city’s Summer of Love saw as much conflict and violence as peace and love, and debates about rental prices, real estate values, and the gentrification of the Lower East Side were all part of the conflict.
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Photo courtesy of PBS
On this day in 1927, the city of New York honored famed aviator Charles “Lucky Lindy” Lindbergh with a ticker-tape parade to celebrate his May 21st flight in the Spirit of St. Louis, the first solo airplane flight across the Atlantic Ocean. At just 25 years old, Lindbergh flew nonstop from New York to Paris, and according to the New York Times, an estimated four million people attended the ticker-tape parade throughout the city to celebrate his journey.
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When it comes to remembering the 9/11 terror attacks, personal stories can be the most moving reminder. The 9/11 Tribute Museum opened in 2006 in a former deli near the National September 11 Memorial and Museum site, intended as a temporary shrine to the victims during construction of the larger museum–and it has grown even since the latter opened. The Tribute Museum offers tours of the rebuilt World Trade Center site led by survivors, first responders, relatives of victims and others with close connections to the tragedy. Crain’s reports that the museum reopened today in a much larger location, slightly further from the memorial but with more space dedicated to victims’ personal stories.
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In June of 1997, an unlikely meeting of Mother Teresa and then Mayor Rudy Giuliani took place–and it was over the ever frustrating matter of New York parking. She had come to the city for a surprise visit to spend time with the South Bronx branch of her organization, Missionaries of Charity. Mother Teresa, then 86, would die just a few months later, but during this visit, her charity work wasn’t what she wanted to discuss with the mayor. Instead, she came to him with a very New York request: picking up a few extra parking permits for her nuns.
The mayor couldn’t turn her down
Considering today would have been Frank Lloyd Wright‘s 150th birthday, you’d think we all know everything there is to know about the prolific architect. But the wildly creative, often stubborn, and always meticulous Wright was also quite mysterious, leaving behind a legacy full of oddities and little-known stories. In honor of the big day, 6sqft has rounded up the top 10 things you likely never knew about him, including the mere three hours it took him to design one of his most famous buildings, the world-famous toy that his son designed, his secondary career, and a couple present-day ways his work lives on.
Everything you never knew about FLW
Back when New York City planners were dreaming of building new tunnels and bridges, they set their sites toward Staten Island. It was the turn of the 18th century and the city was in the midst of a Brooklyn boom following the debut of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883. In 1909, the Manhattan Bridge opened to accommodate the growth of Brooklyn residents who needed ways to get in and out of the newly-developed borough. So the city started thinking about Staten Island. Today, of course, the two boroughs are connected by the Verrazano Bridge. But according to Brownstone Detectives, “Before talk of a bridge began… there was talk of a grand tunnel.”
Learn more about the tunnel and why it never came to be
For many, Frank Lloyd Wright is considered the archetype of his profession; he was brash and unapologetic about his ideas, he experimented and tested the limits of materiality and construction, and he was never afraid to put clients in their place when they were wrong. It was this unwavering confidence paired with a brilliant creative mind that made him one of the greatest American architects to ever live. And one of the most influential.
This week Wright would have turned 150 years old, so to celebrate his birthday and his importance to the practice of modern architecture, we’re paying tribute to the architect’s built, destroyed, and never-constructed New York works. Amazingly, of the more than 500 structures credited with his name, he can only claim one in Manhattan.
Here’s our tribute to the great American architect
We can think of worse fates than getting lost in Central Park. With its winding pathways, lovely bridges, stunning gardens and a magical lake, it’s the most visited urban park in the United States. But a few of those visitors are bound to take a wrong turn every now and again, and if you find yourself in that predicament, Central Park’s 1,600 lampposts bear a secret code that will help you get your bearings and find your way.
Find out how to use the numbers to find out where you are
Brooklyn is properly known as Kings County. During New York’s Gilded Age, Sugar King Henry Osborne Havemeyer and Coffee King John Arbuckle made sure the borough lived up to its name, building their grand industrial empires on the shores of the East River. By the turn of the 20th century, more sugar was being refined in Williamsburg and more coffee roasted in DUMBO than anywhere else in the country, shaping the Brooklyn waterfront and NYC as a preeminent financial and cultural center. The history of coffee and sugar in this town is as rich and exciting as these two commodities are sweet and stimulating, so hang on to your homebrew and get ready for a New York Story.
The whole juicy history of sugar and coffee in NYC