Monday, January 31, 2011

Horace Greeley Turns 200!

This is somewhat of a shameless plug for an upcoming event that I helped organize. It's a bicentennial, complete with a mini historical reenactment of sorts. Should be fun. My Berkeley roots, and Jr. High goth history are both evident in the cast of characters (Karl Marx and Edgar Allen Poe make appearances). I'll be there too, most likely without the black lipstick and communist flag.

Anyway, here is the post and event info. It also appears in the Bryant Park blog.

Local historians might be aware that Horace Greeley  --  newspaper publisher, abolitionist, and presidential candidate (he lost to Ulysses S. Grant) – turns 200 this Thursday, February 3rd.  Greeley  is the namesake of Greeley Square Park in the heart of the 34th Street District, a few blocks south of Bryant Park. What's his connection to Bryant Park?  In 1851, while traveling in London, Greeley attended, and was blown away by, the Great Exhibit of 1851, housed in the Crystal Palace at Hyde Park. Amazed by the breadth and content of the work, when he returned to the states, he met with friend, entertainer, and promoter P.T. Barnum and New York City officials to form a committee to bring a similar exhibition to the City. 

The Crystal Palace, also known as the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations, was situated next to the Croton Reservoir (now the location of the New York Public Library), where Bryant Park is today.  You can read more about the Crystal Palace and the Croton Reservoir,  here.

Interior of the NYC Crystal Palace exhibit, opened on July 14, 1853
To celebrate Greeley's birthday, our sister BID, the 34th Street Partnership, has planned a fun and informative program celebrating his life, with a musical performance from the Horace Greeley High School Madrigal Choir, and a re-dedication of the Horace Greeley monument by NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. A number of Horace Greeley’s friends and collaborators will be in attendance, including Edgar Allen Poe, Margaret Fuller, Abraham Lincoln, and Karl Marx, among others played by members of the Horace Greeley Drama Department – to reminisce Greeley’s numerous accomplishments and contributions to New York journalism. Also in attendance, will be a number of Greeley’s living descendants, introduced by “Horace Greeley” himself.

Early 1900s postcard showing the Greeley monument in Greeley Square Park

This special celebration begins at 11:00am and is free and open to the public. Hot chocolate will be provided by ’wichcraft.   

Event:  Happy 200th Birthday Horace Greeley
Date:   February 3, 2011
Time:  11:00 a.m.
Place:  Greeley Square Park (Between 32nd and 33rd Streets; Broadway and 6th Avenue)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

History Lecture + Bar = Good Way to Spend a Tuesday Night

These all look interesting, though I'm partial to the Garden Spot. A "useless lecture series" at Union Hall in Park Slope. Here's their link.

And Union Hall's.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011 - 8 pm (doors at 7:30)
Union Hall in Park Slope
702 Union St. @ 5th Ave
$5 cover

BETSY BRADLEY, "Dreamland is Burning: A Coney Island Centennial"
In 1911, the most expensive amusement park at Coney Island burned to the ground overnight. Bradley explains how the Dreamland Circus Sideshow rose from the park's ashes, and ushered in a century of truly "curious peoples" on Brooklyn's southernmost shores.

HEATHER QUINLAN, "The Brooklyn Accent: Freakin' A"
Other than cursing and hand gestures, Quinlan considers the components of the Brooklyn accent.

HOWARD EISMAN, "The Garden Spot of the Universe: Greenpoint, Civic Virtue, and The McGuinness"
Eisman details the career and legacy of Peter J. McGuinness, the last of New York's Irish political bosses.

MIKE MISCIONE, "Up With the Flag of Brooklyn!"
Miscione revisits the battle over Brooklyn's annexation by New York City in 1898 -- and reintroduces an anti-consolidation anthem of the day.


Looks Familiar, Doesn't It?

Winter in  NYC, circa yesterday, I mean, 1934.

42nd Street and 7th Avenue

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tunnels Under Bryant Park, Part 1

This post also appears on the Bryant Park blog, and is the first of a two part entry on NYC subway trains near the park.
It's common knowledge that throughout the city, below ground, there is an intricate subway tunnel system that includes used and abandoned tunnels, passageways, and stations. Mass transit efforts began in NYC many years before the underground subway system was constructed in the early 1900s. The grid system for the streets was laid out in midtown Manhattan in 1807, and the first elevated trains appeared in the early 1870s. With tracks laced across the city, these above ground trains heralded all sorts of urban development, expansion, and helped put New York City on the map as a cosmopolitan destination.

In fact, if you ride several trains within the MTA system (full list, I think: 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, A, B, F, J, M, N, Q, R) far enough into Brooklyn, Queens, or the Bronx, you can experience the glory of above-ground transit, except now there is the added annoyance of overheard yelling cell phone conversations from fellow passengers. Not so in the 1800s, though I’m sure those passengers had their grievances too.

Image: NYPL

The above image shows the elevated station at Sixth Avenue and 42nd Street, looking east towards Fifth Avenue. The Croton Reservoir is visible on the right, as well as Bryant Park (then Reservoir Square), signified by that clump of trees just in front of the reservoir.

The train lines were owned and operated by several companies. The Metropolitan Elevated Railway Company built and ran the Sixth Avenue line; the New York Elevated Railroad handled the Third and Ninth Avenue lines; and the Suburban Rapid Transit Company took care of the Bronx section of the Third Avenue line. In 1902, a new company, the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) was incorporated and soon after, built an underground 9.1-mile long line that stopped at 28 stations between City Hall and 145th Street and Broadway. This was the City’s first official subway system, and opened on October 27, 1904, to much fanfare

Mid-section of the 1904 IRT subway map

Part of this line ran along the northern border of Bryant Park, along 42nd street, and connected Grand Central to Times Square (now known as the S Shuttle). 

Photo: NY Transit Museum

The photograph above is a pedestrian-level view of the construction on 42nd Street, looking east, with Bryant Park to the right, and 42nd Street to the left. The monument on the right is J. Marion Simms -- "father of gynecology" -- who now stands across from the Academy of Medicine on Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street in Manhattan.

For more historical subway facts, take a look at the MTA's fact's and figures page, and for pictures, check out this NY Times slideshow.