Our book The Bowery Boys’ Adventures In Old New York is officially released around the world this week. To promote the book, we are making a few appearances in the New York City region. Here are the next four. Please keep checking the website for further announcements and details! (I suspect we’ll have many more appearances scheduled in a few weeks.)
Tuesday, June 28
There are still a few tickets left for our appearance at the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York on Tuesday, June 28, at 6:30 pm. If you’re interested, definitely book early, as our last event sold out. Here’s the details:
“How much do you really know about NYC’s history? Introducing a special program celebrating the launch of The Bowery Boys: Adventures in Old New York, the official companion book to the No. 1 travel podcast that offers an unconventional exploration of Manhattan’s historic neighborhoods, secret spots and colorful characters. The Bowery Boys – Greg Young and Tom Meyers – will be here to discuss among other things,”Top Ten Hidden Secrets” of New York.
20 West 44th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues)
To register please email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Advance registration is recommended.
A free reading and book signing at Fishs Eddy near the Flatiron Building at 889 Broadway. Fishs Eddy is a homeware store with unique, quirkly styles. (You must check out their Alexander Hamilton-Aaron Burr dueling shot glasses.) More details and times to come but prepare for a fun surprise — a Bowery Boys related product for sale at the store!
Tuesday, July 26, 6-8:30
Prepare for a trivia night event at ….Fraunces Tavern! We’re still working out the details so stay tuned.
Tuesday, August 16, 6:30-8pm
A Book Talk with the Bowery Boys at theSkyscraper Museum, on August 16, from 6:30-8 pm.
All book talks are free and open to the public. HOWEVER you must RSVP to email@example.com to assure admittance. More information here.
Right before noon on March 6, 1970, an explosion tore open a lovely Greenwich Village townhouse at 18 West 11th Street and awoke New York City to a violent new threat.
The remains of three bodies were discovered in the smoking debris but they weren’t residents of this quiet neighborhood. They were members of The Weather Underground, a radical underground unit absorbing the counter-culture spirit of the 1960s and unleashing it — oftentimes randomly and irrationally — onto a new decade.
Below: Oddly enough, the townhouse explosion occurred next door to the home of Dustin Hoffman and his wife.
Less than two years later, two New York police officers were brutally assassinated in the East Village, among the most brutal and shocking crimes against the NYPD in its history. This wasn’t a random crime but a hit placed upon the officers by members of the Black Liberation Army, wielding some of the philosophies of the Black Panthers to dangerous ends.
Almost three years later, a bomb exploded inside the historic Fraunces Tavern during in the middle of a busy weekday lunch. Four men were killed in the sudden attack, made by the Armed Forces of Puerto Rican National Liberation (or FALN).
Below: Aftermath of the explosion at Fraunces Tavern (courtesy New York Daily News)
In between these terrible disasters were several other bombings of other significant buildings, here in New York and in other cities through the United States. All of them indicative of a violent (and ultimately failed) form of protest, as turbulently described by Bryan Burrough in his new book Days of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, The FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence.
This is probably one of the most frightening non-fiction books I’ve read in recent memory, a broad and exquisitely told tale that loosely links together a variety of American revolutionary action groups from the 1970s.
Some of the principal players of these groups are recognizable (Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, Patty Hearst), but the breadths of their actions has been seldom studied. Through interviews with members who’ve never spoken, Burroughs patches together connections among these disparate groups — even if those connections are more philosophical than physical.
Below: The mugshot of Bernadine Dohrn, 1970
Most shared the belief that violence, disruption and chaos would lead America to a new revolutionary age. As Burrough points out, most were inspired by civil rights movement and the plight of black Americans, taking their anger and frustration into far more radical directions than the mainstream leaders who advocated non-violence and change through the law.
While the vulgar and gut-wrenching violence was often doused with machismo, many of these groups were led or operated by women.
The title comes from a series of demonstrations that occurred in Chicago in the fall of 1969, seen as a sort of kick off to this festering revolutionary movement. Much of the book details the ‘underground’ hideouts and escape routes of these organization, whether holed up in Manhattan’s Chinatown or San Francisco (as the Weathermen were, often dressed in silly disguises) or running from capture through rural Georgia.
Burrough does not flinch from the horror, graphically describing the aftermath of many of the more loathsome crimes. The 1972 deaths of two NYPD officers in the East Village is especially grim. (You can read news of the original account here.)
In particular, I found the tale of the Symbionese Liberation Army especially gripping, notable less for their violent actions (although there certainly was some) than for the somewhat random notion to kidnap the granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst. Many of these stories will replay in your memory as a reel of black-and-white news footage or a set of iconic photographs (such as the one above of Hearst). Days of Rage offers a vivid and refreshing new context.
Burrough — a Vanity Fair writer perhaps best known for Barbarians At The Gate — is a thorough story-teller, conjuring fully blown narratives from the sometimes untrustworthy recollections of the surviving participants. He’s often too thorough, sometimes including superfluous details because they’ve “never before been told.”
Chaos was an organizing principal for these groups which is partially way they were ultimately unsuccessful. As shocking as some of these horrifying attacks seem today, it’s a wonder many of them were successful orchestrated at all, given the tentative organizational structure and often incompetent leadership of these groups.
But the void of history-related television will soon be filled again with Turn, AMC’s Revolutionary War-era drama on George Washington’s spy network, called The Culper Ring. What do you think?
Although this clearly depicts a variety of locations pivotal to the American Revolution, much of Washington’s spy ring was located near British headquarters — namely New York and the surrounding area. So the show should eventually turn its attention to the city in the Revolutionary era.
We’re sure to see not only the bustling, over-crowded streets around St. Paul’s Church and Bowling Green — possibly even the ruins from the 1776 fire which incinerated almost a fourth of the city — but imagined locations in Long Island and Westchester.
You’re not seeing things — that’s Jamie Bell (aka Billy Elliott) as the leader of the spy ring Abraham Woodhull (aka Samuel Culper).
They’ll certainly take a lot of liberties given the secrecy of the Culper Ring. I can’t wait to see how they depict the most intriguing alleged member of the gang —Agent 355. The show is set to air in early 2014.
And although though it’s not set in New York, if you like history and mobsters, check out Mob Citytonight on TNT, set in Los Angeles in the 1940s and based on John Buntin’s excellent book L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City. —— And speaking of George Washington, today marks the 230th anniversary of the General’s farewell speech to the officers of the Continental Army, given at Fraunces Tavern just days after the British were permanently expelled from New York in 1783.
His toast to his men: “With a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable.”
There are still so many places throughout the city struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Many people in outlying regions are still without basic needs. In my post on Friday — A Snapshot of Hurricane Sandy — there’s a list of charities and volunteer organizations where you can donate or volunteer. There’s further information about volunteering opportunities at Occupy Sandy Relief.
Some of lower Manhattan’s most historic structures have not gone unscathed. In particular dire straits is old Fraunces Tavern, the 18th century inn, Revolutionary War landmark and site of several early offices of the first American government. George Washington‘s farewell address to the Continental Army was given upstairs, and Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and Aaron Burr all worked and drank here.
The tavern was originally built upon landfill and sits upon low-lying land, making it and other older surviving structures along Pearl Street very susceptible to sudden water surges from storms. (We spoke about its early history in our podcast on Fraunces Tavern from March 2011.)
According to their website: “As of November 6, 2012, Fraunces Tavern at 54 Pearl Street and the other four interconnected buildings that make-up Fraunces Tavern Restaurant and Museum are without electricity, heat, and phone service. Without electricity it is difficult to assess the full extent of damage, however, the storm surge flooded all five basements and caused about two feet of water damage to the above street level first floor.
From preliminary building walk-throughs it appears that all the upper floors came through the storm unharmed, including Museum spaces and rooms where the collection is stored.
All of the water has been pumped out and a team of experienced plumbers and electricians are on-site to bring Fraunces Tavern back on-line. In the meantime, a generator is planned to bring back power to critical areas by the end of the week. At this time, Fraunces Tavern’s Board and staff members are unable to tell when full power, including phone lines, will be restored.”
If you’d like to help out the Frances Tavern Museum, you can visit their website and make a tax deductible gift. As for the other businesses of this area — the restaurants and pubs of Stone and Pearl streets — most are probably open with limited capacities. Go visit them and spend a little money there. I’m sure they would greatly appreciate it.
Meanwhile, the main building for South Street Seaport Museumalso received extensive damage, as did the 18th century print shop Bowne & Co. As part of Schermerhorn Row, the buildings are almost as old as Fraunces Tavern. At greatest risk, however, were their collection of classic ships docked along the East River. But on that front, there’s good news.
According to their Facebook page: “Our ships are largely unscathed thanks to extraordinary preparation by our waterfront staff and volunteers. Now, we are working hard to clean up our 200-year-old gallery building, Schermerhorn Row at 12 Fulton Street (half a block from the East River), and our 19th-century spaces around the corner on Water Street, all of which flooded.”
You can help out to the museum by donating to their Hurricane Sandy relief fund. And if you can volunteer to help out the museum for an afternoon (12-4:30pm) this week, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let them know!
Thanks to Kristin O’Connor Saslovsky on our Facebook page for forwarding me the information on Fraunces Tavern
A slight correction: I inferred in this week’s show that the very first Supreme Court — with Chief Justice John Jay — met in Federal Hall. They actually first convened on February 2, 1790, in a building very close by to Fraunces — the Royal Exchange Building. Also called the Merchant Exchange, the Court’s first home was located at Broad and Water streets, making it practically Fraunces’ neighbor. At the time there were only six justices that served on the court.
It was completely unsuited for such important work. According to writings from 1920 by Joseph Bucklin Bishop, the Exchange was “a very curious structure, for its ground floor was open on all sides, and in tempestuous weather the merchants who gathered there for business found it extremely uncomfortable. It had a second story which was enclosed and consisted of a single room” [source] Here’s an illustration of this odd building:
By 1791, the court moved to Philadelphia. A more dignified Merchants Exchange was later built in New York and featured a well-regarded statue of Alexander Hamilton in its rotunda. Unfortunately this building was promptly burned down in the Great Fire of 1835.
Oldest Building? So, is Fraunces Tavern really the oldest building in Manhattan? It really depends on how much leeway you’re willing to give it. There’s been a continually standing structure there since 1719, easily outdistancing two other Manhattan buildings, St. Paul’s Church on Broadway and Fulton streets (1766) , and the Morris-Jumel Mansion in Washington Heights (1765).
Fraunces, however, has gone through a host of radical changes to its appearance, with floors added and removed, its rooms reconfigured and its exterior entirely altered as to render it almost unrecognizable. A renovation in the 1900s by architect William Mersereau did bring it closer to its original state. There are certainly elements from the original structure that remain. Is that enough to bestow it the title Manhattan’s oldest building?
There are several buildings in Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens that lay claim to being much older. You can read about some of them here.
Places to Visit: You can find directions and hours to the Fraunces Tavern Museum here. We recommend hanging a right at the second floor and watching the short introductory video before exploring the room.
Learn more: Pearl Street sat along the edge of Manhattan in the 1660s, meaning the land Fraunces sits upon today would have been water and docks. This interactive map from PBS’s Dutch New York display illustrates this pretty effectively.
Drowne was best known as a collector of coins and printed money but was active in New York historical preservation as well. In stark contrast to his name, Drowne died in a house fire on the Upper West Side in 1934.
PODCASTFraunces Tavern is one of America’s most important historical sites of the Revolutionary War and a reminder of the great importance of taverns on the New York way of life during the Colonial era. This revered building at the corner of Pearl and Broad street was the location of George Washington‘s farewell address to his Continental Army officers and one of the first government buildings of the young United States of America. John Jay and Alexander Hamilton both used Fraunces as an office.
As with many places connected to the country’s birth — where fact and legend intermingle — many mysteries still remain. Was the tavern owner Samuel Fraunces one of America’s first great black patriots? Did Samuel use his position here to spy upon the British during the years of occupation between 1776 and 1783? Was his daughter on hand to prevent an assassination attempt on the life of George Washington? And is it possible that the basement of Fraunces Tavern could have once housed a dungeon?
ALSO: Learn about the two deadly attacks on Fraunces Tavern — one by a British war vessel in the 1770s, and another, more violent act of terror that occurred in its doorway 200 years later!
You can tune into it below, download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services, or get it straight from our satellite site.
One of the oldest, diverse and historic rooms in New York City, the Long Room played host to Colonial Era dance classes, George Washington’s farewell speech (pictured below), decades of guests as a boardinghouse, and now a replica of tavern life in early America. [Columbia U]
How the interior may have looked in the 19th century, as Fraunces became more a lodging house frequented by longshoremen, sailors and dock workers. [NYPL]
The changing facades of Fraunces: this sketch is from some point in the 19th century, when additional floors were added to the original structure. You can see the difficulty architect William Merserau might have faced in the 1900s when trying to reconstruct the building to reflect its original condition.
This doesn’t seem like it could even be the same building, and yet, there’s the sign for the tavern hanging over the second floor and a street sign for Broad Street to the left. This picture is between 1890 and 1904, before the structural changes. [LOC]
After reconstruction, somewhere between 1910-1920, looking almost as it does today. In the distance to the right you’ll see a bit of the elevated train line. [LOC]
By the 1970s, modern skyscrapers permanently change the feel of the Financial District, but Fraunces holds firm.
The parking lot across the street would soon be replaced by the towering Goldman Sachs building. Interestingly, underneath these cars lies the remnants of Dutch New Amsterdam, including the earlier Lovelace’s Tavern. [LOC]
Samuel Fraunces, in a portrait of the tavern owner painted between 1770-1785, giving little clue to what many consider to be his real racial identity. The lineage of the man nicknamed ‘Black Sam’ continues to be debated to this day.
Fraunces was the scene of a relatively recent attack in 1975 when members of the Puerto Rican nationalist group Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional Puertorriqueña (FALN) placed a bomb in one of the tavern’s doorways, killing 4 people and seriously injuring many others. (You can find the picture below and many others — including the note left at the scene taking responsibility for the attack — at this Latin American studies website.)
Fraunces Tavern makes an wildly inaccurate appearance in a 1992 animated film, loosely based on the life of Washington.
The National Book Award for Non-Fiction was awarded last night to a book loaded with gritty New York History — ‘Just Kids’, the lovely memoir by Patti Smith about her friendship with Robert Maplethorpe. If you’re a fanatic of Manhattan in the ’70s, it’s simply a must-read, from meandering along St. Mark’s Place to hanging out at Max’s Kansas City and, of course, the Chelsea Hotel. [The Atlantic]
Chef Boyardee used to work at the Plaza Hotel. How’s that for trivia?! [Ephemeral NY]
Brooks of Sheffield profiles one of my favorite restaurants in Cobble Hill, the rustic, no-frills Sam’s Restaurant. [Lost City]
New York’s best Revolutionary War attraction, Fraunces Tavern, is reopening after almost a year of ‘renovations’. [City Room]
And finally, just wanted to let you know that this week’s podcast will be delayed a few days. It will be available for download on November 24, 2010.
One of the reasons for the delay is that we made our television debut last night as guests on the Brian Lehrer Show, on CUNY TV. I’ll post the video when it becomes available later today.