The Grand Central Hotel in the late 1800s, via Wiki Commons
In the mid-1970s, New York City was falling apart. Its finances, infrastructure, and social cohesion were, figuratively speaking, crumbling. But in one very tragic case, they were literally crumbling, too. And it all came tumbling down on August 3, 1973, when what was once one of the world’s grandest hotels (which had more recently become known for mayhem of both a musical and criminal sort) collapsed onto Broadway at Bond Street in Greenwich Village. From serving as the scene of one of the time’s most notorious murders to a connection to the National Baseball League, the Grand Central Hotel certainly had a grand history.
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Photo via Wiki Commons
With 12 million visits a year from tourists and residents alike, Washington Square Park has plenty of things to see and do. And Parkies worth their salt know the basics: it was once a potter’s field where the indigent were buried, and a roadbed carried vehicles through the Park for almost 100 years. But the Park holds some secrets even the most knowledgeable Washington Square denizen might not know, like its connection to freed slaves in NYC and the fact that it was the first place the telegraph was publicly used.
Read on to discover if you’re a Park newbie or a Park expert
Early designs for Central Park. Image courtesy of the National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site.
When thinking of influential creators of New York City’s most memorable places, it’s hard not to imagine Frederick Law Olmsted near the top of the list. Considered to be the founder of landscape architecture–he was also a writer and conservationist–Olmsted was committed to the restorative effects of natural spaces in the city. Perhaps best known for the wild beauty of Central and Prospect Parks, his vast influence includes scores of projects such as the Biltmore estate, the U.S. Capitol grounds and the Chicago World’s Fair. In preparation for the bicentennial of Olmsted’s 1822 birth, the Library of Congress has made 24,000 documents providing details of Olmsted’s life available online, Smithsonian reports. The collection includes journals, personal correspondence, project proposals and other documents that offer an intimate picture of Olmsted’s private life and work. The collection is linked to an interactive map at Olmsted Online showing all Olmsted projects in the United States (and there are many). You can search the map according to project name, location, job number and project type.
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When the Piccirilli Brothers arrived in New York from Italy in 1888, they brought with them a skill– artistry and passion for stone-carving unrivaled in the United States. At their studio at 467 East 142nd Street, in the Mott Haven Section of the Bronx, the brothers turned monumental slabs of marble into some of the nation’s recognizable icons, including the senate pediment of the US Capitol Building and the statue of Abraham Lincoln that sits resolutely in the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall.
The Piccirillis not only helped set our national narrative in stone but they also left an indelible mark on New York City. They carved hundreds of commissions around the five boroughs, including the 11 figures in the pediment of the New York Stock exchange, the “four continents” adorning the Customs House at Bowling Green, the two stately lions that guard the New York Public Library, both statues of George Washington for the Arch at Washington Square, and upwards of 500 individual carvings at Riverside Church.
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While we take for granted the paths and roads we use on a daily basis, it’s interesting to find out how they came to be. It’s not a new concept that paths worn by the comings and goings of early dwellers and subsequent settlers in a particular area became roads, streets and thoroughfares, often with names that reflect their beginnings. Brooklyn Heights Blog (via Viewing NYC) shares some insight into Brooklyn’s familiar roads that began as Native American trails on a 1946 map titled “Indian Villages, Paths, Ponds and Places in Kings County.”
Peruse the map
Roger Horne, a Mohawk Ironworker in the Raising Gang, ca. 1970 via the Smithsonian
The Empire State Building. The George Washington Bridge. The United Nations. The Woolworth Building. 30 Rock. The Seagram Building. Lincoln Center. The Waldorf Astoria. Virtually all of New York’s most iconic structures were raised in part by Mohawk Native American ironworkers. Since 1916, when Mohawk men made their way to New York to work on the Hell Gate Bridge, ironworkers from two Native communities, Akwesasne (which straddles Ontario, Quebec, and New York State) and Kahnawake (near Montreal), have been “walking iron” across the city.
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Image: Matthew D. Britt via Flickr
“Secret” details hidden in plain sight are pretty much the rule in New York City, and the “Scrabble” street sign in Jackson Heights is a fine example. The letters that make up the sign marking 35th Avenue where it meets 81st Street in the neighborhood’s historic district are–if you look more closely than you’d ever really look at a street sign–accorded numbered points below each letter, Scrabble tile-style. The sign honors the fact that the beloved geeky pastime–according to Hasbro, three out of every five American homes harbor a Scrabble board–was invented right here in Queens by the Poughkeepsie-born Alfred Mosher Butts in 1931. Butts was an architect, and as history tells us, an architect generally needed to find an alternate way to keep busy during the Great Depression.
A big hit at the church social
P.S. 64 in 2013, courtesy of GVSHP
Twenty years ago, on July 20, 1998, Mayor Rudy Giuliani sold former Public School 64 on the Lower East Side, then home to the Charas-El Bohio Community and Cultural Center, to a developer, despite opposition from the building’s occupants and the surrounding community. The decision and the building remain mired in controversy to this day. Community groups and elected officials will hold a rally in front of the building at 605 East 9th Street on Friday at 6 pm to mark the 20th anniversary of the sale and to call on Mayor Bill de Blasio to return the building to a community use.
Photo by Tia Richards for 6sqft
Coinciding with the 170th Anniversary of the Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention, members of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund unveiled on Thursday the official design of the first statue of non-fictional women in Central Park. Designed by Meredith Bergmann, the sculpture includes both legible text and a writing scroll that represents the arguments that both women — and their fellow suffragists — fought for. There is also a digital scroll, which will be available online, where visitors are encouraged to join the ongoing conversation. The sculpture of Stanton and Anthony will be dedicated in Central Park on August 18, 2020, marking the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote nationwide.
Learn more about this monumental monument
Historic Hunterfly Road Houses via the Brooklyn Historical Society
It’s a mighty sounding moniker, but the name “King’s County” also speaks to Brooklyn’s less-than-democratic origins. At the turn of the 19th century, the city of Brooklyn was known as the “slaveholding capital” of New York State and was home to the highest concentration of enslaved people north of the Mason-Dixon Line. But, after New York State abolished slavery in 1827, free black professionals bought land in what is now Crown Heights and founded Weeksville, a self-supporting community of African American Freedman, which grew to become the second-largest free black community in Antebellum America. By 1855, over 520 free African Americans lived in Weeksville, including some of the leading activists in the Abolitionist and Equal Suffrage movements.
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