Behind all the banks, tall towers and tourists filling up FiDi is a dark past most of us know nothing about. Back in the 1700s, a corner of Wall Street at Pearl Street played host to the city’s official slave market. Though no real recognition has been given to those that suffered in the construction of Manhattan in its earliest days—rather, the area’s sordid past has for the better part been swept under the rug—WNYC reports that the city will finally pay tribute to these forgotten slaves, adding a historical marker to the site where the slave market once operated.
If you’ve ever driven into the city from New Jersey and sat in a couple hours of traffic waiting to traverse either the Lincoln or Holland Tunnel, this 19th century idea for a Hudson River Bridge probably sounds pretty amazing. It would have spanned 6,000 feet from Hoboken to 57th Street in Manhattan, almost double the length of the George Washington Bridge, to give you an idea of its massiveness. Furthermore, it would have been 200 feet wide and 200 feet high, providing space for 12 railroads, 24 traffic lanes, and 2 pedestrian walkways. Its two 825-foot support towers would have surpassed the 792-foot Woolworth Building, which was the tallest skyscraper in the world at that time.
We know all about the Meatpacking District’s beginnings as the Gansevoort Market and the epicenter of meat marketers, as well as its current status as a burgeoning office tower district, but in the 1980s, this neighborhood was one to which most people didn’t pay much mind. It was fairly run down, with its industrial tenants having moved out, and became notorious for prostitution, sex clubs, and drug dealing. But there was much more to the area, including an accepting LGBT community and a downtown music and entertainment scene.
In this video we found from 1986, a young RuPaul takes us into his penthouse suite at the Jane Hotel, then known as the Jane West Hotel and far seedier than it is today, as well as walks around the gritty streets of the Meatpacking District and into his friend’s 9th Avenue rowhouse, which will undoubtedly look familiar to anyone who’s walked these cobblestone streets.
It was the winter of 1968 when Jefferson Airplane took to the rooftop of the Schuyler Hotel in Manhattan. The band had just released their fourth album and had also just made the cover of LIFE magazine. High on life—and likely some other stuff—they blasted from their PA atop the nine-story hotel Midtown hotel: “Hello New York! New York, wake up you fuckers! Free music! Nice songs! Free love!”
The band got a solid crowd going and at least one song in, but it didn’t take very long for the NYPD to show up—the concert was causing traffic jams on the surrounding streets as New Yorkers crowded around the hotel to get a better look. Although the concert was quickly broken up, it was also captured on video by none other than Jean Luc Godard and D.A. Pennebaker. (Fun side fact: Many claim that the Beatles ripped off the band’s performance with their show atop a London building about two months later.)
East Harlem: From Manhattan’s First Little Italy to El Barrio to a Neighborhood on the Cusp of Gentrification, Thu, April 9, 2015
A lot of attention is paid to West Harlem, or what many people traditionally consider THE Harlem, thanks to its rich history rooted in places like the Apollo and up-and-coming hot spots like the Studio Museum in Harlem and Marcus Samuelson’s renowned restaurant, the Red Rooster. But east of Fifth Avenue, there’s a history just as deep, and the neighborhood is at that fragile stage where it could easily be thrust into a wave of gentrification at any time.
Defined as the area bound by Fifth Avenue and First Avenue from 96th to 125th Streets, East Harlem is commonly known as Spanish Harlem, or El Barrio by locals. What many people unfamiliar with the neighborhood don’t know, though, is that this area got its start as Manhattan’s first Little Italy. And if you’re the type of New Yorker who doesn’t venture above 86th Street, you’re likely unaware of the slew of new developments sprouting up in East Harlem thanks to a 2003 57-block rezoning.
Although Times Square has transformed into a commercial beast filled to the brim with advertising, its very sordid and seedy past is certainly not lost on us. One man who found himself in the midst of the area when it was considered the worst block in town was Sheldon Nadelman.
From 1972 to 1980, Nadelman worked at Terminal Bar—the city’s “roughest bar” by many accounts—directly across from the Port Authority. Between pouring drinks, Nadelman found himself snapping photos of the folks who passed through. Over his decade-long stint, he accumulated a collection of more than 1,500 photos. His subjects were diverse ranging from actors to cooks to business people to tourists to, of course, the pimps and prostitutes that roamed the surrounding streets.
Recent reports show that NoMad has taken over the top spot for priciest neighborhood in the city in which to rent, with a one-bedroom unit going for an average of $4,270/month. For most real estate aficionados this isn’t shocking, as the neighborhood has been growing into one of the city’s hottest spots for the past several years, but few know of the area’s fascinating past.
Named for our fourth president, James Madison, the 6.2-acre Madison Square Park was first used as a potter’s field, then an army arsenal, then a military parade ground and finally as the New York House of Refuge children’s shelter, until it was destroyed by a fire in 1839. After the fire, the land between 23rd and 26th Streets from Fifth to Madison Avenues was established as a public park enclosed by a cast-iron fence in 1847. The redesign included pedestrian walkways, lush shrubbery, open lawns, fountains, benches and monuments and is actually similar to the park that exists today.
Goodyear Wanted to Create a Giant Conveyor Belt to Carry People Between Grand Central and Times Square, Fri, April 3, 2015
Those shuttle trains between Grand Central and Times Square can certainly get crowded during rush hour, so imagine bypassing the underground connection and hopping on a giant conveyor belt in clear, gondola-like cars? We’re not exactly sure if this sounds more or less appealing, but it’s exactly what the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company proposed in 1951, hoping to transport 60,000 New Yorkers daily a third faster than the subway thanks to a continuous loop.
Referred to today as the “real Don Draper,” McCauley “Mac'” Conner was one of the most important illustrators working during America’s golden age of advertising. Conner, now 101 years old, came to New York in 1950 and flourished in the city’s publishing industry, bringing an era of deep red lipstick, unabashed chain smoking and lunch-time martinis to the pages of America’s most popular magazines. With crisp lines and carefully chosen colors, Conner’s vibrant works not only captured a pivotal point in American history, but he also helped shape the image of a postwar nation. Ahead are some of his most notable—and provocative, for the time—images created for magazines such as Cosmo, Good Housekeeping, Collier’s, Woman’s Day, and many more.
The Met—already well-loved for its generous “pay as you wish” admission—is offering up another public good sure to get art buffs and wannabes clearing space on their hard drives. The Met has added 422 free titles to its MetPublications site, providing global citizens with digitized versions of new and archived books and catalogs that—if you can even get your hands on them in real life—can oftentimes ring up for more than $200 a pop.