St. Patrick’s Day is almost here, and though its modern iteration seems to have devolved into a daylong drinking activity, it’s still a good time to reflect on New York’s Irish heritage. Irish immigrants have been coming to New York since the colonial era, but in the 19th century, they were one of the biggest groups in the city, making up about a quarter of the population. Their cultural influence is everywhere, but there are some spots in town where it shines through the most. Here are our favorites.
New York Awheel―On the Riverside Drive, Near the Great Monument, Munsey’s Magazine, May 1896, Illustrator: J.M. Gleeson, Private collection courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York
With 100+ miles of protected bike lanes, a flotilla of Citi Bikes, and the robust Five Boro Bike Tour, New York City ranks as one of the top 10 cycling cities in the country. In fact, the nation’s very first bike lane was designated on Brooklyn’s Ocean Parkway in 1894, and the city’s cycling history reaches back two centuries. Beginning March 14th, the Museum of the City of New York will celebrate and explore that history in the new exhibit, “Cycling in the City: A 200 Year History.”
The Arsenal c. 1914, via Library of Congress
New York City boasts more than 1,700 parks, playgrounds, and recreational facilities covering upwards of 14 percent of the land across all five boroughs. This sprawling network of greenery falls under the jurisdiction of the NYC Parks Department. Once the storied provenance of Robert Moses, the Department functions today under the less-Machiavellian machinations of Mitchell Silver. Though no longer the fiefdom it once was, Parks still operates out of a medieval fortress known as the Arsenal, a commanding bulwark stationed in Central Park at 5th Avenue and 64th Street.
The Arsenal also houses the Arsenal Gallery, the City Parks Foundation, the Historic House Trust, and the New York Wildlife Conservation Society. This wide array of agencies reflects the varied legacy of building itself. Since construction began on the Arsenal 1847 (completed 1851), it has served a stunning array of purposes, from police station to menagerie to weather bureau. The Arsenal has had time to live so many lives: it is one of just two buildings in Central Park that predate the park itself, which was established in 1857.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the designation of the Greenwich Village Historic District on April 29, 1969. One of the city’s oldest and still largest historic districts, it’s a unique treasure trove of rich history, pioneering culture, and charming architecture. GVSHP will be spending 2019 marking this anniversary with events, lectures, and new interactive online resources, including a celebration and district-wide weekend-long “Open House” starting on Saturday, April 13th in Washington Square. This is part of a series of posts about the unique qualities of the Greenwich Village Historic District marking its golden anniversary.
Trying to limit oneself to just 10 of the most charming spots in the Greenwich Village Historic District is truly a fool’s errand. And not one without controversy — since the last column, more than a few disgruntled New Yorkers whose favorites didn’t make the list have reached out (in almost all cases these were places which actually originally made the list, but something had to be cut). So by popular demand (of sorts), here are 10 more of the most charming spots in the Greenwich Village Historic District, from the smallest piece of privately owned property in New York to a series of “squares” that are anything but.
Photo by Diana Davies, Gay Liberation Front marches on Times Square, New York, 1970. Courtesy of New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division
Beginning in the season so many associate with love, the New York Public Library is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots through a major exhibition, a series of programs, book recommendations, and more. “Love & Resistance: Stonewall 50” chronicles the emergence of LGBTQ activism with over 150 photographs and ephemera. An opening celebration will kick off both the exhibition and the Library After Hours series on Friday, February 15 from 7-10 P.M.
Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy, The New York Public Library. (1887 – 1964). Parks – Riverside Park – West 122nd Street; Via NYPL Digital Collections
Riverside Park is the place to be whether you want to bask in the sun at the 79th Street Boat Basin, pay respects at Grant’s Tomb, or do your best T. Rex at Dinosaur Playground. Did you know that the park’s history is as varied as its charms? From yachts to goats to cowboys, check out 10 things you might not know about Riverside Park!
Photo of Harriet Tubman Memorial, “Swing Low,” in Harlem via denisbin on Flickr
Harriet Tubman, the fearless abolitionist and conductor of the Underground Railroad who led scores of slaves to freedom in some 13 expeditions, fought for the Union Army during the Civil War, and dedicated herself to Women’s Suffrage later in life, was known as “Moses” in her own time, and is revered in our time as an extraordinary trailblazer. Her status as a groundbreaking African American woman also extends to the now-contentious realm of public statuary and historical commemoration, since Tubman was the first African American woman to be depicted in public sculpture in New York City.
Tubman’s statue, also known as “Swing Low,” was commissioned by the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art program, and designed by the African-American artist Alison Saar. It was dedicated in 2008 at Harlem’s Harriet Tubman Triangle on 122nd Street. In her memorial sculpture, Saar chose to depict Tubman “not so much as a conductor of the Underground Railroad, but as a train itself, an unstoppable locomotive that worked towards improving the lives of slaves for most of her long life.” She told the Parks Department, “I wanted not merely to speak of her courage or illustrate her commitment, but to honor her compassion.”
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the designation of the Greenwich Village Historic District on April 29, 1969. One of the city’s oldest and still largest historic districts, it’s a unique treasure trove of rich history, pioneering culture, and charming architecture. GVSHP will be spending 2019 marking this anniversary with events, lectures, and new interactive online resources, including a celebration and district-wide weekend-long “Open House” starting on Saturday, April 13th in Washington Square. This is the first in a series of posts about the unique qualities of the Greenwich Village Historic District marking its golden anniversary.
The Greenwich Village Historic District literally oozes with charm; so much so, it’s virtually impossible to come up with a top-10 list. But with no insult to sites not included, here is one run at the 10 most charming sites you’ll find in this extraordinarily quaint historic quarter–from good-old classics like the famous stretch of brick rowhouses on Washington Square North to more quirky findings like the “Goodnight Moon” house.
Image courtesy of Urban Archive. Photo credits, clockwise from top left: 1, 2, Museum of the City of New York; 3, 4, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation; 5, Museum of Chinese in America
Technology nonprofit Urban Archive has been creating new connections between people, places, and historical institutions for several years based on New York City’s architecture, culture, and unique stories, and they’ve just launched a new initiative. My Archive is a citywide project that tells the story of NYC through crowd-sourced histories and photographs–and it’s an opportunity for regular New Yorkers to add their own history to the map. Throughout the month of February, you can submit your own photos for a chance to have them added to a collection of personal histories captured on city streets across the five boroughs–and included in the UA app.
While it’s been a snow-free winter in NYC so far, once in a while it’s nice to imagine a snowy January day in Central Park. Ephemeral New York brings us a particularly charming example of how New Yorkers found a reason to socialize even in frozen conditions two centuries ago. Sleigh carnivals turned out scores of joyriding city folk who wanted to show off their new super-light rides. James Stuart wrote in his 1833 UK travel memoir, “Three Years in North America,” that after a heavy January snow, “the New York carnival began, and the beautiful light-looking sleighs made their appearance. Even the most delicate females of New York think an evening drive, of 10 or 20 miles, even in the hardest frost, conducive to their amusement and health.”