Tag Archives: Times Square

Returning to Times Square in the 1970s with HBO and two James Francos

Will The Deuce succeed where Vinyl failed? I was disappointed that HBO’s luxury period series about the 1970s music industry quickly faded after only one season, but it appears the network is going back into New York City history with a hotter, sleazier concept. (And Vinyl was very, very sleazy.)

The Deuce takes aim at Times Square, strolling past the legitimate theaters and restaurants and heading into the porn houses. According to their official description, the show “follows the story of the legalization and subsequent rise of the porn industry in New York’s Times Square from the early 1970s through the mid-1980s, exploring the rough-and-tumble world at the pioneering moments of what would become the billion-dollar American sex industry.”

I’m intrigued, even though the concept of two James Francos, as twin porn kingpins Vincent and Frankie Martino, sounds exhausting. (But with his voluminous output of work recently, perhaps there have always been two James Francos.)

However there are a few reasons why I think this might actually take off:

1) The show has been developed by George Pelecanos and David Simon, the makers of The Wire, possibly the most intense and literate show ever about urban life.  Simon’s last project Show Me A Hero was a precise and well-observed drama about Yonkers in the 1980s.

Below: Gary Carr and Tarik Trotter

2) New York City in the 1970s provides a treasure trove of dramatic possibilities if done straight. I quite liked Netflix’s The Get-Down but it was hardly literal. Times Square should provide suitable visual properties provided it’s not too over-the-top. (Fans of Simon’s Treme will know that he handles flashy settings very well.)

HBO

3) Maggie Gyllenhaal is in this. We’re in good hands. But let’s hope that wig translates better on film.

The Deuce debuts on HBO on September 12.

Here’s the trailer. What do you think?

 

Election Night 1916: With a world war looming, America goes to the polls

One hundred years ago today, Americans went to the polls to vote for the President of the United States — between the Democrat and incumbent President Woodrow Wilson and the Republican Charles Evans Hughes.

The election was held on November 7, 1916, and it’s interesting to peruse the details of the day itself and the headlines from the following days, looking for parallels to our current election.

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Like the current 2016 election, the choice back then sprouted from local political figures, pitting the former governor of New Jersey (Wilson) with the former governor of New York (Hughes).  Imagine Chris Christie running against Andrew Cuomo. (On second thought, don’t!)

Below: Hughes at a rally in New York a few days before Election Day.

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Of course, technically there was a third candidate on the ballot and one with the deepest New York roots — Theodore Roosevelt. After great entreaties by supporters, the former president was submitted as the Progressive Party candidate, only to withdraw his name late in the process to endorse Hughes.

 

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Hughes (pictured above) was a hand-picked recommendation of Charles S. Whitman, the popular New York governor who was himself re-elected that November. Hughes, who sat on the New York Supreme Court after his tenure as governor, was a popular candidate for President but he was no match for Wilson’s anti-war message. (Literally anti-war. Wilson’s slogan was “He kept us out of war.” President Wilson would eventually enter the war five months after he was elected.)

Also on voters’ minds — Mexico. Several Americans had been killed in Mexico and on the border,  and the U.S. was in the middle of a punitive attack against Pancho Villa and his militias which had begun that Spring.

Below: A political cartoon by Clifford Kennedy Berryman from 1916

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How They Spent The Day

Voting looking quite different than it does today. In New York, there were no designated polling places and no absentee voting for non-military members. Half of today’s electorate was missing as women would not achieve the right to vote on the federal level for another few years. (However they would receive voting rights in New York in 1917.)

Secret ballots and voting machines were relatively new installations to the voting process thanks to the election reforms of the 1890s. It was still a wild and relatively imperfect process but a great improvement over the mid-19th century heyday of voter intimidation and fraud.

An election campaign car, backing incumbent Woodrow Wilson for president in 1916 in New York.
An election campaign car, backing incumbent Woodrow Wilson for president in 1916 in New York.

Of course Hughes was a Republican and at a disadvantage in New York, still considerably controlled by the Democrats and, in particular, the political machine Tammany Hall.  “Tammany leaders did not give out any figures regarding New York City, but it was asserted at Tammany Hall that Charles F. Murphy was confident that the city would roll up a big Democratic plurality, and that New York state would go Democratic.”

Hughes watched the election results from New York City that day. According to the Times, he voted “in a little laundry in Eighth Avenue between 44th and 45th Streets,” and spent the day at the Hotel Astor in Times Square (pictured below).

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Despite signs of a contentious election spilling over into altercations at the polls, the day of voting in New York City was relatively free of conflict, with people standing in long lines with “only a negligible number of arrests for disorderly conduct and other causes having been made.”

While influencers supporting specific candidates were not allowed at the polls, suffragists were certainly there, passing out flyers for their cause and in certain cases, providing poll workers with sandwiches and coffee.

How They Watched The Results

As with many celebrations, there were three gathering points of information, all near newspaper offices — Times Square, Herald Square and City Hall Park.  In midtown, people awaited a gigantic searchlight atop of the New York Times building for signs of victory. Late that evening, a red light filled the sky, and New Yorkers who were Hughes supporters began celebrating. At the Hotel Astor, the name HUGHES lit up in electric lights as thousands celebrated below.

It was a confusing time; downtown at the New York World building (pictured below), a white searchlight announced Wilson as the winner. (It would take days for results from all 48 states to come in.)

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The streets of Times Square were thick with revelers — it was comparable to New Years Eve crowds and, in fact, probably exceeded them — although this was mostly due to the fine weather and the results coming in at around the same time as the Broadway theaters let out.

Earlier in the week, city officials authorized the shutting down Times Square due subway construction but it seems people still managed to gather around the edges, looking “like the exit of the Polo Grounds after a world’s series game.”  The sounds of horns were deafening. Bonfires were set along side streets.

Below: In 1911, in front of the New York Herald building in Herald Square, crowds watch a sporting event via ‘playograph’, a hand-manipulated board. Election results were posted in a similar fashion.

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In Herald Square and in Times Square, information on election tallies was delivered via constantly updated bulletins. “[B]ulletins followed each other every few seconds as reports to The Times were telephoned over to the operators from The Times Annex, and the lofty canvas screen was within the view of probably 100,000 people down Broadway and Seventh Avenue.”

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The New York Evening World had a merry go of it, lampooning election enthusiasts on the street. The merry-makers was festively illustrated (see above and below and here for the rest). Yes Election Night used to be fun!

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Bulletins were also posted in Columbus Circle. Due to disliked results or perhaps the trauma of the crowd, one man “drop dead there early in the evening.” [source]

Adding to the chaos — a midnight subway fire in Harlem! [SUBWAY FIRE IMPERILS 2,500; SCORES OVERCOME BY SMOKE]

The Results

A map of election results which ran in the New York Times on November 8, 1916, is remarkably similar to one which might run in newspapers today. Of course, given the evolution (or de-evolution, depending on you how you choose to look at it) of American politics, the party affiliations have remarkably changed!

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In the end, as with many other elections, New York’s electoral votes went to the Republicans but New York City firmly voted for Wilson. “New York City gave Woodrow Wilson a scant plurality of 40,069 to offset the 186,930 plurality for Charles E. Hughes which the up-State counties sent down to the Bronx line. The city’s vote for Wilson was 351,539, compared with 312,386 which it gave him for President four years ago.”  [source]

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The election was not ultimately determined for a few days. The newspaper front page below is from November 10, four days after Election Day:

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Hughes supporters instantly leveled charges of fraud at their opponent but the former governor was too dignified to take the bait.  While not yet conceding on November 11, “Mr. Hughes declared that in the absence of absolutely proof of fraud no such cry should be revised to becloud the title of the next President of the United States.” [source]

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Digital City: New York and the World of Video Games

PODCAST The history of video games and arcades in New York City.

New York has an interesting, complex and downright weird relationship with the video game, from the digital sewers below Manhattan to the neon-lit arcades of Times Square.  It’s not all nostalgia and nerviness; video games in the Big Apple have helped create communities and  have been exalted as artistry.

First — the relationship between the city and the arcade itself, once filled with shooting galleries and see ball. When pinball machines were introduced in the 1930s, many saw them as a gateway into gambling.  Mayor Fiorello La Guardia personally saw to it that they were taken off the streets.

The era of Space Invaders, Pac Man and Donkey Kong descends in New York during its grittiest period – the late 70s/early 80s – and arrives, like an alien presence, into many neighborhood arcades including one of the most famous in Chinatown – an arcade that is still open and the subject of a new documentary The Lost Arcade.

While the video game industry is not something New York City is particularly associated with, the city does in fact set the stage for this revolution of blips and joysticks at the start of the 20th century and from such unconventional places as the West Village and Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

In Queens you’ll find one of America’s great tributes to the video game, in the spectacular arcade collection at the Museum of the Moving Image.

Finally — A look inside the games themselves to explore New York as a digital landscape that continues to be of fascination to game developers and players alike.

So are you ready Player One? Grab your quarters and log in to this New York adventure through the world of video games.

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 #208: DIGITAL CITY: NEW YORK AND THE WORLD OF VIDEO GAMES

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The trailer for The Lost Arcade. It opens today in San Francisco at the Roxie and Friday, August 12, in New York at the Metrograph. Check out their Facebook page for more information about upcoming events and screenings.

The current exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image — ARCADE CLASSICS: VIDEO GAMES FROM THE COLLECTION — continues until mid-September.

Courtesy Museum of the Moving Image
Courtesy Museum of the Moving Image

 

Children at a penny arcade in Schenectady, NY, in 1910

Photo by Lewis Hine, courtesy US National Archives
Photo by Lewis Hine, courtesy US National Archives

 

Mayor La Guardia was not a fan of pinball. Here, in a 1942, he rounds up the pinball balls. Read more in Seth Porges’ article for Popular Mechanics:

laguardiapinball.banner.AP.jpg

 

In a photo taken in 1948 by Stanley Kubrick for LOOK Magazine, prizefighter Walter Cartier plays an arcade game with a young woman.

Courtesy MCNY
Courtesy MCNY

And another by Kubrick, from 1946, at Palisades Amusement Park.

MCNY
MCNY

A couple images of a penny arcade and shooting gallery in 1950, photo by Robert Offergeld.

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Courtesy MCNY
Courtesy MCNY
Courtesy MCNY
Courtesy MCNY

 

Playland on 42nd Street, courtesy the film Taxi Driver

Courtesy Scouting NY
Courtesy Scouting NY

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The other Playland at Broadway and 47th Street, pictured here in the 1950s. GIANT MALTED 15 CENTS!

Office for Metropolitan History
Office for Metropolitan History

And later from the 1970s….

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New York City arcade, 1981.

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Courtesy Twin Galaxies
Courtesy Twin Galaxies

 

The original Chinatown Fair sign, near its closure in 2011. It reopened the following year, perhaps a bit more family friendly than its precursor.

Courtesy Giant Bomb
Courtesy Giant Bomb

 

Screenshot from Mario Bros. (1983)

Courtesy GamesDBase
Courtesy GamesDBase

 

Screenshot from Amnesia (1986)

Courtesy Hazlift
Courtesy Hazlift

 

 

Images from Manhunter: New York (1988)

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Screenshot from Grand Theft Auto‘s Liberty City

From GTA Wikia
From GTA Wikia

The area of Bowling Green, after the Great Fire of 1776, as depicted in Assassin’s Creed III.

Courtesy Assassin's Creed Wikia
Courtesy Assassin’s Creed Wikia

Jane Jacobs, born 100 years ago today! Celebrate with a weekend walk.

Jane Butzner was born 100 years ago in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  Jane Jacobs died on April 25, 2006, in Toronto, Canada. But for much of her life in between, she changed the way people thought about cities from her perch in North America’s largest — New York City.

Jane Jacobs was a revolutionary thinker in an age where ‘big ideas’ shaped cities. City planners thought about grand plans, not street corners. Jacobs became a breakout philosopher on everyday urban living, revealing practical realities that were completely misunderstood by those making real decisions.

Without Jacobs — and the countless activists and preservationists before and after her — we would not have New York City 2016. (You can take that statement both as a tribute and perhaps as a sly criticism as well.)

Now I didn’t know Jane, but I’m pretty sure she would like you to celebrate her birthday in one of the two following ways:  1) Go to your favorite neighborhood in New York City and spend money there at local businesses, or 2) Go to a neighborhood you’ve never been to before and learn everything you can about it. 

Of course, before cutting the birthday cake today, why not listen to the Bowery Boys 200th episode celebration of the life of Jane Jacobs? The podcast includes audio from Jane herself, waxing on about the creation of her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

If you’re looking for something to read today about Jacobs, by all means, jump into Death and Life or perhaps one of these books.

Today’s Google Doodle, celebrating Jane’s 100th birthday:

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After that, plan on joining one of the many Jane’s Walks this weekend, sponsored by the Municipal Art Society of New York. There are dozens and dozens of free walking tours, from May 6-8, that you’re sure to find one right in your back yard. (Maybe literally your back yard if you live somewhere historic!)

Check out the entire list right here and plan out a whole weekend of adventures.  Below is a list of ten notable tours that caught my eye and sound like exceptionally unique ways to spend an afternoon.  Plus an extra one that I’m personally invested in:

Times Square 1975. Courtesy Getty Images via Gothamist
Times Square 1975. Courtesy Getty Images via Gothamist

DIRTY OLD TIMES SQUARE
Manhattan, Meet at Duffy Square
Friday, May 6, at 1pm, 2 hours
Details here
Tag line: “Most of old Times Square has been carefully obliterated by generic hotels and office buildings, but there are still vestiges of its seedy past—if you know where to look.”
Led by Robert Brenner

HOW AUDUBON PARK DISRUPTED MANHATTAN’S GRID
Manhattan, Meet at Audubon Monument, 550 West 155th Street
Friday, May 6, at 6pm, 1.5 hours
Saturday, May 7, 1:30pm
Sunday, May 8, 11am and 2pm
Details here
Tag line: “The distinctive footprint that disrupts Manhattan’s grid west of Broadway between 155th and 158th Streets—the Audubon Park Historic District—did not come about by accident or from the demands of local topography.”
Led by Matthew Spady

Photograph by Helen Barksy, 1971. Courtesy the Museum of the City of New York
Photograph by Helen Barksy, 1971. Courtesy the Museum of the City of New York

EL BARRIO DREAMS: FOOD, ART, CULTURE (AND CHANGE)
Manhattan, Meet at Vendy Plaza (Park Avenue and 116th Street
Sunday, May 8, 1pm
Details here
Led by Flaco Navaja
Tag line: “Our walking tour will explore the dynamics of a community in flux, looking at the history of East Harlem and the political and cultural significance of that history, as well as examining competing visions for the neighborhood’s future. ”

THE LOST HIGH LINE
Manhattan, Meet at NW corner of Washington & Houston Streets
Saturday, May 7, 11am
Details here
Tag line: “Today, that remaining section of the High Line has become one of the city’s major attractions. But what about the ghosts of the past along its southern route?”
Led by Joan Schechter

The littlest residents of former Little Syria. Courtesy Library of Congress
The littlest residents of former Little Syria. Courtesy Library of Congress

MANHATTAN’S LITTLE SYRIA: THE HEART OF ARAB AMERICA
Manhattan, Meet at St. George’s Syrian Catholic Church
Sunday, May 8, at 10:30am
Details here
Tag line: “Immigration to the United States from the territories of Greater Syria — now Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine — began in the 1870s and 1880s. The most important neighborhood of the immigration — and its economic and cultural heart — was along Washington Street in the Lower West Side of Manhattan.”
Led by Todd Fine

THE BRONX’S MAIN STREET: WALKING THE GRAND CONCOURSE
The Bronx, Meet at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, North Wing Lobby
Saturday, May 7, 11am
Details here 
Tag line: “While visiting key sites along this major thoroughfare, Goodman will provide a brief history of the Grand Concourse and explain the development of its diverse neighborhoods and communities.”
Led by Sam Goodman

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

HISTORIC JACKSON HEIGHTS – AMERICA’S FIRST GARDEN APARTMENTS
Queens, Meet at the Chase Bank @ 75th Street and Roosevelt
Saturday, May 7, 11:30am
Sunday, May 8, 11:30 am
Details here
Tag line: “We’ll explore the architectural qualities of Jackson Heights, developed by Edward A. MacDougall of the Queensboro Corporation in 1916. The neighborhood contains a variety of architectural styles with private gardens at the center of each city block.”
Led by Michael Limaco

ON LOCATION: THE VITAGRAPH STUDIOS AND THE HISTORY OF FILM IN MIDLAND BROOKLYN
Brooklyn, meet at Midwood Development Corporation
Sunday, May 8, 3PM
Details here
Tag line: “At Avenue M and 14th street, The Vitagraph Company of America built the nation’s first modern film studio in 1906, where it operated until 1925 as one of the most prolific moving picture companies in the world, making Brooklyn the epicenter of film production long before Hollywood.”
Led By Nellie Perera and Melissa Frizzling

Photo courtesy the US Coast Guard
Photo courtesy the US Coast Guard

TIBET, OPERA, AND THE LUCKY CHARMS LEPRECHAUN: EXPLORING THE HIDDEN GEMS OF LIGHTHOUSE HILL
Staten Island, meet at the clubhouse of Latourette Golf Course on Edinboro Road
Saturday, May 7, 3PM
Details here
Tag line: “Himalayan Buildings, a working lighthouse, a golf course and a widow’s walk are just some of the interesting sights we will see. Some of the historical tidbits include “Why is the neighborhood called Lighthouse Hill?” and “Why are the streets named after places in the UK?” and “What notable people lived here?””
Led By Meg Ventrudo

THE HILLS ARE ALIVE!
Governors Island, meet at the Battery Maritime Building
Friday, May 6, at noon
Details here
Tag line: “See New York Harbor from a breathtaking new vantage point 70 feet in the air. Here is your chance to have a sneak peek at the newly planted Hills on Governors Island before they open to the public this summer.”
Led By Ellen Cavanagh

 

And finally, if you happen to be around Chelsea and the West Village on Saturday, check into the fascinatng tour below led by Kyle Supley. If all goes according to plane, I’ll be making a guest appearance during the tour, speaking at one particular location. Unfortunately, I will not be wearing chaps to this event!

GAY BARS THAT ARE GONE
Manhattan, meet at 515 West 18th Street
Saturday, May 7, 7pm
Details here
Led by Kyle Supley
Tag line: “Past patrons, NYC history buffs, and those just looking for a good time, take note! From ballrooms to discos to piano bars, we’ll observe the shifting typology of the gay bar. Together, we’ll cover everything from the raids to the raves.”

Midnight in Times Square: The history of New Year’s Eve in New York City

PODCAST The tale of New York City’s biggest annual party from its inception on New Years Eve 1904 to the magnificent spectacle of the 21st century. 

In this episode, we look back on the one day of the year that New Yorkers look forward.  New Years Eve is the one night that millions of people around the world focus their attentions on New York City — or more specifically, on the wedge shaped building in Times Square wearing a bright, illuminated ball on its rooftop.

1In the 19th century, the ringing-in of the New Year was celebrated with gatherings near Trinity Church and a pleasant New Years Day custom of visiting young women in their parlors.  But when the New York Times decided to celebrate the opening of their new offices — in the plaza that would take the name Times Square — a new tradition was born.

Tens of millions have visited Times Square over the years, gazing up to watch the electric ball drop, a time-telling mechanism taken from the maritime tradition. The event has been affected by world events — from Prohibition to World War II — and changed by the introduction of radio and television broadcasts.

ALSO: What happened to the celebration which it reached the gritty 1970s and a Times Square with a surly reputation?

PLUS: A few tips for those of you heading to the New Years Eve celebration this year!

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 #195: MIDNIGHT IN TIMES SQUARE: NEW YEARS EVE IN NEW YORK CITY

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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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New Years Day celebrations have evolved since the days of New Amsterdam when visitations symbolized a ‘fresh start’ to the year.

Courtesy NYPL
Courtesy NYPL

 

A decorative cigar box from the 1890s, ringing in the new year with a winsome damsel and wholesome scenes of winter beckoning you to smoke a cigar.

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

 

The crowds outside Trinity Church on 1906 gathered to usher in the new year. The church was traditionally the place people gathered before the Times Square celebration took off.

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Fated to be the centerpiece of New Years Eve, One Times Square once wore some beautiful architecture until much of it was ripped off to accommodate a frenzy of electronic signs.

Courtesy NYPL
Courtesy NYPL

 

Times Square in 1905 for the very first New Years Eve celebration albeit one with fireworks, not a ball drop.

Courtesy NYPL
Courtesy NYPL

 

The party offerings at the Hotel Astor in Times Square in 1926.

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

 

The view of Times Square from the Empire State Building.

Courtesy NYPL
Courtesy NYPL

 

New Years Eve 1938

AP photo
AP photo

The throngs in 1940 with the Gone With The Wind marquee in the background (not to mention Tallulah Bankhead in the play The Little Foxes!)

Courtesy New York Daily News
Courtesy New York Daily News

Ushering in 1953:

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Celebrations were also held for a time in Central Park, like this festive group from 1969:

Courtesy New York Parks Department
Courtesy New York Parks Department

An electrician from the Artkraft Strauss Sign Corporation tests out the lighting effects that will greet the new year in 1992.

MARTY LEDERHANDLER/ASSOCIATED PRESS
MARTY LEDERHANDLER/ASSOCIATED PRESS

And here’s some videos of New Years Eve countdown past!

Mr New Years Eve himself — Guy Lombardo — here at the Roosevelt Hotel, ringing in 1958

From 1965-66:

A clip from Dick Clark’s first appearance in Times Square. It cuts away to Three Dog Night in California!

CBS’s New Years Eve program featuring Catherine Bach from The Dukes of Hazzard.

The absolutely bonkers ball drop for the new millennium.

Last year’s commentary by those wacky cards Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin.

History in the Making 11/18: Celebrated Jumping Frogs Edition

Hoppin’ History: Samuel Clemens broke through 150 years ago today.  The man who would become Mark Twain first published his now famous short story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” (under its original title “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog” 150 years ago today in the New York Saturday Press.  I speak about this important date in American literary history in the Bowery Boys podcast on Mark Twain’s Adventures in New York. Blog post: [Bowery Boys] Listen to it here: [#117 Mark Twain’s New York]

Queen of the Ice: A fun story about a New York skating star named Ellen Dallerup, one of many ice skating celebrities from 100 years ago. “At one point during her early career, she even skated with a prop zeppelin attached to her.” There’s even a picture! [Skate Guard]

World’s Fair Nightmare:  Somebody set a bomb off at the 1940 World’s Fair in Flushing-Meadows, Queens, killing two police officers. Seventy-five years later, that crime has not been solved.  [Atlas Obscura]

A Capital Idea: An interview with Kenneth Goldsmith about his unusual new book of New York City history. [Vanishing New York]

Have a Groovy Stay: A journey to Hotel Woodstock, one of Times Square’s forgotten highlights. “The main Dining Room was lit by an immense stained glass skylight.  Decorated “in the style of Louis XVI,” its cuisine and service were touted by management ‘as good as it is possible to have them’.”  [Daytonian in Manhattan]

Postcard courtesy Daytonian In Manhattan
Postcard courtesy Daytonian In Manhattan

 

Checked Out:  What’s to become of the Gould Memorial Library, one of the greatest buildings ever designed by Stanford White and a genuine treasure in the Bronx? Why is it just sitting there? David W. Dunlap investigates. [New York Times]

Vive La France: A mini-tour of Manhattan’s former French quarter in the 19th century, known for cuisine — and some genuine oddities. [Ephemeral New York]

 

Top picture:  Oddly enough this is a rifle ad from 1880.  The “Cheapest and best. Office, 281-283 Broadway, New York.” Copyright by John Gibson. Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

Remington also made typewriters and sewing machines!

“Hey mama look! The sewing machine delivery man has arrived.”

Courtesy Quilting on the Crescent
Courtesy Quilting on the Crescent

 

 

 

Bryant Park: The Fall and Rise of Midtown’s Most Elegant Public Space

NEW PODCAST  In our last show, we left the space that would become Bryant Park as a disaster area; its former inhabitant, the old Crystal Palace, had tragically burned to the ground in 1858.  The area was called Reservoir Square for its proximity to the imposing Egyptian-like structure to its east, but it wouldn’t keep that name for long.

William Cullen Bryant was a key proponent to the creation of Central Park, but it would here that the poet and editor would receive a belated honor in the 1884. With the glorious addition of the New York Public Library in 1911, the park received some substantial upgrades, including its well-known fountain. Over twenty years later, it took on another curious present — a replica of Federal Hall as a tribute to George Washington.

By the 1970s Bryant Park was well known as a destination for drug dealers and most people shied away from its shady paths, even during the day.  It would take a unique plan to bring the park back to life and a little help from Hollywood and the fashion world to turn it into New York’s most elegant park.

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 #179: The Fight For Bryant Park

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

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William Cullen Bryant, photo taken by Matthew Brady

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William Cullen Bryant in bust form, but Launt Thompson.  It seems this bust has made its way back to the Metropolitan Museum of Art!

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William Cullen Bryant installed in his marble niche behind the New York Public Library.  This picture was taken in 1910, well before the radical redesign of the park in the 1930s. (Museum of the City of New York).

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During World War I, the YMCA had a special ‘Eagle Hut’ built in the park for traveling servicemen. (Library of Congress)

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A colorful depiction of the Bryant Park ‘demonstration gardens’ that were planted during the war. (Library of Congress)

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Bryant Park in 1920. Looking west on 42nd Street at 6th Avenue (you can see the elevated railroad!) In the distance is One Times Square. Note the reappearance of the Chesterfield Cigarettes billboard from the picture above. (Museum of the City of New York)

Bryant Park in 1920. Looking west on 42nd Street at 6th Avenue (you can see the elevated railroad!) In the distance is One Times Square. (Museum of the City of New York)

Constructing a replica of Federal Hall in a barren Bryant Park. (Picture taken by the Wurts Brothers, Museum of the City of New York)

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The Federal Hall reconstruction had a corporate sponsor — Sears Roebuck & Co.  Here’s how it looked in better days.  Believe it or not, the reproduction of Mount Vernon actually did get built in New York — in Prospect Park in Brooklyn!  (Bryant Park Corporation)

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Bryant Park’s Federal Hall, May 1932. (Museum of the City of New York)

Bryant Park's Federal Hall, May 1932. Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

The interior of Bryant Park’s Federal Hall. (Museum of the City of New York)

The interior of Bryant Park's Federal Hall. (Museum of the City of New York)

The reconstruction of Bryant Park in 1934, overseen by new Parks Commissioner Robert Moses

The reconstruction of Bryant Park in 1934, overseen by new Parks Commissioner Robert Moses

This photo was taken by Stanley Kubrick during his years as a photographer for Look Magazine. The caption reads “Park Bench Nuisance [Woman reading a newspaper, while a man reads over her shoulder.]” Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

This photo was taken by Stanley Kubrick during his years as a photographer for Look Magazine. The caption reads "Park Bench Nuisance [Woman reading a newspaper, while a man reads over her shoulder.]" Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

 

People enjoying the New York Public Library’s outdoor reading room, 1930s. (New York Public Library)

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Bryant Park at night, photo by Nathan Schwartz, taken in 1938. (New York Public Library)

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The hedges of the central lawn, photo taken in 1957.  These were removed in the desperate effort to clean up the park in the late 1980s. (Library of Congress)

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Bryant Park in the 1980s.  High walls allowed for suspicious behavior to occur in the at all hours of the day. (Bryant Park Conservancy)

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Overlooking the new renovations in the late 1980s (Bryant Park Corporation)

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Bryant Park after the clean-up, taken sometime in the 1990s. Photo by Carol Highsmith (Library of Congress)

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Great overhead shots directly from the Bryant Park Conservancy!

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The Neon Beautiful: Images of New York at Night 1946

“In New York the first lights start to come on at night long before the last light has gone out of the sky.” 

 In 1939, a young Paris-born photographer named Andreas Feininger moved from his home in Germany to the United States. He took a job at Life Magazine in 1943, a few years after the publication’s retooling by publisher Henry Luce into a showcase for photojournalism.

Feininger would become one of America’s great photographers of the 20th century. He didn’t document places. He transformed them. In the era before frequent photo manipulation, Feininger could make the ordinary mythical. He could photograph a building and make it look like a rocket ship.  His vision was painterly, finding the iconic within the simple. And when he photographed extraordinary things — like his favorite subject, New York City — the result was often transcendent.

On August 5, 1946, Life ran a photo essay by Feininger called “New York At Night.”  It’s extraordinary for several reasons.  Most Life photography up until this time — in fact, most Feininger’s finest work —  was in black-and-white.

In fact that issue is all black-and-white — except the advertisements and “New York at Night.”

Just a few years before, New York was a darkened city at night due to wartime precautions.  But in the summer of 1946, the city was again abuzz.  Color photography itself had seen startling innovations but it was still a dazzling rarity then.

A revitalized New York City rendered in color prints by one of Life’s brightest talents?  It was the closest a print publication could come to conjuring magic.

Here’s several images from “New York at Night,” courtesy Life Magazine.  You can view the entire issue here for some context. (It’s worth a read, especially the article on a kids radio station!)

You can click into each image for greater detail.  And see if you can identify where in Midtown each of these photographs were taken!

And some music to put you in the mood, a song that was near the top of the charts in the summer of 1946:

The naming of Times Square — 110 years ago today!

Looking south towards the Times Building, 1904 and 2013: Top pic courtesy Library of Congress; Bottom pic courtesy nyclovesnyc

From the New York Times, April 9, 1904:

Mayor [George B.] McClellan yesterday signed the resolution adopted by the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday last changing the name of Long Acre Square to that of Times Square.  This follows out the recommendation of the Rapid Transit Commission and of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company, which is to operate the subway, and it is intended by the Rapid Transit Commission at its next meeting to call the subway station at Broadway and Forty-Second Street Times station.

The resolution with Mayor McClellan has signed becomes operative at once, and authorizes the President of the Borough of Manhattan to take such steps in the matter as may be proper and necessary.  This includes the alteration of street signs.  Times Square takes in the triangle on which the new building of The New York Times is situated, and the name applies to the entire section between Forty-Second and Forty-Seventh Streets, Broadway and Seventh Avenue.”

You can check this entire 1904 issue of the New York Times on their snazzy, endlessly fascinating new TimesMachine, which gives you access to their entire array of back issues.

Below: The illustration of Times Square which ran in the April 9th issue:

Below: A letter written by publisher Adolph Ochs to the New York Herald (Courtesy New York Public Library)

“I am pleased to say that Times Square was named without any effort or suggestion on the part of the Times.  It was brought about by the necessity of naming the Subway Station in the Times building something other than Forty-second Street or Broadway, as there were other stations both on Forty-second Street and Broadway…….”

“The old name of Long Acre Square meant nothing, signified nothing.”

Newspaper content courtesy the New York Times

Charles Kellogg, the man who put out fires with his voice

New York has seen its share of bizarre entertainments, especially back in the days of vaudeville, when people would pay for almost anything that amused or titillated.  A few months ago, I wrote about the novelty star Don the Talking Dog, who allegedly spoke a handful of English and German words.

But another vocally talented star was the hot vaudeville ticket one hundred years ago — Charles Kellogg, the man who could extinguish fire with his singing voice.

Kellogg was an early environmentalist and promoter of California’s redwood forests.  He billed him as ‘California’s Nature Singer,’ known for his sterling emulation of bird song,  recording his aviary music for Victor. “He was born with the throat of a bird,” said the New York Times.  Imagine cranking up this record on your Victrola, his ‘duet’ with Romanian soprano Alma Gluck:

Kellogg voice was allegedly superhuman.  It could not only emulate the sounds of nature, but it could protect nature from devastating flame.

He performed this particular trick in New York on November 11, 1913, at the brand-new Palace Theater (Broadway/47th Street), performing for an audience which included various New York fire chiefs, several scientists, and an auditorium full of curiosity seekers.  Also on hand: William Temple Hornaday of the Bronx Zoo, his reputation recently sullied over the whole Ota Benga scandal.

During the demonstration, Kellogg proved he could affect the flickering flame on the other side of the stage by first aiming his ‘bird song’ at it, then by drawing a bow across a sheet of metal.  “He stood fifty feet away from the flame and drawing the bow across the metal and singing his bird song the flame acted the same way, finally going out.”

Kellogg continued his display of natural gifts by demonstrating a divining rod for finding water, then by dropping to the floor and “demonstrated the Indian way of making fire by friction with two pieces of redwood.”

Captivating, I’m sure, but not enough to convince New York’s fire chiefs.  “It has not yet reached a point where Fire Commissioner Johnson will put male quartets in the fire house ready to dash to a fire and render a popular ballad.” [source]

Kellogg returned to New York in 1917 with another redwood-inspired creation — his ‘redwood motor home’, called the Travel Log (pictured below), which he and his wife took cross-country.  The idea of a ‘mobile home’ was a true novelty for the day.  Kellogg’s Travel Log was briefly displayed at a motor car salesroom on Broadway and 57th Street to the delight of auto enthusiasts.

Picture courtesy NPR

By the way, Mythbusters recently took up Kellogg’s challenge as to whether the human voice could put out a fire.  The verdict — yes, it can, but not at any decibel Kellogg could have possibly been singing in. More information here.