Courtesy of the NYPL
At one point in New York history, it looked very likely that the city would get a brand new bridge across the East River between Manhattan and Queens by way of Blackwell’s (now Roosevelt) Island. This was back in the 1870s, as the Brooklyn Bridge began rising to the south. According to Ephemeral New York, this would have been the second bridge to link Manhattan to Long Island, and plans were just getting off the ground. Though an 1877 newspaper article got the location of the bridge wrong–as it wasn’t going to Brooklyn–it explained that the proposal process was moving right along: “The projectors of this proposed bridge over the East River, between New York and Brooklyn at 77th Street, by way of Blackwell’s Island, have, in response to the invitation sent out, received ten separate designs and estimates from as many engineers,” it said. “Ground will be broken as soon as a plan shall be decided on.”
Here’s why it never happened
Turtle Bay and Blackwell’s Island around 1840 at the foot of what now is 49th Street, courtesy the Turtle Bay Association
The Manhattan neighborhood of Turtle Bay, a stretch of Midtown East that holds everything from skyscrapers to brownstones, has a history dating back to 1639. Modern-day New Yorkers might envision the area got its name from “hundreds of turtles sunning themselves on the rocks along the East River between 45th and 48th Streets,” as Ephemeral New York puts it. Back then, that’s where an actual bay was once located in Colonial-era Manhattan, surrounded by meadows, hills and a stream that emptied at the foot of today’s 47th Street. Some historians do think actual turtles lent to the neighborhood name, as they were plentiful in Manhattan at the time and were commonly dined on. But another reading of history suggests otherwise.
The name may have been a mistake
Photo courtesy of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council
This post is part of a series by the Historic Districts Council, exploring the groups selected for their Six to Celebrate program, New York’s only targeted citywide list of preservation priorities.
Constructed on a lost fragment of the original footprint of Prospect Park, the Prospect Heights Apartment House District is a concentration of 82 apartment buildings dating from 1909-1929. This development was promoted by the Prospect Park Commissioners to attract high-quality construction to complement the nearby Park, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Brooklyn Public Library. The buildings, representative of a period in Brooklyn history when building patterns shifted to accommodate a rising middle class, remain exemplary for their architectural integrity and as housing stock for a diverse population.
As one of this year’s Six to Celebrate recipients, the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and the Cultural Row Block Association on Eastern Parkway are working to garner local support and submit a proposal for historic district status from the LPC.
Find out six little-known facts about this handsome district
Photo courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History Library
Back in 1968, the staff and contractors at the American Museum of Natural History got to constructing, mounting, and finally hanging the 94-foot fiberglass-and-polyurethane blue whale model that’s become an icon of the museum. Though the hulking whale looks like it’s been hanging from the Hall of Ocean Life ceilings since the museum’s opening, it’s actually the second version of the installation. According to Slate, the museum made the decision in the early 1960s to overhaul a paper-mâché model hung in the early 20th century because it looked outdated. The replacement was set to be nothing less than dramatic: a display to “create the illusion of having joined the whale in its own domain,” as As Alfred E. Parr, oceanographer and past director of the AMNH, wrote at the time.
See more photos
From the Bronx to Brooklyn, architect Emery Roth (1871-1948) left an indelible mark on the architecture and cityscape of New York. Specializing in luxury apartment buildings, the advent of steel-frame construction facilitated Roth’s projection of historicist designs to new heights. While Roth is best known for prestigious projects such as his slew of residences along Central Park West, he also designed numerous middle-class homes and houses of worship. Adding to the impressiveness of his scope of work is the story behind the man.
Learn about Emery Roth and his most distinctive projects
The site in 1975, via MCNY (L); Today, via Mike Licht/Flickr (R)
The disembodied church steeple sitting in front of a 26-story NYU dorm on East 12th Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues makes for one of the more head-scratching sights in New York. This jarring juxtaposition results from a confluence of powerful New York forces, including religion, immigration, real estate, and the expanding appetite of one large institution, New York University, and the shrinking resources of another, the United States Postal Service.
The whole story right here
Courtesy of the Skyscraper Museum
The Skyscraper Museum has released a new interactive web project and digital archive called Heritage Trails New York, which revives a landmark history project from 1997. Heritage Trails focuses on the historic blocks of Lower Manhattan, from the Battery to the African Burial Ground and Foley Square, stretching from the Hudson River to the South Street Seaport. The updated map expands on the original, which was designed by architect Richard D. Kaplan, by letting users more easily follow along with the dotted path via smartphone or computer.
Explore the map here
Dr. Benjamin Spock, Dr. King and Monsignor Rice of Pittsburgh march in the Solidarity Day Parade at the United Nations building (April 15, 1967);Photo by Benedict J. Fernadez, courtesy of MCNY
The Museum of the City of New York on Saturday will launch King in New York, a photo exhibition that explores the relationship between Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and New York City. The collection, which commemorates the 50th anniversary of King’s death, provides a look into the iconic civil rights leader’s time spent in the city, starting in the 1950s and continuing through the aftermath of his assassination in 1986. New York, as the country’s media capital, allowed MLK to broadcast his words and messages to both local and global audiences, hold national press conferences and speak to influential advocacy and political groups. He gave sermons at the Riverside Church in Morningside Heights and marched to the United Nations in protest against the Vietnam war. Following his death, thousands of New Yorkers marched in Harlem and Midtown to a Central Park concert to mourn together and the city named parks, playgrounds and streets in his honor. King in New York will be on view from Saturday, Jan. 13 to June 1, 2018.
Explore MLK’s New York City connection
Photo of King via Wikimedia; photo of the MLK cubed sculpture courtesy of Wally Gobetz on Flickr
While some of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s most memorable moments of his career happened down South, like the Montgomery bus boycott and his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, support for his goals hailed first from advocacy organizations based in New York City, like the National Urban League. King held sermons at Riverside Church in Morningside Heights, led a march from Central Park to the United Nations in protest of the Vietnam War and received a Medallion of Honor from Mayor Robert Wagner. As a way to honor King and his immense impact on the advancement of civil rights, the city has named streets, parks, playgrounds and more after him. On MLK Day this Monday, 50 years after his untimely death, celebrate by learning about memorials dedicated to him citywide.
Learn more about NYC’s MLK memorials here
The Thirteenth Street Presbyterian Church in 1902, courtesy of the New-York Historical Society, Robert L. Bracklow Photograph Collection
The stately church building at 141-145 West 13th Street in the West Village is the picture of serene elegance. Built in 1846-47 in the Greek Revival style, the classical balance and symmetry of the façade mask a history full of controversy, including the birth of a notorious slur in American politics, which arguably changed the outcome of a pivotal presidential election.
Find out about the scandalous story