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.
Watch the video here
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.
Find out how our beloved madison square park came to be
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.
More on this never-built conveyor belt
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.
See some of his incredible illustrations this way
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.
More info here
This red-shingled home may not look like much, but it’s steeped in history dating back to the early 20th century—and of course, there’s the fact that it’s no wider than most NYC bedrooms. Affectionately–and aptly–called the Skinny House, this tiny structure is the slimmest house in Mamaroneck and measures only 10 feet wide, 39 feet long, and rests on a 12.5 foot wide parcel of land. It’s also three (yes, three) stories tall. But in addition to a demure size, it also comes with a heart-warming story of neighborly love and generosity that have allowed it to endure for the better part of a century.
More history and photos here
Map Showing Location of Odor Producing Industries of New York and Brooklyn, circa 1870 (“Charles F. Chandler Papers,” Columbia University Rare Books and Manuscript Library)
A stench map today would include things like urine, rotting pizza, cigarettes and flavored vapors, and whatever unidentified odor of the day is pouring out of the subway. And while these are clearly unpleasant, at least they can be neutralized with some soap and water or the passing of time. But in the 19th century, the stenches of the city were far more permanent, stemming from the various industrial sites across Manhattan and Brooklyn (the five boroughs weren’t yet consolidated).
CityLab has uncovered an historic map from 1870 that shows the locations of New York’s odor-producing industries, including oil refineries, slaughter houses, fat renderers, and gas works. In the 19th century, it was believed that foul odors carried diseases, so the New York City Metropolitan Board of Health created the map of stenches (then known as “offensive trades”) to pinpoint the areas affected.
What did this mean for Brooklyn?
We’ve taken a look at a couple of fascinating websites that let users tour their city’s history through historic photos or overlaid maps from 1600 to present day, but a new app is trying to reach a similar goal on your mobile phone in real time. Pivot is an augmented reality app that alerts users when they’re near a “pivot point,” at which time they can raise their phones and see pictures and videos of what that exact location looked like in the past. The app’s creators hope this will become a historical preservation platform.
When John Jacob Astor IV built the Knickerbocker Hotel in 1906, he launched a generation of luxury Times Square hotels. The Beaux Arts masterpiece attracted the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, John D. Rockefeller, and Italian tenor Enrico Caruso. It was the birthplace of the martini and the site where the sale of Babe Ruth from the Red Sox to the Yankees took place. But after just 15 years, the hotel’s success declined just as fast as it emerged and it was repurposed as an office space, later becoming the Newsweek Building.
Today, though, the landmark is reclaiming its title of ultimate luxury hotel under its original moniker. After a two-year, $240 million modern renovation, the Knickerbocker offers 330 guest rooms, a rooftop bar and lounge with the ultimate view of the Times Square ball drop, and a foodie destination restaurant from chef Charlie Palmer.
Uncover the history and future of the Knickerbocker
The Manhattan Municipal Building toward the end of construction in 1913, via Shorpy
When we think of the city’s early skyscrapers, landmarks like the Woolworth Building and Flatiron Building usually come to mind. But there’s an equally fascinating and beautiful icon that often gets overlooked–the 1914 Manhattan Municipal Building. One of New York’s first skyscrapers, the 580-foot Beaux Arts masterpiece influenced civic construction throughout the country and served as the prototype for Chicago’s Wrigley Building and Cleveland’s Terminal Tower, among others.
A new video from Blueprint NYC (produced by the Office of NYCMedia) takes us into this historic structure, discussing everything from the reason for construction (after the 1898 consolidation of the five boroughs, there was a need for increased governmental office space) to interesting factoids (the building was designed from a rejected sketch of Grand Central Terminal Station) to the turn-of-the-century innovations that made this unique structure possible.
Watch the video