Pop Culture Revolutionary History

A primer before this Sunday’s Revolutionary War series Turn

Courtesy AMC This Sunday (9pm EST) marks the debut of AMC’s new Revolutionary War drama Turn, documenting the beginnings of George Washington’s mysterious spy circuit The Culper Ring and starring Jamie Bell as Washington’s spy leader Abraham Woodhull. Follow along with me on Twitter this Sunday as I throw in a few historical details related… Read More


The patriotic story of how the Kosciuszko Bridge got its name

The approach to the Kosciuszko Bridge, photographed in 1939 by the Wurts Brothers.  Photo courtesy the Museum of the City of New York“That sound that crashes in the tyrant’s ear – Kosciuszko!” — Lord Byron Byron was talking about Polish hero Tadeusz KoÅ›ciuszko, who was (most likely) born on this date in 1746.  Hopefully, within… Read More

Revolutionary History

‘My American Revolution’: Imagining 1776 surrounding us

BOWERY BOYS BOOK OF THE MONTH Each month I’ll pick a book — either brand new or old, fiction or non-fiction — that offers an intriguing take on New York City history, something that uses history in a way that’s uniquely unconventional or exposes a previously unseen corner of our city’s complicated past.  Then over… Read More

Revolutionary History

From prison to post office: The odd fate of a Dutch church

 One need only walk past the old Limelight in the neighborhood of Chelsea to understand the strange flexibility of church architecture. This former Richard Upjohn-designed Episcopal church at West 20th Street and Sixth Avenue was transformed into a rehab center in the 1970s, then a notorious nightclub in the ’80s, then an upscale mall. And… Read More

Notes from the Podcast (#121) Fraunces Tavern

Courtesy Flickr/Harry J. Bizzarro A slight correction:I inferred in this week’s show that the very first Supreme Court — with Chief Justice John Jay — met in Federal Hall. They actually first convened on February 2, 1790, in a building very close by to Fraunces — the Royal Exchange Building. Also called the Merchant Exchange,… Read More

Blue Bell Tavern: War and romance in Washington Heights

The Blue Bell Tavern, a rustic pit stop along Bloomingdale Road, witness to the changing fortunes of war. (Courtesy NYPL) FRIDAY NIGHT FEVER To get you in the mood for the weekend, on occasional Fridays we’ll be featuring an old New York nightlife haunt, from the dance halls of 19th Century Bowery, to the massive… Read More

Old Swamp Church and the first U.S. Speaker of the House

Federal Hall, home to the first House of Representatives 1789 [NYPL] This week the United States got a new Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, and its first female ex-Speaker, Nancy Pelosi. This changing of the guard got me to wondering how many politicians representing New York had ever held this powerful job.… Read More

Fun on the ice: Party time atop the frozen East River

Daredevils trespassing the ice between New York and Brooklyn in 1871. I spent much of New York’s Christmas blizzard nightmare in various airports throughout the country, unable to get back to La Guardia Airport, where it appears I would have just been stranded anyway. With all the transportation fiascoes, the unplowed streets and the mounting… Read More

What’s in a name? In Kingsbridge’s case, a New York first

NAME THAT NEIGHBORHOOD Some New York neighborhoods are simply named for their location on a map (East Village, Midtown). Others are given prefabricated designations (SoHo, DUMBO). But a few retain names that link them intimately with their pasts. Other entries in this series can be found here. NEIGHBORHOOD: Kingsbridge, the Bronx DUMBO, for Down Under… Read More

Run DMC and the Revolution: Historic Hollis, Queens

It’s like that: Rap pioneers and proud sons of Queens NAME THAT NEIGHBORHOOD Some New York neighborhoods are simply named for their location on a map (East Village, Midtown). Others are given prefabricated designations (SoHo, DUMBO). But a few retain names that link them intimately with their pasts. Other entries in this series can be… Read More

Evacuation Day: Don’t let the door hit you, Brits!

George dusts his shoulders off and re-enters New York Today, November 25th, is the anniversary of the day when the British officially fled New York City after occupying the city for years during the Revolutionary War. For years after, New Yorkers celebrating this day by shimmying up a greased flagpole in Battery Park. I have… Read More

McGown’s Pass: the original tavern on the green

McGown’s Pass Tavern (date unknown, but possibly around 1913 We’re finally moving on from Central Park, but not before observing perhaps its most historically significant area — McGown’s Pass and the Block House. Located on the northern portion of the park, next to the charming Harlem Meer, are a collection of hills and bluffs left… Read More

July 4th: Independence Day (except for New York)

America declared its independence from Britain in 1776, only for New York City to become a British stronghold for years. New York’s true independence day is November 25, 1783, the day the Brits sailed out of New York harbor. In fact, on July 4, 1776, tensions were at their highest, but a major assault on… Read More

Was there really a British sex prison in SoHo?

Above: Peaceful Lispenard Meadow, future home of a British prison brothel? In the days of Collect Pond, the surrounding area was equally diverse and almost impossible to mentally construct today. Southeast of the pond was a place known as Beekman’s Swamp, a wetland drained by British landowner Jacobus Roosevelt on what would much later become… Read More


PODCAST: Collect Pond and Canal Street

Collect Pond (and what I assume to be Bunker Hill) as depicted in watercolors by artist Archibald Robertson in 1798 We celebrate a year of New York City history podcasting by re-visiting the topic of our very first show. Downtown Civic Center used to have a big ole pond in the middle of it which… Read More