Parks and Recreation

Where was Manhattan Square? The Gilded Age remaking of a neglected park

Theodore Roosevelt Park (77th and 81st Streets, between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue), which contains the beloved American Museum of Natural History, is the oldest developed section of the Upper West Side, purchased by the city in 1839 as a possible strolling park to be called Manhattan Square. Central Park was but a gleam in the eye back in… Read More

Podcasts Science

Dinosaurs and Diamonds: Stories from the American Museum of Natural History

PODCAST Ancient space rocks, dinosaur fossils, anthropological artifacts and biological specimens are housed in New York’s world famous natural history complex on the Upper West Side — the American Museum of Natural History! Throughout the 19th century, New Yorkers tried to establish a legitimate natural history venue in the city, including an aborted plan for a… Read More


Photographs of wonder from the American Museum of Natural History

One hundred years ago, the American Museum of Natural History received a massive visitor, one so mighty that the doors of the museum’s delivery room “had to be removed and [the] partition openings enlarged” in order to accommodate it. Was it a dinosaur? A meteorite? Perhaps the remains of a great whale? No, the new… Read More

Bowery Boys Bookshelf

‘Spectacle’: The Story of Ota Benga

In 1906, visitors to the Bronx Zoo observed a rather bizarre sight in the Monkey House — the exhibition of a man in African dress, often accompanied by a parrot or an orangutan. An African pygmy, so read the sign, “Age, 23, Height, 4 feet 11 inches, Weight 103 pounds, Brought from the Kasai River, Congo Free… Read More

Presidential: Spending your weekend with the Roosevelts

In 1973, the sliver of land in the East River called Welfare Island was given a more lofty name — Roosevelt Island — in anticipation of a grand monument to Franklin Delano Roosevelt designed by premier architect Louis Kahn.  But Kahn died in 1974 after designing the somber, angular granite memorial, set to be placed on… Read More

Rainey’s African Hunt: A bloody 1912 movie blockbuster

Hunter and gadabout Paul Rainey: An accidental matinee idol Catching a movie this weekend? Many New Yorkers had the same plan one hundred years ago, but the experience was vastly different.  Motion pictures in 1912 were shorter, without sound and in black-and-white, of course, but they were sometimes presented as part of a set of… Read More

Mad Men

‘Mad Men’ notes: The 1960s enlightenment of New York’s natural history museum leaves taxidermy in the past

WARNING The article contains a couple spoilers about last night’s ‘Mad Men’ on AMC. If you’re a fan of the show, come back once you’re watched the episode. But these posts are about a specific element of New York history from the 1960s and can be read even by those who don’t watch the show… Read More

A meteorite’s biggest enemy? Crazy boys with jackknives.

Rock of ages: The meteorite is lifted off its wagon for removal into the American Museum of Natural History. I wonder if those ragamuffins to the right in the photograph have their jackknives ready? (Pic courtesy JFGryphon/Flickr)As mentioned in last week’s podcast, one of the great treasures of the American Museum of Natural History is… Read More