History

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Features, History, Manhattan

german u boat, central park, history, 1917

Photo via Library of Congress

Exactly 100 years ago–on October 25th, 1917–New Yorkers were celebrating “Liberty Day,” a holiday invented by the federal government to finance the massive effort of entering World War I. One third of the war’s funding would come from the imposition of progressive new taxes, while two thirds would come from selling “Liberty Bonds” to the American people. The holiday was part of an unprecedented publicity campaign to convince the public to buy the bonds. New Yorkers are notoriously hard to impress, so it’s no surprise the government rolled out all the punches: a three-engine Caproni bomber plane flew low among the skyscrapers, a parade of military motorcycles traveled up 5th Avenue, and a captured German U-boat submarine lay festooned with American flags inside Central Park.

Read more about the day’s events

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Features, History, Hotels, Upper West Side 

The Ansonia, Upper West Side history

The Ansonia in 1904, via Wiki Commons

With the 2017 World Series kicking off today, it’s amazing to think that one of the most iconic landmarks of the Upper West Side played a crucial role in shaping the outcome of the World Series back in 1919. Back then, the Ansonia was a brand new, luxury residential hotel in Manhattan–it opened in 1904 with a grand total of 1,400 rooms and 320 suites. The lavish locale quickly became popular amongst athletes; even Babe Ruth would stay there and come to treat the entire hotel like an extension of his apartment. But in 1919, baseball players and the mafia found a match in the hotel. A small group of players, and one very powerful, moneyed mafioso, came up with a deal that would throw the results of the game pitting the Chicago White Sox against the Cincinnati Reds.

Keep reading about the illicit deal

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Features, History, holidays, Turtle Bay

Photo courtesy of the UN

Every year on October 24th, 193 countries celebrate United Nations Day, the international holiday commemorating the anniversary of the ratification of the 1945 UN Charter. Beginning in 1948, the holiday is part of a broader United Nations Week, which runs from October 20th to 26th. While the day is a global holiday, the UN and UN Day continue to be unique to New York City, home to the peacekeeping organization’s headquarters since 1952.

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History, Transportation, Urban Design

6sqft has marveled at the 1951 proposal by Goodyear Tires for a giant conveyor belt to carry people between Times Square and Grand Central and Alfred Ely Beach’s underground pneumatic tube system. The New York Public Library’s Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL) fills in the blanks on an early idea for an elevated rail system that was ahead of its time. In 1870, Appleton’s Journal of Literature, Science and Art introduced an article with a lament about the state of New York City public transportation that sounds uncannily familiar even in the 21st century: “the present means of travel are not only inadequate in extent, but are far too slow and cumbersome.” The anonymous author then tells of the futuristic vision of one Rufus Henry Gilbert, a New York-born surgeon, Civil War veteran and inventor.

Find out more

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Features, History, Restaurants

eggs benedict

Image via Wiki Commons

Brunch is inarguably one of New Yorkers’ favorite pastimes, and if there’s one dish that represents the lazy, and perhaps boozy, Sunday afternoon meal it’s Eggs Benedict — poached eggs and Canadian bacon on an English muffin, topped with hollandaise sauce. Which is why it’s not surprising to learn that the egg creation originated right in our fine city. There is however, a bit of controversy over just who gets the credit for inventing it. Was it the Wall Street bigwig who was looking for a hangover cure at the Waldorf Hotel? Or was it Charles Ranhofer, the legendary Delmonico’s chef who published a recipe for it in his cookbook “The Epicurean?”

The mysterious case of Eggs Benedict unfolds this way

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Architecture, East Village, Features, Greenwich Village, GVSHP, History

Off the grid: The little Flatiron Buildings of the Village

By Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Thu, October 19, 2017

The Flatiron Building is one of the city’s most iconic and beloved landmarks. Since 1902 it’s been a symbol of New York, though ironically its acute angle formed by the intersection of Broadway and Fifth Avenue makes it an unusual sight in our otherwise orthogonal city on a grid. But while the Flatiron Building may be the most famous product of quirky street angles, it’s far from the only one. In fact, the “off-the-grid” streets of Greenwich Village and the East Village contain scores of them, most of which pre-date the 23rd Street landmark.

Take a tour of the little Flatirons

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Architecture, Features, History

A short history of New York City’s foul air shafts

By Cait Etherington, Mon, October 16, 2017

apartment building air shafts, air shaft

Image by Bikes And Books

If you think there is nothing worse than renting an apartment with windows and no view, think again. At one point in the city’s history, where one may now enjoy a small sliver of daylight and at least some fresh air, there was no light or air at all. Indeed, at some points in the history tenants’ windows looked out onto slits—sometimes a mere 28 inches wide—that were teeming with waste, rancid smells, and noise.

on the history of NYC air shafts

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Features, History

hilltop park, new york yankees, the highlanders

The Highlanders play a game at Hilltop Park in 1912, photo via NYPL

Not unlike their unexpected ALCS journey this year, the most dominant team in American sports got off to quite a rocky start. Not only did the New York Highlanders, now known as the Yankees, have a losing record for many years, the team’s first home field was a mess: it was located near a swamp, the outfield had no grass, and the ballpark sat mostly unfinished. In just six weeks, 500 men hastily built the stadium on Broadway and 168th Street in Washington Heights, known as Hilltop Park, in time for the Highlander’s first home game on April 30, 1903. Due to the unsavory, rock-filled conditions, the last big league game at Hilltop Park was played in October of 1912. Following its closure, the Highlanders changed their name to the Yankees in 1913, moved to the Bronx, and went on to become one of the most successful sports teams in the world.

More this way

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Features, History, photography, The urban lens

The corner of Broadway and 55th Street in 1970

6sqft’s series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. In this installment, Edward Grazda shares photos from the “mean streets” of 1970s and ’80s NYC. Are you a photographer who’d like to see your work featured on The Urban Lens? Get in touch with us at [email protected].

When photographer Edward Grazda moved to New York in the early ’70s, he was renting a loft on Bleecker Street for $250 a month during a time when the city was in a financial crisis, jobs were hard to come by, and places like the Bowery were facing a huge rise in homelessness. But it was also a time when a new generation of artists were beginning to move in. Instead of the tourist- and millionaire-filled streets we see today, 40 years ago they were teeming with energy. “I felt like there were many possibilities to be creative,” Ed says. And with that in mind, he began shooting candids and random street scenes between personal projects in Latin American and Afghanistan. This work abroad taught him “how to make oneself invisible and blend in on the street.”

Just a few years ago, Ed rediscovered these black-and-white photos and noticed how different things are now, from the physical buildings to the absence of people reading newspapers. He decided to compile them into a book “Mean Streets: NYC 1970-1985,” which was just released earlier this week and offers a rare look back “at that desolate era captured with the deliberate and elegant eye that propelled Grazda to further success.”

See Edward’s photos here

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Features, Greenwich Village, GVSHP, History, People

Lorraine Hansberry’s Greenwich Village: From ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ to civil rights

By Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Thu, October 12, 2017

Lorraine Hansberry at her typewriter in her Greenwich Village apartment in 1960. Photo by David Attie courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institute.

Lorraine Hansberry, the trailblazing playwright, activist, and Nina Simone song inspiration was perhaps most closely associated with Chicago. But in fact she lived, went to school, and spent much of her life in Greenwich Village, even writing her best known play “A Raisin in the Sun” while living on Bleecker Street. And shortly a historic plaque will mark the site of her home on Waverly Place.

Learn the full history here

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