Tag Archives: Central Park

Joseph Papp vs. Robert Moses: The saga of Shakespeare in the Park

PODCAST REWIND The fascinating story of the Public Theater and Joseph Papp’s efforts to bring Shakespeare to the people. (Episode #85)

What started in a tiny East Village basement grew to become one of New York’s most enduring summer traditions, Shakespeare in the Park, featuring world class actors performing the greatest dramas of the age. But another drama was brewing just as things were getting started. It’s Robert Moses vs. Shakespeare! Joseph Papp vs. the city!

ALSO: Learn how the Public Theater got off the ground and helped save an Astor landmark in the process.

THIS SHOW WAS ORIGINALLY RELEASED ON JUNE 18, 2009 — MANY, MANY YEARS BEFORE LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA AND ‘HAMILTON’ HIT THE PUBLIC STAGE

THIS IS A SPECIAL ILLUSTRATED PODCAST!  Chapter headings with images have been embedded in this show, so if your listening device is compatible with AAC/M4A files, just hit play and a variety of pictures should pop up.  The audio is superior than the original as well. (This will work as a normal audio file even if the images don’t appear.)

For this and our older episodes (Episodes #5-#84), subscribe to The Bowery Boys: NYC History Archive feed on iTunes or directly from our host page.

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The Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast is brought to you …. by you!

We are now producing a new Bowery Boys podcast every two weeks.  We’re also looking to improve the show in other ways and expand in other ways as well — through publishing, social media, live events and other forms of media.  But we can only do this with your help!

We are now a member of Patreon, a patronage platform where you can support your favorite content creators for as little as a $1 a month.

Please visit our page on Patreon and watch a short video of us recording the show and talking about our expansion plans.  If you’d like to help out, there are five different pledge levels (and with clever names too — Mannahatta, New Amsterdam, Five Points, Gilded Age, Jazz Age and Empire State). Check them out and consider being a sponsor.

We greatly appreciate our listeners and readers and thank you for joining us on this journey so far. And the best is yet to come!

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And now I present some of the fantastic photographs from the Billy Rose Division of the New York Public Library.

From the 1971 Shakespeare In The Park production of Cymbeline, with Belvedere Castle standing out in the background.

Courtesy New York Public Library
Courtesy New York Public Library

 

A photo of Joseph Papp in the Navy (he’s the second one from the left), 1942.

Courtesy New York Public Library
Courtesy New York Public Library

 

Papp in from of the Decorate Theater, under construction in 1960.

Courtesy New York Public Library
Courtesy New York Public Library

 

Joseph Papp with Elizabeth Swados and Meryl Streep in a Public Theater production of Alice In Concert.

Courtesy NYPL
Courtesy NYPL

 

The ‘mobile theater’ of the New York Shakespeare Festival, pictured here in 1972.

Courtesy New York Public Library
Courtesy New York Public Library

 

Theater at the East River Amphitheater: The Taming Of The Shrew with Colleen Dewhurst, 1956

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nypl.digitalcollections.69d12b21-4799-3095-e040-e00a18061836.001.w

 

The Merchant of Venice, 1962

nypl.digitalcollections.d070fc30-1271-0131-6d3a-58d385a7bbd0.001.w

 

The set from Love’s Labours Lost, performed at the Delacorte in 1965:

nypl.digitalcollections.41a42a30-126b-0131-61d9-58d385a7bbd0.001.w

The city peeks over top of the sets of 1985’s Henry V.

Courtesy New York Public Library
Courtesy New York Public Library

 

A vivid battle scene from 1991’s Henry IV Part 1.

Courtesy New York Public Library
Courtesy New York Public Library

 

Haunted Landmarks of New York : Tourist Terrors in the Big Apple

PODCAST It’s the ninth annual Bowery Boys ghost stories podcast, our seasonal twist on history, focusing on famous tales of the weird and the disturbing at some of New York’s most recognizable locations.

Don’t be frightened! We’re here to guide you through the back alleys … OF TERROR!

In this installment, we take a look at the spectral lore behind some of New York City’s most famous landmarks, buildings with great reputations as iconic architectural marvels and locations for great creativity.

But they’re also filled with ghost stories:

Who are the mysterious sisters in colorful outerwear skating on the icy pond in Central Park? And why are there so many uninvited guests at the Dakota Apartments, one of the first and finest buildings on the Upper West Side?

Meanwhile, at the Chelsea Hotel, all the intense creativity that is associated with this great and important location seems to have left an imprint of the afterworld upon its hallways.

Over at Grand Central Terminal, the Campbell Apartment serves up some cocktails — and a few unnatural encounters with Jazz Age spirits.

Finally, on the Brooklyn Bridge, a tragedy during its construction has left its shadow upon the modern tourist attraction. Who’s that up ahead on the pedestrian pathway?

A little spooky fun — mixed with a lot of interesting history — and a few cheesy sound effects!

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 TuneIn streaming radio from your mobile devices.

Or listen to it straight from here:
The Bowery Boys #192: HAUNTED LANDMARKS OF NEW YORK

___________________________________________________________________________

The Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast is brought to you …. by you!

We are now producing a new Bowery Boys podcast every two weeks.  We’re also looking to improve the show in other ways and expand in other ways as well — through publishing, social media, live events and other forms of media.  But we can only do this with your help!

We are now a member of Patreon, a patronage platform where you can support your favorite content creators for as little as a $1 a month.

Please visit our page on Patreon and watch a short video of us recording the show and talking about our expansion plans.  If you’d like to help out, there are five different pledge levels (and with clever names too — Mannahatta, New Amsterdam, Five Points, Gilded Age, Jazz Age and Empire State). Check them out and consider being a sponsor.

We greatly appreciate our listeners and readers and thank you for joining us on this journey so far. And the best is yet to come!

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Two women in fashionable skating garments 1889. Perhaps similar to the ensembles worn by Janet and Rosette Van Der Voort during their ghostly figure eights in Central Park.

New York Public Library
New York Public Library

 

A famous image of the Dakota Apartment — all alone on the Upper West Side landscape — with skaters enjoying the frozen pond on a cold winter’s day.
The_Dakota_1880s

The Dakota photographed in 1890/

Courtesy New York Public Library
Courtesy New York Public Library

 

A haunting illustration by Eliza Greatorex from 1885 showing “The Dakota behind a rock at 72nd Street and Bloomingdale Road.”

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Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

 

The Chelsea Hotel in 1903, one of the premier apartment houses in New York City which eventually became a destination (both short and long-term) for the city’s artistic circles. It also attracted its share of eccentric and even disturbed individuals over the decades.

Internet Book Archvies
Internet Book Archvies

Oh what these floors have seen! The Chelsea in 1936.

Courtesy Berenice Abbott
Courtesy Berenice Abbott

The interiors of the Campbell Apartment, back when it was an actual office. Are the ghosts of former party guests still enjoying the room’s luxurious trappings? More information at this blog post at the Museum of the City of New York. All photos, taking in 1923, by the Wurts Brothers.

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

 

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Courtesy Museum of City of New York

 

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

Workers upon the Brooklyn Bridge, a dangerous work environment where dozens of men were injured over the course of its construction.

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Construction of the approach to the bridge on the New  York side.

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Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

 

From the New York Times article regarding the unfortunate tragedy on the Brooklyn Bridge. Read the whole article here.

Courtesy New York Times
Courtesy New York Times

The scene at the bridge a few months after the accident — October 1878.

Courtesy New York Times
Courtesy New York Times

 

The picture at top is a reversed negative of the Methodist publishing and mission buildings, corner of Broadway and 11th Street, New York. [source]

Happy Pope Day! A history of the holiest of New York tourists

Pope Francis arrives in New York City today — part of his first-ever trip to the United States — and the city is rolling out the red carpet. In fact, all available carpets are being rolled out and even some throw rugs.

New York loves Popes. (Not always of course.) Only the Marquis de Lafayette and the Beatles have been treated to more rapturous displays of welcome by New York City residents. The city has been host to four previous papal visits, and in each case, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral has naturally been the manic center of activity. In fact three such visits have been immortalized on plaques in front of the cathedral.

But with each trip, the pope in question managed to find a couple other unique corners of the city to visit as well.

THE FIRST POPE

Perhaps the strangest visit of all was the very first — Pope Paul VI, the controversial leader who presided over the Second Vatican Council and made a name for himself traveling all over the world. Finally in an era where a man could be both pope and jetsetter, Pope Paul arrived in New York in October of 1965 and promptly went to visit his old roommate, who was performing in a fair.

Courtesy Delcampe.net
Courtesy Delcampe.net

That roommate would be Michelangelo’s Pieta, on loan from St. Peter’s hallways to the Vatican pavilion at the 1964-65 World’s Fair.

The Pope visited the Fair on October 4, 1965, on a busy day that also included mass at Yankee Stadium (the first papal mass ever in the United States), an address to the United Nations, and a meeting in the city with president Lyndon Johnson at the Waldorf-Astoria.

5th October 1965: Photo by Harry Benson/Express/Getty Images
5th October 1965: Photo by Harry Benson/Express/Getty Images

Many will remember the thousands of people who greeted the Pope in the original Pope-mobile (“a closed, bubble-top limousine”) during its 25-mile procession through the city. Here’s a fact to delight your friends and neighbors — the first American bridge ever crossed by a Pope in all of history was the Queensboro Bridge.

Today a rounded bench, or exedra, sits in Flushing Meadows park honoring the moment Pope Paul visited the Pavilion. (It seems that whenever a Pope hovers in a place for more than a few minutes, a plaque or monument springs up in its place.)

By the way, I found this extraordinary page full of great photos about that first Pope-mobile.

Length of his visit: 13 1/2 hours

AP Photo/Courtesy New York Daily News
AP Photo/Courtesy New York Daily News

 

THE SECOND POPE — FIRST VISIT

But it’s Pope John Paul who’s the real New York favorite; he held the papal throne for so long that he managed two trips to Gotham City — in 1979 and 1995.

His October 1979 trip was like a rock concert tour, also swinging through Philadelphia, Boston, D.C., Chicago and Des Moines. Part of the enthusiasm was because John Paul, at 58 years old, had just been appointed the year before.

In 1969, as a cardinal, he had held mass at Yankee Stadium, so by the time he did it again on October 2, 1979 — as the Pope — he was as much a fixture as Reggie Jackson. Rain greeted over 9,000 cheering worshippers — or fans — and, according to legend, when the Pope mounted the ballfield to address the crowd, the rain showers stopped. And as a blessing for Mets fans, the next day the Pope also held rapt an audience of 52,000 at Shea Stadium.

Below: the Pope at Yankee Stadium

Courtesy US News and World Report
Courtesy US News and World Report

But like all rock stars, the Pope couldn’t complete his New York odyssey without a performance at Madison Square Garden. Although John Paul also addressed the U.N. and a Saint Patrick’s audience during that trip, he’s best remembered by many for his inspirational address on October 3rd to 19,000 city children.

Saint Patrick’s honored his Holiness’s visit in 1979 by installing a bust. But he would be back. On almost exactly the same day, sixteen years later.

Length of his visit: Almost 48 hours

THE SECOND POPE — THE SECOND VISIT

New York City in 1995 was a vastly different city and John Paul returned for a longer visit — four days in total in the entire New York area — on October 4th. This time, instead of just delivering messages to the clergy gathered at Saint Patrick’s, he spontaneously decided he wanted to walk around the block. And why not? You’ve got shopping, Saks, street vendors selling Pope souvenirs!

Below: In the Pope-mobile, riding by Saks Fifth Avenue

Courtesy Wall Street Journal
Courtesy Wall Street Journal

 

The Pope also finished off his collection of performing in gigantic venues for mass — holding court in Giants Stadium, the Aquaduct Racetrack in Ozone Park and eventually to 100,000 people on the great lawn in Central Park.

From there, the elderly leader of the Catholic Church gave the city the ultimate shout-out: “This is New York! The great New York! This is Central Park. The beautiful surroundings of Central Park invite us to reflect on a more sublime beauty: the beauty of every human being, made in the image and likeness of God. Then you can tell the whole world that you gave the pope his Christmas present in October, in New York, in Central Park.”

Length of his visit: Almost four days! He couldn’t get enough.

Courtesy Chris Hondros/Getty Images./New York Daily News
Courtesy Chris Hondros/Getty Images./New York Daily News

 

THE THIRD POPE

Pope Benedict XVI came to New York for three days, two nights (April 18-20), arriving in Manhattan on a military helicopter and breaking the apparently holy tradition of visiting New York in the early Fall.  (Still would have needed a light sweater or vestment.)  But Benedict, as the cardinal formerly known as Joseph Ratzinger, actually visited the city in that lesser role in 1988, where apparently he was met with protest from gay activists and shunned by some prominent Jewish leaders.

He hit all the “usual” Pope spots — Saint Patricks, the United Nations, Yankee Stadium — but added a couple interesting detours: Park East Synagogue, St Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, and the World Trade Center site.

Below: The Pope viewing the World Trade Center site

 April 20, 2008 Courtesy MSNBC
April 20, 2008 Courtesy MSNBC

 

Length of his visit: Almost 72 hours

THE FOURTH POPE

Pope Francis’ exhausting itinerary can be found here.  He’ll make stops first for evening prayer at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, then to the residence of the Apostolic nuncio at the United Nations to sleep.  He speaks to the U.N. Assembly in the morning, then down to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum by lunchtime.

Perhaps the most intriguing stop will come in the afternoon, meeting with students from Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem. Whereas the first Pope to come New York fifty years rode through East Harlem in his covered Pope-mobile, Pope Francis will chat with a third-grade class filled with children who will have quite a story to tell their grandkids.

Afterwards he will travel through Central Park and arrive at Madison Square Garden for Mass. At rush hour! Oh right, all the streets are closed. In fact, Fifth Avenue right now is contained in a large fence, easily the tightest security I’ve ever seen here.

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But Pope Francis is a man of many surprises. Could he decide that he wants to walk the High Line? And how can he visit New York and not even visit Brooklyn? Is the Pope a Girls fan?

 

 

This is a heavily revised version of an article that originally ran in 2008 when Pope Benedict visited New York City.

 

 

The Convent of Central Park and a famous Revolutionary War site

Pictured above is a remarkable structure that once dominated the scenery on the northern side of Central Park. This was the Academy of Saint Vincent on a hill that bore its name.  Located on the northern portion of the park, next to the charming Harlem Meer (and nearest 103rd Street), the Academy sat nestled amid a collection of hills and bluffs left over from its original pre-park topography.

Below: House on the hill: the stark and mysterious convent of Central Park, 1861

 

A narrow passage next to the convent was named McGown’s Pass after Andrew McGown, owner of a popular tavern that sat alongside here called the Black Horse Tavern**.

It was through McGown’s Pass that George Washington traveled on September 15, 1776. He and a portion of the Continental Army had escaped up to today’s Washington Heights area; when hearing that part of his army had been stopped by the British, Washington rode down the pass and led the remaining troops back up to their fortification in the Heights. He rode back through the pass again seven years later, this time as the victor.

The British and their Hessian mercenaries built forts here to cut Manhattan off from the mainland. Later New Yorkers would seize upon this idea during the early days of the War of 1812. Not willing to become property of the British once again, Manhattan mobilized for any potential battles, building forts all over the island and throughout the harbor.

It was here at McGown’s Pass that a couple fortifications were built, including Fort Clinton (not to be confused with the fort in Battery Park, although both were named for DeWitt Clinton) and Fort Fish, named after Major Nicholas Fish, father of the New York senator Hamilton Fish.

Nothing much remains of these two old forts, which were never used as the war thankfully never made its way to the city. There are, however, two remaining structures from the early days.

A stone ledge overlooking the meer is all that remains of Nutter’s Battery, named after a farmer who owned the property. And nearby stands the Block House, its stone face still fairly solid, once armed with cannons and used to hold ammunition — that were, of course, never needed. The Block House was fairly intact when Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux included it in their plans for the new park, incorporating the existing building as a ‘picturesque ruin’ covered in vines.

Here’s an illustration of how the Block House looked in 1860:

Before there was a park, however, there were nuns. In 1847 the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul arrived at the still-bucolic region of Manhattan and opened the Academy of St. Vincent, a school and convent.

The nuns left when the area was incorportated into the park, however the building remained standing and utilized for several purposes. During the Civil War, it was briefly used as a hospital; later, it was a “restaurant and hostelry,” with some certainly spectacular views for guests.

Below: Some sculptured works of Thomas Crawford in the interior of Mount St. Vincent’s Convent, Central Park, north end.]

 

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

The stone chapel was even refashioned as an gallery for artwork and “stuffed specimens of animals of considerable value.” Unfortunately, the structures were destroyed in a fire in 1881. (This site has some great pictures of where the convent once stood.)

Below: The buildings on the hill, circa 1863. By this time, the Catholic sisters had moved onto a new location in the Bronx (from Wikimedia)

 

While the convent was gone by the 1880s, the area was not through with McGown or his old tavern. Although the Black Horse Tavern had been torn down decades earlier, a two-story refreshment pavilion was constructed at this site — “heated throughout by steam and lighted with Edison’s incandescent lights” — and later renamed McGown’s Pass Tavern.

In 1895, McGown’s was strangely granted its own election district as, being inside the park, it lay outside normal district boundaries. “There were four voters in this territory last year,” declared the New York Times. “They are four men employed at McGown’s Pass Tavern.” The tavern was eventually torn down in the late 1910s.

Below: McGown’s Pass Tavern (date unknown, but possibly around the early 1910s)

This is a bit tangental, but I love this story. A plaque was erected at the old site of Fort Clinton in 1906 and unveiled in a publicized community event for children. It was apparently difficult for some people to find the location and “several chivalrous lads” guided people through the park to the unveiling.

However, the Times reports an incident that might be the only real battle that ever occured at this storied historical spot:

“Among the boys interested in the tablet unveiling were several whose spirit of mischief overcame their sense of the proprieties. These made misleading arrow signs …. and caused a number of persons to go far afield and arrive at the exercises late and angry. These mischievous youngsters were caught at their annoying trick by boys who were more sober and serious. Then there was a short scrimmage, and the mischievous lads scurried away through the Park.”

Finally, from a 19th century book on the War of 1812 comes this spectacular map of the various fortifications built in anticipation of battle. Its dimensions are greatly distorted of course, but it lists the forts and blockhouses that stood in this area as well as those such as Fort Gansevoort and Fort Greene (click on the image to look at it more closely):

**This story originally ran in 2011. All pictures courtesy the New York Public Library except where otherwise noted

Super City: New York and the History of Comic Books

PODCAST  A history of the comic book industry in New York City, how the energy and diversity of the city influenced the burgeoning medium in the 1930s and 40s and how New York’s history reflects out from the origins of its most popular characters.

 In the 1890s a newspaper rivalry between William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer helped bring about the birth of the comic strip and, a few decades later, the comic book.  Today, comic book superheroes are bigger than ever — in blockbuster summer movies and television shows — and most of them still have an inseparable bond with New York City.

What’s Spider-Man without a tall building from which to swing? But not only are the comics often set here; the creators were often born here too. Many of the greatest writers and artists actually came from Jewish communities in the Lower East Side, Brooklyn or the Bronx.

For many decades, nearly all of America’s comic books were produced here.  Unfortunately that meant they were in certain danger of being eliminated entirely during a 1950s witch hunt by a crusading psychiatrist from Bellevue Hospital.

WITH a special chat with comics historian Peter Sanderson about the unique New York City connections of Marvel Comics’ most famous characters. Sanderson is the author of The Marvel Comics Guide to New York City and The Marvel Encyclopedia.

FEATURING: The Yellow Kid, Little Orphan Annie, Batman, Doctor Strange and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

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 TuneIn streaming radio from your mobile devices.

Or listen to it straight from here:
The Bowery Boys #187: Super City: New York and the History of Comic Books

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The Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast is brought to you …. by you!

We are now producing a new Bowery Boys podcast every two weeks.  We’re also looking to improve the show in other ways and expand in other ways as well — through publishing, social media, live events and other forms of media.  But we can only do this with your help!

We are now a member of Patreon, a patronage platform where you can support your favorite content creators for as little as a $1 a month.

Please visit our page on Patreon and watch a short video of us recording the show and talking about our expansion plans.  If you’d like to help out, there are five different pledge levels (and with clever names too — Mannahatta, New Amsterdam, Five Points, Gilded Age, Jazz Age and Empire State). Check them out and consider being a sponsor.

We greatly appreciate our listeners and readers and thank you for joining us on this journey so far. And the best is yet to come!

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COMING THIS FALL:  Superheroes’ ties to New York City history will be further explored this fall in the New-York Historical Society’s Superheroes in Gotham exhibition, which opens October 9, 2015.
(Friday, October 9 is the start of ComicCon weekend).

 

A young New York boy enjoys his comic book on the Bowery. Photo taken in 1940 by Andrew Herman.

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

And here’s the comic book he’s reading from March 1940, illustrated by George Papp.

Courtesy Comic Vine
Courtesy Comic Vine

 

In this 1947 photograph taken by Stanley Kubrick, a boy watches his baby sister and enjoys a Superman comic book while his mother shops inside.

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

An issue of DC Comics’ Superman from March 1947, with a cover by George Roussos and Jack Burnley

Courtesy DC Comics / Comic Vine
Courtesy DC Comics / Comic Vine

 

A girl takes a peek at some of the comic book offerings at Woolworth’s. Photograph by Stanley Kubrick taken in 1947.

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

An issue of More Fun Comics from June 1947, produced by DC Comics:

more fun

 

The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck, published in 1842, is considered by many to be the wellspring from which the comic medium derives. You can read the entire issue over at the Darmouth College Library website.

Courtesy Dartmouth College Library
Courtesy Dartmouth College Library

 

A Yellow Kid adventure which would have sprung out from the newspaper due to its vivid colors.

Image courtesy Comix  Takoma; art by Richard Outcault
Image courtesy Comix Takoma; art by Richard Outcault

 

Both Hearst and Pulitzer ran versions of the Yellow Kid comic strip during the years that they were drumming up propaganda which lead to the Spanish-American War. The unscrupulous nature of their efforts earned them the phrase ‘yellow journalism’, inspired by their war of the popular comic strip by Richard Outcault,

Courtesy the Library of Congress
Courtesy the Library of Congress

 

A section of the colorful comics section of the New York Journal, 1898.

“Familiar Sights of a Great City—No. 1 The Cop is Coming!” by Walt McDougall, New York Journal, Sunday, January 9, 1898  via New York Review of Books
“Familiar Sights of a Great City—No. 1 The Cop is Coming!” by Walt McDougall, New York Journal, Sunday, January 9, 1898 via New York Review of Books

 

Little Orphan Annie became the biggest crossover star of the early comic strip era.  Long before there was a musical, Annie starred in this 1932 melodrama, one of the earliest comic-to-movie crossovers.

annie

 

New Fun Comics #1, the very first comic book to contain all new material, and not merely reprints of newspaper comic strips.

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The Batman debuted in Detective Comics in 1939, created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. The city features in these adventures was Gotham City, startlingly similar to the city outside the creators’ windows.

Courtesy DC Comics
Courtesy DC Comics

 

Gotham City, aka New York City, in 1939

Courtesy U.S. Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation
Courtesy U.S. Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation

 

Vault of Horror, one of an assortment of shocking comic books produced by EC Comics in the early 1950s. The cover art is by Johnny Craig.

Courtesy EC Comics
Courtesy EC Comics

 

Bill Gaines, publisher of EC Comics, at his offices at 225 Lafayette Street.

Courtesy Tebeosfera
Courtesy Tebeosfera

 

Dr. Fredrick Wertham, the writer of Seduction of the Innocent, who lead a charge against the comic book industry.

fred

 

seduction

 

A young Stan Lee during the war as a member of the US Army’s Signal Corps. He even managed to do a bit of illustration for the cause!

stan lee

 

The Thing from the Fantastic Four with the  Yancy Street Gang, a variation on Delancey Street in the Lower East Side.

Courtesy Marvel Comics via Comic Viine
Courtesy Marvel Comics via Comic Viine

 

Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum is located on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village

Courtesy Marvel Comics
Courtesy Marvel Comics

 

What would Spider-Man be without New York City? The image of the Brooklyn Bridge (called the George Washington Bridge in the story) is featured in a classic tale involving the death of his girlfriend Gwen Stacey, written by Gerry Conway and drawn by Gil Kane, John Romita and Tony Mortellaro,

Courtesy Marvel Comics
Courtesy Marvel Comics

 

A page from Maus by Art Spiegelman, the graphic novel that brought the medium to a new level of respectability in literary circles.

Courtesy Art Spiegelman
Courtesy Art Spiegelman

 

The comic book/graphic novel continues to evolve and reach new heights of success and respectability.  Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant, published last year, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for best autobiography.

 

Courtesy Roz Chast/Bloomsbury
Courtesy Roz Chast/Bloomsbury

The Avengers defended New York during an alien attack in their blockbuster film in 2012

Courtesy Film Frame/Marvel
Courtesy Film Frame/Marvel

 

All images on this website are owned by the original comic book companies which produced them.  Please see individual companies for more information.

 

RECOMMENDED READING:

If you’re into digging more into this subject, here are a few sources that I used for this podcast:

Jews and American Comics: An Illustrated History of An American Art Form, with written contributions by Paul Buhle

The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America by David Hadju

Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangster and the Birth of the Comic Book by Gerard Jones

Comic Book Century:  The History of American Comic Books by Stephen Krensky

 

Tales to Astonish: Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, and the American Comic Book Revolution by Ronin Ro

 

The Marvel Comics Guide to New York City by Peter Sanderson

 

The top image is from Godzilla #24, released by Marvel Comics in July 1979. Herb Trimpe penciler, Dan Green inker, im Novak letterer, from a story by Doug Moench, edited by Allen Milgrom and Mary Jo Duffy

 

New York: The City of Forts

The vestiges of America’s oldest wars surround us to this day.

New York City has had more military fortifications contained within it than perhaps any other major American city. Part of this has to do with its roots in the American Revolution and the subsequent fears of a return invasion in the early 19th century.

Today’s existing forts — and those that remain in part or in ruin — make for a stark architectural contrast to the modern city. Their walls of stone and brick may conjure up a history far older than New York’s or images of a made-up fantasy world. You could pretend, for a few moments, to be a character on Game of Thrones while exploring places like Fort Wadsworth or Castle Williams on Governors Island

Here’s a list of some of the best known forts in the New York City area. Most are still around in some form. Some exist only in commemorative markers.  Others are completely gone but they leave their names as a reminder of their existence.  How many of these have you seen in person?

1 Fort Wadsworth
Location: Staten Island
Placed at a strategic site on the Narrows, Wadsworth and its associated defense buildings are perhaps the most dramatic military remains in New York City. It traces to an old Revolutionary War-era fort called Flagstaff Fort.  While it serves minor military functions to this day, Wadsworth has become a popular Staten Island attraction.

1979, photographed by Edmund V. Gillon, Museum of the City of New York
1979, photographed by Edmund V. Gillon, Museum of the City of New York


2 Fort Jay (formerly Fort Columbus) 
Location: Governor Island
A star fort constructed from an original 1776 earthen defense. In 1806 its name was changed to Fort Columbus and changed back in the 20th century.

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3 Castle Williams
Location: Governors Island
Specifically designed in 1807-1811 to defend the harbor from probable British invasion. While the British did invade America during the battles of the War of 1812, New York was spared. Today, its maintained by the National Park Service, as is Fort Jay.

1936, by Samuel Gottscho, courtesy Museum of the City of New York
1936, by Samuel Gottscho, courtesy Museum of the City of New York


4 Fort Gibson (or Crown Fort)
Location: Ellis Island
Built by the Army in 1795 and greatly upgraded in 1809 as part of the beefing up of harbor defenses. It was dismantled by the 1860s although the island was used to hold naval munitions for decades before its transformation into Ellis Island Immigration Station.  Today you can find exposed ruins outside the main building.

Courtesy NPS
Courtesy NPS

5 Fort Wood
Location: Liberty Island
This too was completed during the 1810s and was later named for Eleazer Derby Wood, an officer killed at a battle at the Battle of Lake Erie in 1814. Today the Statue of Liberty and her pedestal are affixed atop of the old fort. You can see a trace of the original brickwork on an exposed wall near the exit.

New York Public Library
New York Public Library


6 Castle Clinton
Location: Manhattan (Battery Park)
Lower Manhattan was formerly guarded by Fort Amsterdam/Fort George, but that had been dismantled in 1790. (It stood where the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House is today.) Castle Clinton — named for Governor DeWitt Clinton — was built in 1808-1811 to protect lower Manhattan.  It was originally set into the water and connected with a footbridge.  After stints as the performance hall Castle Garden, New York’s pre-Ellis Island immigration station and New  York Aquarium, it sits today as a national monument in its own right.

Library of Congress
Library of Congress


7 Fort Gansevoort
Location: Manhattan (Meat-Packing District)
Also called the White Fort, this forgotten redoubt once flanked the western waterfront, built at the same time as the harbor forts. It was named for General Peter Gansevoort (the grandfather of Herman Melville) and stood here until the 1850s. Nothing remains of this fort today but its name, found on the street which cuts through that area — Gansevoort Street.

New York Public Library
New York Public Library


8 Blockhouse No. 1
Location: Manhattan (Central Park)
This curious little structure stands on the northern end of Central Park, a fortification almost two hundred years old.  Its the oldest structure contained within Central Park (although obviously Cleopatra’s Needle, which was moved here, is much, much older.)

Library of Congress
Library of Congress

9 Fort Washington
Location: Manhattan (Washington Heights)
This fort predates most of the rest, built as a companion for Fort Lee on the New Jersey side. It was here that the Battle of Washington Heights was fought on November 16, 1776, and the fort was captured by the British. While this particular fort is no longer there, some stone walls and a plaque mark its former location. Fort Washington Avenue also pays tribute.

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10 Fort Tryon
Location: Washington Heights
This was actually a northern redoubt that was an extension of Fort Washington. When the British took it over, they renamed it for William Tryon, New York’s last British governor. For some reason, the name just stuck! Its location in preserved in the breathtaking Fort Tryon Park, completed in 1935 and designed by the son of Frederick Law Olmsted.

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11 Fort Sterling
Location: Brooklyn (Brooklyn Heights)
This fort, tracing to the Revolutionary Era, is unique it that it was almost immediately dismantled once the British left.  There was another fort nearby called Fort Brooklyn that lasted a bit longer,demolished by the 1820s to allow for the growth of Brooklyn’s first wealthy neighborhood. Today, near the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, stands small Fort Sterling Park, with a plaque and a flagpole commemorating the location of this critical defense.

12 Cobble Hill Fort
Location: Brooklyn (Cobble Hill neighborhood)
This unusual corkscrew shaped fort — which we talked about in one of our previous ghost story podcasts — is notable for receiving George Washington as he observed his troops during the Battle of Long Island in 1776.  A handsome plaque on the old bank-turned-Trader-Joe’s at Atlantic Avenue and Court Street marks the location of this forgotten fortification.

Courtesy the blog South Brooklyn
Courtesy the blog South Brooklyn

13 Fort Greene
Location: Brooklyn (Fort Greene neighborhood)
There really was a fort here in the area of Fort Greene Park today, on the highest point of the hill, a traditional five-point fortification similar to that on Governors Island. In the 1840s it was torn down to construct one of Brooklyn’s oldest parks — called Washington Park. Oddly enough, the original fort here was called Fort Putnam. There was a Fort Greene (named for Nathaniel Greene) but it was in another area of Brooklyn, closer to today’s area of Boerum Hill.

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

14 Fort Hamilton
Location: Brooklyn (Bay Ridge)
This is the last active military headquarters in the New York City area. Built in the late 1820s-30s, it was named for Alexander Hamilton who was an officer in the Revolutionary War. Although an active site, you can visit the Harbor Defense Museum which is housed here.

Robert Bracklow, Museum of the City of New York
Robert Bracklow, Museum of the City of New York


15 Fort Lafayette

Location: Off the coast of Brooklyn (Bay Ridge)
This imposing island fort was built in the 1810s and named for the Marquis De Lafayette. Like many of New York’s forts, it held Confederate and enemy prisoners during the Civil War. The fort was later dismantled for the construction of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. You can see where it would have stood as the bridge’s Brooklyn-side tower stands on the location today.

Fort-layafette


16 Fort Tilden
Location: Brooklyn (Rockaway Beach)
While defenses of various kinds have sat out on Rockaway Beach since the early 19th century, Fort Tilden was fully built up during World War I, named for Samuel J. Tilden. Today its ruins peering through overgrowth can be found near the beach as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.

tilden


17 Fort Schuyler

Location: Bronx
Completed in the 1850s, this unique fortification protected New York for any possible attack from enemies approaching along the Long Island Sound. Abandoned for strictly military use in the 1920s, today it houses the State University of New York Maritime College and a maritime museum.

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


18 Fort Totten

Location: Queens
This fortification traces to worries relating to the Civil War. It was constructed in 1862 to protect the East River with its companion across the water Fort Schuyler.  You can still visit Fort Totten today as the area has been opened up as a public park with regular tours of the old buildings.

New York Public Library
New York Public Library

 

At top: Fort Lafayette in a painting by Thomas Hicks (1861)

Podcast rewind: the New York City Marathon, a brisk history of the five-borough race and the amazing athlete who created it

Above: The 1971 marathon. That’s Fred Lebow on the far right (#24). Pic courtesy TCS NYC Marathon

Next week (November 2, 2014) brings the TCS New York City Marathon so I thought I’d dust off an older podcast on its funky, fascinating and furious history.

The New York City Marathon hosts thousands of runners from all over the world, the dream project of the New York Road Runners and in particular one Fred Lebow, an employee of the Fashion District turned athletic icon. Find out how he launched a massive race in the midst of bankrupt 1970s New York.

ALSO: our guest host Tanya Bielski-Braham takes us on a speedy tour of the course, from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to Tavern on the Green.

A special illustrated version of the podcast on the New York City Marathon (Episode #68) is now available on our NYC History Archive feed, via Stitcher streaming service and of course on iTunes.  Chapter headings with images have been embedded in this show, so if your listening device is compatible, just hit play and a variety of pictures should pop up.  The audio is superior than the original as well.

There’s also a map included in the enhanced features of this show from the current 2014 race. Please consult www.nyrr.org for more information.

NOTE: This show was originally recorded in October 2008.  George W. Bush was still president! I even make a reference to the election.  However, as a result…..

1)  The cancellation of the New York City Marathon in 2012 due to Hurricane Sandy — and the controversy surrounding that — is not mentioned in this show. Hopefully one day soon I’ll get to officially amend this episode with recent history.

2) The race is now sponsored by TCS.  When this show was recorded, the sponsor was ING and we make mention to that.

3)  Thanks again to Tanya Bielski-Braham for helping me out with this show. She performed admirably in the marathon that year and has since moved to Pittsburgh.  Come back to New York, Bowery girl!  You’re truly missed.

For this and our older episodes (Episodes #3-#65, subscribe to The Bowery Boys: NYC History Archive feed, on iTunes, directly from our host page, or directly via our RSS feed.

Cleopatra’s Needle and the Secret of the New York Freemasons

The Obelisk, Central Park, New York City.

A cheerful postcard of the obelisk, 1917, American Art Publishing Co, courtesy Museum of the City of New York

 PODCAST Cleopatra’s Needle is the name given to the ancient Egyptian obelisk that sits in Central Park, right behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  This is the bizarre tale of how it arrived in New York and the unusual forces that went behind its transportation from Alexandra to a hill called Greywacke Hill.

The weathered but elegant monolith was created thousands of years ago by the pharaoh Thutmose III.  Thanks to the great interest in Egyptian objects in the 19th century — sometimes called Egyptomania — major cities soon wanted obelisks for their own, acquired as though they were trophies of world conquest.  France and England scooped up a couple but — at least in the case of the ill-fated vessel headed to London — not without great cost.

One group was especially fascinated in the Alexandrian obelisks.  The Freemasons (their symbols at right) have been a mysterious and controversial fraternity who have been involved in several critical moments in American history (including the inauguration of fellow Mason George Washington.) A Mason engineer and adventurer named Henry Honeychurch Gorringe discovered an incredible secret on the remaining Alexandria obelisk, a secret that might link the secretive organization to the beginning of human civilization.

But how do you get a 240 ton object, the length of a 7-story building, across the Atlantic Ocean and propped up in New York’s new premier park?  We let you in on Gorringe’s technique and the curious Freemasons ceremony that accompanied the debut of the obelisk’s cornerstone.

PLUS: We have a secret or two to reveal ourselves in this episode. This is a must-listen podcast!

To get this week’s episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services, subscribe to our RSS feed 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 #167 Cleopatra’s Needle and the Freemasons’ Secret

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And we would like to again thank our new sponsor Squarespace!  Squarespace, the all-in-one platform that makes it fast and easy to create your own professional website or online portfolio.  For a free trial and 10% off (your first purchase), go to squarespace.com and use offer code BOWERY.
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Thutmose III, who commanded thousands to construct his obelisks, pictured in a relief in Karmac:

The Masonic Chart by Currier & Ives, 1876, created a few years before the arrival of the obelisk. And another below it, from 1872


From a jewelry advertisement, meant to clarify some of the levels and organizations within the Freemasons, although I’m sure this equally confused or frightened some people! [source]

The New York Masonic Hall on 23rd Street and Sixth Avenue — the original hall (which stood at this corner during the retrieval of Cleopatra’s Needle) and the later 1911 structure which still stands there today. (Pictures courtesy NYPL)


A cigarette card recounting the terrible tale of the London obelisk.   (NYPL)


The hero of this episode — Henry Honychurch Gorringe


Gorringe prepares the obelisk for transportation.  Even though it holds aloft an American flag, the treasure was actually a gift to the City of New York. (LOC)




Sliding the obelisk into the hatch of a refitted Egyptian postal ship.

Getting the obelisk past the trains of the Hudson River Railroad! Thankfully, a Vanderbilt was in charge of both the tracks and the obelisk project.

The ‘bridge’ which slowly took the obelisk across Manhattan, dismantled and rebuilt as the object moved eastward. (The following images are courtesy Torben Retboll)

Both the obelisk and the Met were new features to Central Park in 1880.

Never Too Cold: Crazy kids conquer Central Park on sleds

During one particular winter in the early 1910s, Central Park was invaded by an army of young sledders, tearing over the snow-covered terrain without thought to temperatures or bodily injury.

Believe it or not, the city encouraged children to use the city parks for sledding, especially given that the alternatives were slicked-up city streets.  In fact, New York did everything possible to make parks an ideal sledding destination.

“Snow from the sidewalks around Hamilton Fish, DeWitt Clinton and East River parks has been thrown over the fences to form an embankment from which the youngsters can coast.” reported the New York Tribune in 1910.  In Central Park, “never before were so many coasters in evidence.”

Indeed, automobiles posed a grim and dangerous threat to children sledders. The newspapers between 1909-1919 are filled with sad stories of children killed in sledding accidents, with autos frequently involved.  Vehicles from the early days (not to mention, their novice drivers) were simply ill-equipped for icy conditions.

While some in the community lamented the mess made in public parks, most preferred keeping children safe.  These pictures kind of make you want to make a go of it, don’t you think?

Of course, wealthy people could always go on a sleigh ride in the park, but the mass production of individual flyers (like the one advertised below) and homemade facsimiles soon brought middle and working class into the park for fun.  I would like to think this sled model (advertised in a Dec. 4, 1914 edition of the Evening World) was used by some of those intrepid spirits pictured above:
And you think that all looks a little dangerous, here’s some adventurers from 1860, using Broadway as their personal ice sheet, with a child tied to the back!
Images courtesy Library of Congress and New York Public Library

The real ‘Ghostbusters’: 25 spooky, historical New York facts about 1984’s slimiest supernatural comedy

Malevolent entities and pretty special effects drape themselves over New York City.

I have gained an incredible appreciation for the Ivan Reitman-directed horror comedy Ghostbusters ever since we started recording ghost-story podcasts seven years ago.

This goofy, supernatural tale starring Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson was one of the biggest hits of 1984, a rare blend of wry comedy, special effects and spectacular New York City landscapes.  Despite its preposterous premise — that ghosts look either like oozing fat blobs or Sheena Easton-ish supermodels — the film flawlessly displays the easy comic talents of its stars and reveals a New York City with only monsters as its greatest threat.

But in looking over old tales of mediums, haunted houses and ancient legends for our annual Halloween podcasts, I realized there was a very broad, but legitimate basis of historical spiritual skepticism behind this story, written by Ackroyd and Ramis.  There have been both believers and cynics from New York history who have attempted to prove the existence of supernatural forces and have even tried to purge them from the city.

From there, I took a deeper look into the historical people, places and events depicted in the film, if not only to find evidence of New York’s ghostbusting forefathers, then at least to enjoy the pop culture references of the early 1980s.  Ghostbusters was a mainstream offering, so it goes very light on its urban commentary of a city picking itself up out of withering debt.  Its ghosts are quite democratic, in fact, terrorizing libraries, public places, ethnic neighborhoods and wealthy condominiums alike.

Here are 25 fascinating pieces of trivia about Ghostbusters, putting the film within the context of New York City history.  Obviously there are a ton of spoilers here, in case you haven’t yet seen it.  But hopefully I’m giving you a good excuse to catch on television this Halloween!





1)  Ghostbusters is set in 1984, late October-early November, judging from the dates on newspapers and magazines which appear midway through the film.  But the film’s release date was in June 1984, so technically the film documents future events.

The appearance of Sumerian gods on the Upper West Side and a team of wise-cracking ghost exterminators certainly would have been the top story of the year.  Real life is not as magical.  The big story in New York City that year came over a month later, when Bernhard Goetz shot four men who tried to mug him in the subway.

2) The New York Public Library, setting for the delightfully shushy spectre in the opening scene, may actually be haunted.  After all, it sits on land that was once a burial ground.

According to historian Charles Hemstreet, writing in 1899, “The ground between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, Fortieth and Forty-second Streets, now occupied by Bryant Park and the old reservoir, was purchased by the city in 1822, and in 1823, a potter’s field was established there, the one in Washington Square having been abandoned in its favor.”

By the way, the two lions (named Patience and Fortitude) are prominently featured in the opening, a sly parallel to the stone monsters which will appear later.

3) Our ghostbusting heroes are originally located at Columbia University, in Weaver Hall (actually Havemeyer Hall).  Although there is no actual department of paranormal psychology, Columbia does have a connection to one of New York’s earliest institutes of paranormal study.

The American Society for Psychical Research was founded in 1884 — exactly one century before Ghostbusters — as a legitimate organization looking to separate spiritualist quacks from actual supernatural phenomena.

Its most prominent leader was James H. Hyslop (at right), a former professor of ethics and logic at Columbia University.  His early studies read like a jazz-age X-Files, investigating ghosts, spiritual possession and a strange variety of mental abilities.  (We speak of Hyslop in two of our old ghost story podcasts, investigating a case of spiritual harassment and contact via a Ouija board.)

4) While no hauntings are actually displayed at Columbia University in the film, they certainly could have been.  The campus is located on the site of old Bloomingdale Insane Asylum, where more than a few mentally disturbed individuals met their end.  Columbia bought the facility in the 1880s and demolished most of it to make way for their McKim, Mead and White-designed campus.  But one structure still remains — the Macy Villa, a home for mentally-troubled rich gentlemen, in today’s Buell Hall, home of La Maison Francaise.

5) The deck of cards used by Dr. Venkman (Bill Murray) to test the telepathic abilities of his patients (and to flirt with the pretty blonde) are called Zener cards, invented by Karl Zener and J. B. Rhine, who was inspired to enter psychical research after listening to a lecture by author and paranormal cheerleader Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  In 1980, the New York Times printed a set of Zener cards in its January 29, 1980 edition. “The reader may judge for themselves.”

6)  Dr. Venkman’s continued skepticism gives Murray a host of excuses to stare at the camera and mug sardonic.  But his character probably has the most in common with New York’s original ghostbusters, especially adventurer and conjurer Joseph Rinn.  He and his childhood friend Harry Houdini basked in debunking frauds while keeping alive the illusion of magic and mystery for their acts.  Rinn most famously held a demonstration at Carnegie Hall where he taunted mediums and mystics to exercise their powers for a prize pot of $10,000.  Nobody ever won the money.

7) Manhattan City Bank, depicted in the film, is not real.  Coincidentally, the scene was filmed at another bank directly across the street from the New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue/41st Street.  In fact, you can still see the library scaffolding to the left.

What was the scaffolding for?  In 1982, the library embarked a $20 million renovation project.  It’s difficult to imagine today, but this classic New York institution had been badly abused over the years.  The 1982 renovation was meant to return the building to its original glory. “It is a restoration in some ways, a modernization in others,” said the Times. “[T]his ambitious plan emerges out of the conviction that this building is as much a part of our cultural heritage as the billions of words that it contains.”

Ghostbusters headquarters — the TriBeCa fire house on North Moore. Pic courtesy Phillip Ritz

8) Perhaps the most beloved New York site from the film is Ghostbusters headquarters, the Hook and Ladder Company No. 8 fire station at the corner of North Moore Street and Varick Street.  If the building looks awkwardly slender to you, there’s a good reason — half the building was demolished in 1914 when Varick Street was widened.  Several other buildings, including St. John’s Chapel, owned by Trinity Church, were not so lucky, wiped out entirely by Varick’s expansion.

Spengler (Harold Ramis) says of the firehouse. “I think this building should be condemned….The neighborhood is like a demilitarized zone.”  In fact, the converted lofts and warehouses of TriBeCa (Triangle Below Canal) — the name was slightly over a decade old in 1984 — were a haven for artists, designers and musicians by this time and probably deemed ‘gritty’ by the standards of 1980s American film goers.

9) Sigourney Weaver is probably the most New York-centric star of Ghostbusters and a perfect choice for the role of Dana, the sophisticated lady possessed by an ancient God.  (Dana’s in the New York Philharmonic after all!)  Weaver was a regular on the off-Broadway stage, an offbeat star who once starred in a Christopher Durang play about the Titanic.  Her first two film performances are in two 1970s New York film classics — Serpico and Annie Hall.

10) As Sigourney arrives at her apartment building, you can clearly identify Checker Cabs passing on the street, even though that were already a dying breed by this time, the last rolling out from its Michigan plant in 1982.

11) The Sedgewick Hotel, site of the Ghostbusters’ most conspicuous catch, is one of several Los Angeles locations pretending to be in New York.  However, if they wanted a haunted hotel near the New York Public Library, they could have looked no further than the Algonquin Hotel, two blocks north on West 44th Street, notoriously famous for the ghosts of the Round Table.

The Sedgewick is played in the film by L.A.’s Biltmore Hotel, site of several Academy Awards ceremonies and itself haunted by a famous ghost, that of Elizabeth Short, aka the Black Dahlia.

12) Ectoplasm isn’t just a cool word for ‘slime’.  In 1922, the New York Evening World ran photographs of mediums coated in ectoplasm.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle described it as “thick, sticky, whitish substance exuding from the medium in trance and strong enough to lift tables, perform spirit rappings and other weird stunts.”

13) A New Jersey high school student named Jeff Nichols found momentary fame when he accidentally appeared as an extra in the film, during the brief scene in which Bill Murray and Dan Ackroyd storm through Rockefeller Center.  (Did they not sign release forms back then?) The scene appears in a montage of the crew’s many ghost-exterminating antics.

Nichols’ fame was then compounded by being interviewed by the New York Times in July.  ”I got a bunch of phone calls from friends who saw it, saying, ‘Hey, Jeff, you’re in the movie,’ ” said a surprised Jeff last week. ”It’s strange to think that I’m in a movie that’s playing all over the country…… I guess it’s like being part of history.”

No offense to Jeff, but I’m kinda more fascinated in another brief scene during this montage, when the Ghostmobile speeds past Umberto’s Clam House in its original location (the corner of Mulberry and Hester).

14) Larry King on the radio in Ghostbusters in 1984:

And you can click here to see Larry King actually recording his show in 1984.  The difference? In the real video, he’s smoking a cigarette!

15) There’s a silly montage of 1984 publications that go swirling by.  A People Magazine touting the trio also reveals “Princess Di Expecting Again!”  The magazine (supposedly from October 1984) is a little off — Prince Harry was born on September 15, 1984.

The New York Post also celebrates one off-screen Ghostbusters’ victory: GHOST COPS BUST CHINATOWN SPOOK.

In the early 1980s, the Post gave $50,000 a week in its WINGO! lottery promotion.  According to author and former Post reporter Charlie Carillo, the contest illicited some rather mysterious winners:

“One Wingo winner showed up soaked in sweat and literally looking over both shoulders.  He wouldn’t even tell me his real name, and he covered his face with his hands when the photographer lifted the camera.  ‘No pictures!’ he cried through his fingers.  ‘Can’t have my picture in the paper!'”

16) Also given credible prominence during this montage is the long-gone OMNI Magazine, a science publication with the unique distinction of being one of the first magazines to simultaneously publish a digital edition (in 1986).

Here’s a copy of the October 1984 issue from the movie, and the actual October 1984 issue:

17) Dana listens to Casey Kasem gab about the Ghostbusters during his Top 40 countdown show.  His wife Jean Kasem appears later in the movie as Rick Moranis’ ditzy date.  Had we been privy to the entire broadcast, we would have heard that the top five songs that week were (in Kasem countdown order): 5)  “Lucky Star” by Madonna, 4) “Purple Rain” by Prince,  3) “Hard Habit To Break” by Chicago,  2) “Caribbean Queen (No More Love On The Run)” by Billy Ocean, and 1) “I Just Called To Say I Love You” by Stevie Wonder.

18) Veteran New York broadcaster Joe Franklin appears on television, asking Murray, “I’m sure there’s one big question on everybody’s mind, and I imagine you are the man to answer that.  How is Elvis, and have you seen him lately?”

Franklin, presumably recording from WWOR‘s brand-new studios in Secaucus, NJ, was touching on a hot-button issue in 1984.  That year, some believers found proof that Elvis Presley was actually still alive, due to an infamous photograph that emerged in the press of Elvis with Muhammed Ali.  A video of that investigation is below:

19)  A supernatural upheaval of godlike forces emerges from Dana’s icebox, located in a penthouse at 55 Central Park West.  In the film, this building, constructed in 1929, was made with cosmic connections in mind, with a super-conductive antenna, “pulling in and concentrating spiritual turbulence.” Stantz (Dan Ackroyd) adds,  “The architect was either a certified genius or a pathetic wacko.”

In Ghostbusters lore, the architect is Ivo Shandor.  In reality, the building was constructed by the less immortal architectural firm of Schwartz and Gross, best known before then for their building The Majestic on West 75th Street.  55 Central Park West has been home to Rudy Vallee, Ginger Rogers, Donna Karan and Calvin Klein.

There does appear to be something strange going on with the building. According to the latest AIA Guide: “[I]f the sun seems brighter at the top than the bottom, it is brighter.  A flush of brick from red to yellow rises from the second floor to the sun.”  Gozer is impressed.

20) Louis Tully (Rick Moranis) just wants somebody to like him.  Although a “nerd” in the classic 1980s nerd style, he’s pretty much a prototype for the modern hipster.  In a futile effort to get Dana to his party, he proclaims that they will “play some Twister, do some breakdancing.”

1984 was the year that this form of street dancing went mainstream, with films, fashion and music that year monopolizing on the trend.  Breakin‘ was in theaters for a month already when Ghostbusters opened on June 8, 1984.  It handily beat a competing film making its debut that same week — Beat Street (see below).  Believe it or not, Beat Street debuted on more screens than Ghostbusters, but lost in the box office battle.

21)  Louis runs into Central Park to escapes Gozer’s demon minion but is cornered at Tavern On The Green.  It would have been quite a party that Louis and the hellbeast were crashing, as the fancy restaurant was celebrating its 50th anniversary that very month.  Tavern On The Green opened on October 20, 1934, with a lavish dinner attended by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and parks commissioner Robert Moses (pictured below, image courtesy New York Times)

22) Later, a possessed Louis (as the Key Master) streaks through Times Square in a demoniacal rage, looking for the Gate Keeper.  It’s a fairly nondescript early 80s midtown landscape, but look for the curious chain restaurant WienerWald in the background.  The German franchise had several locations throughout the United States but was unable to turn Americans on to its menu — mostly chicken, despite the name.  One intrepid Ghostbusters fan has successfully located the precise block on Seventh Avenue where this WienerWald was located.

23)  With the city in crisis, the Ghostbusters are invited to City Hall for a meeting.  As they enter the building, you can clearly see the banner for an exhibit in the rotunda called “Furnishing the Streets: 1902-1922.”  This was an actual exhibit which opened on September 22, 1983, featuring antique street decorations — from fire posts and old subway signs to even an old horse trough.  Because the banner could not be removed for some reason, the filmmakers cleverly obscure the exhibition’s date with a flagpole.  However you can still make out that it says 1983.

24)  The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in his deliciously savage rage stomps up Central Park West from Columbus Circle.  The most significant landmark destroyed by this sugary-sweet demon spawn is Holy Trinity Lutheran Church which sits next to 55 Central Park West.

The picturesque Gothic building has been a magnet for chaos from the very beginning.  Over 3,000 people filled the street when its cornerstone was laid in November 1902, causing a traffic meltdown.  According to the New York Tribune, “It was as much as the police could do for a time to prevent people from being run down by trolley cars and automobiles, as many people were compelled to stand in the middle of the street.”

25)  Our brave heroes vanquish Gozer and return to the street, greeted to the applause of grateful New Yorkers.  I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t mention another set of Ghostbusters who once scoured Manhattan of its supernatural nuisances:  the 1940s wacky Bowery Boys comedy troupe made a film in 1946 called Spook Busters.  Instead of a fire station, these exterminators of unwanted phantoms set up shop in a candy store:

If you like this article, you might also want to check ou my ‘historical trivia’ story on Midnight Cowboy and some interesting New York City trivia on The Muppets Take Manhattan.