Categories
Amusements and Thrills

The Monster Tree: A California Sequoia Visits New York City 1855

The mighty Sequoia tree,  principally existing today in northern California, embodied the breathtaking diversity of the North American continent when it was first discovered by European explorers in the 1830s.  The Native American tribes of the west coast revered them.  Early European explorers too marveled at this display of nature’s great flourish, spinning fantastic tales of ‘monster […]

Categories
Parks and Recreation

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 […]

Categories
Parks and Recreation

Reservoir Square — 150 years ago!

Here are three stunning stereoscopic views of old Reservoir Square, the park next to the Murray Hill Reservoir that became sadly vacant after the fiery destruction of the Crystal Palace.  These stereoscopes — ancestors to the View-Masters which some of you may remember from childhood – were taken in 1865. Now without its dazzling occupant, the park […]

Categories
Amusements and Thrills

The Crystal Palace, America’s first World’s Fair and bizarre treasury of the 19th century

PODCAST  New York’s Crystal Palace seems like something out of a dream, a shimmering and spectacular glass-and-steel structure — a gigantic greenhouse — which sat in the area of today’s Bryant Park. In 1853 this was the home to the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations, a dizzying presentation of items, great and small, […]

Categories
Neighborhoods

The link between Ladies Mile and the New York Public Library

Arnold, Constable and Co’s new Fifth Avenue store.  Today it house the lending library for the New York Public Library. When did Ladies Mile — New York’s elegant Gilded Age shopping district — finally become un-fashionable? Unlike the slow demise of so many neighborhoods in the city’s past, the end of Ladies Mile was closely […]

Categories
Neighborhoods

What Lies Beneath: New York’s long-forgotten graveyards

Bryant Park in 1907, with construction on the library well underway.  This was the site of one of the final official potter’s fields in Manhattan before they were moved to the islands of the East River. (Picture courtesy New York Public Library) Happy Halloween!  To put you in the spirit of the season, take a […]

Categories
Holidays Newspapers and Newsies

Historic or disappointing? How New York newspapers covered the first Labor Day — September 5, 1882

Clothing cutters, horseshoers, shoemakers, upholsterers, printers, house painters, freight handlers, cabinet makers, varnishers, cigar makers, bricklayers and piano makers. The first American Labor Day began on September 5, 1882, with 10,000 workers from a wide variety of occupations circling Union Square, then parading up to the area of today’s Bryant Park. (A picnic ‘after party’ […]

The phantom of a great fire in Bryant Park

Were you in Bryant Park yesterday? Did you happen to imagine that you sniffed a very slight whiff of smoke? It was just a ghostly reminder of one of the most famous fires in all of New York history — the destruction of the legendary Crystal Palace exhibition hall, which sat here for five glorious […]

Categories
Mysterious Stories

I Sit On Your Grave: New York’s Hidden Burial Plots

Here’s a chilling thought for the Halloween season: if you’re visiting one of New York’s many amazing parks and squares, most likely you’re standing on land that was formerly used as a cemetery or potter’s field. And in some cases they even left the bodies behind! If you’re fluent in your New York history, you […]

Would ‘Post’ master Bryant like his Park today?

Above: Painting of Bryant Park by artist Mike Rohner. Visit his website for some other lovely works. Editor-poet William Cullen Bryant, the 19th century’s most influential publisher of the New York Post, never lived to see Fashion Week or the yearly outdoor Summer Film Festival, the star events hosted in the park that was named […]