Before there were sports bars and college dorms, there were bratwurst and shooting clubs. In 1855, New York had the third largest German-speaking population in the world, outside of Vienna and Berlin, and the majority of these immigrants settled in what is today the heart of the East Village.
Known as “Little Germany” or Kleindeutschland (or Dutchtown by the Irish), the area comprised roughly 400 blocks, with Tompkins Square Park at the center. Avenue B was called German Broadway and was the main commercial artery of the neighborhood. Every building along the avenue followed a similar pattern–workshop in the basement, retail store on the first floor, and markets along the partly roofed sidewalk. Thousands of beer halls, oyster saloons, and grocery stores lined Avenue A, and the Bowery, the western terminus of Little Germany, was filled with theaters.
The bustling neighborhood began to lose its German residents in the late nineteenth century when Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe move in, and a horrific disaster in 1904 sealed the community’s fate.
Read our full history of Kleindeutschland
The Rainbow Room served its first guests on October 3, 1934, and now, almost 80 years later to the day, the historic restaurant and event space has reopened after a restoration by Gabellini Sheppard Architects.
Located on the 65th floor of the Raymond Hood-designed 30 Rockefeller Plaza (30 Rock), it was the first restaurant located in a high-rise building and for decades was the highest restaurant in the country. Suffering from a decline in business, the fine-dining establishment closed its doors in 2009. But in 2012, the Rainbow Room was declared an official interior landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), and a year later it was announced that the storied space would reopen this fall. Right on schedule, the new incarnation of the venue opened last night for a preview by the Sir John Soanes Museum Foundation.
Ogle the landmarked restaurant here
This weekend, all you old-house lovers will have two opportunities to step back in time and explore the elite Harlem enclave known as Strivers’ Row. Located on West 138th to West 139th Streets, between Adam Clayton Powell and Frederick Douglass Boulevards, the area was once home to prominent, wealthy African-American performers, artists, and professionals who lived in the harmonious row of stately brick dwellings.
Running until Sunday, October 5th is an exhibit at Macy’s called “Strivers’ Row Style: Uptown Comes Downtown,” which will feature vignettes by various designers of what the interiors of these historic homes would have looked like during the heyday. Also on the 5th is the Strivers’ Rome Home Tour, which lets participants inside eight of the distinctive residences and four historic churches.
More on Striver’s Row and the upcoming events
, Fri, September 26, 2014
In the internet hierarchy of “things the internets like”, we’d argue that ruin porn sits wedged somewhere between Buzzfeed quizzes and cats. Images of decaying architecture conjure up unsettling feelings of tragedy and loss, but somehow manage to grip us with its intangible beauty. Whatever the cause for this may be, the thrill and enjoyment we get from looking ruin porn is palpable.
The term ‘ruin porn’ is said to have been coined by blogger James Griffioen during a 2009 interview with Vice magazine in which he criticized photographers who scouted down-trodden Detroit for provocative photos. While ruin porn is the trend at hand, decades before its arrival there was something called ‘ruin value’.
learn more about ruin value
, Wed, September 24, 2014
New York City’s architecture and design month is almost here. “Archtober” is 31 days of architecture and design events, including talks, tours, receptions, and festivals. There are dozens of events for you to check out, but we’ve hand-picked ten that will give you a well-rounded and memorable Archtober.
Find out here what events to check out
, Fri, September 19, 2014
Image courtesy of MNCY
Long considered the capital of Jewish America, this overpoweringly cramped neighborhood was considered by many to be the greatest concentration of Jewish life in nearly 2,000 years.
Between 1880 and 1924, 2.5 million mostly-impoverished Ashkenazi Jews came to the US and nearly 75 percent took up residence on the Lower East Side. According to the Library of Congress, by 1900, more than 700 people per acre were settling in a neighborhood lined with tenements and factories. And as quickly as they descended on the streets, all sharing a common language (mostly Yiddish) and most certainly, similar backgrounds, they quickly established synagogues as early as 1865 (the landmarked Bialystoker Synagogue, whose congregants were mostly Polish immigrants from Bailystok), small shops, pushcarts teeming with goods, social clubs and even financial-aid societies.
By 1910, the Lower East Side’s population was well over the five million mark, but sadly, such congestion habitually caused havoc.
Learn more about the history of the LES here
, Thu, September 18, 2014
Gaudi’s proposed building in the New York skyline, as imagined by the TV show “Fringe.” Image © FringeTelevision.com
Atoni Gaudí was a brilliant and polarizing architect. Whereas most architects will see their works compared and contrasted against others in their field, even the most knowledgeable architectural critics will look at Gaudí’s work and throw up their hands and say it must be something alien. The organic curves and mounds of Gaudí’s designs look hundreds of years ahead of their time. But Gaudí worked mostly around his home region of Catalonia, and the businesslike skyscrapers of Manhattan have never looked anything like the the architect’s designs. However, there was a time when a Gaudí NYC skyscraper almost came to be.
See the proposed Gaudí building here
, Fri, September 12, 2014
Just when we thought we’d seen it all, we get word that there’s a Cold War-era bomb shelter hidden under the Brooklyn Bridge, amid the landmark’s many secret passageways and forgotten rooms.
The nuclear bunker is inside one of the massive stone arches below the bridge’s main entrance on the Manhattan side, and it’s chock full of supplies, including medication like Dextran (used to treat shock), water drums, paper blankets, and 352,000 calorie-packed crackers (that may be still be edible, in fact).
Find out what else lies beneath and how this hidden shelter was discovered
The newest apartment houses, be it now or some 150 years ago has always been of great interest to New York buyers and renters. And like today, their appeal make sell-outs as easy as pie. From Manhattan’s very first apartment building to those that followed a decade or so later, those initial projects continue to remain the city’s most coveted digs—not to mention the city’s most expensive. But what stands out among these famous buildings as the years passed was the introduction of not-yet-available services—ranging from running water and elevators to electricity and communal amenities. Whether we are talking about the Dakota or the luxurious the Osborne Flats, learn why these century-plus-old buildings continue to enchant the rich, the famous, and the rest of us.
Click here for Cliffs Notes on NYC’s most historic homes
Many wonder why such a prolific and famous architect as Frank Lloyd Wright didn’t have more buildings in New York City. It’s safe to say he wasn’t a huge fan of urban density, but how could one possibly create something as iconic as the Guggenheim’s spirals without getting any other work in the city? As we showed in a previous post, two Wright designs have actually been demolished. Now, we will look at the two buildings Wright intended for the New York area which were never fully realized—at least, not in Manhattan.
See the Frank Lloyd Wright designs here