Wednesday, September 14, 2011

September Dedication

This post also appears on the Bryant Park blog.

Seventy-seven years ago today Bryant Park re-opened after an aggressive redesign and renovation led by NYC Parks Commissioner Robert Moses.

Lifted straight from an older post, which has several in-process construction photos: "Assisted by consulting architect Aymar Embury II, and landscape architect Gilmore D. Clarke, Moses transformed the grounds of Bryant Park from a Victorian greensward to a French Classical landscape very similar to today’s design."

Here are a few photos from the dedication ceremony held on September 14, 1934. First, the ceremony. It almost looks as if no one is there listening to Robert Moses, and the fountain water is very still.

But it was well attended. Everyone is clustered behind the fountain, recently moved from its prior location at the other end of the park, just behind the library.

A bird's eye of the lawn, including the hedges, Bryant Park Place along the left on 40th Street, and the Union Dime Savings Bank building at the corner of 40th and Sixth Avenue.

**All Photos, copyright: New York City Parks Photo Archive

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sideshow Corner: Life's Wonders on Display

I have to give proper credit for the title of this post to author Stacy Carlson and her book Among the Wonderful. Carlson's book is a well-researched fictional account of early 1900s sideshows in NYC, specifically Barnum's Living Wonders. Buy and review it.

Though Barnum gets a LOT of credit for reinventing and promoting the Sideshow, it was Samuel W. Gumpertz who brought it to Coney Island in the early 1900s. The images below, all from Pisark, a Coney Island historian associated with the Coney Island History Project, are mostly of Coney Island Wonders.

Lionel the Lion Faced Man, or, Stephan Bibrowski, a Polish native who moved to the States in the early 1900s to perform with Barnum & Bailey's Circus. By the 1920s he was a Coney Island regular. I'm almost positive his image has been used as a heavy metal album cover several times over, but can't find any proof.

Jean-Jaques Libbera, "The Double-Bodied Man." Jean and his brother (attached at Jean's mid-section) Jaques were born in Rome and entertained throughout the 1920s. Jean eventually married and had four children.

 Eddie Masher, a "Living Skeleton" with an advertised weight of 38 pounds at five-foot, seven-inches tall.

Violet and Daisy Hilton, "English Siamese Twins" and " The Hilton Sisters." These Hilton sisters are much more endearing and interesting than the other famous set. After Violet and Daisy made their last public performance in the 1960s, the sisters worked in a grocery store. They died of Hong Kong flu in 1969.

I have identical twin cousins. This is a birthday card waiting to happen.

Like the Lion Faced Man above, I thought I'd seen these ladies on an album cover, but nope, the angsty soundtrack of my youth had this cover:

Still a really good album, btw. I recently heard it again and am now tempted to buy it for the third time. My first and second copies were played to death.

Other fun things:
*A list of historic Coney Island performers
*Current CI performers (think albino snakes, fire, and fishnets)
*Legitimize your purchase of a bowler hat and/or corset, and learn to swallow swords, charm snakes, and eat fire.