Tag Archives: Trinity Church

Pokemon Go is indirectly an excellent mobile app for history buffs

This weekend I strolled around Carroll Park in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, and observed at least 8 or 9 people staring intently at their phones, occasionally wiping their index fingers rapidly at the screen.

In the center of the park is an 18-foot-tall World War I memorial dedicated in 1921, emblazoned with the names of those from the neighborhood who had died in the war. On one side of this monolith are the words: “THEY FACED THE PERILS / OF THE SEA AND THE / HIDDEN FOE / BENEATH THE / WAVES.”

IMG_9604 (1)

People were gathered here thanks to Pokémon GO, the hot new mobile app that transfers the adventures of the Japanese fantasy franchise into the real world via a nifty GPS location tie-in.

The player’s avatar can now wander the city streets looking for adventure in the form of creatures to capture by throwing Poké Balls at them. The world is rendered as an abstract grid devoid of buildings until you interact with one of the creatures. At that point, both the real and virtual worlds collide. Suddenly it’s as though you have a cognitive ‘third eye’, seeing a beast from another dimension that the rest of the world wanders past indifferently.

For instance, here’s the corner of Wall Street and South Street

IMG_9589 (1)

At this busy intersection I had a vigorous battle with a starfish-like creature. I was not very good at this game and, at several points, threw virtual Poké Balls that would have caused many injuries had they been real. Finally I was able to successfully rid Wall Street of this terrible menace.



Several friends recommended this game to me over the weekend due to one particular aspect — its innovative use of landmarks as a critical component of game play. Icons which appear as spinning blue cubes sit over the location of various neighborhood landmarks. These are permanent Pokéstops, magical places where users can grab vital items for the game, like food for your Pokémon. (You see, your captured creatures are trapped in a virtual prison of your own design. Best not to focus too closely on this part of the beloved Pokémon mythology.)

The reason I’m bringing this up — the reason there’s a Pokémon post on this page at all — is this unique game feature. For players to use these Pokéstops,  they must actually visit them.

And that is the wondrous, possibly accidental glory of Pokémon GO — it’s become the best neighborhood and historical landmarks app on the market.

For instance, here was the sight that greeted me yesterday out in front of Trinity Church at Broadway and Wall Street. As tourists were buzzing by and service was just getting out at one of New York’s most famous religious spaces, I was observing the landscape reduced to this:


There were several blue squares contained within Trinity Church graveyard. A player could check out those squares from afar but had to actually walk into Trinity and get close to them to seek their rewards.  Even in death, Founding Father and Broadway superstar Alexander Hamilton was providing his countrymen with guidance as one square was hovering over his grave, as though an otherworldly embodiment of his greatness:


At many sites, a short history is provided with each blue square. Sure, Hamilton is a very popular figure at the moment, so naturally some explanation might be presented here. But how many games primarily geared towards children would have a short history of the building across the street — the Equitable Building?



Back in Trinity, a player could stroll the cemetery and check out other blue square and — it is sincerely hoped — the rest of the history of this intriguing place. But as one who lives in the physical realm AND the virtual spirit realm, you have work to do. For within the graveyard is another Pokémon to catch — the arguably inappropriate Haunter, a play on Ghostbusters’ Slimer and, perhaps, Richard Churcher, the six year old who died in 1681 and whose tombstone is the church’s oldest.



The game provides silly juxtapositions that only history and New York lovers will really appreciate. For instance, it looks like there’s some Squirtle on the menu at old Delmonico’s Restaurant:



At this point, you may be wondering — doesn’t this all seem sort of dangerous? People wandering the streets, staring at their phones, swiping rapidly to capture a nonexistent entity ghoulishly hovering upon a sidewalk that actual people are walking? Indeed there are many potential hazards to this game that many people have already identified.

But here’s where I found Pokémon Go an especially valuable tool for exploring New York City. For one, simply stop playing the game! Who cares about capturing Pikachu or Chortlefoot or Poofybee or whatever? Just use the app as a device for finding intriguing places in your neighborhood. Not only is this less stressful — after all, who wants to be tasked with catching monsters on your day off? — but it’s free. (The app has paid features for those who want to go deep into the game’s universe.)

The Pokéstops aren’t merely historical landmarks but beloved neighborhood places as well. For instance, using the app while strolling around Brooklyn elicited many sites and quirky attractions I’d never really noticed before:

On Baltic Street:




Near Borough Hall:


On Flatbush Avenue:


How did an international game developer identify such specific and locally beloved places for a fantasy game?  Niantic basically took the information from a prior game called Ingress which was created from user submissions.

And that’s what makes this app a particular pleasure for use in a big city, where neighborhoods might have had dozens of users populating Niantic’s databases. (I’d be very curious to see how enjoyable this experience is in a rural area.) Not all the landmarks have historical descriptions attached to them, but almost all were at least identified by a regular visitor to that place, perhaps even a neighbor.

How else to explain such curious oddities as these (from Wall Street and Cadman Plaza, respectively)?



Of course, naysayers might immediately point out that the landmarks are only being used for game purposes and users aren’t expected to really interact in any meaningful way. And should we really be encouraging MORE walking and phone gazing? But even if most people just skitter away after collecting their virtual items, a few people may stop and pay attention. At very least, ignoring the gaming aspect entirely and using the app merely for its locations makes for a great scavenger hunt with your friends.

It’s like the Points of Interest section in our book Adventures In Old New York, but without random cuddly monsters populating the streets. I could see it awaken a renewed interest in neighborhood geography. Just yesterday, I saw both a father and son using it to locate one particular Pokéstop which also happened to be Brooklyn’s oldest synagogue.


(You can actually check out all the blue squares from the comfort of your couch, but they can only be used for gameplay if you’re near, thus the message in pink above.)



The Boss Tweed connection to St. Sava, the cathedral destroyed by fire

New York City lost a very interesting landmark this past weekend.

Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava, at West 25th and Broadway, was destroyed in a spectacular and mysterious four-alarm fire on Sunday, its windows shattered in shafts of flame, its ceiling reduced to cinders. If you’re a podcast listener, you may know this place from the show we released just last Friday on the life of Nikola Tesla. Sitting in front of St. Sava is a bust of Tesla, placed there by the Tesla Memorial Society of New York. Or was, I suppose. The bust was either moved or did not survive this catastrophic blaze.

New York has lost an important bit of history. The cathedral was the former Trinity Chapel, an outpost of downtown’s Trinity Church which opened here in 1851 to cater to the elite moving uptown along Fifth Avenue.

The New York Times has a short roundup of some of its most notable events — notably the marriage of Edith Wharton in 1885 and, in 1943, its conversion into an Eastern Orthodox house of worship. The usual fine work of Daytonian In Manhattan highlights the details of its construction.  “It was, as The New York Times called it in 1914, “distinctly fashionable to be married there.'”


Picture courtesy Trinity Wall Street

In fact one of the most notorious weddings in New York City history took place here.

Not because of the bride and groom — Mary Amelia Tweed and New Orleans heir Ambrose MaGinnis — but because of the lavish behavior of the bride’s father William ‘Boss’ Tweed. In another strange bit of coincidence, that fated wedding occurred 145 years ago this month, on May 31, 1871.


“The streets for blocks around were filled with carriages, while the church was crowded to excess,” said the New York Herald the following day. “The center aisle was reserved for the invited guests and presented a most brilliant spectacle.”

The entire clan was adorned in jewels; “the Tweed family seemed to be a Christmas tree of diamonds,” according to author Alexander B. Callow Jr. Tweed wore his famous diamond pin, while his wife sparkled in so many that she threatened to take attention away from the bride.

Almost, that is. For Tweed’s daughter wore, according to Kenneth Ackerman, a “‘white corded silk, décolleté, with demi-sleeves, and immense court train’ with orange blossoms at her waist and, on her bosom, ‘a brooch of immense diamonds, and long pendants, set with three large solitaire diamonds, sparkled in her ears.’”

It was one of the most ostentatious weddings of the post-Civil War era. The reception was held at the Tweed residence at Fifth Avenue and 43rd Street where hallways were filled with rich fineries. But it was the upstairs rooms — filled with wedding gifts — that would be the focus of future query.

From the New York Herald:

“THE WEDDING PRESENTS, which were displayed in one of the upper rooms, must have amounted to the value of over $700,000 and presented an appearance of brilliancy which can never have been equaled in munificence even in this Empire City.  They comprised all sorts of jewelry with diamonds enough to stock half a dozen stores; silver sets in profusion and almost everything that the ingenuity of the human mind could suggest in the line of presents.”

In today’s money, those gifts would have been worth over $14 million! This lavish ceremony highlighted Tweed’s extravagance at a time when many began questioning his corrupt hold over city affairs. In particular, the New York Times, Tweed’s biggest enemy, delighted in highlighting the garish cost of the ceremony. “The wedding was a most expensive affair.”



Tweed’s arrogance and extravagance definitely got the better of him, and the wedding at Trinity Chapel would soon become emblematic of the absolute corruption which fueled the city politic of the day.

To select but one example — a 1872 tome by minister Hollis Read called The Foot-Prints of Satan: Or, The Devil In History waxes on for a few pages about the scandalous wedding:

“Weddings are often relentless prodigal of lucre.  A recent one in our great Gotham has attracted some special attention, both on account of the profuse expenditure, and from the character and position of the parties concerned.  It was at the ‘palatial residence’ of the redoubtable ‘Boss Tweed,’ and the happy bride was his daughter.  Here we shall cease to wonder at the extravagant amounts absorbed in grounds, house, stables; and now in profuse expenditures for the wedding, when we are reminded how the ‘Boss’ got his money. For here certain unmistakable ‘footprints’ are, if possible, more apparent in the getting than in the spending.”

Tweed and his notorious Ring (including mayor A. Oakey Hall) would be exposed by the summer, and the Boss was soon thrown into jail (only to promptly be released on bail). He would go to trial for his crimes by 1873 and eventually died at the Ludlow  Street Jail on April 12, 1878.


For more information on Boss Tweed, check out our podcast on William ‘Boss Tweed and the bitter old days of Tammany Hall.


And here’s a picture of the Tesla bust which I took this past Friday, then the scene at St. Sava as it looked on Monday afternoon.


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The New York Christmas tradition in an uptown cemetery

Clement Clarke Moore, the lord of Chelsea (the manor for which the neighborhood is named), lived a long and distinguished life as an educator and land developer, dying in 1863 at his home in Newport, Rhode Island.  He was originally buried in the churchyard of St. Luke-in-the-Field (pictured below) in the area of today’s West Village . In 1891 the cemetery was redeveloped  and the remains were transferred to Trinity Church’s graveyard in Washington Heights.


What does all this have to do with Christmas you ask?

Moore was a revered scholar, former president of Columbia College (later Columbia University) and the developer of the General Theological Seminary on his old Chelsea property. But most everybody knows him better as the author of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” or “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” a verse of holiday anticipation penned for his children.

For well over one hundred years an unusual ceremony has taken place at Church of the Intercession, the house of worship which sits upon  the grounds of Trinity Church Cemetery.

Church of the Intercession


The tradition was apparently initiated by a vicar at the chapel named Milo Hudson Gates. He “instituted the Christmas Eve service in which many hundreds of children went in procession to decorate the graves of Clement Clarke Moore, author of ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’, and Alfred Tennyson Dickens, son of Charles Dickens, author of ‘A Christmas Carol’.”

Hundreds of children, carrying lanterns and torches in the old days, gathered around Moore’s gravestone and sang Christmas songs.  “Carols were sung and wreaths placed on the grave,” according to a 1919 report. The famous poem by Moore was then recited.  (I’m not sure they still do the march to Dickens’ resting place.)

“His name was Clement C. Moore. His body sleeps beneath the Christmas trees that grow in Trinity Cemetery.” [December 23, 1918]

Below: Children surrounding the grave of Moore’s, sometime in the 1920s or 1930s (according the church website).


This tradition has survived into modern day with some interesting variations. Frequently a person dressed as Saint Nicholas (the saint, not the Santa) leads the procession. In recent decades, a person of some renown reads the poem such as in 2003 when basketball great Isiah Thomas brought Moore’s words to life.

And the tradition returns this year!  This Sunday, December 20, the Church of the Intercession begins with prelude music at 3pm and the official program at 4pm.  This year’s reading will be by William C. Rhoden, sports columnist for the New York Times.

Visit Intercession’s website for more information. The church and cemetery are located at Broadway and West 155th Street.

If you’re heading up there, why not get there an hour early or so and visit the Hispanic Society‘s amazing collection of Spanish artwork, just across the street at Audubon Terrace?





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.

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Or listen to it straight from here:


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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.



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:


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.


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.

The Tallest Building In New York: A Short History

Postcard from the past: When the Singer Building was the world’s tallest (NYPL)

PODCAST One World Trade Center was declared last year the tallest building in America, but it’s a very different structure from the other skyscrapers who have once held that title. In New York, owning the tallest building has often been like possessing a valuable trophy, a symbol of commercial and social superiority. In a city driven by commerce, size matters.

In this special show, I give you a rundown of the history of being tall in New York City, short profiles of the 12 structures (11 skyscrapers and one church!) that have held this title.  In several cases, these weren’t just the tallest buildings in the city; they were the tallest in the world.

At right: The Metropolitan Life Building, the tallest building in the world in 1909

Skyscrapers were not always well received.  New York’s tallest building in 1899 was derisively referred to as a “horned monster.”  Lower Manhattan became defined by this particular kind of structure, creating a canyon of claustrophobic, darkened streets.  But a new destination for these sorts of spectacular towers beckoned in the 1920s — 42nd Street.

You’ll be familiar with a great number of these — the Woolworth, the Chrysler, the Empire State.  But in the early days of skyscrapers, an odd assortment of buildings took the crown as New York’s tallest, from the vanity project of a newspaper publisher to a turtle-like tower made for a sewing machine company.

At stake in the race for the tallest is dominance in the New York City skyline.  With brand new towers popping up now all over the five boroughs, should be worried that they’ll overshadow the classics? Or should the skyline always be in a constant state of flux?

ALSO: New York’s very first tall buildings and the ominous purpose they were used for during the Revolutionary War!

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 #169 The Tallest Building In New York: A Short History

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CORRECTION: Ack, I keep saying Crystal Palace Exposition when it’s actually Crystal Palace Exhibition! I mean, they basically mean the same thing, almost, right?

Photo courtesy Huffington Post

The current tallest buildings in New York City are

1) One World Trade Center — 1,776 feet
2) 432 Park Avenue — 1,394 feet
3) 225 West 57t Street — 1,394 feet
4) Empire State Building — 1,250 feet
5) Bank of America Tower — 1,200 feet
6) Three World Trade Center — 1,171 feet
7 tie) Chrysler Building — 1,046 feet
7 tie) New York Times Tower — 1,046 feet
9) One57 — 1,005 feet
10) 4 World Trade Center — 977 feet

It should be noted that eight of these buildings didn’t exist 10 years ago

Statistics courtesy the Council On Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat

The sugar houses owned by the Rhinelander family. Others owned by the Van Cortlandts and the Livingstons would have all been the tallest structures in the city.

Trinity Church in 1889, the final year that it was the tallest permanent structure in New York City. (NYPL)

Trinity would be unparalleled in the New York skyline by any permanent buildings for almost 46 years.  But the Latting Observatory at the Crystal Palace Exhibition for a short time allowed New Yorkers the highest vantage on the island.

Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World Building, in context with its surroundings, including its proximity to the Brooklyn Bridge. This location would be its undoing, as the building was demolished later to make way for an automobile ramp.  (Courtesy Rotograph Project)

The Manhattan Life Insurance Building became a new neighbor for Trinity Church in 1894.  Its lantern top served as a lighthouse and an office for the New York Weather Bureau. (NYPL)

The Park Row Building, the original ‘twin towers’ of lower Manhattan, was criticized for its two-dimensional design but it’s managed to survive into modern times.  It used to host J&R Music World on its ground floor until that business closed last year.

The extraordinarily unusual headquarters for the Singer Sewing Machine Company.  The Singer Building has the rare distinction of being the tallest building every purposefully torn down when it was demolished in the 1960s.

Madison Square was already graced with both the Flatiron Building (below) and Madison Square Garden when it finally got its tallest skyscraper….. (NYPL)

…the Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower, pictured here with an early airplane above it, in a postcard produced by Underwood & Underwood. (NYPL)

The Woolworth Building (featured here on a cigarette card) is one of the greatest extant examples of pre-zoning law construction with no setbacks along the front side.

The Manhattan Company Building (or 40 Wall Street) sat among a host of other skyscrapers and was only briefly the city’s tallest building until Walter Chrysler and William Van Alen debuted their surprise uptown.

The Chrysler Building in 1930 with its spire freshly attached to the top, making it (for a little over a year) the tallest building in the world.

The Empire State Building became the tallest building — and the defining symbol of New York City — thanks to a determined executive from General Motors and Al Smith, the former governor of New York.

The World Trade Center returned attention to lower Manhattan and set a new record for height, literally leaving other former record holders in its shadow. (Photo courtesy Life Magazine)


AIA Guide To New York City 2014
Empire State Building: The Making Of A Landmark — John Tauranac
Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky and the Making of a City — Neal Bascomb
Manhattan Manners — M. Christine Boyer
Pulitzer: A Life In Politics, Print and Power — James McGrath Morris
Rise of the New York Skyscraper — Sarah Bradford Landau
Skyscrapers:A Social History of the Very Tall Building In America — George H. Douglas
Supreme City — Donald Miller
and resources from the Landmark Preservation Commission and the New York Skyscraper Museum

Pictures courtesy New York Public Library

Aaron Burr vs. Alexander Hamilton: The terrible consequences of an ugly insult

PODCAST Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr met at a clearing in Weehawken, NJ, in the early morning on July 11, 1804, to mount the most famous duel in American history. But why did they do it?

This is the story of two New York lawyers — two Founding Fathers — that so detested each other that their vitriolic words (well, mostly Hamilton’s) led to these two grown men shooting each other out of honor and dignity, while robbing America of their brilliance, leadership and talent.

You may know the story of this duel from history class, but this podcast focuses on its proximity to New York City, to their homes Richmond Hill and Hamilton Grange and to the places they conducted their legal practices and political machinations.

Which side are you on?

ALSO: Find out the fates of sites that are associated with the duel, including the place Hamilton died and the rather disrespectful journey of the dueling grounds in Weehawken.

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 #168 DUEL! Aaron Burr vs. Alexander Hamilton

And we would like to thank a new sponsor Audible, the premier provider of digital audiobooks. Get a FREE audiobook download and 30 day free trial at www.audibletrial.com/boweryboys. Over 150,000 titles to choose from for your iPhone, Android, Kindle or mp3 player Audible titles play on iPhone, Kindle, Android and more than 500 devices for listening anytime, anywhere.

CORRECTION: Alexander Hamilton had his fateful dinner as the house of Judge James Kent, not John Kent, as I state here.

SOURCES: Many of my research materials include the books on my Riffle list of 25 Great Books About the Founding Fathers (And Mothers).

Alexander Hamilton, leader of the Federalists was a played out, stressed out, heavily in debt politician by June 1804. This is John Trumbull’s painting of Hamilton, completed almost over a year after the duel.

The Hamilton Grange, a beautiful home on the Hudson that Alexander only lived in for a couple years. (NYPL)

Aaron Burr, Vice President of the United States, was a played out, stressed out, heavily in debt politician by June 1804. This is John Vanderlyn’s portrait of Burr from 1802.

View of the Weekhawken dueling grounds in 1830s.  This area most likely still saw some duels at this period.  Note the small monument/obelisk marking the spot allegedly where Hamilton fell. (NYPL)

Thomas Addis Emmet’s quaint depiction of the dueling grounds was created in 1881, long after the actual grounds were destroyed by railroad construction. (NYPL)

From the New York Tribune, July 1904, a look at the Hamilton bust that once sat in Weehawken.  Several years later, vandals took the bust and hurled it off the cliff.

The William Bayard house in later years, with the lots surrounding it obviously sold and built up around it. (NYPL)

The Hamilton tomb at Trinity Church, picture taken in 1908, although it looks pretty much the same today! (Wurts Brothers, Courtesy MCNY)

Broadway and Wall Street. Tomb of Alexander Hamilton, Trinity churchyard.


A short history of a short street named Raisin Street

[34-36 Barrow Street]

A 1932 photo of 34-36 Barrow Street by Charles Von Urban, courtesy the Museum of the City of New York. Click here to see what this section of the street looks like today

In this week’s Ghost Stories of Old New York podcast, Tom speaks of the ghosts at romantic restaurant One If By Land, Two If By Sea, located in an old carriage house that was moved from its original location to its present home on Barrow Street in today’s West Village.

Barrow Street is a quiet hook of a path, emanating from the southeast side of Sheridan Square, bending west when it meets odd, little Commerce Street, then wanders westward to the water’s edge.  If you’ve ever been lost amid the crooked streets of the West Village — and who hasn’t, at some point — then you’ve certainly stumbled onto Barrow.

The road that became Barrow was close to the estate of Richmond Hill, the esteemed manor that was once home to America’s first two vice presidents, John Adams and Aaron Burr.  In the heady post-Revolution period, this path was originally named Reason Street, for Thomas Paine‘s ‘The Age of Reason’.  Indeed, Paine once lived at a couple nearly locations, at 309 Bleecker Street and 59 Grove Street (where he died).

As legend has it, however, residents soon took to calling it Raisin Street, both as an accented corruption of the original name and a possible insult to Paine (who was not beloved at the time of his death in 1809).

Raisin Street, most notably, became the home of New York’s first ‘Orphan Asylum’ in 1805.  Six orphaned children were placed here under the care “of a pious and respectable man and wife.” [source]

While many streets in New York City are named for healthy fruits — Brooklyn produces Pineapple, Orange and Cranberry Streets, for instance — few are named for shriveled ones.  In 1807, Trinity Church, the principal landowner of Reason/Raisin Street, directed that the street be renamed for Thomas Barrow, a vestryman and agent for the church.

I’m sure it is a happy accident that a principal character in Downton Abbey is also named Thomas Barrow.

The New York Public Library’s old-timey 3D magic maker

Stop what you’re doing and go play around with the New York Public Library‘s addictive Stereograminator, which gives you their collection of stereograph photography and the ability to animate them, emulating the ‘3D effect’ audiences who first viewed them would have experienced. Go here for the fun.

GIF made with the NYPL Labs Stereogranimator - view more at http://stereo.nypl.org/gallery/index

GIF made with the NYPL Labs Stereogranimator - view more at http://stereo.nypl.org/gallery/index

The originals are below:

Before Woolworth: The early towers of lower Broadway at the birth of the skyscraper boom

Next week is the 100th birthday of the opening of the Woolworth Building.  The classic skyscraper designed by Cass Gilbert changed everything about perceptions of tall buildings in Manhattan — for good and ill.  Suddenly, towers could be as graceful and important as monuments, and as playful and enigmatic as castles.

New Yorkers were anxious to fill their downtown with glorious towers for business, to best their rivals in Chicago (where many of the finest architects worked) and to prove the city’s grandeur to the world.

To that end, the New York Sun on April 13, 1913, ran this curious map in their real estate section, under the header “Rebuilding of Lower Manhattan Progressing Slowly.”  The point of the section is clear;  lower Manhattan was filled with useless old, rundown buildings that needed to be replaced at once!

It was this push at the start of the 20th century that gives lower Manhattan its unusual character, with few buildings before 1890 still standing.  The ‘canyon’ of lower Broadway was beginning to develop by 1913, only to be further dramatized with taller, more dramatic structures in the coming years.  The height of the structures along Broadway and around Wall Street soon eclipsed those structures on Park Row and most of the early skyscrapers built further up Manhattan, around Madison Square.

Some of the buildings lining Broadway before 1913 included:

The Singer Building (149 Broadway), the tallest building in the world in 1908 (at left, with St. Paul’s Chapel in center, photo from 1910):

The Manhattan Life Insurance Building (64-70 Broadway), the tallest building from 1894-99 (pictured here in 1895) There’s an entire blog devoted to his building. Pic is from there.

The building being constructed in the photo above is the American Surety Building (100 Broadway) which is still standing today.  The building was constructed in 1896.  In the background you can also see another mighty skyscraper, the very Venetian-styled Bankers Trust Company Building (14 Wall Street), finished in 1912. (Pic courtesy LOC)

And the Trinity Building (111 Broadway), completed in 1907, also still around today.  It replaced a five story office building from 1853 that had been designed by Richard Upjohn. (LOC)

I love that most of the above buildings can be seen in relation to Trinity Church (79 Broadway), once the tallest building at 284 feet.  (Pictured below completely surrounded by skyscrapers by 1916, picture courtesy LOC)

All of these buildings pre-date the Woolworth Building and, of course, the 1916 Zoning Resolution that required architects to build setbacks into their designs.  In fact, in the photo of Trinity above, you can see the principal reason the zoning law was enacted — the colossal Equitable Building, finished in 1915.

Next week: More on the 100th anniversary of the Woolworth Building!

You can read the New York Sun section from April 1913 here.

Where are New York’s mayors buried? An (almost) complete list

Koch’s tombstone, bearing the inscription: “‘My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish.’ (Daniel Pearl, 2002, just before he was beheaded by a Muslim terrorist.)”

Ed Koch likes to get a jump on things. The former mayor, who served as mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989, went ahead a couple years ago and got himself a plot and a gravestone all arranged at the uptown Trinity Church Cemetery. You can actually visit his grave there and pay your pre-final respects.

He recently recounted his decision for the Huffington Post [What’s On My Tombstone, and Why], and it got me wondering if any other mayors were already buried at Trinity. (There’s two.) That soon developed into an investigation into how many former New York mayors are still buried in Manhattan. (Answer: seven so far.) Which then led to the following admittedly macabre project before you:

Here is a near-complete list of final resting places of (almost) all the mayors of New York City, from 1783 to present, a catalog of the various cemeteries and burial grounds where these former leaders of the city have been entombed, buried or otherwise interred.

Okay, I recognize I’ve gotten a little morbid on the blog recently (what with this and this, for instance), but this survey shouldn’t bum you out. The results of this little scavenger hunt actually say much about the priorities of New Yorkers past, the co-mingling of high society and politics and the rise and fall of egotism and pomp in the celebration of famous figures.

Most all these burial places are within a reasonable traveling distance of the city. Even the men who became mayors in the city’s early days were often tied to the region by familial connections. The one who went the most far afield (Edward Livingston, who made his reputation in Louisiana) came back to his family estate in Rhinebeck at the end of his life.

Only a handful (like Livingston and Dewitt Clinton) ever held a political position more powerful than mayor. Even when they were mayors, many weren’t very powerful at all, mere figureheads of strong political machines. Their business connections made some quite rich and internationally successful. But in the end, most came back to New York or the surrounding region.

I should preface by saying that I did not include any British appointed mayors from before the Revolutionary War. New York really became a new city on Evacuation Day 1783 when the British left the harbor, and the city’s leaders faced fresh challenges as an American port. It truly was a city anew when the first post-British mayor (James Duane) took office.

And practically speaking, it’s difficult to trace the final destinations of mayoral appointees from that far back anyway. Many left the colonies after their tenure. For instance, the British appointed mayor David Matthews, presiding over the city during the entire war (1776-1783), is buried somewhere in Canada, probably Nova Scotia.

There are four mayors I was not able to locate. I list those at the bottom of this post. Some of this data comes from single sources and thus, as with any crush of information like this one, if you see any errors, please email me or send me a comment. I will continue to update this as I discover more information.

Above: A mighty obelisk to Fernando Wood, a man who once said, “The Almighty has fixed the distinction of the races; the Almighty has made the black man inferior, and sir, by no legislation, by no partisan success, by no revolution, by no military power, can you wipe out this distinction.”

Dear ole Ed Koch will have some unique companions at
the Trinity Church Cemetery at West 153rd Street, sharing the location with two of New York’s most notorious office holders of all time. Fernando Wood (mayor from 1858-1858 and 1860-62), who famously recommended that the city secede with the South, is interred here, as is ‘Boss’ Tweed’s most elegant right-hand man, Abraham Oakey Hall (1869-1872). Nice company, Ed!

Downtown Manhattan cemeteries keep a few mayors around as well. In the East Village, at the New York Marble Cemetery, the “oldest public non-sectarian cemetery” in the city, you’ll find the remains of Whig representative Aaron Clark (1837-39), while the man who succeeded him as mayor, Isaac Varian, (1839-1841), resides down the street at its similarly named cousin, the New York City Marble Cemetery, along with sailmaker-mayor Stephen Allen (1821-24).

Philip Hone, known more for his observant diaries on New York than for his mayoralty (1826-27), gets a treasured spot at St.Marks-On-The-Bowery, entombed close to the vault of fabulous New Amsterdam tyrant-leader Peter Stuyvesant.

Finally, Trinity’s original churchyard at Wall Street and Broadway — the final home to Alexander Hamilton, Albert Gallatin and Robert Fulton, among others — has one New York mayor among its population: the Revolutionary War hero Marinus Willett (1807-1808). The stone marking his vault, the size of a brick, is quite easy to miss.

To the surprise of few, the place which hosts the most deceased New York mayors is
Green-Wood Cemetery, which became the burial place of choice for the upper class in the mid-19th century. But when it first opened in 1838, Brooklyn still felt a bit too bucolic for some. Other families shied from its less than sacred credentials. After all, Green-Wood would become a place for a picnic or a nice stroll on a summer’s day; more pious folk preferred the reverence of a church yard.

That is, until the body of former New York governor DeWitt Clinton (and mayor of New York from various periods: 1803-1807, 1808-1810, 1811-1815) was transferred from his resting place upstate to Green-Wood. Now a bonafide celebrity lay here: a child of the Founding Fathers’ generation and the driving force behind the Erie Canal. Society felt comfortable leaving their loved ones next to such a charming man for eternity. (Right: Clinton’s monument.)

A host of lesser mayors soon joined Clinton here. First came Andrew Mickle (1846-1847) and the anti-Irish mayor James Harper (1844-45), founder of a publishing empire.

Back-to-back mayors Ambrose Kingsland (1851-53) and shipping magnate Jacob Aaron Westervelt (1853-55) came along in the 1870s. Charles Godfrey Gunther (1864-65), the inspiration for the shortlived Brooklyn neighborhood Guntherville, is buried close to his more famous contemporary, publisher and reformer Horace Greeley.

The close ties between the Cooper and the Hewitt families remains even after death; you’ll find Peter Cooper’s son Edward Cooper (mayor from 1879-80) next to his brother-in-law and early subway proponent Abram Hewitt, the man who beat Theodore Roosevelt to become mayor from 1887-88. Both men were certainly acquainted with another Green-Wood resident, Seth Low, who was mayor of Brooklyn during Cooper’s tenure and eventually the mayor of the consolidated New York City in 1903-4.

Finally, the mayor who survived an assassin’s bullet to the throat, William Jay Gaynor (1910-13), has an odd marker in Green-Wood, according to the cemetery’s website, “a large open granite circle, on the ground. It is a variation on the Victorian symbol for eternity–a globe or circle that has no beginning and no end.”

Brooklyn is the borough with the most deceased New York mayors. And I’m not even counting Brooklyn’s own mayors, from before the 1898 consolidation*! You can find two more in Flatbush at the Catholic Holy Cross Cemetery. I imagine they’re very honored to have New York’s very first Irish Catholic mayor, the business savvy William Russell Grace (1880-82 and 1885-86), as well as the Col. Ardolph Loges Kline, the man who served briefly (a little more than three months in 1914) after Gaynor succumbed from his long-festering bullet wound.

*Brooklyn’s first mayor, George Hall, is buried at Green-Wood, as are several others.

Woodlawn Cemetery was developed over 30 years after Green-Wood, but a great many wealthy and well-connected New Yorkers preferred its serene and pastoral setting. It’s the final home for businessmen (Rowland H. Macy), moguls (Jay Gould), authors (Herman Melville) and musicians (Miles Davis). And more than a few mayors.

The man sometimes considered the greatest mayor of all, Fiorello LaGuardia (1934-45), is buried here with a modest tombstone hidden under a bush. It makes a striking statement compared to the elaborate and monolithic vaults scattered around it.

Woodlawn also has the unique distinction of containing the burial of Robert Van Wyck (1898-1901), the first mayor of the five-borough New York area. And the last two mayors of pre-consolidated New York (when it was just Manhattan and a few areas of the Bronx) are also around here: the “striking looking” pro-Tammany Thomas Gilroy (1893-94) and stern, anti-Tammany William Strong (1895-97), best known for hiring Theodore Roosevelt as police commissioner.

There are 19th century industrialists galore at Woodlawn, so it’s no surprise to discover Williamsburgh sugar king and three-time New York mayor William Havemeyer (1845-46, 1848-9) here, as is the man who served between Havemeyer’s two terms, William Brady (1847-48).

Finally, no visit to this quiet outlet in the Bronx is complete without searching out the ‘boy mayor’ John Purroy Mitchel (1914-17), an enigmatic figure in New York political history, who became mayor at age 35 and tragically fell out of a plane during military training before his 39th birthday. He’s also honored with an unusual gold bust in Central Park near the reservoir. (At left: Mitchel as mayor)

Mitchel’s stone has the curious inscription: “May His angels lead thee into paradise, which is thy home, for in Israel there is corruption.”

Further south from Woodlawn you’ll find Robert Morris** (1841-1844), a member of the famous Morris clan (as in Gouverneur Morris), buried in the family plot at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Mott Haven, the oldest church in the Bronx.

**This is something I need to confirm. Morris’ wife Ann Eliza Morris is buried at Green-Wood. There is a Robert Morris buried nearby, but the date of death does not match the former mayor’s.

Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, Queens, is closely tied to the parishioners of Old St. Patrick’s in Manhattan, who purchased a bit of farmland out in Queens County in 1846 to bury members of its large Irish congregation. In the last century, it was made famous for its afterworld connections to organized crime, both real (many famous mafioso are interred here) and imagined (it’s in The Godfather).

Two very different mayors are interred here, both born in Manhattan and both closely aligned with Tammany Hall: New York’s youngest mayor ever, Hugh J. Grant (1889-92), and Robert Wagner Jr. (1954-65).

Go a little ways east to Middle Village and to another Catholic grave site, St. John’s Cemetery, where you’ll find John F. Hylan (1918-25), a man of the railroad world who was pivotal in the creation of the IND, the first rapid transit line wholly owned and operated by the city.

Three other early 19th century mayors from well connected families are found in surrounding neighborhoods. At the small, colonial Grace Church Cemetery in Jamaica, meet up with good ole Cadwallader D. Colden (1818-21) next to a signer of the Constitution (Rufus King). Walter Bowne (1829-33), with deep family connections to the area, is buried at Flushing Cemetery, east of the home of his Quaker ancestor John Bowne.

But the most mysterious site is in Bayside. Here, at a small, sparsely wooded grave site, you can find a cluster of tombstones, many with the same name. The Lawrence Cemetery is on land owned by the family since the Dutch era. A small, bare obelisk marks the place where Cornelius Lawrence (1834-37) lays. He’s the first man every popularly elected mayor; before Lawrence, the job was appointed or voted on only by the Common (City) Council.

Beyond the borders of the city and along the north shore of Long Island, you can locate a few other resting places of past city leaders. From west to east we have:

Daniel F. Tiemann (1858-60), “the paint king of New York and a member of the Peter Cooper clan by way of marrying Peter’s niece, is not buried in Green-Wood with the rest of Cooper/Hewitt dynasty. Instead you can find him in the old village of Hempstead, at Greenfield Cemetery. However I’ve not yet figured out why he would be interred all the way out here. (Tiemann at right)

John Lindsay, the ‘fun’ dashing, ambitious and often controversial mayor from 1966-1972, rests along a winding road near Cold Spring Harbor, in a small rustic cemetery near St. John’s Church.

William H. Wickham (1875-76), an anti-Tweed Democrat and an early president of the formative New York Fire Department, was born in Smithtown and was returned for burial there in the town’s small and very lovely cemetery.

Caleb Smith Woodhull (1949-51), who ineffectively looked on during the Astor Place Riots, was a landowner in Miller Place on the north shore and is buried nearby at Ceder Hill Cemetery overlooking the fantastic Port Jefferson. Fun fact: a member of the local historical society dressed as Mr. Woodhull during the burial ground’s 150th anniversary last year. [There’s even a picture!]

A large number of former statesmen are scattered throughout the state, with a large concentration in the Hudson River Valley, close to the modern borders of the city.

For afficianados of Prohibition era politics, look no further than the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Westchester Country, which opened in 1917 and quickly attracted some big name interments. One of the first was that of actress Anna Held, former companion of Florenz Ziegfeld. Other iconic New Yorkers like Babe Ruth, James Cagney and Conde Nast are also here.

Jimmy Walker (1926-1932), the posh ‘Beau James’ and symbol of New York’s roaring ’20s, died in 1946 several years after resigning from politics due to corruption charges. He’s buried at Gate of Heaven under a tombstone he might have considered far too modest. Coincidentally, the two men who briefly filled the mayors seat after him, Joseph McKee (1932) and John O’Brien (1933), also followed him here.

Sleepy Hollow contains one of the oldest cemeteries in the country, the rustic Old Dutch Burying Ground, and within it, one mayor of New York, the brigadier general William Paulding Jr. (two terms 1825-26, 1827-29), who fought in the War of 1812. A short drive north is the lovely riverside town of Ossining and its 160-year old Dale Cemetery, the final home for former mayor and governor John Hoffman (1866-68), whose close associations with the Tweed Ring corroded his political career.

Due north, in Rhinebeck, you’ll find the family vaults of the Livingston family, including that of Edward Livingston (1801-03), who reinvented himself after his tenure, becoming the U.S. Secretary of State under Andrew Jackson.

Other old mayors buried throughout the state include leather-maker Gideon Lee (1833-34) in Geneva, NY; Tammany pawn John Ferguson (1815) in Sullivan, NY; and father of the Bronx park system Franklin Edson (1883-84) in Menands, NY, near Albany.

Finally, New York’s first post-British mayor, James Duane (1784-89), the namesake of Duane Street, also gave his name to an entire town, Duanesburg, near Schenectady. Duane had hoped the town would become New York’s capital city, before Albany was chosen in 1797 (the year Duane died). Appropriately, he is interred here, at the rustic, old Christ Episcopal Church.

Above: the vault of George Opdyke, in Newark, NJ

Finally, at least six former mayors are buried out of state but remain a short trainride away. For instance, the Sicilian-born Vincent Impellitteri (1950-53), moved to Connecticut after his tenure and is buried in a Catholic cemetery in Derby (Mount St. Peters).

In New Jersey, you’ll find the vault of Civil War mayor George Opdyke (1862-63) at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Newark, and the unsuspecting former aide to Benedict Arnold and long-lasting mayoral figure Richard Varick (1789-1801) at the historic First Reformed Dutch Church burial ground in Hackensack.

The slight figure of Smith Ely Jr., may have been New York mayor from 1877-78, but he’s New Jersey born, and he died there one hundred years ago, in 1911. Ely ruled the city the year Boss Tweed died, and he famously refused to lower the flags to half-mast for the Tammany Hall trouble maker. The former mayor and commissioner of Central Park is buried under an imposing monument on his family’s estate, now the Ely Cemetery, in Livingston, NJ.

And finally, we come to two men whose final resting place is the furthest from the city, but its location is an honor indeed — Arlington National Cemetery. William O’Dwyer (1946-1950), actually ran for New York mayor in 1941. When he lost to LaGuardia, he enlisted in the army, becoming a brigadier general, thus making him eligible for burial at Arlington. (I guess they overlooked all that nastiness about his alleged mafia connections.)

George McClellan (1904-09) ruled the roost during the height of New York’s gilded era and was there — literally driving the train — at the opening of the New York subway in 1904. George never fought in any wars, but his father George B. McClellan sure did. And it’s that connection that puts him in the most prestigious cemetery in America.

There are a few that I was unable to locate, and if you have any information regarding any of them, just leave me a note below and I’ll update this article. I’m afraid I may never find the locations of lesser figures like either
Thomas Coman (1868) and Samuel B.H. Vance (1874). Coincidentally, both men were interim mayors, serving only one month apiece.

But two full-term mayors have eluded me as well. One is Jacob Radcliff (1810-11, 1815-18), one of the first true Tammany Hall puppets. And believe it or not, information regarding the location of New York’s first Jewish mayor Abraham Beame (1974-77), who just died in 2001, escapes me.

I’ve put most of the locations above on a Google map. Most markers are approximate and in the case of some small towns, I’ve placed the marker in town center instead of the cemetery in questions — sometimes hard to find in a satellite view.

View Burial sites of New York City mayors in a larger map