Categories
Amusements and Thrills

The fire at Barnum’s American Museum 155 years ago

One hundred and fifty-five years ago (on July 13, 1865), New York City lost one of its most famous, most imaginative and most politically incorrect attractions. When P.T. Barnum opened his museum in 1841, the kooky curiosities contained within the building at the corner of Broadway and Ann Street — at the foot of Park […]

Categories
Gilded Age New York Podcasts

Boss Tweed’s House of Corruption: A Tale of Crooked Schemes and Unchecked Power

PODCAST: How the Tweed Courthouse became a symbol for everything rotten about 19th century American politics. The roots of modern American corruption traces themselves back to a handsome — but not necessarily revolutionary — historic structure sitting behind New York City Hall. The Tweed Courthouse is more than a mere landmark. Once called the New York County […]

Categories
Museums

New York’s First Art Museum: The City Hall Rotunda

The Metropolitan Museum of Art contains a very unusual piece of art tied to the early history of City Hall. In fact, this piece is responsible for what is sometimes considered New York’s very first art museum — decades older than the Met itself. The strange oil painting is called Panoramic View of the Palace […]

Categories
Podcasts The Jazz Age

Jimmy Walker, Mayor of the Jazz Age (NYC and the Roaring ’20s Part One)

PODCAST For the first part in our New York City in the Roaring Twenties summer mini-series, we’re hitting the town with “Beau James,” New York’s lively and fun-loving mayor Jimmy Walker. And the king of it all was Jimmy Walker, elected mayor of New York City just as its prospects were at their highest. The […]

Categories
Pop Culture

Finding Magic In Old New York: The historic places of ‘Fantastic Beasts’

The article below contains spoilers involving locations used in the movie, but no specific plot spoilers that aren’t already revealed in the trailer. Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, strictly a fantasy film of course, from the vivid mind of J.K. Rowling, is nonetheless the year’s best historical depiction of New York City.  This indulgence of […]

Categories
Landmarks

Federal Hall: Now and Always An American National Treasure

Federal Hall National Memorial, currently administered by the National Park Service, has always been a popular landmark with tourists thanks to its position on one of the most photographed intersections in New York. Who can resist that noble statue of George Washington silently meditating on the financial juggernaut of Wall Street? Today Federal Hall was officially named […]

Categories
Landmarks

It’s Open House New York 2015! Adventures await at these free sites

 Open House New York is the absolute best time of the year to wander the city and visit dozens of New York City’s greatest historical landmarks and architectural wonders.  Unfortunately, reservations for some of those places pretty much filled up within ten minutes. But never fear! This year, it seems that a great number of the most interesting […]

Categories
American History

New York’s Poignant Memorial to Lincoln’s Death Is In A Very Odd Place

Abraham Lincoln died 150 years ago today in a Washington DC rowhouse, shot and killed by the actor John Wilkes Booth while the president was attending a performance of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theater the previous evening. The news hit the North as some sort of horrible dream.  Confederate general Robert E Lee had just surrendered […]

Categories
Know Your Mayors

100 years ago today, somebody tried to murder the mayor

John Purroy Mitchel in front of City Hall, one month after the assassination attempt (May 11, 1914, courtesy Library of Congress) It was an pleasant early afternoon one hundred years ago today when Mayor John Purroy Mitchel boarded an automobile on Park Row carrying other members of his staff, including police commissioner Arthur H. Woods, […]

Categories
Landmarks

The Astor House came tumbling down one century ago

The Astor House was New York City’s first great hotel, opened in 1836 by John Jacob Astor himself, a premier accommodation for the city throughout the 19th century.  But by 1913, it was time to tear it down. It was a symbolic moment for many older New Yorkers.  As you can tell from the image […]

How New York City celebrated the FIRST London Olympics

Crowds gather around the steps of New York City Hall to welcome the procession of American Olympic athletes returning from the 1908 games in London. Pictures courtesy Library of Congress.OLYMPICS ROUNDUP London has hosted the Olympics four times, New York City zero.  The city tried for the current games in an ultimately unsuccessful bid back […]

Water features: New York’s first fountains, now with music

The very first decorative fountain in New York City was the City Hall fountain, unveiled on October 14, 1842 during the ceremony for the opening of the Croton Acqueduct, the sophisticated series of pipes and reservoirs that provided New Yorkers with their drinking water. The fountain, which propelled water 50 feet in the air, was […]

Categories
Mad Men

‘Mad Men’ notes: The rock gods of Forest Hills, Queens

WARNING The article contains a few spoilers about last night’s ‘Mad Men’ on AMC, so if you’re a fan of the show, come back once you’re watched the episode. Lusty groupies, ample drug intake, smoky hallways and deafening rock music. One might have thought last night’s ‘Mad Men’ — partially centered around the backstage antics […]

New York City Hall: Open for business for 200 years!

Above: City Hall in 1900 (Courtesy NYPL) Never have I been more elated to write about a City Council meeting. At the start of the 19th century, city affairs were still being conducted on Wall Street at Federal Hall. For many years they shared the corridors with George Washington and the first American Congress.  By […]

Getting serious: Civil War barracks in City Hall Park

By the middle of May 1861, almost a month into the Civil War, most New Yorkers still swelled with enthusiasm for the Union cause, demonstrated at the great rally in Union Square just a few weeks earlier. Since that historic gathering, the streets were regularly filled with parades, rallies and general cries of support for President […]