Map of the Western Canadian Fur Trade, ca. 1750-1759. The North American Fur Trade Began with French Merchants in Canada. Via NYPL Digital Collections
The fur trade has such deep roots in New York City that the official seal of the City of New York features not one but two beavers. Fur was not only one of the first commodities to flow through the port of New York, helping to shape that port into one of the most dynamic gateways the world has ever known, but also, the industry had a hand in building the cityscape as we know it. John Jacob Astor, the real estate tycoon whose New York holdings made him the richest man in America, began as an immigrant fur trader. Later, as millions of other immigrants made the city home, many would find their way into the fur trade, once a bustling part of New York’s sprawling garment industry. Today, as the nation’s fashion capital, New York City is the largest market for furs in the United States.
A new bill sponsored by Council Speaker Corey Johnson could change that. Aimed at protecting animals from cruelty, the bill would ban the sale of new fur garments and accessories, but allow for the sale of used fur and new items made out of older repurposed furs. The measure has drawn impassioned criticism from a diverse set of opponents, particularly African American pastors who point out the cultural importance of furs within the black community, and Hasidic rabbis, who worry that wearing traditional fur hats would make Hassidic men vulnerable to hate crimes. And those in the fur industry fear the loss of livelihoods and skilled labor. After prompt pushback, Johnson said he plans to rework the bill to make it more fair to furriers. But given New York’s current debate around fur, we thought we’d take a look at the long history of the city’s fur trade.
Wrap yourself in this story!
Image courtesy of NYCEDC.
The city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has said it will begin the search for a nonprofit organization to operate the long-in-the-works Harlem African Burial Ground in East Harlem this fall. A decade of research and planning has gone into the task of converting the city block–home to the unused MTA 126th Street bus depot–into a cultural center and outdoor memorial that will honor its past state as a burial ground for enslaved and free African people. City officials say the project will make use of new apartments rising on a newly-rezoned adjoining site as an ongoing source of funding, as first reported by THE CITY.
Find out more
Top, left to right: GAA Firehouse, James Baldwin Residence, LGBT Community Center; Bottom, left to right: Audre Lorde Residence, Women’s Liberation Center, Caffe Cino; Photos courtesy of NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project
During a hearing on Tuesday, New York City residents, members of the LGBTQ community, and elected officials voiced their support for the landmarking of six individual sites related to the history of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Advocates say the proposed landmarks would recognize groups and individuals who have advanced the LGBTQ rights movement. Ken Lustbader, co-director of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, urged LPC to preserve the sites. “The Landmarks Preservation Commission’s designation of these six LGBTQ sites has the power to provide both a tangible, visceral connection to what is often an unknown and invisible past and the intangible benefits of pride, memory, identity, continuity, and community,” Lustbader said on Tuesday.
A man wearing a fez selling drinks in Little Syria in the early 1900s, via Wiki Commons
Three structures on Lower Manhattan’s Washington Street–St. George’s Syrian Catholic Church at 103 Washington Street, The Downtown Community House at 105-107 Washington Street, and the block’s sole surviving tenement at 109 Washington Street--are the last standing architectural vestiges of the once-thriving community of Little Syria. The area served as home to immigrants from Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Moravia, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, Ukraine, Germany and Ireland that flourished on the Lower West Side in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries. Before that surviving history is lost, local preservationists are calling for the structures to become part of a mini historic district, citing a “landmarks emergency.”
Get the scoop
Nestled in one of the busiest harbors in the world, New York City is home to many lighthouses which, over the years, have guided countless ships. Though many are now obsolete and out of use, the further you look into the histories of each lighthouse the more you realize that, beyond their architectural and historic significance, each lighthouse has at its core a deeply human story: tales of bravery, feats of engineering, and even a ghost story or two. Below, we round up ten of the most prominent lighthouses around the city.
Check them all out!
Last year’s Pride Parade outside the Stonewall Inn, via Wiki Commons
In about a month New York will be in the throes of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, three nights of disturbances from June 28th to June 30th 1969, which are recognized globally as the start of the modern LGBT rights movement. But Stonewall is only one of the scores of important LGBT landmarks in Greenwich Village – the homes of people, events, businesses and institutions dating from more than a century ago to just a few years ago. Thanks to landmark designation, most of these sites still stand. Here are just some of the dazzling array of those, all still extant, which can be found in the neighborhood which is arguably the nexus of the LGBT universe.
Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York outside 54 Pearl Street on opening day. Taken from Broad Street facing east. 1907. From the archives at Fraunces Tavern Museum. Courtesy of the Fraunces Tavern Museum
Fraunces Tavern is breaking out the champagne this year to celebrate its 300th birthday. Called “the oldest standing structure in Manhattan,” the building you see today at the corner of Broad and Pearl Streets owes much to 20th-century reconstruction and restoration, but the site has a storied and stately past. In fact, any toasts delivered to mark the Tavern’s tri-centennial will have to stack up against George Washington’s farewell toast to his officers, delivered in the Tavern’s Long Room, on December 4, 1783.
Named for Samuel Fraunces, the patriot, spy, steward, and gourmand, who turned the old De Lancey Mansion at 54 Pearl Street into 18th century New York’s hottest watering hole, Fraunces Tavern connects New York’s proud immigrant history with its Dutch past, Revolutionary glory, maritime heritage, and continuous culinary prowess. Dive into the building’s unparalleled past and discover secrets and statesmen, murder and merriment – all served up alongside oysters as big as your face.
Learn the whole history
47-11 90th Street via Google Maps
A plot of land in Queens that contains a historic burial ground is selling for $13.8 million. As first reported by Patch, the lot at 47-11 90th Street in Elmhurst was home to the United African Society of Newtown, founded in 1828 as one of the first freed African American communities in the area, and its cemetery. In a brochure, real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield markets the land as “92,000 buildable square feet for residential development,” but makes no mention of the historic burial ground underneath.
Get the details
It’s Fleet Week, and New York is awash in sailors. If you’re moved by all the festivities and want to get in on the maritime merriment, there are sites exploring New York’s links to the sea throughout all five boroughs. From barges to schooners to yachts to dry docks, here are 10 sites where you can celebrate New York’s seafaring spirit.
Check them all out
“Addresses Project” map via Gwen Shockey
Following the closure of Woodside’s Bum Bum Bar in March, only three lesbian bars remain in New York City. To preserve the history of these significate sites, local artist Gwen Shockey has spent five years tracking locations of former lesbian and queer clubs (h/t Daily News). Through an interactive map, Shockey has mapped more than two hundred addresses of venues that once hosted events for lesbians, relying mostly on word-of-mouth storytelling.
See the map