Tag Archives: apartments

Odds and Ends: Ghost Stories, Apartment Tales

Here’s a few recent press and blog appearances that we’ve done in the past couple weeks:   It’s almost time for our annual ghost story podcast in a couple weeks! To get you in the mood, I made an appearance on Fox 5 News on Tuesday, speaking to Dan Bowens about ghosts at the Chelsea Hotel. You’ll also hear a little sound bite about Peter Stuyvesant!  Here’s the video



Speaking of horror stories, navigating the world of New York apartment renting and buying is something human beings so seldom have to do.  For the real estate blog Brick Underground, I was interviewed about my own experiences with renting in New York City since the 1990s. You can read it at the link below.  I personally love this headline:



And finally, I posted this a couple weeks ago, but in case you missed it — podcaster Ian Gleason interviewed me about how we put together a podcast. If you’re a podcast junkie, I think you’ll enjoy this show. You can listen here or download it from iTunes:




Tomorrow there’s a new Bowery Boys podcast. We’re going back to 1776. This calls for a song!

Park Slope and the Story of Brownstone Brooklyn

PODCAST  Park Slope – or simply the park slope, as they used to say – is best known for its spectacular Victorian-era mansions and brownstones, one of the most romantic neighborhoods in all of Brooklyn. It’s also a leading example of the gentrifying forces that are currently changing the make-up of the borough of Brooklyn to this day.

During the 18th century this sloping land was subject to one of the most demoralizing battles of the Revolutionary War, embodied today by the Old Stone House, an anchor of this changing neighborhood. In the 1850s, the railroad baron Edwin Clark Litchfield brought the first real estate development to this area in the form of his fabulous villa on the hill. By the 1890s the blocks were stacked with charming house, mostly for occupancy by wealthy families.

Circumstances during the Great Depression and World War II reconfigured most of these old (and old fashioned) homes into boarding houses and working-class housing. Then a funny thing happens, something of a surprising development in the 1960s: the arrival of the brownstoners, self-proclaimed ‘pioneers’ who refurbished deteriorating homes.

The revitalization of Park Slope has been a mixed blessing as later waves of gentrification and rising prices threaten to push out both older residents and original gentrifiers alike.

PLUS: The terrifying details of one of the worst plane crashes in American history, a disaster that almost took out one of the oldest corners of the neighborhood.

And a special thanks to our guests on this show — Kim Maier from the Old Stone House;  Julie Golia, Director of Public History, Brooklyn Historical Society; and  John Casson and Michael Cairl, both of Park Slope Civic Council.

To get this week’s episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services or get it straight from our satellite site.

You can also listen to the show on Stitcher streaming radio and Player FM from your mobile devices.

Or listen to it straight from here:
The Bowery Boys #181: Park Slope and the Story of Brownstone Brooklyn


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The Vechte Cortelyou House (aka the Old Stone House) depicted as it looked in 1699 (from a hand colored lithograph by the firm of Nathaniel Currier, MCNY)



A collection of classified ads from the December 1, 1912 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, offering several living options in the park slope area.

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The stark Fourteenth Street Armory, located in the South Slope, depicted here as it looked in 1906 —  “a pretty place” (MCNY)
Congregation Beth Elohim, pictured here on September 16, 1929, located at Garfield Place and 8th Avenue. (MCNY)



The horrific place crash of December 16, 1960 — United Airlines Flight 826, bound for Idlewild Airport, colliding with Trans World Airlines Flight 266, heading to LaGuardia Airport. 128 passengers were killed, along with six people on the ground. (Top picture courtesy New York Daily News; the two after are from the New York Fire Deparment. You can find further images here)




Some images from 1961 by John Morrell from the archives of the Brooklyn Historical Society:

A view along Prospect Park West at and 16th Street and Windsor Place.


View of east side of 8th Avenue between 15th and 16th Streets looking north. n.e. cor. 16th Street (right) & 8th Avenue.


Prospect Park West looking south toward Prospect Park/branch, U.S. Post Office (at northeast corner of Prospect Park W. & 16th Street).


By the 1970s so mansions and brownstones close to the park were getting renovated by ‘pioneers’ with the means to restore these homes to their original splendor .



In 1969, New York Magazine touted the ‘radical’ alternative of moving to Brooklyn in an article by Pete Hamill:



TOP PHOTOGRAPH by Luci West from Moving Postcard

The first appearance of the shower or “rain bath” in New York

With major improvements in plumbing and home design, private ‘rain-baths’ or showers began to be installed in the wealthier American homes. This is a New York Times advertisement from November 11, 1914 for a Kenney Needle Shower which inundated the body with water from multiple showerheads.

The modern form of shower was once referred to as a “rain bath”, invented in Europe in the 19th century.

From a 1908 journal called “Modern Baths and Bath Houses“:

“The rain bath is the most important form of cleansing bath, from a hygienic point of view, hence it is deserving of special attention.  Since the first introduction, about the year 1883, of the so-called ‘rain baths’ in Germany, I have followed with keen interest and close attention the gradual development and rapid spread of this new system of baths.

In the modern ‘rain bath’ system …. tubs are entirely abolished, simple spray or shower baths being substituted for the same, and being installed in the bath compartments as a distinct and independent form of bath.  

One feature of construction, which is novel and of much importance, is that the shower or spray in placed at an inclined angle in the rain bath, the object being to avoid a vertical stream from the shower striking the head of the bather, which to many person is quite disagreeable.  In the new form of rain bath .. the lukewarm water strikes the body only from the neck downwards, and the head is not wetted, except when the bather purposefully places the same under the descending shower of water.”

The very first ‘rain bath’ installed in New York, according to the 1908 journal, was at the New York City Juvenile Asylum, located at 175th Street and 10th Avenue. (Pictured below.) Delinquents taken to the asylum were stripped of their street clothing and thrown into the new showers, then provided proper uniforms.  After what appeared to be a successful trial upon these poor children, rain baths were installed in public hospitals and bathhouses throughout the city.

Private application of this technology, however, took a bit longer to catch on.  Home installations, such as the ones illustrated at top, came with the advent of improved apartment living in the early 20th century.

Apparently there was some concern that the rain bath could be successfully applied to private dwellings that weren’t for the wealthy.

“[T]he middle classes who, in New York City, for instance, are largely compelled to live in flats or apartment houses (the higher-sounding name for improved tenement houses), have, with rare exceptions, only a narrow, dark and generally uninviting bathroom, and the mistake is usually made by architects or buildings of locating the water-closet [toilet] almost invariably in the same room.”

Imagine, putting the shower in the same room as the toilet!

The Stuyvesant, New York’s first apartment building: Imported luxury style for a new middle class

The creation of ‘acceptable’ communal living: The Stuyvesant Flats, at 142 East 18th Street, designed by Richard Morris Hunt, photographed by Berenice Abbott.

PODCAST Well, we’re movin’ on up….to the first New York apartment building ever constructed. New Yorkers of the emerging middle classes needed a place to live situated between the townhouse and the tenement, and the solution came from overseas — a daring style of communal and affordable living called the ‘apartment’ or ‘French flat’.

The city’s first was financed by Rutherford Stuyvesant, an old-money heir with an unusual story to his name. He hired one of the upper class’s hottest architects to create an apartment house, called the Stuyvesant Apartments, with many features that would have been shocking to more than a few New Yorkers of the day.

The building’s first tenants were sometimes well-known, often artists and publishers, and almost all of them with a fascinating story to tell. Listen in to hear about the vanguard first renters of this classic, long-gone building.

You can tune into it below, download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services, or get it straight from our satellite site.

Or listen to it here:
The Bowery Boys: The First Apartment Building

I have been unable to find any portraits of Mr. Rutherford Stuyvesant (aka Stuyvesant Rutherford), the man who financed the Stuyvesant for $100,000. However I have found a picture of Mrs. Rutherford Stuyvesant, who doesn’t look like the kind of lady to mettle around in her husband’s affairs. She would not have found the apartments which bore her name very accomodating. Many, many others did. (Courtesy LOC)

The tenacious Elizabeth ‘Libby’ Custer, photo taken in 1876, the year her husband was killed at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Mrs. Custer moved into Stuyvesant and successfully led her crusade to rehabilitate her husband’s reputation.

Maggie Custer Calhoun, younger sister to General Custer, lived with her sister-in-law at the Stuyvesant before embarking on a successful career as an elocutionist.

The landscape painter Worthington Whittredge also resided here. In fact, he beamed about it in his autobiography: “I was one of the first to subscribe for an apartment in this house, which was to be erected in 18th Street near Third Avenue and Stuyvesant Square.”

Earlier in his career, Whittredge posed as George Washington while Emanuel Leutze painted ‘Washington Crossing The Delaware’. (Worthington is quite comfortable on both sides of the easel The painting below is by William Merritt Chase.)

In its later years, the Stuyvesant was used as the set for a pivotal scene in the Oscar-nominated film noir ‘Kiss of Death’ starring Richard Widmark. Needless to say, this sort of activity very rarely went on at the Stuyvesant.

View Larger Map

If you lived here, you’d be home by now….

The Navarro Flats, once at Seventh Avenue and 59th Street, was an early pioneer of luxury apartment living along Central Park South. Although this stunner, by Spanish architect José Francisco de Navarro, is long gone, it set the pace for acceptable living on the park’s outskirts. Tomorrow, I’ll present another vanished classic of the apartment scene, one of the first buildings to indoctrinate New Yorkers on the joys of luxury communal living. The new podcast will be ready for download by this evening!

By the way, the Navarro had some very well-known financial troubles, more of which you can read about here.

Pic courtesy NYPL