Tag Archives: baseball

Look Back At The Bronx — Exclusive Images from NYC’s Department of Records

We hope you enjoyed our epic three-part tour through the history of the Bronx. This was the first time we’ve ever tackled the story of a borough over the course of a few shows, and we really had to learn to think concisely and in big concepts, lest each episode be a couple hours long.

Here are the three shows in case you missed one:

The Bronx Is Born (1630-1874)

The Bronx Is Building (1875-1955)

The Bronx Was Burning (1955-today)

There are of course many aspects of Bronx history that we didn’t even get to properly cover — Fort Schuyler, Marble Hill, the Quakers of Hunts Point, the Bronx Terminal Market, the former amusements of Clason Point, Saint Raymond’s Cemetery, the Hub. That simply means we’ll be returning to the borough in future episodes.

But a special treat arrived in our mailbox this week from the NYC Department of Records. Archivist Alexandra Hilton curated a Bronx centennial exhibition a couple years ago featuring images from the deep trove of riches in the department’s collection. And she’s kindly offered to share some with us here!

Enjoy this look back through many era of the Bronx through perspectives you’ve perhaps never seen.

You’re not seeing things — this is a baseball game next to Woodlawn Cemetery, somewhere along the Bronx River Parkway, date unknown, but most certainly late 19th century.

NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records

The auditorium of Morris High School, the first high school built in the Bronx. Picture is from November 1926,

NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records

 

The NY Catholic Protectory, an orphanage, in Parkchester, date unknown.

NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records

 

A couple images of the Bronx River within Bronx Park and the New York Botanical Garden (which was contained within the confines of the park), from its early years, c. pre 20th century.

NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records

The Haupt Conservatory within the botanic garden.

NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records

 

Inside old Fort Schuyler at Throgs Neck in the late 1930s, as military operations are dismantled and the structure becomes New York State Merchant Marine Academy (now SUNY Maritime College).

NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records

The scene — St. Mary’s Park in Mott Haven. I believe this is the construction of a new playground, but the park has been through a lot of changes, so it may be something else. Date is April of 1934. Any guesses? Also, see the mansion in the background?

NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records

Bungalows develop near the location of Orchard Beach, April 1929.

NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records

The beautiful Bronx County Courthouse, pictured here a bit after its completion in 1935.

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wpa_257b.tif

The opening of Orchard Beach on July 25, 1936. Some extraordinary fashions on display here!

NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records

An overhead view of Orchard Beach, 1938

NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records

 

At the crypt of Lewis Morris at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Morrisania, c. 1930s.

NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records

Kids living in a Bronx cooperative apartment building, 1938

NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records

 

Construction site for Hunter College, c. 1938, on the area of the former Jerome Park Racetrack (a portion of which was turned into Jerome Park Reservoir). Today this is the site of Lehman College.

NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records

Robert Moses at the dedication of the Whitestone Bridge, May 25, 1939.

dpr_5-25-39.tif
NYC Department of Records

 

A blessing at the Shrine Church of St. Ann’s in Norwood, December 1939. Unfortunately the church closed last year.

NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records

 

Keating Hall on the campus of Fordham University, c, 1935-1941

NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records

The Bronx NYU campus and the Hall of Fame of Great Americans, c. 1935-1941.

NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records

This image perfectly captures the mix of housing styles and transportation infrastructure in the Bronx during the mid 20th century. This particular image, from 1938, is of 3477 Bronx Boulevard.

NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records

FDR’s campaign headquarters in 1940, above some breathtaking neon signage.

NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records

The scene at the Bronx Terminal Market in Hunts Point, 1941.

NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records

Inside the Bronx Terminal Market, date unknown.

NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records

The re-opening of the New York, Westchester and Boston Railroad, May 15, 1941, with Mayor La Guardia cutting the ribbon. The railroad line had been a financial failure and was purchased by the city and converted into a subway line. (Today it’s part of the 2 and 5 lines to Wakefield.)

NYC Dept of Records
NYC Dept of Records

 

Marie LaGuardia speaks at the memorial service for her husband in Woodlawn Cemetery, September 1947.

NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records

 

The scene at the St Mary’s Park playground, 1949

NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records

 

Illustration of that super wacky set of undulating highways and ramps along the Bronx River, October 1948.

NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records

 

And an extraordinary artifact — an anti-Robert Moses flyer that would have been found in the Parkchester and Westchester neighborhoods, retaliating against plans to construct the Cross-Bronx Expressway.  “The needs of the people must not become a political football to be kicked back and forth….” Issued by the Communist Party of the Bronx!

NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records

 

Former Bronx borough president Fernando Ferrer joins in the Puerto Rican Parade, 1992

NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records

A South Bronx town hall meeting featuring David Dinkins in October 1993. He would lose the mayoral race the following month to Rudy Giuliani.

NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records

 

Fernando Ferrer oversees some ‘helpful’ wall writing — DON’T DUMP ON THE BRONX. Date: 1994

NYC Department of Records
NYC Department of Records

Meet the Mets! The Metropolitans, that is, an early NY baseball team

The New York Mets, 2015 National League Champions and New York’s perpetual baseball underdogs, are only 53 years, formed in 1962 to fill the void after the departure of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New  York Giants* to California. But in name, at least, they’re older than even the Yankees.

The first New York ball club to call themselves the Mets — or really, the Metropolitans, if we’re being fancy — made their first appearance 130 years ago.  They burned bright for many years, inaugurated New York’s first great sports venue, then faded away.

To be metropolitan in 1880 did not merely suggest a team representative of a city and its surrounding area.  It was code for the finest — from the Metropolitan Opera (which formed the same year) to the Metropolitan Museum (whose Central Park building also opened that year).

Jim Donahue, catcher

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Baseball, however, was not a prestige sport by any means in 1880, but this did not matter to John Day, baseball fanatic and owner of a large tobacco plant on the Lower East Side. One day Day met Jim Mutrie, a shortstop from Boston, and agreed to fund a new team. In September, the New York Metropolitans made their debut on a field in Brooklyn.

A few weeks later they would take over a playing field used mostly for polo matches, located at the northeast corner of Central Park. While it would later be known as the Polo Grounds, it would soon host a variety of sports. A larger version of the Polo Grounds, further north on 155th Street, would later be home to the modern Mets franchise.

James John ‘Chief’ Roseman

Courtesy Library of Congress
Courtesy Library of Congress

Day and Mutrie had also formed a second team — the New York Gothams — who proved to be more lucrative. In 1885 they sold the Metropolitans to  land developer Erasmus Wiman who then moved the team to Staten Island as a way to encourage growth for the underpopulated future borough. (Wiman also owned a ferry service.) The Metropolitans went from a polo grounds to a cricket’s ground — the St. George Cricket Grounds.

Below: The Metropolitans in Staten Island

mets

To no one’s surprise by Wiman’s, this idea didn’t work, and the Metropolitans were soon sold for $15,000 to their rivals the Brooklyn Dodgers who dismantled the team by recruiting its best players.  Their last game was 1887.

Below: At the pass off to Wiman, The New York Sun profiles all the players of the Metropolitans. You can read the entire article here.  “The Metropolitan Club, organized by James Mutrie, has had a brilliant career.  Ever since it was started it has been more than successful, and each year it has become stronger, until at present it is probably the finest fielding team in the country.”

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Another reason the Metropolitans may have disappeared — their weight. The New York Sun, reporting on one of their last games, played on October 30, 1887: “The old men of the Metropolitan have grown very stout. Troy, with his 195 pounds is running a close race with Orr for avoirdupois, while Brady and Kennedy have gained remarkably in weight.” [source]

Dave Orr, first baseman

orr
Courtesy Library of Congress

 

 

**The original article neglected to mention the Giants.

And now, the New York Female Giants: (Briefly) A League Of Their Own

For a very brief period — likely just a single year — there was a female counterpart to the New York (Male) Giants.

The New York Female Giants seem to have an unofficial affiliation with the better known Giants, the city’s most popular baseball team.  Author Michael Carlebach speculates the team was probably formed by Giants manager John McGraw.

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Early women’s teams — called ‘Bloomer Girls’ — often had a few men playing alongside them.  Occasionally those men even disguised themselves as women as in a revealing case in the summer of 1913 in Washington DC: “Four thousand angry fans surged on the diamond in the old Union League baseball park this afternoon when they learned that the “Bloomer Girls,” who were playing against a team of young men, were not girls. The deception was suspected when the “girl” playing in centre field threw the ball from deep centre to the home plate.” [source]

(The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, featured in the movie A League Of Their Own, would not be formed until the 1940s.)

The Female Giants don’t appear to be all women players either although there are no disguises at least. The men featured in these pictures played with the New York Giants.

The female players were mostly girls from local high schools and women athletes from other fields of sports.  Following her stint with the Female Giants, their captain Ida Schnall would head to Hollywood and become a silent film actress. She would later become an accomplished swimmer and an advocate for women’s sports, petitioning the National Olympics Committee to expand their offerings for women. Below: Ida in a glamorous pose

ida

 

They broke up into two teams — the ‘Red Stockings’ and the ‘Blue Stockings’– and played a notable exhibition game for almost 1,500 people on Sunday, May 25, 1913 at the Lenox Oval, a sports field at Lenox Avenue and 145th Street.

Below: A 1919 soccer game being played at the Lenox Oval

Courtesy Museum of the City of New York
Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

It seems their typical game schedule went unnoticed by the press which is probably a good thing. That May 25th game was written about by the New York Tribune in the following fashion : “The batter hitched up her skirt.  The pitcher nervously adjusted a side comb. Girls will be boys, and the Reds and the Blues of the New York Female Giants were playing an exhibition game at Lenox Oval, 145th Street and Lenox Avenue.” [source]

Below: A catcher from the New York Giants, playing alongside a diminutive young player

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We know about this particular game because it got shut down by the cops.  In the ninth inning, a detective stepped out onto the field and handed the third baseman — a 17 year old teenager named Helen Zenker — a subpoena to appear in Harlem court.

Due to New York ‘blue laws’, teams were not supposed to legally sell tickets to a baseball game on Sundays. While the women were indeed playing a practice game, Helen had been caught selling programs. She claimed that no such sales activity had taken place; people were just giving her money, including the detective. [More details in this amusing New York Times article from 1913.]

Fortunately, the young Zenker (“seventeen, pretty, active, intelligent, and has the easy gait and springy step of the athlete”) easily charmed the judge, and the case was dismissed. [source]

The photos in this post obviously take place on another date as they’re wearing uniforms which they were not allowed to do on a Sunday.

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EDIT: After going live, I later included the line about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and also to clarify that the team also featured adult women playing along with high schoolers. For instance, Ida Schnall, who went on to greater athletic fame, was 24 or 25 at the time of the game described above.

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)

MNY323785

 

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.

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 9.03.50 AM

The stark Fourteenth Street Armory, located in the South Slope, depicted here as it looked in 1906 —  “a pretty place” (MCNY)
M3Y44090
Congregation Beth Elohim, pictured here on September 16, 1929, located at Garfield Place and 8th Avenue. (MCNY)

MNY195546

 

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)

park-slope-plane-crash-1960

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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.

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

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

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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 .

Landscape

 

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

1969-0714-cover-250

 

TOP PHOTOGRAPH by Luci West from Moving Postcard

Brooklyn Dodgers vs. Cincinnati Reds at Ebbets Field — in the first Major League baseball game ever broadcast on television

Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, N. Y.

Seventy five years ago today, an extraordinary tradition began — televised Major League baseball!

The location was appropriately Ebbets Field, one of baseball’s legendary ‘field of dreams’. The home team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, was pitted against the Cincinnati Reds in a key National League match-up. Both teams were quite strong that year, although it was Cincinnati at the top of the standings.

Fans who packed the stands at Ebbets that steamy Saturday afternoon noticed some rather unusual contraptions had invaded the field — bulky television cameras.  “One ‘eye’ or camera was placed near the visiting players’ dugout,” reported the New York Times. “The other was in a second-tier box back of the catcher’s box and commanded an extensive view of the field when outfield plays were made.”

The experiment was inspired by the technological marvels at the 1939 World’s Fair in Flushing-Meadows.  In fact, since few people actually owned TVs then, it was in David Sarnoff’s RCA exhibition hall where most people saw the broadcast, courtesy W2XBS (a precursor to WNBC-TV).

Below: A view of one of the cameras broadcasting the game.  Ads for GEM Razor Blades and Calvert Whiskey can be seen across the field. They became the first sponsor of a televised baseball game, although it was purely accidental!

Up until that point, the 400-odd receivers throughout the city — owned mostly by RCA executives and technicians — received broadcasts from a studio in Rockefeller Center. (For more information, check our our New York and the Birth of Television podcast.)

This was not the first baseball game ever broadcast;  a college game between Columbia and Princeton was beamed out to the handful of received that May, near the opening of the World’s Fair.  But it attempting to broadcast a game with broader appeal, like the Dodgers-Reds face off, Sarnoff and his engineers invented a new way of interacting with major sport.

Sports of mass appeal had been heard on the radio for over 15 years by this point. Interestingly, New York teams originally blanched at the idea of radio broadcasts, thinking they would reduce stadium attendance.  Broadcasters were even banned from the field for a few years. [source]

Adding a live visual element was crucial not only in popularizing the game of baseball — uniting fans of a certain team beyond the borders of a stadium or a city — but in popularizing the idea of television itself.  Televised sports, invented here in 1939, had the unique potential of bringing together masses across the globe, as anybody caught up in this year’s World Cup hysteria or last year’s Summer Olympics fandom can attest.**

It’s to the credit of the television engineers that their feat seems not to have disrupted the game.  Coverage in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle neglects to mention the cameras*, and the New York Times mentions it only in a small article.

In the end, the teams split the two-game event — the Reds one the first (5-2), the Dodgers the second (6-1).  The Reds would eventually win the National League pendant and return to the New York for the World Series, facing (and eventually losing quite badly to) the New York Yankees.

*However, RCA ran an advertisement in the Brooklyn paper on August 24, 1939, to drum up a big crowd for their inaugural broadcast:


**As commenter Andrew points out, portions of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin were also broadcast live to several countries.
Top picture of Ebbets Field courtesy Museum of City of New York

The short shelf life of the Tip-Tops, the Brooklyn baseball team situated near the Gowanus River and named for bread

The piping hot uniforms of the Brooklyn Tip-Tops, worn by baby-faced manager Lee Magee

For a brief shining moment between 1914 and 1915, Brooklyn had two major league baseball teams — the legendary Brooklyn Dodgers and the not-so-legendary Brooklyn Tip-Tops.

Baseball has long been a sport of two parallel sports leagues — the National League and the American League — which have gotten together at season’s end to play the World Series since 1903.  But for an unusual moment in 1914 and 1915, there was a third baseball league called the Federal League.

A cartoon from the May 12, 1914 New York Tribune:

 

The Federal League was formed specifically in protest to the signing practices of the two dominant leagues, doing away with pesky reserve clauses (binding players to certain teams for almost their entire careers) and offering higher salaries.  For a second, it seemed possible that the Federal League might provide a new way to organize a major sport.

There were eight teams in the Federal league which such unusual names as the Chicago Whales, the Newark Peppers and the Baltimore Terrapins. (Yes, somebody named a ball team after a turtle.)

Within the New York area, one franchise was awarded to Brooklyn, owned by a baker named Robert Ward.  His bakery for Tip-Top Bread (centered at 800 Pacific Street in today’s Prospect Heights) was obviously so lucrative that he eventually sank one million dollars in funding the team that eventually took the name of his baking enterprise — the Brooklyn Tip-Tops.

Brooklyn’s other team, the Dodgers, had conveniently vacated their old wooden field, Washington Park, for their brand new home Ebbets Field in Flatbush.  Ward hastily prepared to move the Tip-Tops into the Dodgers’ old home by paying for a spectacular upgrade to the dilapidated Gowanus park.  It was located between 1st and 3rd Streets at Fourth Avenue.

The baker, with his brother George S. Ward, sunk more than $250,000 into the new concrete-and-steel ballpark, situated so near the Gowanus that fans got a good whiff of its toxic odors on summer days.

The new park itself was rather flawed with bleachers extremely close to the field.  According to author Daniel Levitt: “[T]he tiny foul territory caused nearly all foul balls to end up with the spectators.  At the time fans were not allowed to keep foul balls … leading to a tacky atmosphere as team officials constantly wrestled balls away from fans.”

Another set of cheap sets, derisively called ‘sun bleachers’, which provided an unpleasant scorching experience during the summer, were quickly closed after some bad publicity.

Below: Inside the refurbished Washington Park on opening day of their second (and final) season

Construction equipment still darted the grounds when they opened on May 11, 1914.  “The Federal League opened here with a bang,” said the Evening World.  “Bands, horns, sirens and vocal assistance from 16,000 fans gave New York’s fourth baseball club a noisy welcome.” (The other three being the New York Giants, the New York Yankees, and, of course, the Dodgers.)

At first, Brooklynites emphatically supported their new team, quickly nicknamed the BrookFeds.  But it soon became obvious that the team was nothing to write home about.

They finished their inaugural season with an unimpressive record of 77 wins, 77 losses.  In comparison, the Giants, located at the Polo Grounds, made it to the World Series.  However, the young team did finish better than the Yankees (57-94). And even managed to best the Dodgers (65-84)!

Given Ward’s religious beliefs, he instructed that no Sunday games be played at the park, a serious blow given that it was the only day off for many potential working-class fans.

Another strike against the team occurred during the winter when the team was unable to sign away more successful players from the other two leagues.  The one exception was the outstanding Lee Magee (pictured above in a Tip-Top uniform) who was hired away from the St. Louis Cardinals and even managed the team during the 1915 season.  He would later join the Yankees.

“If hustling, hard work and ambition among the players make a winning team, the Brooklyn fans will see one in Washington park this year,” Magee claimed.

An ad for second season opening day, from the Evening World.  The flag raising mentioned below is pictured above:

The fans showed up for the beginning of season two, but enthusiasm quickly ebbed.  In fact, that first game against the Buffalo Buffeds (yes, that’s their name!) seemed to auger a host of frustrations for the rest of the season;  it went unusually long almost into night — the park was not lit — with “three hours of errors and wrangling.”

Behind the scenes, the two other leagues were busy trying to dismantle the Federal League who had filed an anti-trust suit in January.  It did not help the mood in New York that the Tip-Tops were doing worse under Magee.  They completed their season 70-82, second to last behind the scathingly terrible Baltimore Terripins.

Below: Magee with the manager from the Buffalo Buffeds:

 

Machinations outside New York doomed the team.  The National and American Leagues managed to eradicate its rival through series of brokered deals and buyouts.  One of these deals changed the face of American baseball, when the owner of the Chicago Whales was allowed to buy the Chicago Cubs and move them into the Whales’ new stadium — Wrigley Field.

The only team that remained to battle back against the two leagues was the Federal League’s least successful team — the Baltimore Terrapins.  They sued the leagues saying it was a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.  The case went all the way to the Supreme Court who, in the landmark case Federal Baseball Club vs. National League, handed Baltimore something they were very familiar with — defeat.

On December 18, 1915, the Tribune revealed the fate of Brooklyn’s second baseball team:

“The Brooklyn Tip-Tops will withdraw from Washington Park, leaving the site barren of baseball and the city in the hands of the Superbas [Dodgers].  Organized baseball will reimburse George S. Ward annually with 5 percent of the assessed value of Washington Park for twenty years.”

By 1916, Tip-Top went back to meaning fresh white bread.

While Washington Park was eventually dismantled, a part of it still exists.  Today on the site is a yard for Con Edison.  The western wall along Third Avenue was once part of the ball park.  Perhaps if you go over to the Gowanus Whole Foods, you can walk over a block or two and check out this incredible piece of sports history!

 

Eleven breathtaking views of the New York Herald Building, one of midtown Manhattan’s earliest tourist attractions

Click into the images within this post for a more closeup view!

When the extravagant James Gordon Bennett Jr. decided to move the offices of the New York Herald from grimy, old Park Row to the frenzy of uptown Manhattan, he wanted something spectacular and eye-catching.  As we mentioned in our newest podcast on the history of Herald Square, Bennett went the opposite direction of newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, who remained on on Park Row and put his publication in the tallest building in the world (the New York World tower, completed in 1890).

Bennett’s New York Herald Building, completed in 1894, sat at 35th Street between Sixth Avenue and Broadway, on the north side of the square his building would soon give its name. He wanted the structure to align with the theaters and hotels of the area; as designed by Stanford White, the New York Herald Building doesn’t tower over the neighborhood.

He wanted the newspaper to be essential to the rhythm and energy of this bustling intersection. It does so with its mysterious and fanciful ornamentation, its spooky owls, its ornate clock tower and its mechanical bell-ringers.

Below: the New York Herald Building, at 35th Street, between Sixth Avenue and Broadway, a frilly Italian-style structure at the nexus of a growing New York in the 1890s. [LOC]

But the building became a component of the square with its open windows displaying the printing presses inside. Visitors would stand gawking as the presses furiously went about print the late-day editions. In the era before radio and television, the results of sporting events would be displayed on a billboard or “Play-o-Graph” that would attract thousands. It would be here that thousands of New Yorkers would gather to get the results of the World Series between the Red Sox and the Giants — occurring just uptown at the Polo Grounds!

The New York Herald Building became one of midtown Manhattan’s first big draws for regular New Yorkers and visitors to gather, get news, set their watches, dazzle at modern technology and ogle at the curious mix of high and low culture that sped through here. One decade later, Times Square would bring the same kind of excitement to another Broadway intersection.

Here are some additional views of the Herald Building, many romantic, most unbelievable, especially if you consider what sits there today:

Thousands of men gather to watch the results of the 1911 World Series — between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Athletics — displayed on a “Play-o-Graph” at Herald Building. Sports results were telegraphed from inside the building, and a mini baseball diamond was regularly updated, mirroring the real time action. [LOC]

Spectators watch the Herald presses in action. {LOC}

From the Appleton publication The New Metropolis, 1899 (courtesy CUNY)

The square in front of the Herald Building would also be used for immediate announcement, often taken right from the telegraph. These men are reading a military recruitment advertisement. [LOC]

A closeup of the ornate clock, with the goddess Minerva, its two bell ringers Scruff and Guff, and the series of owls perched at various spots around the building. From March 1921 (Courtesy NYPL)

A painting by Herman Hyneman from 1899, depicting a Herald newsie and a customer in the snow. [NYPL]

Also from The New Metropolis, an owl’s-eye view of Herald Square, from 1899.  The caption: “This is a vibrant reproduction of a color print by Canadian-born artist Charles William Jefferys (1869-1951) who once worked at the New York Herald. The Broadway Tabernacle Church, the 6th Avenue elevated train, the Herald Building and several theatres, including Koster and Bial’s, are depicted. The streets are teaming with cable cars, horse drawn vehicles and pedestrians.” Courtesy CUNY

And finally, an overhead view of the entire square. This is an image that was cleaned up and published by the great photo blog Shorpy. Click into the picture to see a rather magnificent view of the surroundings. Trust me, you may waste five minutes just looking at this one….

Eleven breathtaking views of the New York Herald Building, one of midtown Manhattan’s earliest tourist attractions

Click into the images within this post for a more closeup view!

When the extravagant James Gordon Bennett Jr. decided to move the offices of the New York Herald from grimy, old Park Row to the frenzy of uptown Manhattan, he wanted something spectacular and eye-catching.  As we mentioned in our newest podcast on the history of Herald Square, Bennett went the opposite direction of newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, who remained on on Park Row and put his publication in the tallest building in the world (the New York World tower, completed in 1890).

Bennett’s New York Herald Building, completed in 1894, sat at 35th Street between Sixth Avenue and Broadway, on the north side of the square his building would soon give its name. He wanted the structure to align with the theaters and hotels of the area; as designed by Stanford White, the New York Herald Building doesn’t tower over the neighborhood.

He wanted the newspaper to be essential to the rhythm and energy of this bustling intersection. It does so with its mysterious and fanciful ornamentation, its spooky owls, its ornate clock tower and its mechanical bell-ringers.

Below: the New York Herald Building, at 35th Street, between Sixth Avenue and Broadway, a frilly Italian-style structure at the nexus of a growing New York in the 1890s. [LOC]

But the building became a component of the square with its open windows displaying the printing presses inside. Visitors would stand gawking as the presses furiously went about print the late-day editions. In the era before radio and television, the results of sporting events would be displayed on a billboard or “Play-o-Graph” that would attract thousands. It would be here that thousands of New Yorkers would gather to get the results of the World Series between the Red Sox and the Giants — occurring just uptown at the Polo Grounds!

The New York Herald Building became one of midtown Manhattan’s first big draws for regular New Yorkers and visitors to gather, get news, set their watches, dazzle at modern technology and ogle at the curious mix of high and low culture that sped through here. One decade later, Times Square would bring the same kind of excitement to another Broadway intersection.

Here are some additional views of the Herald Building, many romantic, most unbelievable, especially if you consider what sits there today:

Thousands of men gather to watch the results of the 1911 World Series — between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Athletics — displayed on a “Play-o-Graph” at Herald Building. Sports results were telegraphed from inside the building, and a mini baseball diamond was regularly updated, mirroring the real time action. [LOC]

Spectators watch the Herald presses in action. {LOC}

From the Appleton publication The New Metropolis, 1899 (courtesy CUNY)

The square in front of the Herald Building would also be used for immediate announcement, often taken right from the telegraph. These men are reading a military recruitment advertisement. [LOC]

A closeup of the ornate clock, with the goddess Minerva, its two bell ringers Scruff and Guff, and the series of owls perched at various spots around the building. From March 1921 (Courtesy NYPL)

A painting by Herman Hyneman from 1899, depicting a Herald newsie and a customer in the snow. [NYPL]

Also from The New Metropolis, an owl’s-eye view of Herald Square, from 1899.  The caption: “This is a vibrant reproduction of a color print by Canadian-born artist Charles William Jefferys (1869-1951) who once worked at the New York Herald. The Broadway Tabernacle Church, the 6th Avenue elevated train, the Herald Building and several theatres, including Koster and Bial’s, are depicted. The streets are teaming with cable cars, horse drawn vehicles and pedestrians.” Courtesy CUNY

And finally, an overhead view of the entire square. This is an image that was cleaned up and published by the great photo blog Shorpy. Click into the picture to see a rather magnificent view of the surroundings. Trust me, you may waste five minutes just looking at this one….

Panic at the Polo Grounds: The first Boston-New York World Series sparks an insane stampede 100 years ago

Above: the crowds at the Polo Ground for Game One. Many of these same people were certainly on hand for the fateful Game Four.

One hundred years ago today, in the frantic fall of 1912, even as the nation was in the midst of an intense three-way race to elect a new president, New Yorkers and Bostonians were overwhelmingly — perhaps even unnaturally — distracted.  For the first time ever — since the introduction of the World Series baseball championship in 1903 — a New York club was finally battling for ultimate victory against a Boston team.

The two cities had been in perpetual competition for most of their history; organized sport merely provided a formalized outlet to rally regional pride. [For more information, check out my article on the roots of the Boston-New York rivalry.]

The two cities should have already met on the diamond for the 1904 World Series, as the New York Giants were victors of the National League, while the Boston Americans led the American League.  Boston clutched that particular victory by defeating another team from New York, the upstart New York Highlanders (who later became the Yankees).

However, the Giants refused to play the Americans in the World Series, a tantrum thrown by managers aimed at the ‘inferior’ American League (originally the junior circuit). Rules were changed the following year to make championship play between the leagues compulsory.

Eight years later, in 1912, the New York Giants were matched against the same Boston team under their new name — the Boston Red Sox.  No hesitation this time around.  They were undeniably the two best terms in America, and both clubs were determined to win the title for their home cities.

For this Series, teams shuttled back and forth between Boston’s Fenway Park and New York’s premier baseball venue of the day, the Polo Grounds.

Above: A view of the Polo Grounds during Game Four, absolutely packed to the rafters

Game One, played at Polo Grounds, went to Boston.  Game 2, at Fenway, lasted so long — eleven innings — that the game was declared a tie on account of darkness. (Night baseball wouldn’t be played at Fenway until 1947!)  New York then won the second game at Fenway the following day, tying up the match.

For a fourth consecutive day of baseball, the teams were to return to the Polo Grounds (located at W. 157th Street and 8th Avenue). New Yorkers had the momentum, anxious to build upon their triumph in Game Three.  Both teams, already exhausted, packed into trains and headed back down to New York, arriving that evening at Grand Central. The Giants headed to their respective homes in the city, the Red Sox to their accommodations at Bretton Hall on Broadway and 86th Street.

Fans were already so excited for Game Four the next day that some were already lined up at Polo Grounds before the players even arrived in New York.

Unfortunately, one curious obstacle threatened to ruin everybody’s good time: mud.

The Polo Grounds were an uncovered grass field and throughout most of that evening it was pelted with rain, turning this fairly new ballfield (re-built in 1911 after a fire) into what the Evening World called “a mysty mystery” of gray and yellow-brown fog.  The infield was protected by a tarp, but the outfield was battered by the elements. Was it in any condition for a major baseball game?

Commissioners failed to decide that morning whether the game could commence, and baseball fans grew restless. Well, that’s an understatement. Giants fans were enraged. “[T]he lynching-hungry scream of an infuriated mob” filled the air around the stadium, as thousands more joined the brave few  still in line from the night before should the field reopen.

An Evening World reporter followed a groundskeeper along the soggy field who lamented, “They can play on it, all right … Sure, they can play, but oh, me poor grass!”

Umpires were given a police escort into the Polo Grounds at 11 a.m. to inspect the condition of the field. By that time, the mob was practically foaming at the mouth, with “a blood-curdling shriek of 10,000 fans stretch[ing] from 157th Street to 140th Street, thousands and thousands of them.” [source]

At left: Photo from the Evening World, 10/11/12

Precisely at noon, the commission, located at the Waldorf-Astoria, telephoned to announce that the baseball game could be played, and the throng thundered into the stadium. The Evening World compared it to the Spanish running of the bulls. “[N]o man of this generation ever saw such racing and pounding along the sloping approaches of the Polo Grounds and began slamming down seats at one minute past twelve o’clock today.”

According to New York Post columnist Mike Vaccaro in his book on the 1912 World Series ‘The First Fall Classic’, the stadium filled to capacity with thousands more watching from various nooks and crannies, over 40,000 people, “officially…the third largest in this history of this stadium (and, thus, the history of the sport) but unofficially shattered that record to smithereens.” Many thousands more listened in to an announcer in Herald Square.

And so, here’s the punchline: after all that madness, the New York Giants lost the game, on the muddy and thoroughly distressed Polo Grounds, to the Boston Red Sox, 3-2! The New York Times intoned, “Nine Grim Innings To Red Sox Victory.”

In fact, they went on to lose the entire series to Red Sox.

Below: For Game One, Mayor William Jay Gaynor threw out the first pitch, sitting alongside the mustachioed Massachusetts governor Eugene Foss. Less than a year later, Gaynor would succumb to injuries brought on by a bullet lodged in his throat, the unlucky souvenir of an 1910 assassination attempt. [Read more about Gaynor here.]

Holidays on Ice 1861: Skaters flock to Brooklyn’s icy ponds

Williamsburg(h)’s Union Pond, one of the finest destinations for ice skating in the city, 1863. It later became America’s first enclosed baseball field.

The nation was at war one hundred and fifty years ago, but that didn’t stop the austere celebrations in the ‘borough of churches’. But while thousands of Brooklyn residents attended church that morning in 1861, many participated in a more whimsical holiday celebration — wild and uncontrollable ice skating.

So famous was the city of Brooklyn’s famed ponds — which reliably froze each winter — that New Yorkers by the boatloads crammed into ferries across the East River to join in the icy merriment. On really cold days, of course, it was often the East River itself that froze solid. But in 1861, an unseasonable warmth kept the river disappointingly liquid, forcing thousands of skaters upon Brooklyn’s small ponds where the ice quickly melted.

For instance, Washington Pond (at right), at 5th Avenue and 6th Street — then considered Gowanus, today it’s Park Slope — was normally ideal for skating. Horse-drawn streetcars took crowds right from the Fulton Ferry to the door of the nearby old stone house, built in 1699 and famous for its role in the Revolutionary War. (It’s why the pond is named for Washington, after all.) But on Christmas 1861, “the ice was unpleasantly rough” there.

Skaters may have found more success at other Brooklyn skating destinations. The Capitoline Skating Lake, near the train station in the former independent village of Bedford, was known as the “principle pond of the Western District.” In Williamsburg, the versatile ‘world-renown‘ Union Pond drew thousands during the winter and thousands more in the summer — as the nation’s first enclosed baseball field. On this particular day, the newly opened pond in its ‘gay and brilliant appearance’ was crammed with skaters laughing and caroling, in various states of sobriety.

By the afternoon of Christmas 1861, most of the closest ponds were mushy and nearly dangerous. At a pond on Third Avenue, “a gentlemen with two ladies fell trough the ice and took their Christmas immersion without any material damage save a very decided shivering,” according to the Brooklyn Eagle.

Urban ice enthusiasts were forced to follow the advice of horsecars festooned with the signs ‘Good Skating in East Brooklyn’. I’m not sure exactly where crowds went that day, but a New York Times article from a three years later lists several ‘free ponds’ that might have been available for ice skating that day, including Seller’s Pond “in Bedford, near the Jamaica Pond Road”, “Dumbleton’s Pond on Myrtle Avenue” and the Suydam’s Pond, “on Atlantic-avenue near the Hunters-Ferry road.”.

All that skating and merriment drove many to more intoxicating holiday spirits, preferring their drinks ‘on the rocks’, or as the 1861 Eagle reports, “the boys will insist that ‘Christmas comes but once a year’ and with it comes a large measure of ‘good cheer’ and so they must get cheerful.” The most serious altercation came with one reveler, tiring of throwing rocks at boys, attempted to pistol whip a police officer.

The more respectable Brooklynites traipsed home at dawn, as the gaslights meet the fading light, casting the wet snow in a bright glare. Many reformed again for choirs of caroling, or else to distribute presents at charity ‘Christmas tree exercises’, where children lined up outside downtown theaters hoping for presents and a gander at the gorgeously trimmed tree, sparkling with candles.

Top pic courtesy NYPL. Second pic courtesy the Old Stone House.