As the Freedom Tower is being completed, New Yorkers are losing a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity: The chance to snap pictures of a landmark while it is still being built. It is incredible to imagine getting to see a half-built Empire State Building, or a mess of wires that will soon be the Manhattan Bridge, or an excavated hole in the ground where Rockefeller Center will soon be placed. With old photos, we can see what these buildings looked like before they were finished, and what New York looked like before its landmarks were in place.
We’re thinking of becoming local college basketball fans — not necessarily because we love the sport, but because we’re dying to get inside this Long Island University gymnasium that was once the Brooklyn Paramount Theatre. Commissioned in 1928 by Paramount Pictures, with a sister theatre in Times Square, this regal venue was the largest movie theatre in Brooklyn, second largest in the city, and the first theatre designed for talking pictures. Noted theatre architects Rapp and Rapp designed the rococo-style palace with 4,084 burgundy velvet seats, a ceiling painted with clouds, a 60-foot stage curtain decorated with satin-embroidered pheasants, huge chandeliers, and tiered fountains filled with goldfish.
Movie houses struggled during the depression years, and by 1936 the Brooklyn Paramount Theatre had lost $1.5 million since opening. In 1950 Long Island University purchased the building, and twelve years later they renovated the auditorium as their gymnasium keeping the original, ornate details of the space intact. The LIU Blackbirds played their first game in 1963, and in 1975 a second renovation occurred thanks to funding from local businesses.
There’s been a lot of novels set in New York City (guilty myself, two times). When done right, such work can serve as a portal to the past, when New York was a distinctly different place, one often defined by its era and often in direct contrast to the current conditions.
In Eamon Loingsigh’s powerful new novel, Light of the Diddicoy, reference is made in the very first line to the area “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.” Of course, any New Yorker worth his/her salted caramel custard from Shake Shack knows DUMBO, the Brooklyn nabe known for its pricey lofts and tony boutiques, its art galleries and swank eateries and a grassy park that sprawls along the water’s edge below the span of East River bridges. Lovely. The characters in Loingsigh’s novel aren’t so privileged, for they lived in DUMBO 100 years ago, long before any clunky acronyms, when the waterfront was a war zone, and the novel’s narrator, Liam Garrity, a displaced and desperate Irish immigrant, all of 14 years, fell in with a brutal gang as a matter of survival.
Frank Lloyd Wright is one of architecture’s most important figures, and you can see his work in five countries and 37 of 50 states. But when it comes to New York City, there is only one major Wright construction to be found: The Guggenheim. There is also a pre-fab house in Staten Island and one in Blauvelt just north of the city, but what other work did he do in the five boroughs? It turns out that Wright designed two other major projects in NYC, but both have been demolished. Here’s a look at these lost works by the great architect.
Everyone knows Manhattan is all about high-rise condos, tall apartment buildings, and any other kind of building in which people live above other people. But it wasn’t always that way. A hundred years ago, there was still room on this small island for the ultra-rich to build mansions all to themselves, single-family homes with the square footage of a castle. Today many of these buildings, all “Millionaire’s Row” mansions in the Upper East Side, belong to museums and schools, but the question remains: What are the biggest buildings in Manhattan today that were built as single-family homes?
Photo by John-Paul Palescandolo
In New York, many of the grand Beaux-Arts masterpieces — Grand Central Terminal, the Queensboro Bridge, the City Hall subway station, Columbia University, and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine — have one striking element in common: Guastavino tiles. Spanish architect and builder Rafael Guastavino and his son Rafael Jr. brought with them to New York at the end of the 19th century a Mediterranean design technique from the 14th century for thin-tile structural vaulting. The expertly engineered and architecturally beautiful vaults were lightweight, fireproof, load-bearing, cost-efficient, and able to span large interior areas.
Today there are over 250 Guastavino works in New York City alone, not to mention the 1,000 throughout the U.S. The Museum of the City of New York’s current exhibition, Palaces for the People: Guastavino and the Art of Structural Tile, explores Guastavinos’s spaces in New York and showcases “never-before-seen objects, artifacts, photographs, and documents.” We couldn’t help doing a little Guastavino exploration ourselves, and have put together some of our favorite tiled sites that you can actually visit.