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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 […]

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Amusements and Thrills Podcasts

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, […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

The Alienist by Caleb Carr, released 20 years ago this week: Retracing the steps of this Gilded Age murder mystery

NOTE: This article has a few plot spoilers but no major twists are revealed or discussed.  I’ve tried to write the descriptions within the interactive map as vaguely as possible. The Alienist by Caleb Carr was published 20 years ago this week, an instant best-seller in 1994 that has become a cult classic among history […]

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Podcasts

The Croton Aqueduct: How New York got its drinking water

Above: The Croton Reservoir in 1850, in what would soon become Central Park. (NYPL)PODCAST One of the great challenges faced by a growing, 19th-century New York City was the need for a viable, clean water supply. We take water for granted today. But before the 1830s, citizens relied on cisterns to collect rainwater, a series […]

The art of the reservoir, New York’s forgotten architecture

The Fortress of Fifth Avenue: the Murray Hill Reservoir We share a lot of the same needs as New Yorkers of the past, but we’ve just gotten better at hiding the unpleasant ones.  There are a great many mental institutions and specialized medical facilities in the city; they just aren’t in creepy, old Gothic buildings […]

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 […]

Mayor Thomas Gilroy: printer’s devil, and Tammany’s, too

KNOW YOUR MAYORS Our modest little series about some of the greatest, notorious, most important, even most useless, mayors of New York City. Other entrants in our mayoral survey can be found here.Mayor Thomas Francis GilroyIn office: one term 1893-1894 When it comes to corruption, you can’t get more front and center than Thomas Francis […]

Mayor Aaron Clark: lucky Whig and New York lotto king!

KNOW YOUR MAYORS Our modest little series about some of the greatest, notorious, most important, even most useless, mayors of New York City. Other entrants in our mayoral survey can be found here.Mayor Aaron ClarkIn office: 1837-1839 Aaron Clark has many claims to fame in New York history, none of them really things that recommend […]

Sailin’ with Stephen Allen, NY’s first elected mayor (sorta)

KNOW YOUR MAYORS Our modest little series about some of the greatest, notorious, most important, even most useless, mayors of New York City. Other entrants in our mayoral survey can be found here.Mayor Stephen AllenIn office: 1821-1824 There was a time when New Yorkers were told who their mayor was going to be. Imagine Governor […]

Mayor Franklin Edson: Bronx man and distillery king

Above: a cartoon mocking Edson’s hiring practices (courtesy New York Public Library Digital Gallery) KNOW YOUR MAYORS Our modest little series about some of the greatest, notorious, most important, even most useless, mayors of New York City. Other entrants in our mayoral survey can be found here. Mayor Franklin Edson In office: 1883-1884 Although the […]

Mayor Cornelius Lawrence, son of Bayside

Above: New York by 1837 (in an painting by Edward Williams Clay) — a city surviving financial ups and downs, fires and water shortage, riots, cholera and the mayoralty of Cornelius W. Lawrence KNOW YOUR MAYORS Our modest little series about some of the greatest, notorious, most important, even most useless, mayors of New York […]

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 […]

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Podcasts

PODCAST: New York Public Library

The New York Public Library may be one of the most revered libraries in America, but it took a farflung combination of bookworms, millionaires and do-gooders to make it into the institution it is today. Also: find out why the architectural style of the Beaux Arts sometimes reminds us of an old French prostitute. Listen […]