Preservationists, advocates, history buffs and anyone interested in finding out about the history of New York City’s neighborhoods and landmarks has an exciting new resource at their fingertips. The Historic Districts Council (HDC) has launched a new website that offers a complete list of every historic district, individual landmark, interior landmark and scenic landmark in New York City.
All photos included in this post were taken at Co-op City in the early 1970s and are courtesy of Co-op City
When Governor Rockefeller, Robert Moses, Jacob Potofsky of the United Housing Foundation, and Abraham Kazan, known as “the father of US cooperative housing,” broke ground on Co-op City in the Baychester section of the Bronx on May 14, 1966, they were doing something truly groundbreaking. In fact, Rockefeller called it a “completely sound investment in a better society.”
Co-op City is the world’s largest co-operative housing development. Built on 320 acres just north of Freedomland, the sprawling, self-contained development provides homes for over 15,000 families across 35 buildings, and supports its own schools, weekly newspaper, power plant, and planetarium. Originally built by the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America and the United Housing Foundation as cooperative, affordable, middle-income workers’ housing, Co-op city has remained dedicated to open membership, democratic control, distribution of surplus, and diversity for half a century.
Photo of the former St. Denis Hotel courtesy of MCNY
Straddling Greenwich Village and the East Village, the neighborhood south of Union Square between Fifth and Third Avenues was once a center of groundbreaking commercial innovations, radical leftist politics, and the artistic avant-garde. With the city’s recent decision to allow an upzoning for a “Tech Hub” on the neighborhood’s doorstep on 14th Street, there are concerns that the resilient and architecturally intact neighborhood may face irreversible change. While they’re still here, take a tour of some of the many sites of remarkable cultural history, nestled in this compact neighborhood just south of one of our city’s busiest hubs.
Students from Camp Henry at the exhibit, courtesy of The Henry Street Settlement
In honor of its 125th anniversary, the Henry Street Settlement, the community hub and social services organization at 265 Henry Street, has mounted a new permanent exhibit in its historic 1830 landmarked headquarters. “The House on Henry Street” is a multi-media exhibit that highlights the legacy of the Settlement’s founder, Lillian Wald, and explores over a century of social activism, urban poverty, and public health on the Lower East Side through the lens of the Settlement’s own history. Incorporating archival photos, video and sound recordings, historic objects, and quotations from both settlement workers and clients, the exhibit distills over a century of history into a stunningly rich and deeply moving meditation on the vital importance of community-oriented social activism.
Ever the New Yorker, Santa catches the trolly to Bloomingdales! Via the NYPL
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.
Manhattan’s Menorah being lit by Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, in 2016. Via Chabad Lubavitch/Flickr.
In the mid-1970s, former Chabad Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson encouraged his emissaries to build public menorahs in major cities and organize nightly lightings to increase public awareness about Hanukkah and inspire fellow Jews to light menorahs in their homes. Decades later, Chabad rabbis continue the effort in cities worldwide, but in New York the practice hasn’t always been peaceful. The tradition ended up creating a friendly competition between rival menorahs in Brooklyn and Manhattan, who both claimed to be “The World’s Largest.”
Henry Street Nurses, courtesy of The Henry Street Settlement
In 1893, the 26-year-old nurse Lillian Wald founded the Lower East Side’s Henry Street Settlement, and what would become the Visiting Nurse Service of New York. Two years of nursing school had given her the “inspiration to be of use some way or somehow,” and she identified “four branches of usefulness” where she could be of service. Those four branches, “visiting nursing, social work, country work and civic work,” helped guide the Settlement’s programming, and turned Wald’s home at 265 Henry Street into a center of progressive advocacy, and community support, that attracted neighbors from around the corner, and reformers from around the world.
Shoppers check out a holiday window, via The Library of Congress
Santa rode in on his sleigh at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and you know what that means: It’s officially the holiday season in New York. It’s fitting that Macy’s heralds the beginning of our collective good cheer since R. H. Macy himself revolutionized the holiday season when he debuted the nation’s very first Christmas Windows at his store on 14th Street in 1874. Since then, all of New York’s major department stores have been turning merchandise into magic with show-stopping holiday window displays. Historically, New York’s holiday windows have deployed a combination of spectacle, science, and art, with cutting-edge technology and the talents of such luminaries as Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, and Robert Rauschenberg. From hydraulic lifts to steam-powered windows, take a look back at the history of New York’s holiday windows, the last word in high-tech, high-design holiday cheer.
Andy Warhol in 1968, via Wiki Commons
The Whitney’s new Andy Warhol retrospective, “Andy Warhol – From A to B and Back Again,” is the first major presentation of the artist’s work in the United States since 1989. The show covers the museum’s entire fifth floor, as well as smaller galleries on the first and third floors. It traces Warhol’s career from his early days as a commercial illustrator, to his role as the world’s most iconic pop artist, and through his resurgence in the 1970s and ‘80s. If Warhol’s work is as famous as a can of Coca-Cola, so too is his relationship with New York City. High profile haunts like the Factory, Studio 54, and Max’s Kansas City are as closely associated with Warhol as any of his artwork. But Andy Warhol lived, worked, and played all over New York. Since Andy’s having his moment, give these 10 lesser-known Warhol haunts their 15 minutes.
Christmas shoppers on 6th Avenue (1910) via Library of Congress
Black Friday marks the start of frantic holiday shopping, the day when retailers offer their best deals of the season to lure in eager shoppers. While some gift-givers now choose to digitally add items to shopping carts from the comfort of bed instead, many still line up outside of stores at the crack of dawn in search of major discounts. This is not a modern phenomenon, as these photographs from the Library of Congress of 20th century New York City reveal. Like today, New Yorkers of the early 1900s were drawn to the magical window shops and displays. Ahead, explore vintage photos of shoppers browsing New York City stores looking for the perfect presents, postcards and more.