Two Lions: A centennial for the New York Public Library

“There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the Earth as the Free Public Library — this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.” –Andrew CarnegieThe doors of the main branch of the New York Public Library (a.k.a. the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building) opened 100 years ago this… Read More

Books and beer! A library gets ready for its birthday

Getting ready for its 100th birthday on May 23, the main branch of the New York Public Library — I guess we’re calling it the Stephen A Schwarzman Building now — has been free of most of its oppressive scaffolding for a couple weeks. This was the scene in the morning fog yesterday:And what the… Read More

Mark those calendars! Big New York anniversaries in 2011

The New York Public Library main branch building in 1911. If you’ll notice, the lions are not on their pedestals. (Courtesy NYPL) With the ringing in of another new year comes a new list of institutions, events and accomplishments marking significant milestones this year. 400 Years AgoHendrick Christiaensen visits Mannahatta 1611Who, you ask? Sure, nobody… Read More

Mad Men

‘Mad Men’ notes: Naked truths about New York nudism

Every Monday I’ll try and check in with the Mad Men episode from the night before and focus in on one or two historical references made on the show. Spoilers aplenty, so read no further if you don’t want to know…. While the inebriated men of Sterling Cooper Draper Price were accepting Clio Awards at… Read More

What a view! Library roof gardens in the Lower East Side

Click picture for greater detail Above is a picture, facing east, of Seward Park Library in the ‘lower’ Lower East Side at 192 E. Broadway (picture taken in 1911). This spectacular branch library, funded by Andrew Carnegie, opened in November 1909, two years before the 42nd Street main branch opened.  All of the housing behind… Read More

Behold the Bronx Bookmobile!

How amazing it would have been to see this odd vehicle pull up into your town. To service those areas of the Bronx without permanent libraries, the Bronx Traveling Library took to the roads. The first picture above is from 1936, the one below from 1928. Click pictures for a more detailed view. Pics courtesy,… Read More

Know Your Mayors

Know Your Mayors: George B. McClellan Jr.

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. Perhaps no mayor of New York City this side of Fiorello Laguardia has ever overseen so drastic a change to the landscape of the city… Read More

Two East Village cemeteries open their gates

From the New York City Marble Cemetery Two rarely seen artifacts of the East Village swung open their iron gates this weekend for Open House NY, New York’s two oldest cemeteries — the New York Marble Cemetery and the New York City Marble Cemetery. (Yes, you read that right.) In a few respects they are… Read More

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… Read More


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… Read More

Couldn’t they have just written a sternly worded letter?

Think of what it would take for you to go out into the streets of New York City, wielding a ballbat or a knife, to join in a mad unstoppable riot. Then amble over to the corner of 5th Avenue and 44nd Street, across the street from the Best Buy, and put yourself in a… Read More