|New York Architecture Images- notes|
New York City Below Forty-Second Street - Part 1
( Originally Published 1936 )
The Battery is a small park of some 20 acres at the southern end of Manhattan Island (which is about 13 miles long) and derives its name from a battery of 92 guns mounted there in 1693 when it was rumored that a French expedition was coming to take New York for Louis XIV. When the Dutch purchased Manhattan Island from the Indians in 1624 for blankets and trinkets worth about $24, the island did not extend quite so far south as where, today, South Ferry is, with its boats plying between the Battery and Staten Island and Brooklyn; much of Battery Park is made land. When Fort Amsterdam stood where the Custom House now is, there was a rocky ledge just beyond the island's southernmost tip, which the Dutch called Schreyers' Hook, after the Schreyers' Toren in Amsterdam, it being the last point from which `schreyers' (weepers) could watch vessels departing for the Old World, which was their world of home. I think you will like to recall this when you stand in Battery Park and watch the many, many ships go sailing out past Bartholdi's Statue of Liberty to sea — to the seven seas. Will Irwin reminds us that the Battery was again Weepers' Hook in 1918, when `all day long crowds stood at the Battery sea-wall watching the transports with their harlequin camouflage vanish into the mists of distance and tragic uncertainty.'
Another great interest of the Battery is that there, during the years of heavy immigration, were landed vast hordes of European peasants (nearly 8,000,000 of them) coming to make history in this New World. For the fort-shaped building,
erected in 1807 and now housing the Aquarium, ceased to be a fort in 1833 and became Castle Garden Opera House where Jenny Lind had her historic triumph under P. T. Barnum's management, in 1850. (Previous to that, in 1824, it was the scene of Lafayette's tumultuous reception.) And in 1855 Castle Garden became the landing-place for immigrants, which it continued to be during forty years. In 1917, when General Joffre came to America, he landed at Castle Garden and made his triumphal way up through New York. Plans for an entirely new type of Aquarium have been submitted. Perhaps when you get there they will have been carried out.
From the United States Barge Office at the southeastern tip of Battery Park, there is a boat every hour for Bedloe Island whereon stands Bartholdi's statue of Liberty Enlightening the World, presented to the people of the United States by the people of France. One hundred and sixty-seven stairs inside the statue permit those who don't miDd stair-climbing to ascend to the statue's head. Other steamers (ferryboats) leave the Barge Office for Ellis Island at a quarter before each hour. And every 10 minutes there is a ferry for Staten Island, a ride of 20 minutes. There are things worth seeing on Staten Island, but few visitors to New York take time for them.
Most visitors to the Battery enjoy seeing the Aquarium, which is open, free, every day. And many like to see the flag-staff which was once a mast on the Constitution and stands close to where the flagpole stood from which, on November 25, 1783 (Evacuation Day), young Van Arsdale tore down the British flag and raised the American flag to float for the first time over Manhattan Island.
The heroic bust of Giovanni da Verrazzano, in Battery Park, commemorates the Italian navigator, sailing in the interests of Francis I of France, who came into this magnificent harbor in 1524; but by the time news of his discovery reached France, the king was busy with other matters, and soon went into captivity in Spain, after the battle of Pavia. Had Francis not been so occupied, the history of Manhattan Island might have been very different.
Aristocratic residences used to surround Battery Park and enjoy that magnificent view, seaward, between the two stately rivers flowing on either side. But today few evidences of them remain. (East River is not actually a river, but an inlet of Long Island Sound.)
New York history begins with the coming, in 1609, of Henry Hudson, an English navigator in the employ of the Dutch East India Company, sailing a small ship, the Half Moon, with a crew of eighteen men.
We don't know a great deal about Henry Hudson. This voyage on the Half Moon in 1609 was his third attempt to find that Northwest Passage which was the fervent desire of nearly all navigators for so many years. Submitting to his mutinous crew he abandoned his northward course and turned south to Virginia, following a plan sent him by his friend, Captain John Smith. On September 3 he entered the Bay of New York and sailed up the majestic river for about 150 miles, to about where Albany now is, seeking passage to the South Seas or to China.
When the Half Moon put in at Dartmouth, England, on October 4, it was seized and detained by the English Government. The following April, Hudson sailed from London the little ship Discovery, of 55 tons, and sailed along what we now call Hudson's Strait, which is about 450 miles long with an average width of 100 miles, and into Hudson Bay, that great inland sea which is 1300 miles from south to north, and nearly 600 miles from east to west. Hudson spent three months exploring the eastern shore of the vast bay, and then went — perforce — into winter quarters. In the spring, his mutinous men abandoned him and eight others and sailed the Discovery back to England. Nothing further was ever heard of Hudson or of his eight companions. Of the mutineers who survived and were tried in England all were acquitted. See the National Geographic Magazine for April, 1939, with Frederick G. Vosburgh's fine article, `Henry Hudson, Magnificent Failure.'
Hudson River, Bay, Strait, and Territory had all been repeatedly visited and even drawn on maps before he saw them; but he did what none of his predecessors had done to make them and their resources known to the world.
We don't even know how old he was before the North swallowed him up in mystery, nor who waited in steadily shrinking hope for his return. New Yorkers and many others mention his name probably millions of times a day; yet how many of them ever give a thought to the indomitable man surrounded by sullen subordinates who first sailed up past the glorious Palisades in search of a route to China or to the South Seas?
The little oval park in Broadway, north of the Battery, is called Bowling Green. According to tradition, it was there that Peter Minuit, director-general of the West India Trading Company of Holland, who had come over with two shiploads of colonizers, bought Manhattan Island from the Indians for $24 worth of beads, bright-colored cloth, etc. That was in 1626. For sixteen years there had been Dutch vessels coming and going, engaged in the fur trade; and in 1613 one of those ships burned and a new one had to be built for the return voyage. To shelter himself and his crew while they were building the new ship, the captain, Adriaen Block, had four huts built; and these constituted the first settlement of white men on the island, the foundation of a trading post which was the fifth white settlement on the continent of which we have definite historical knowledge. St. Augustine was founded by the Spanish in 1565; then there was no other colonizing until the English came to Jamestown in 1607, and the Spanish settled in Santa F6 in 1609 — a year after Champlain founded Quebec. Plymouth had been founded for six years when Peter Minuit made his purchase.
Those huts built by Adriaen Block's crew are believed to have been situated about where 41 Broadway is now.
The Dutch market used to be held on the Green; and in the year of George Washington's birth (1732) some resident of the city which had then been English for nearly seventy years, rented the Green for a private bowling green and enclosed it. In 1770 a lead statue of George III was erected there, and in the following year an iron fence was brought from England to dignify the enclosure. In July, 1776, after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, King George was pulled down by a furious mob and melted into bullets. In April, 1938, Bowling Green, restored as nearly as possible, was re-dedicated with picturesque ceremonies.
The Green stands between the Custom House, on the east, and Number 1 Broadway, on the west. At No. 1 Broadway there was built, in 1756, a fine house which, in 1776, was occupied by General Israel Putnam until the British drove Washing-ton and his army north to Harlem Heights; and then Howe and Clinton took possession of No. 1 Broadway. It was there that Washington called the council of war which decided to evacuate Manhattan. It was there that Major Andre wrote to Benedict Arnold the letters which led to Andre's capture and death. In 1794 the mansion became the Washington Hotel where many noted persons stayed — among them, Talleyrand.
Starting at No. 2 Broadway and running southeast is White-hall Street which led to Governor Peter Stuyvesant's house.
Stuyvesant came to New Amsterdam (soon to be New York) as governor, in 1647 — stumping on his wooden leg and spluttering about everything. In 1664, the Merry Monarch of England, Charles II, granted to his brother, the Duke of York (later James II), the territory between the Connecticut River and Delaware Bay, and sent a fleet of four ships, with 300 or 400 men, to take possession. Stuyvesant's burghers refused to support him in defying the English, so he was compelled to surrender the town and fort. He returned to Holland for a couple of years. Then, in 1667 he was back again, and established his farm called the Bouwerie, where he died five years later.
If you are strolling in Lower New York, you ought to walk south on Whitehall Street, thinking of irascible old Peter shaking his wooden leg in fury at having to hand over New Amster-dam to the British. And when you come to Pearl Street, turn left to Broad Street, where, at the southeast corner of Pearl and Broad Streets, is Fraunces' Tavern, housed in a building which is one of the oldest in the city.
Samuel Fraunces, a West Indian negro, established the Queen's Head Tavern there in 1762, in what had been the mansion of a wealthy Huguenot. And there, on December 4, 1783, nine days after the British evacuation of New York, Washington took leave of his closest officers before starting south to Annapolis where he resigned his commission to the Continental Congress and received the thanks of the nation. Christmas Eve he was back at Mount Vernon, a private gentleman again.
If it is near lunch time, by all means lunch at Fraunces' Tavern. And either before or after lunching visit the Long Room, the scene of Washington's farewell; and the interesting museum of the American Revolution on the floor above.
After lunch, you might walk up Broad Street (which in Dutch days had a canal in the middle of it) to Wall Street and the site of Washington's inauguration as first President of the United States, and the New York Stock Exchange; or you might go up Broad Street to Beaver and turn left to New Street, the first street laid out in New York under English rule, and continue one block more on Beaver Street to Bowling Green; then walk up Broadway to Wall Street.
Unless you'd like, while close to it, to see the Seaman's Church Institute of New York, incorporated in 1844 for `the religious and temporal welfare of seamen and boatmen.' Atop the beautiful 13-story building is a lighthouse tower erected by public subscription as a memorial to those who perished in the sinking of the Titanic. The building is at 25 South Street, which is the eastern waterfront of Lower New York; and to reach it you would turn to your right in Pearl Street, after leaving Fraunces' TaverD, and walk east (right) in Coenties Slip for two blocks.
For nearly a century the Institute has done a grand work for sailors ashore.
The Cunard Building at 25 Broadway is well worth going into, to see the Great Hall which was inspired by the Baths of Caracalla at Rome.
Opposite, at 26 Broadway, is the Standard Oil Building which cost some thirty-five million dollars, and is by many persons considered one of the grandest architectural achievements among skyscrapers.
Will Irwin believes that `the most astonishing view of sky-scrapers in mass to be obtained from the soil of our island,' is had on some morning when the sky is overcast and still, from Telegram Square under the elevated structure west of Broadway, with your back to the westward walls and your gaze uplifted to the tower of the Standard Oil BuildiDg which seems then, he says, `like the exalted altar of some strange rite; an altar beyond the conception of man — raised by the gods to a greater god.'
Another recommendation of Mr. Irwin's in regard to sky-scrapers is that on a winter afternoon between five and six, when it is dark but the offices are not yet closed, you take the Cortlandt Street Ferry from Jersey City back to Manhattan. `A primitive man,' he says, `magicked onto the Cortlandt Street Ferry at this hour, would fall on his knees, believing that he saw the HeaveDly City.'
Or, still quoting Mr. Irwin, `late on any fine afternoon but especially in summer, go to the New Jersey heights across the river — opposite Forty-Second Street, say. As the sun drops low, it glares into the windows of the skyscrapers all along the island, and they give back the light in a flare of rose. I know an artist who sometimes crosses the river just to revel in this effect. "It isn't art perhaps," he says, "but it is glory. It ought to be played with trumpets!"'
Anyone can identify to you the towering buildings of down-town (and uptown!) New York. And you may give yourself, unaided, the thrill of contemplating their stupendous masses and conjecturing the life that goes on in their innumerable cubicles or cells. But if you ever get a chance to be down in the financial district with someone who knows a good deal about it and can tell tales of its fantastic episodes, don't miss that chance! If Scheherazade had had such material for her Thousand-and-One Nights!
New York City Below Forty-Second Street - Part 2
( Originally Published 1936 )
Wall Street runs from Broadway to the East River; and at its head on the west side of Broadway is Trinity Church, the parent of the Episcopal Church in America. At the foot of Wall Street there is a skyport where the millionaires may land from their private planes.
The first Church of England services in New York were held in a little chapel near the Battery. In 1697 a grant of land was made to Trinity Church `in or near a street without the north gate of the city, commonly called Broadway,' and eight years later a further grant west of Broadway was made. Holding tenaciously to this land, now fabulously valuable, has made Trinity one of the wealthiest parishes in the world — I should think the wealthiest by far; its vast income is used for many chapels and a great variety of mission work and social service. But Trinity has been bitterly assailed as a conscienceless land-lord and is practically `the villain' of the play called `One Third of a Nation,' which tens of thousands have seen on the stage and millions are soon to see in the movies.
The present edifice is the third on that site, and is an attempt at Gothic, built between 1830 and 1840. As a place of worship it is much used on week-days and little used on Sundays. The churchyard is a popular breathing-place at noon for multitudes of office workers, and not a few attend the noonday services.
At the outbreak of the Revolution, Trinity refused to omit the customary prayers for King George, and was closed — until Howe and Clinton took possession of New York. Then, almost immediately, occurred that disastrous fire which broke out in Whitehall Slip and destroyed most of lower New York, Trinity Church included. At that same time the twenty-year-old Connecticut lad, Nathan Hale, was hanged at what is now First Avenue and 45th Street, regretting that he had but one life to give his country.
In Trinity graveyard Alexander Hamilton is buried. He died in Jane Street, Greenwich Village, where William Bayard had his country home (the site is now numbered 81 Jane Street) on July 12, 1804. His duel with Aaron Burr was fought at Weehawken, on the New Jersey shore opposite 42d Street, on the very spot where his eldest son, Philip, a boy of twenty, had been killed in a duel with a friend of Aaron Burr's three years before. Robert Fulton lies in Trinity Churchyard, too; and Captain James Lawrence, commander of the Chesapeake, who was mortally wounded in an encounter with the British ship Shannon, off Boston harbor, in June, 1813, and whose dying plea to his men was, `Don't give up the ship.'
Walk down Wall Street the very short distance past New Street to Nassau Street. On the northeast corner of Wall and Nassau Streets stands the United States Sub-Treasury Building with J. Q. A. Ward's heroic-sized statue of George Washington standing in front, high above the heads of the throngs which pass it. The Colonial City Hall, built in 1699, stood there (the present building dates only from 1812) with the pillory, stocks, and whipping-post in front and the Debtors' Prison in the upper story; it was called Federal Hall when Washington took the oath of office in front of it on April 30, 1789, and became the first President of the United States. The stone on which he stood is preserved in the south wall of the present building. After the ceremony he attended divine service in St. Paul's Chapel, to which you will doubtless go next.
Many events of historic importance took place at the Colonial City Hall, but the one which is, probably, most momentous next to Washington's inauguration, was that which established the freedom of the press in this country. In 1734 John Peter Zenger's newspaper, the Weekly Messenger, was publicly burned in front of the City Hall because it had criticized the authorities. Zenger was tried in the City Hall, and acquitted — thereby setting a very great precedent.
Adjoining the Sub-Treasury Building is the United States Assay Office which has five floors of vaults, underground, in which twenty billion dollars' worth of gold and silver bullion can be stored.
Diagonally across from the Sub-Treasury is the New York Stock Exchange, organized in 1792 by a group of brokers who met beneath a buttonwood tree where 70 Wall Street now stands, and later at the Tontine Coffee House at the northeast corner of Wall and Pearl Streets, close to the old slave market.
Opposite the Stock Exchange, on the east side of Broad Street (Broad Street changes its name to Nassau when it crosses Wall Street), is the House of Morgan, a little marble building only two stories high, occupying what is conceded to be the most valuable piece of real estate in the world.
On September 16, 1920, as Trinity Church clock was striking noon, a terrific explosion took place in front of this building and more than thirty persons were killed. The mystery of who did it, and why, has never been solved.
At the northeast corner of Wall Street and William Street (the first street east of Nassau) is the Bank of New York, founded in 1784 by Alexander Hamilton, who wrote its constitution. It is No. 48 Wall Street, and has murals showing how Wall Street looked when Hamilton knew it. At No. 52 is the New York Life Insurance Company, whose building stands on ground part of which was owned by Captain Kidd, until his death in 1701. I wonder if you know that Kidd led an exemplary life for more than fifty years, and earned all the obloquy that attaches to his name in the short space of two or three years? He went to London with a sloop of his own, to trade, in 1695, and the next year received a commission from the King (William III) to cruise against pirates in the Eastern Seas and arrest all he could catch. He sailed from Plymouth on this worthy enterprise, and got to Madagascar where, in-stead of capturing pirates, he became one. He was arrested in this country and sent to London for trial. There he was found guilty of murder and piracy, and hanged at Execution Dock, Wapping.
Your destination now is Fulton Street which is six short blocks north of Wall Street. If you want to see the famous Fulton Market take Pearl Street north from Wall Street. A shorter route would be to return to Broadway.
At the corner of Fulton Street (named for Robert Fulton) and Broadway, is St. Paul's Chapel, one of the eight chapels maintained by Trinity Church. It was built in 1764-66, and in it you may see Washington's pew and recall the service he attended there immediately after his inauguration. General Richard Montgomery, killed at Quebec, is buried here. The monument to him was ordered in Paris by Benjamin Franklin, in 1776, but his remains were not brought back from Quebec till 1808. Others who worshiped at St. Paul's were Lord Howe and Major Andre. The Broadway end of the edifice is the back. It fronted on a pleasant lawn sloping down toward the river, which then flowed where Greenwich Street is now, two blocks west of Broadway.
On John Street (the street south of Fulton) there used to be, at No. 17, the John Street Theater where `Hail Columbia' was first sung by its composer, Fayles, to an audience that included President Washington. Before that, it was the scene of many plays given by British officers, including Major Andre, who is said to have had quite a talent for acting. The gallant young Major has always had a place in my heart; he was the first character out of history to lay hold on my childish imagination and pity, and anything associated with him always appeals to me.
Another famous old theater of New York was the Park Theater on Park Row, south of City Hall Park. There Junius Brutus Booth made his debut. There Edmund Kean and Edwin Forrest played, and Charles and Fanny Kemble. There America first heard Italian opera (in 1825) and there it first saw a ballet. In 1842 a ball was given there in honor of Charles Dickens.
The famous old Astor House was on Broadway between Vesey Street (the first street north of Fulton) and Barclay Street. It was opened in 1836, and the roster of its guests includes most of the great names, from Andrew Jackson on, for fifty years.
Where the World Building now stands on Park Row at Frankfort Street was the site of Tammany Hall's first permanent headquarters. The organization came into existence in 1789, the same year that gave us the Constitution and Washing-ton's presidency.
There are several stories about the origin of this political power which has ruled New York, with only occasional interludes, since 1800; but the most picturesque one is that Colonel Marinus Willett, mayor of New York, came up from the South where he had been visiting the Creek Indians, bringing with him a chief and twenty-eight warriors of the tribe; and when they got to New York they were welcomed by a delegation dressed in full Indian costume, which conducted the Creeks to Federal Hall and into the presence of the Great White Father. This was done not to impress the Indian visitors, but as a `publicity stunt,' to impress upon New York that a new political organization had been formed to express the power of `the pee-pul' against those more or less aristocratic men who had founded this new government.
An explanation less picturesque is that many of the societies of Colonial New York, which had remained loyal to King George, were called for St. George, St. Andrew, St. David. So certain revolutionists, having heard of an Indian named Tammany who was noted for his benevolence and for his love of liberty, dubbed him a Saint, and called themselves Sons of St. Tammany. And when our new nation was only twelve days old, an upholsterer in New York, named William Mooney, founded the Society of St. Tammany, whose officers were given Indian titles. Its object was to represent the middle class who were opposed to the aristocratic leaders. At first it expressed itself mainly in speeches and occasional parades. Then Aaron Burr was largely instrumental in making it a political power opposed to the Federalist Party, and as such it had a big share in electing Thomas Jefferson, in 1800; at which time also its leaders won election to some of New York City's municipal offices. Burr controlled Tammany until his downfall caused by the killing of Alexander Hamilton.
New York City Below Forty-Second Street - Part 3
( Originally Published 1936 )
City Hall Park, now eight acres in extent, is much smaller than it used to be when the Sons of Liberty used to meet there, before the Revolution; and when the courier from the Continental Congress in Philadelphia read there, on July 9, 1776, to General Washington and the troops and people, the Declaration of Independence; but it is a considerable area, reckoned in real estate values, for a city dominated by commercialism to preserve for the `setting' of a lovely little building projected in 1800 by a French architect, Joseph Mangin, whose firm received $350 for the plans and a salary of six dollars a day as supervising architects.
One of the many blessings of the downfall of `Bill' Tweed, Tammany's most notorious boss, who was brought low largely by the cartoons of Tom Nast, is that Tweed, having completed the County Court House, whose `every brick and stone represents a thousand dollars of stolen money,' was stopped from sweeping away the beautiful little City Hall and replacing it by some monstrous Temple to Graft. How the building has survived is a mystery; but there it is, enshrining many memories and still the place where New York City extends her welcome to her most distinguished visitors. There she received Lafayette in 1824, and the Prince of Wales in 1860, his grandson in 1920; and Joffre and Foch and many, many more. There she celebrated the opening of the Erie Canal, the introduction of Croton water into New York, the laying of the Atlantic cable, the centenary of Washington's inauguration, and other great events. There lay in state Lincoln and Grant.
The City of New York is the seventh largest administrative unit in the world, being exceeded only by our National Government and the five great Powers. The Mayor, the City Council, and the Board of Estimate and Apportionment (which holds the purse-strings) all function in that graceful little building which looks as if it should be in Charlottesville, Virginia. (I don't know, but I'd be willing to wager that Jefferson, then President, had something to do with the selection of the design.)
You would probably like to see the Governor's Room, or Trumbull Room, on the second floor, where are the chairs and tables of solid mahogany which were used in the old Federal Building at Wall and Nassau Streets where Washington had his first Presidential headquarters. There are also many interesting portraits.
You will almost certainly be told by someone that the back of the City Hall was built of stone, not marble, because it was believed that no one would ever see the back — no one would have any occasion to go that far north. Now the City Hall is flanked on the north by gigantic structures more or less subsidiary to it: the Municipal Building, the Hall of Records, the County Court House, the New York State Building, the New York City Building for the Departments of Health, Hospitals, and Sanitation; the Federal Building, the Supreme Court Building, the Criminal Courts Building, the Tombs (city prison), soon to be replaced by a model modern structure to house 1090 inmates in the prison wing.
In the little park, toward Broadway, stands the new Liberty Pole, on the exact site of the old one; and, not far from it, MacMonnies' statue of Nathan Hale. In the southeastern section of the park, near Park Row, is the Crane Fountain with MacMonnies' group representing Civic Virtue, which aroused a storm of controversy when it was dedicated.
From the east side of the park, alongside the old World Building, runs a canyon called Frankfort Street down which, in the direction of Brooklyn Bridge, I shall always see a slim young creature going with quick, eager steps that might have become a run — so much was there in the world to see and to do, and so short seemed the time for seeing and doing it — save for the slightly restraining remembrance that when one is an editor one must have some dignity.
For that was the route to Franklin Square, and the great, gaunt structure that housed Harper and Brothers, publishers and printers. What ghosts haunted that rattle-trap old building with its iron stairs like fire-escapes, its gloomy offices, its smell of printer's ink and of virgin paper! Thackeray and Dickens and Charles Reade; Bancroft and Motley and Bayard Taylor; Edwin A. Abbey and Winslow Homer and Tom Nast and Howard Pyle and Frederic Remington; and so on and on and on. Pyle was not a `ghost,' though, but very real flesh and blood when I was much thereabouts; and so was Remington. And Mark Twain was often to be encountered there. And Henry Mills Alden was editing Harper's Magazine. And John Kendrick Bangs was there, and James Barnes, and Margaret Sangster (editing what used to be Harper's Bazar! — with frequent contributions from a youngster that was ME); and oh! so many more who were good to know and are grand to remember. My acquaintance in those days included many, if not most, of the men who were `star reporters' on Park Row and became bright lights in a wider world where good writing gets recognition. But I knew them away from Park Row rather than on it. Harper and Brothers have handsome new offices uptown now, much more convenient and comfortable for everybody; and there will never again be in New York any-thing like that dingy, ramshackle old building in Franklin Square, with `Benjamin's' statue brooding over it, and Brooklyn Bridge seeming to be, somehow, an appurtenance of Harpers', leading to the east. Napoleon was shaking the world when Harpers settled there. And Mussolini had made his march on Rome before they left it.
Visitors to New York do not walk across Brooklyn Bridge as once they did. But those who do, have their reward.
New York City Below Forty-Second Street - Part 4
( Originally Published 1936 )
If you are using a car for your exploration of Lower New York, you can easily see many interesting parts of the city on your way uptown from the Battery. If you are exploring on foot, you will probably be `through' for the day after you have seen City Hall.
On Broadway between City Hall and Madison Square (23d Street) there is not a great deal to interest a visitor unless he is a special student of Old New York — meaning New York of the nineteenth century in its middle decades: where Barnum had his first museum; where A. T. Stewart began business in a twelve-foot wooden store; where Christy's Minstrels played; where `Jim' Fisk was shot; etc. Wanamaker's Department Store, which is one of `the sights' of New York, is at Broadway between 8th and 10th Streets; and Grace Church is at Broadway and 10th.
West of this lies Greenwich Village, and east of it is the Bowery and Astor Place, with Cooper Union.
You might, if you took the Subway to Bowling Green or to the Battery, take a Broadway bus from City Hall to the Uptown street nearest your hotel; or take one to 8th Street, have a look at Wanamaker's, or a rest there, with tea and music; and there board a Fifth Avenue bus for your ride uptown.
If you are sight-seeing by automobile, you may choose whether you would like to go north by way of Broadway with a detour to Greenwich Village and then from Washington Square up Fifth Avenue; or take a northeasterly route from City Hall through many foreign quarters, the Bowery, Stuyvesant Square, etc., to your hotel.
I suggest the latter, because it would be difficult to see other-wise, whereas you can easily go by yourself to Wanamaker's, to Washington Square, and to Greenwich Village. What you can easily do, if you have a car for the day, is to go down to the Battery via Fifth Avenue, Washington Square, Greenwich Village, and Broadway; and after having seen Lower New York as outlined in the foregoing pages, return by way of Chinatown, Mulberry Street, the Bowery, Gramercy Park, etc. For many visitors, that one day of sight-seeing below 42d Street may be all they desire, leaving the other days of their stay in New York for Uptown delights — museums, shops, etc. — most of which can be explored without assistance.
I shall not attempt to offer step-by-step directions for that quarter which includes Chinatown, the Ghetto, and their neighbors; for I think that few of New York's many visitors go there unguided. Many go to Chinatown at night in a sightseeing bus, on a `gaping' expedition. If you want a real revelation of what interests lie in New York's vast foreign population, you must go with someone who has studied it with sympathy and understanding, and learned to know it, not `in a mass,' but through individuals who represent the whole. A few contacts with persons who typify either the dwellers in those quarters of New York or the little army of workers who devote their lives to social service there is worth any amount of such `gaping' as a stranger may do. If you do not wish to take with you a courier from some such bureau as Mrs. Jennings', then see if you cannot get a letter to one of the residents in a Settlement House like the Jacob Riis at 48 Henry Street, the University Settlement at Rivington and Eldridge Streets, or the College Settlement at 84 First Street, or the Nurses' Settlement, 265 Henry Street. A letter is not necessary, but it helps.
That young person who so frequently made her way down to Franklin Square, used also to be (lucky youngster!) a very good friend of Jacob Riis and to spend time with him in his office on Mulberry Street, opposite the old Police Headquarters where his admirer, Theodore Roosevelt, had been Police Commissioner. What hours of enchantment those were! What with the Under-world being controlled (more or less) from across the street, and `the other half' living thick on every hand, so that the great-hearted little police reporter for the New York Sun could not — if he would! — make a single foray from his humble office without becoming more and more conscious of their problems and more and more eager to make others conscious of them too. I sometimes think I haven't forgotten a single thing Jacob Riis ever told me — else how could so many treasured recollections remain? — and though some of this may have been due to my eagerness, I'm sure that mostly it is due to the vividness of his personality and to the great sincerity of his fervor.
Police Headquarters, of which we hear so much on the radio that nearly everyone wants to visit it, is at Grand, Broome, and Centre Streets, and is a fascinating place to spend an hour — if you can. The most interesting time to be there is in the morning at nine o'clock when the line-up of prisoners takes place before an audience of detectives assembled to look them over and listen to what they have to say in answer to the questions asked them. The prisoners appear on a small stage that is strongly lighted, and speak into an amplifier so that everyone in the big gymnasium can hear what they say. There is a good deal of comedy, induced by their efforts to be evasive, and an occasional touch of tragedy. Much to reflect upon.
Chinatown, like the `old gray mare,' `ain't what she used t'be,' and no longer stages shows for the gaping tourists; but it is not without interest. The Bowery has become a humdrum, dreary street. There is a very considerable amount of slum-clearance going on in many parts of New York, though nothing like so much as there ought to be. The only way to get a worth-having idea of New York's problem in this respect, and what is being done to meet it, is — as I have said — to go with some-one who knows where the most significant spots are; someone who has made a study of municipal and social endeavor.
On East 4th Street, between Lafayette Place and the Bowery, you will find, at No. 29, an amazing bit of Old New York: the dwelling of one Seabury Tredwell, a prosperous hardware merchant who built it in 1830. It was surrounded then by a garden with magnolia trees; and John Jacob Astor lived just over a brick wall.
Tredwell, of aristocratic English and Knickerbocker stock, was the nephew of a Tory clergyman who was the first Episcopal bishop of New York after we became a nation. The nephew was not a Tory, but he was intensely conservative. He is said to have been the last man in New York to wear a pig-tail.
He furnished his new home with the best pieces brought from his earlier residence, on Dey Street (south of Fulton Street) and added new articles which were the best of the period. The house was elegant; it satisfied Mr. Tredwell and — presumably — his family; they settled down to enjoy it, and as years went by they made no changes. They added nothing, discarded nothing.
One after another the Tredwells went on, till there was just one daughter left. She lived to a very great age (ninety-two), dying only in 1933, more than a century after her father built this house; and for forty years she was a helpless invalid who never left the bedroom floor. But all that time the whole house was kept as it had always been.
After her death (she died in the crimson-canopied mahogany bed in which she was born) the house was bought by a new society formed to preserve New York's historic monuments, and it is now open to the public.
I'd go, by all means, to see it, if that sort of thing interests you. And if you go, ask to be shown the mysterious `well' between the master's and the mistress's bedrooms on the second floor. A trapdoor, concealed by a drawer in the dressing-room between those chambers, gives access to a dark well down which ran a ladder to the level of the drawing-room floor; and there is a niche in which a man can stand upright. No one living knows for what use Seabury Tredwell intended it, or whether he ever utilized it.
As you go uptown from the Bowery, you pass Astor Place, where Cooper Union is, on the site of Peter Cooper's grocery store. It was, however, not the grocery business that enabled Peter to found and endow Cooper Union to be `forever devoted to the advancement of science and art in their application to the varied and useful purposes of life.' He built, when he was thirty-seven, the Canton ironworks in Baltimore, where he designed and constructed for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad the first steam locomotive built in America, the Tom Thumb. In one of his several factories the first iron structural beams were made (in 1854) and the Bessemer process was first tried in America (in 1856). He was actively interested with Cyrus Field in the laying of the first Atlantic cable, and it was his money which made possible the New York, Newfoundland and Telegraph Company, of which he was president; he was also president of the North American Telegraph Company, which controlled more than half the telegraph lines of the United States.
Himself practically unschooled, he took a prominent part in educational affairs, and in 1857 — more than twenty-five years before his death — he founded Cooper Union to provide free courses in instruction, lectures, and other opportunities for self-advancement. Cooper Union, further endowed by Peter's son, Edward, and his son-in-law, Abram S. Hewitt, by Andrew Carnegie and others, has done a great work of education for tens of thousands of New York's underprivileged youth. Many famous speakers have been heard there. It was at Cooper Union that `the prairie giant,' Lincoln, made the speech of February 27, 1860, which changed New York's opinion of him from derision to respect.
You may want to see the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration, which contains many treasures, including the Pierpont Morgan Collection of Textiles, a fine collection of laces, the Jacob Schiff Collection of eighteenth-century French and Chinese silks, and several collections of old furniture.
When you leave Cooper Union, take Stuyvesant Street, which runs northeast from Astor Place, to Second Avenue. At 10th Street and Second Avenue you will find the famous old Church of St. Mark's-in-the-Bouwerie, where Peter Stuyvesant's burial vault is incorporated in the east wall. It was from a grave in that churchyard that the body of A. T. Stewart was stolen, soon after burial; it was never recovered. St. Mark's was built at the end of the eighteenth century; but there has been nothing of the eighteenth century, nor even of the nineteenth, in the interpretation given there, these twenty-five years past, to the religion of Christ. Its former rector, the Reverend Dr. William N. Guthrie, used to be a thorn in the flesh of his bishop and of other staid churchmen; but he made an earnest, and intelligent, effort to bridge the gap between traditional, formal religion, as many churches preserve it, and the seething modern life of such a population as now exists on the fringes of the Bowery.
It was the annual Sunday-school picnic of St. Mark's, on June 15, 1904, which took the old steamer, the General Slocum, to go up the East River to picnic grounds. Off Blackwell's Island she caught fire — and more than a thousand perished by burning or drowning.
You ought to see something (and know something) of Fourteenth Street; but you can do that on another day. So, continue up Second Avenue to Stuyvesant Square, where you will find St. George's Church, of which the first J. P. Morgan was a warden and a faithful attendant. When St. George's was built, in the forties, there was an unimpeded view from it to the East River. Members of New York's `best families' began to settle in the vicinity, and Stuyvesant Square, Rutherford Place, Irving Place, became among the most desirable addresses in New York. By the last decade of the nineteenth century they had been pressed out by the tide of German immigrants coming northward on Second Avenue. But for a considerable period after the fine old houses were abandoned by the very elegant, they were even more notably occupied by a literary colony. And always, these forty years past, Tammany chiefs have lived here, close — but not too close! — to the `pee-pul.' Many doctors live there now, close to the hospitals.
It is, perhaps, the Quaker meeting-house, next to St. George's, which gives Stuyvesant Square an air that reminds some of old Philadelphia. There are many hospitals there, now; but the charm of yesteryears has not wholly departed.
From Stuyvesant Square, turn west on 17th Street to Irving Place, which begins at East 14th Street and runs north to Gramercy Park.
The Washington Irving High School, between 16th and 17th Streets, is one of the outstanding high schools of the country and much visited by persons interested in education. The murals by Barry Faulkner, the gift of Mrs. E. H. Harriman, depict many scenes in the early history of New Amsterdam. At the southwest corner of 17th Street and Irving Place is the house which once belonged to Washington Irving's nephew. There, in his later days, Irving spent some time, occupying the large room on the ground floor. At No. 55, north of 17th Street, 0. Henry once lived.
Don't miss `Pomander Walk,' or `Cottage Row,' on East 19th Street between Irving Place and Third Avenue. There, prosperous architects and artists have remodeled old houses and stables and created what many persons consider the most charming block in New York.
At Nos. 26-28 East 20th Street is the birthplace of Theodore Roosevelt, now the Roosevelt Memorial Museum.
Gramercy Park has suffered a good many changes in recent years, but still retains much of its aristocratic charm and exclusiveness. It was part of a twenty-acre farm, back in the mid-years of the eighteenth century; the farm belonged to James Duane, once Mayor of New York, and he named it `Gramercy Seat.' In 1831 a large portion of this farm was bought by Samuel Ruggles, who laid out the park and cut up the land around it into sixty-six large lots which he sold to a very select list of New Yorkers each of whom became a joint owner of the little park. Peter Cooper, who had just built the first American locomotive, probably was not yet affluent enough to buy one of those lots; but he built a house as near to them as he could get, on Lexington Avenue (where some of his descendants still dwell), and when he had founded Cooper Union and helped to lay the Atlantic cable, the trustees of Gramercy Park conferred on him, as an Order of Merit, a key to Gramercy Park.
In the iron-fenced, box-hedged and beautifully shaded Square stands a bronze statue of Edwin Booth as `Hamlet.' In 1888 Booth bought No. 16 Gramercy Park and gave Stanford White a commission to remodel it as a club for members of the dramatic profession and of kindred professions. He lived at the club, and died there on June 7, 1893. His room is piously preserved, just as he left it. His fine collection of books, pictures, playbills, prints relating to the theater has been greatly augmented by other gifts and is now the most important in America.
Walls may have ears; but if those at 16 Gramercy Park had tongues, they could tell tales that would last more than a Thousand-and-One Nights and never for a moment lag in interest.
No. 17 was the boyhood home of James W. Gerard, former United States Ambassador to Germany. Nos. 14 and 15, now the National Arts Club, were the home of Samuel J. Tilden, eminent lawyer, reformer, governor of New York, and candidate for the Presidency, who was one of the founders of the New Public Library. No. 21 was the home for many, many years of John Bigelow, father of Poultney Bigelow, who was once joint-editor with William Cullen Bryant of the New York Evening Post; later, United States Minister to France. He and Tilden were close friends.
Stanford White, Cyrus W. Field, and Robert Ingersoll were a few among the many other noted residents of Gramercy Park. Today, the Park is the home of many clubs, including The Players and the National Arts.
Go, now, west on 23d Street to Madison Avenue and turn north, following the east side of Madison Square which once upon a time was the Potter's Field; and years later was supremely elegant. Madison Square Garden, Stanford White's triumph, with its Giralda tower atop which stood Saint-Gaudens" Diana,' occupied the square bounded by 26th and 27th Streets, Madison and Fourth Avenues, where the New York Life Building is now. (The new Madison Square Garden, which has nothing to do with Madison Square, is on Eighth Avenue, at 49th to 50th Streets.) Note the Eternal Light in Madison Square, a memorial to Gold Star Mothers. And of course you'll identify the famous clock tower of the Metropolitan Life Building.
Baseball, which used to be called `The New York Game,' was much played in Madison Square before the Civil War. Some think that there it had its genesis.
New York City Below Forty-Second Street - Part 5
( Originally Published 1936 )
Now, as you go north on Madison Avenue, you are approaching Murray Hill, which used to be celebrated for its fruit farms. There, in 1776, Dame Murray entertained Lord Howe, Lord Cornwallis, and their staffs. with cakes and wine and song whilst Washington's Continentals got away to Harlem Heights, guided by Aaron Burr.
Murray Hill was subsequently a nursery for the `New York game'; for there were organized the famous amateur teams such as the Knickerbockers and Pioneers, whose members, as Will Irwin says, `in the course of our Western emigration, or of the Civil War, taught the game to the whole United States.'
When the elder J. P. Morgan felt that the vicinity of Stuyvesant Square was becoming too much encroached upon for dignified residence, he chose the summit of Murray Hill, at 36th Street and Madison Avenue, as the site of his new brown-stone mansion. On 36th Street, east of his house, he subsequently erected, from plans by McKim, Mead and White, the Morgan Library, one of the greatest treasures on Manhattan Island. The mansion of his son, the present head of the house, stands at the corner of Madison Avenue and 37th Street. But the father's house was taken down, some time after his death, and replaced by an annex of the Library, providing accommodation for those who are permitted to use the treasures Mr. Morgan collected.
`A rare and precious book,' Will Irwin reminds us, `stands in a different category from a painting or any other object of art. You put the painting under glass, hang it on a wall, guard it by a rail. But to use or appreciate a book the admirer must have access to it, must turn its pages.' And only a few can be trusted to handle books not only worth their weight in diamonds, but irreplaceable.
The Morgan estate formed the Morgan Associates, who hold this treasure in trust for scholarship. Mr. Morgan's magnificent collection of ivories, enamels, Gothic statuary, tapestries, ceramics, went into the care of the Metropolitan Museum.
A thousand choice paintings were sold to provide an endowment for the Library, which is to be kept up and further enriched — not for `the public' at large, but for scholars, artists, craftsmen capable of using it to the benefit of many.
Any attempt to describe the perfection of the main building is beyond me. To summarize even a few of its treasures would take pages of this little book; but at least one may say that in original autographed English manuscripts, it stands alone. The collection of Bibles is perhaps the best privately owned Bible collection in the world.
Lacking credentials you may not be able to see many of the treasures of the Morgan Library; but you may walk one block west to Fifth Avenue, passing Tiffany's great establishment at Fifth Avenue and 37th Street, and find yourself just three short blocks south of the New York Public Library which plays an important part in the lives of a varied multitude of New Yorkers — from those who use it as a place of rendezvous, and those who seek a missing ancestor, to those who pursue serious studies and those who want a warm place to sit.
The square between 40th and 42d Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues was long occupied in part by the huge reservoir from which Croton water was distributed throughout the city. In 1895, three important libraries in New York consolidated to form the New York Public Library, and soon afterward were granted land on the Fifth Avenue side of the Square for a building to house the collections of the Astor Library, the Lenox Library, and the Tilden Trust. The cornerstone of the building, designed by Carrere and Hastings, was laid in 1902, and the library was not opened to the public till 1911. In 1901 Mr. Andrew Carnegie offered the city $5,200,000 for the construction and equipment of more circulating libraries, on condition that the city provide the land and maintain the libraries in Manhattan, the Bronx, and on Staten Island, circulating mil-lions of books each year.
The stately building on Fifth Avenue is mainly devoted to the Reference Department of the library and most of its two million or so volumes are for use within the building only; though there is a Circulation Room also. Back of the library, toward Sixth Avenue, is Bryant Park.
The library as a structure and as an institution is so important a part of New York that I'm sure you will wish to make some acquaintance with it.
And now you have seen the highlights of Lower New York and of the principal route north by the East Side.
Let us glance eastward on 42d Street, which is one of the busiest streets in the world, and remember that the section from Fifth Avenue east for three or four blocks is sometimes called `New Wall Street' or `Little Wall Street.'
If, at any time, you have occasion to explore that section, don't forget that the lobby of the Daily News Building, at 220, is well worth seeing, for its great revolving globe.
Now, having come north to 42d Street via the sections of New York lying east of Broadway and of Fifth Avenue, let us discuss what may be seen going south from 42d Street to Greenwich Village and Washington Square.
Whether you go by private car, sight-seeing bus, or regular bus, you will almost certainly go down Fifth Avenue to Washington Square, or at least to 14th Street.
South of 40th Street there are still a few of the high-class department stores which have not yet moved up closer to 57th Street. And two `dimeries,' or 10-and-25-cent stores; that of S. H. Kress and Company occupies a site of which almost everybody has heard — there stood the Wendel mansion, at the northwest corner of 39th Street, and north of it the `million-dollar yard' which they refused to sell because — ac-cording to popular legend which may have been truth — the three Wendel ladies, spinsters all, desired to keep the yard for their little dog to exercise in.
The original John G. Wendel was a partner with the first John Jacob Astor in the fur business; and like Astor made a practice of buying and holding New York real estate. At the death of the latest (and last) John G. Wendel, his holdings in Manhattan were second only to those of the Astors. He collected his own rents, would never lease to a saloon, and never sold a foot of property. You may remember the suit that was brought, after his death, by a man who claimed to be his heir.
Tiffany's is at the southeast corner of 37th Street, and two blocks farther south is Altman's, occupying the block between 35th and 34th Streets, Fifth and Madison Avenues.
And on the ground where the Waldorf-Astoria used to stand, rises now the colossal Empire State Building, 102 stories above the ground and two stories below. Go up, by all means, at least to the 86th floor where there is a wide esplanade with lounge and restaurant The view from there seems to me to be as good as from the top.
I never think of the Empire State Building without recalling the observation of a little French `slavey' who, on being shown a postcard picture of this incredible pile, gasped: `What work for the janitor!'
I don't know how many janitors the building employs; but for much of the time since its completion it hasn't needed many. It was built too far uptown for such tenants as fill the giant structures of Lower New York, and too far downtown for such businesses as now find their natural center between 42d Street and 57th. The industries whose dense mass of employees make the district between 14th and 42d Streets one of the most populous in New York (in working hours) were not desired as tenants. So the building has stood as a gigantic monument to poor judgment. What its future may be, no man can guess. Governor `Al' Smith, who had much to do with its construction, has his office on the 32d floor.
Thirty-Fourth Street was an elegant shopping street until after the Great War. Now it has become second-rate, although McCreery's is still a good store and Altman's is always de luxe.
A long block west of Fifth Avenue, at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 34th Street, are several big department stores of which Macy's may interest you most; the others are Gimbel's and Saks.
In 1799 one John Thompson bought from the city for about $2400 a twenty-acre tract through which 34th Street was long afterwards cut. Altman's stands on ground that was his, and so does the Columbia Trust Building, on the northwest corner of 34th Street; as for the Empire State Building, the land on which it rises skyward was once the site of A. T. Stewart's `marble palace,' and subsequently of homes belonging to William B. Astor and William Waldorf Astor.
At 29th Street (northwest corner) is the marble Collegiate Church, one of the six Collegiate Churches which trace their origin to the first church organized by the Dutch settlers in 1628. And on 29th Street, east of Fifth Avenue, is the famous `Little Church Around the Corner,' which nearly every stranger in New York wants to see. Its `proper' name is the `Church of the Transfiguration'; but its popular name is infinitely better known. It originated with a remark of a supercilious clergyman on Madison Avenue. It was just before Christmas, 1870, when George Holland, the English actor, died after a long illness. He had been on the American stage since 1827, when Junius Brutus Booth engaged him for the Bowery theater. Joseph Jefferson undertook to arrange for his funeral; and when the clergyman to whom he first applied refused to officiate because Holland had been an actor, Jefferson was told that `there is a little church around the corner which might consent'
`God bless the little church around the corner!' exclaimed Jefferson.
Holland was buried from it, and ever since it has been beloved of actors; many of the great lights of the stage (which used to be a voice of the church, and then came to be contemned by it) have been buried from there. Thousands of couples have been married there.
The church is a low, rambling structure very like a country church in a small English town, and has a bit of greenery about it which adds ineffably to its charm. We enter through a lichgate. Birds twitter in the enshrouding vines. There is an air of brooding peace and kindliness.
Don't miss this `little church around the corner,' and its beautiful memorial windows, its tender `ghosts.'
Three blocks south you come to the north end of Madison Square, whose east bouDdary you skirted on your trip uptown (or will skirt, if you are taking this southbound trip first).
The big Fifth Avenue Building between 23d and 24th Streets occupies the site of the old Fifth Avenue Hotel, opened in 1859, which for nearly fifty years entertained many of the most noted persons who came to New York.
The Flatiron Building, at the angle of Fifth Avenue, Broad-way, and 23d Street, used to be a great objective of visitors; but no one seems to pay much attention to it now.
Twenty-Third Street is another street which once was elegant and now is not.
When I was a small girl (and, indeed, long after I became a big girl) the Eden Musee was there and in it I spent enchanted hours. It was on the order of Madame Tussaud's in London and the Musee Grevin in Paris, but considerably inferior to either. There I used to stand gaping before the mechanical chess-player whom no one could beat (we found out, later, that there was a live champion inside!), and there I saw my first motion pictures — terrifying ones of horse-drawn fire engines dashing at us so that they seemed certain to mow us down. No one hailed with greater delight than I did the opening of the new Wax Museum at Broadway and 50th Street.
I knew Twenty-Third Street very, very well. London Ter-race, which was no different when I was a girl from what it had been when Mother was a girl (it has, in fact, in recent years given place to the vast block of new fiats called by the old name) ; and the Chelsea flats which were the first `grand' flats in New York; and, as one approached the Hudson, the box factories and furniture factories whose smell of freshly sawn lumber still fills the air for me whenever I go by there. And oh! the ferry smells. They smell more now of gasoline than of horses; but for all that they are still very reminiscent of my childhood. The ferryboats have not changed at all. To my mind, New York is not really seen by anyone who does not ride on a few ferryboats. The beautiful, shiny `tubes' beneath the Hudson are convenient, clean, airy, admirable; they should by all means be seen. The bridges which link Manhattan Island with Long IslaDd (over the East River) are superb. But DON'T fail to take at least one or two ferryboat rides across the Hudson — even if just to cross over and back.
It's too much to expect that a visitor will have the feeling for the ferryboats that one has who has known and loved them all her life; but no one can fail to thrill at the grandeur of the river as seen from midstream.
You could have your ferry ride now, if you are in the mood for it and have the time. Take the 23d Street ferry to Jersey City and return on the ferry which goes from the same dock in Jersey City to Christopher Street, which is in the heart of Greenwich Village.
There is nothing of special interest on Fifth Avenue between 23d Street and Washington Square. Nothing of special interest to the stranger I would better say. To some of us who knew New York long ago, certain streets south of 14th Street and north of the Washington Arch are almost all that is left of the city of our childhood.
So, if you don't take your ferry ride now, I suggest that you spend a little time on 14th Street, a maelstrom, and then go down to 12th Street or 10th Street to proceed west into the Village; then, back east to Washington Square; and thence to Broadway and the Battery, or back uptown.
Union Square was elegant, once; Tiffany's used to face on it (at the southwest corner of Union Square and 15th Street) and did not move uptown until after the turn of this century. And many of the smartest shops in New York were on Broad-way between Tiffany's and 19th Street, well within my memory and experience.
I dare say 14th Street was also elegant once upon a time. In fact, I know it was; some of the sadly surprised-looking mansions of an earlier day were still standing on the north side of 14th Street west of Fifth Avenue well within my day. But east of Fifth Avenue this busy street has changed little in fifty years.
You should see it at least from Second Avenue to Eighth. Restaurants of every sort, including Luchow's which has been famous for half a century and the Kretchma which serves Russian food and Russian entertainment; picture theaters; penny arcades; cheap stores of many sorts.
Tom Sharkey, heavyweight champion of the navy, had a bar there after his losing battle with Jeffries; and `gobs' used to mill about him. Adolph Zukor had a penny arcade there in 1904, and the next year he opened a `nickelodeon' (five-cent movie) at No. 46. Shortly after that, when crude little stories had replaced railway trains and fire engines as the fare on 'fillums,' Mary Pickford used to work for long hours each day at No. 11 East 14th Street, directed by a young man named D. W. Griffith.
The most famous of the shops identified with 14th Street is S. Klein's, which begins at 14th Street and Fourth Avenue and fills the block to 15th Street. Then starts north again toward 16th Street.
Mr. Klein's personal income is said to be about a million dollars a year. He started business on a capital of $90, and now he has a turn-over of $25,000,000 a year.
He employs no salespeople. The women's dresses, suits, coats, are hung according to size on racks where all may look 'em over and `feel' them for other values than style. You may gather up as many as six at a time and carry them into a curtained dressing-room to try on. You `serve yourself,' as in an automat.
Mr. Klein has had to give up advertising. When he used newsprint to tell about the special bargains he had secured (he is always ready, with practically unlimited cash, to buy up most advantageously what some 'manufacturer must get rid of to have `ready money'), there were shocking scenes in Union Square as women battled with police.
He loses tens of thousands of dollars every year through shoplifting, though he is said to be merciless to professional shoplifters. Why his business is not boycotted because of the army of girls he doesn't employ, I don't know — except that the majority of his clients would rather be chic on a little money than righteous on anybody's behalf. Mr. Footner tells us that when Mr. Klein discovered that much shoplifting was being done in his store by girls from the Washington Irving High School around the corner, he set aside a fund and notified the principal of the school that girls who were ashamed because of their shabbiness could be outfitted without cost at S. Klein's.
Another store on 14th Street that is an institution in New York, and has been for many years, is Hearn's, which is west of Fifth Avenue. Hearn's has, apparently, never been tempted to desert 14th Street and move uptown; the bulk of its patronage comes from near-by, but Uptown, when it is on bargains bent, does not scorn to go down to 14th Street for them.
Once, as Mr. Footner tells, Hearn's put on a free fashion show directed by Miss Elsa Maxwell, with entertainers that included Helen Hayes, Ina Claire, Beatrice Lillie, Gertrude Lawrence, Fanny Hurst, Lanny Ross, and a lot more. He gives a very interesting account of it, which I'm sure you'll like to read, in his `New York, City of Cities.'
New York City Below Forty-Second Street - Part 6
( Originally Published 1936 )
Now, what shall I say of Greenwich Village?
`What,' asks Will Irwin, `would you say now if I, who have frequented Greenwich Village for twenty-two years, pronounced this Greenwich Village a myth? At least, it was a myth in the beginning. Afterward a little commercial exploitation made it for a time almost a reality. And then — it faded back into the ghostly world of fancy.... The true story centers around a real-estate scheme which had a success wholly unexpected — both in volume and in character.'
Greenwich Village (and of course you know it's called Grenidge) is, next to the Battery, the oldest settlement of white men on Manhattan. The second Dutch governor had a tobacco farm there, and erected a farmhouse that was the first dwelling north of New Amsterdam. When the English came, Sir Peter Warren (who is buried in Westminster Abbey) had a 300-acre farm there and built the Warren Mansion. His wife was Susannah DeLancey, whose girlhood home was the house we now know as Fraunces' Tavern. As the eighteenth century wore on, Major Abraham Mortier, of the English army, built a handsome house called Richmond Hill House at what is now the intersection of Hudson and Charlton Streets. There Washington had his headquarters in April, 1776. There John Adams went to live as Vice-President. There Aaron Burr lived from 1797 till he set out from it to fight his duel with Alexander Hamilton on July 10, 1804. He never returned to the house after that fateful morning. The years Burr spent at Richmond Hill were, in spite of political feuds, the happiest of his life. His shot that killed Hamilton also killed him — though he survived it for more than thirty-two years. At Richmond Hill he entertained Jerome Bonaparte, Talleyrand, Louis Philippe, Jefferson, Madison — Hamilton!
About the time that Burr and his beautiful wife, Theodosia, moved to the Village, there were frequent epidemics of small-pox and yellow fever in New York, and many people took refuge in the open country to the northwest. One settlement centered around what is now Spring Street, and another went farther afield to the vicinity of what is now Bank Street. Many of these `refugees' never moved back into New York; and Greenwich Village began to be a populous and pleasant suburb, soon to be absorbed by the fast-growing city, but long to retain its character as an ultra-refined section where people of taste and culture lived. Some of the New York business men who lived in the Village rode their horses into the city, and some were driven in by their Negro slave coachmen. There are many parts of the Village which even today seem not too remote from that past.
Will Irwin, resident of the Village for many years, devotes to it three long and delightful chapters in his `Highlights of Manhattan.' I would that many might read them before going thither. He tells the story of how, as rents in the Village decliDed, a real-estate promoter employed a press-agent to get `the Montmartre of Gotham' into the papers. He tells how some of the youngsters of the `art colony' co-operated by posing, for visitors, as Flaming Youth, disciples of Free Love, etc.
He tells how, along with all this ballyhoo, this line for patrons of the rubberneck wagons, there went forward some of the most substantial work ever done anywhere for the advancement of art in America.
Relatives of mine used to live, when I was a little girl, in Horatio Street, and in Jane Street where Alexander Hamilton died; but that was long before anyone ever thought of the Village as `picturesque.' They lived there partly because it was convenient to the old Covenanters' Church in West 12th Street, where the psalms of David were sung to the pitch of a tuning-fork. Certainly they were far from foreseeing a day when their quiet neighborhood would be invaded by rubberneck wagons filled with tourists looking for the Haunts of Purple Passion, the Haven of Free Love.
If you are exploring Greenwich Village unguided, and are approaching it from the north, begin at Fifth Avenue and 12th Street where the stately old First Presbyterian Church is, dating from 1845. (A Sunday morning congregation there, or one at the Church of the Ascension at the corner of 10th Street and Fifth Avenue, will show you many lineal or spiritual descendants of New York aristocracy as it used to be in the days before — well, shall we say before Elsa Maxwell?)
I am fearful about mentioning any place in New York, and especially in Greenwich Village, lest it disappear between the time I read proof on this book and the time the book gets into circulation.
You may or you may not find all the places I indicate; but you will certainly find some of them.
In West 12th Street, at No. 66, you will find the New School for Social Research, where many interesting and important things are done toward the end of making new Americans feel more a part of this new world.
West 11th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues is some-times called the most beautiful block in the Village; but it really belongs, rather, to Washington Square and Lower Fifth Avenue.
At 12th Street and Seventh Avenue, Georges Clemenceau lived during what he termed the three happiest years of his life, writing about post-war conditions for the Paris Temps; teaching French to young ladies at Stamford, Connecticut, and studying the workings of democracy in the United States. That was in 1866 to 1869. A movie theater now occupies the site.
You can look in that direction and think of Clemenceau; but turn south on Sixth Avenue. Tenth Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues has some charmingly `redeemed' houses, and many studios. At the junction of Sixth Avenue and Greenwich Avenue and 10th Street, is the famous old Jefferson Market Police Court, with a tall new Women's House of Detention in the rear. Many an evening I spent there when the Women's Night Court was held there and I was writing about `the girl problem.' Those were the days of `willow plumes,' which cost quite prodigiously. Not to flaunt a willow plume was to be unendurably `low-caste.' And the way of the willow plume, for many low-paid girls, led to the Night Court.
In a near-by saloon (which I did not frequent) was then a weedy young bartender's helper who had been a sailor. His name was John Masefield.
Back of the Market, in a little opening off 10th Street between Sixth and Greenwich Avenues, is Patchin Place, a bit of Old London. See it, by all means. Around the corner from it, on Sixth Avenue, is Milligan Place, another picturesque `bit'
Eighth Street between Sixth Avenue and Fifth Avenue has many bookshops and `arty' little teashops and restaurants. At No. 10 West 8th Street is the Whitney Museum of American Art, founded by Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney — better-known, now, as a sculptor than as a Vanderbilt.
McDougal Street, where the Provincetown Theater was, runs south from the southwest corner of Washington Square; and McDougal Alley, with its former stables turned into studios, is north of Washington Square and just south of 8th Street, west of Fifth Avenue.
Out of the Provincetown Players and the Washington Square Players came the Theater Guild, Philip Moeller, Susan Glaspell, Eugene O'Neill, and many another shining ornament of the American stage.
In a little bookshop at No. 37 McDougal Street, in 1915, a group of young men conceived the idea of publishing the Little Leather Library of classics, which within eight years had become one of the largest publishing enterprises in the world, its books selling by the millions of copies.
Bank Street is one of the Village streets you shouldn't miss; it runs west of the river from Waverly Place near the western end of West 11th Street, and it looks as if it belonged to some sweet, somnolent town in Kent. Writers make up no small part of its population; and Will Irwin, who ought to know, says that 'no other spot in America produces so much real literature.'
After you've had a look at it from the Waverly Place end, turn down Waverly Place and note the stately Church of St. John the Evangelist, a late rector of which did a great deal to restore dignity and beauty to this vicinity. See the charming close he created between his church and the Baptist Church on West 11th Street, a half-block away. And the outdoor altar for summer weddings.
It is Will Irwin who tells us that 'this patch of Greenwich Village — Bank, West 11th, and Perry to the west of Seventh Avenue — has a unique history. Between 1820 and 1920 its fine residences degenerated from the state of mansions almost to that of rookeries; and then, without losing much of their original form, came back to affluence and respectability. One of the houses which Dr. Wade (rector of St. John's) reverently refurnished and added to his building scheme was known to the police not so many years ago as the Tub of Blood!'
If you turn south from West 11th Street when you come to Hudson Street, you will soon have on your left hand Grove Street, running west; and on your right hand, St. Luke's Chapel, dating from 1821, one of the very few churches in New York where worship is still being held on the original site.
Grove Street School used to be famous as the best public school in New York; it was the third to be established in the city, and was visited by Lafayette in 1824. The structure he visited survived till 1905.
Between Nos. 10-12 Grove Street you will find an enchanting Pomander Walk said to have been the scene of O. Henry's story 'The Last Leaf.'
See the 'story-book' twin houses at the junction of Commerce Street and Barrow, about which most Villagers will hazard a different legend. See the Cherry Lane Theater on Commerce Street, and the tiny twelve-foot house where Edna St. Vincent Millay lived.
What is said to be the oldest existing structure in the Village is at the corner of Grove and Bedford Streets; and tradition maintains that the two-story house in the back yard was slave-quarters to the larger house.
Poe enthusiasts should continue down Bedford Street to Carmine, where the unhappy Edgar lived, at No. 113, in a little wooden house, before he moved to Fordham.
Those who wish to visit the site of Richmond Hill, with its memories of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Burr, should continue south in Varick Street to Charlton and then turn west one block to Hudson; Charlton Street is delightful.
Lovers of the picturesque and venerable should see if the wreckers have still spared the row of very old wooden houses on Christopher Street between West Street and Weehawken Street, supposed to have been built before 1763. The fronts on the West Street side give no hint of their antiquity; to realize it, you must go through Weehawken Street to 10th Street, and see their rear view.
These are not all the `fine points' of Greenwich Village; a good guide who has specialized a bit in Village history and topography will tell you a very great deal about the Village that is fascinating if you care about New York's past, and especially about her artists and authors. I repeat, if you want to `feel' the Village as one does who has known her long and well, read the three chapters about her in Will Irwin's `High-lights of Manhattan.'
Washington Square is so close to the Village as to be nearly inseparable from it; yet in many respects it is quite remote.
Washington Square was once the Potter's Field and the site of the gallows tree. It became a park in 1827, and soon after that date New York University took up its quarters on the east side of the Square. There, in 1837, Samuel F. B. Morse exhibited his telegraph instrument and demonstrated its practicability. There Samuel Colt invented the revolver.
The beautiful Washington Arch was designed by Stanford White to commemorate the centenary of Washington's inauguration. Originally it was of stucco, and stood across Fifth Avenue at 8th Street. It was so greatly admired that a public subscription was started (and raised) to duplicate it in a permanent structure standing fifty feet south of the Avenue.
Many, many stories have their locale in Washington Square — real stories and fiction. Arthur Bartlett Maurice, whose `New York in Fiction' you should know if you are interested in literary backgrounds, said that 'an imaginary circle, with its centre in the white memorial Arch and a radius of five or six hundred yards, would hold fully one-half of what is best in the local color of New York fiction.' But the proportion may be smaller now; for Maurice (who used to edit The Bookman) wrote his book some thirty-odd years ago.
With the exception of the northwest corner, Washington Square originally formed part of the Bleecker farm. The north-west corner was part of the Randall farm which included all the property between the Square and 10th Street and over to Broadway — with an extension to Fourth Avenue. There were twenty-one acres in the farm, and in 1801 Robert Randall left it as a home for old and disabled seamen, to be called Sailors' Snug Harbor. This seemed 'sort o' land-locked' for seamen; so the trustees decided to lease it, and build the sea-men's home on Staten Island.
The farm was worth about $25,000 in 1801. Today the property is worth more than fifty millions. Seamen are fewer, but none of the vast income can be used for any other purpose; it has to be spent on Snug Harbor and its ancient mariners. Alexander Hamilton made Robert Randall's will; and no one has ever been able to break it — though it ought to be broken.
The handsome old-fashioned houses on Washington Square north were built on ninety-nine-year leases of the Snug Harbor property, which have recently expired. Some New Yorkers were fearful that the old dwellings which enshrine so many memories would be pulled down to make room for towering apartments like those west of Fifth Avenue. But the Snug Harbor trustees say No — at least not now. More towering apartments would merely add to their 'embarrassment of riches.'
Back of the mansions which are east of Fifth Avenue is a charming row of what used to be the stables of those houses: Washington Mews. There many notables in the art and literary world have lived: Paul Manship, Richard Washburn Child, and others. I have lived there myself; but there is no tablet in consequence! In fact, I was living there — not as a house-holder but as a house-sharer — in 1923, when the manuscript of `So You're Going to Paris' came back to me from the first of several publishers who assured me there could be no sale for such a book.
Much might be said, and doubtless ought to be said, about the south side of the Square, including the Judson Memorial Church; but it can't be said here.
Much should be said, also (and may not be), about Fifth Avenue between Washington Square and 14th Street. All I must take space for is the house on the southeast corner of Fifth Avenue and 9th Street, which was built by James Renwick (architect of Grace Church and of St. Patrick's Cathedral) for his father, who kept a room always in readiness for Washington Irving, a frequent guest. A much later occupant of the house was Mark Twain who lived there for four and a half years.
I think I ought, too, to tell those readers who delight in treasure-hunting among shops which are frankly 'second-hand' and not `antique,' that if they will turn east in 9th Street just a block, to University Place, they may find there at very low prices many things which will cost three to ten times as much when they reach the smart shops of Madison and Park Avenues. Fourth Avenue below 23d Street also has some second-hand shops that are worth investigating if you have the time.
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