Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Goblin faces, nutted moguls, loftypops, Gotham chocolates: Vintage Halloween Loft Candy ads from the 1920s

Halloween celebrations may pretty much be cancelled tonight, but you can still enjoy the candy, right?  The Loft Candy Company operated several locations throughout Manhattan in the 1910s-30s, many of them proper restaurants, including one at 251–255 West 42nd Street -- where Chevy's and Regal Cinema are today. Their candy factory was over in Long Island City, Queens, at 40th Avenue and Vernon Boulevard.

Their Halloween advertisements are an interesting window into the customs a century ago. The practice of trick-or-treating would not become acceptable until the 1950s. Children would have celebrated attending Halloween parties instead, where many of the treats listed below would have been served.

Loft survived the Great Depression by acquiring with the bankrupt soda fountain company Pepsi-Cola, popularizing the beverage at their soda fountains.

Enjoy these oddball treats! The ad below is from October 28, 1921:

The Evening World, October 27, 1922

And what the heck are 'National Babies (a filled confection)? From October 25, 1922

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Not since the Great Blizzard!" "Bigger than 1821!" Hurricane Sandy inspires historical superlatives

When things get really, really bad, history provides validation and context.   The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy has already inspired newscasters, meteorologists and journalists to reach to the greatest disasters in New York City history for comparison.

These can seem very hyperbolic at times and even a little weird. ('7 Devastating Hurricanes: Where Will Sandy Rank?' as though she were an American Idol contestant.)  It will be days before we really know if this was truly "the greatest disaster in New York history."  But I do think the comparisons can not only bring home the severity of the current situation, they can also bring to life past traumas in a way that no faded black-and-white image ever could.

Here's a few historical comparisons I've heard thus far, and I'm adding a couple of my own, events that popped into mind as I watched some of the terrifying images on television:

Worst Subway Shutdown Ever -- The subways often flood after rainstorms, but snowstorms have also been a menace, particularly the blizzard of 1947 and one in 2006.  However, after Sandy, the MTA declared "The New York City subway system is 108 years old, but it has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night.”  Last year's Hurricane Irene was the first time the subway was ever preemptively shut down.  The decision this year proved wise indeed. [source]
Great Norfolk and Long Island Hurricane of 1821 -- The Battery experienced high water levels of 11.2 feet during this 1821 event, still the only hurricane to ever directly hit New York. Last night, water levels surged to 13.88 feet, setting a new, disturbing record. Also known as the Great September Gale.

The Great New York Fire of 1835 -- The images of runaway fires in Queens, mixed with the utter devastation of lower Manhattan, might remind you of the December blaze of 1835 which destroyed hundreds of buildings downtown. However, that exploding transformer on 14th Street -- which caused a blackout to thousands of residents last night -- also recall a series of explosions which occurred in New York in 1845, affectionately called the Great Explosion of 1845.  (Boy, they can really overuse a word like 'great'.)

The Great Blizzard of 1888 -- Sandy forced the shutdown of the New York Stock Exchange for a second day today, although the storm did not flood it, as rumors Monday night proclaimed. This was the first time the exchange has shut down for more than one day since the pulverizing snowstorm of 1888 paralyzed city transportation.

The Rockaway Fire of 1892 -- One of the hardest hit areas in New York was Rockaway Beach, with its boardwalk destroyed and dozens of homes destroyed by fire over in Breezy Point.  The frightening images reminded me of something from our Rockaways podcast from this summer, a great fire which broke out in September of 1892 which destroyed most of the neighborhood of Seaside.

The Big Wind of 1912 -- If contemporary sources are to be believed, the frozen windstorm which struck New York on February 22, 1912, blew at speeds more than double those of Sandy. The 'giant among gales' even stirred up a huge blaze in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and tested the steel of recently built skyscrapers.

The Long Island Express (New England Hurricane of 1938) -- This powerful hurricane slammed into New England and Long Island in September of 1938.  It remains the most powerful storm to ever ravage the New England states.  According to Jeff Masters of Weather Underground, Sandy's barometric pressure ties that of the Long Island storm, at 946 millibars.

The Ash Wednesday Hurricane of 1962 -- Due to the 'Frankenstorm' aspect to Sandy, another metric experts have used is the similarly formed, long-lingering March 1962 storm which hammered North Carolina, New Jersey and Long Island.

Hurricane Andrew 1992 --  Comparisons to this catastrophe are still out, as it's mostly evoked due to the federal government's poor disaster response. Another question left lingering is whether the cost of Sandy will rival that of Andrew, the third most expensive hurricane in American history (after Katrina and Ike).

September 11, 2001 -- Then, of course, due to the shutdown of lower Manhattan, one can't help but recall the attack on the World Trade Center, which actually was the worst thing to ever happen to New York City.

Crane Collapse at 303 East 51st Street 2008 -- Anybody seeing the images of the broken crane which hung precariously at the construction site of One57 on West 57th Street might have remembered the horror which occurred at another midtown Manhattan site just four years ago, a crane collapse on East 51st Street which killed seven people. To this day, the uncompleted building stands as a reminder to this tragedy.

If you've heard any other historical comparisons used on your local newscast, please put them in the comments.

Hope everybody is safe and sound!

I'll update the blog later today with some observation on catastrophic Hurricane Sandy. Tom is one of the thousands on the Manhattan side without power. I'm on the Brooklyn side and fared a little bit better, although I cannot say the same for the many trees on my block.   Be safe today!

Above picture of Jane's Carousel in DUMBO courtesy andjelicaaa's instagram

Friday, October 26, 2012

Presidential: Spending your weekend with the Roosevelts

In 1973, the sliver of land in the East River called Welfare Island was given a more lofty name -- Roosevelt Island -- in anticipation of a grand monument to Franklin Delano Roosevelt designed by premier architect Louis Kahn.  But Kahn died in 1974 after designing the somber, angular granite memorial, set to be placed on the southern end of the island.

Then the 1970s happened. The city could barely keep itself operational, much less embark on a new landmark.

Thirty-eight years later, the memorial -- called Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park -- finally opened this Wednesday.

The timing is definitely off, in more ways than one.  Its tasteful rows of trees are already losing their leaves, and who knows how they'll endure Hurricane Sandy next week.  The sun has rarely made an appearance since the park opened, robbing visitors of a fabulous trick which occurs at the granite monument to the south. (Western light filters through inch-wide slots, creating an "accidental Alice-in-Wonderland effect" when you look through them.)

But the end result is fantastic, calming and geometric, subtle and nostalgic. And they've done a fine job situating the memorial in conversation with one of Roosevelt Island's most famous features -- the ruins of James Renwick's smallpox hospital.

Visit their website for more information. The park is open Thursday through Sundays, 9am-5pm.

Meanwhile, over at the American Museum of Natural History, Theodore Roosevelt makes a spectacular re-introduction at the museum he helped populate. The museum's Central Park entrance and the Hall of North American Mammals reopen this weekend after a $40 million renovation, which includes a brand new statue of Roosevelt and a refreshed Panama Canal mural in its rotunda.

Live Science has a photo essay spotlighting the renovations. Visit the museum's website for visiting information.

And we've got podcasts on this history of both places! Before you head out, make sure to download our free shows on the history of Roosevelt Island (Episode #82) and the American Museum of Natural History (Episode #116). You can also find them on iTunes.

(Picture at right courtesy New York Times)

ALSO:  It's a good weekend to brave the Statue of Liberty before the bad weather. Why? According to the National Park Service: "As of October 28, 2012, all interior and exterior levels of the Statue of Liberty, including the Pedestal, Museum, Crown and Fort Wood, are accessible by advanced reservation."

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Brooklyn's Hell Gate: Dangerous tides off Coney Island

Above: The waters off Gravesend, Brooklyn, sketched by a British general in 1776. They too would have experienced the odd watery phenomenon known as 'the Potato Patch'. [NYPL]

You may know the legend of the East River's Hell Gate, a rush of violent waters borne from a tidal strait near Randall's Island, so famous for wrecking ships that 19th century engineers took to dynamiting the surrounding rocks to alter the river's flow. But the Hell Gate was not the only danger ships faced when traversing the waters around New York.

On the afternoon of October 24, 1912, two boys, Willie Taylor and Clinton Fox, playfully slipped out of their classrooms and tramped along the southern shore of Coney Island, near the edge of today's Sea Gate neighborhood. Fox's mongrel dog jumped into an abandoned rowboat floating off the shore near W. 25th Street.  The boys, already primed for mischief, climbed aboard, grabbed the oars and began paddling away.

They unwisely decided to steer toward the western tip of Coney Island, towards the lighthouse and Sea Gate's most popular landmark of the day, the Atlantic Yacht Club.  They suddenly hit violent, churning seas created by a 'strong ebb tide and a stiff wind', and the boat smashed against a pier. Willie was thrown from the boat and eventually washed onto the shore unconscious.

But Clinton and his dog were swept back into the inescapable, twisting waves, never to be seen again.  Near midnight, the damaged rowboat eventually reemerged ashore with no trace of Clinton Fox but his shoes. [Above: a photo of Clinton Fox from the front-page Evening World story, next to the banner 'BOY SKIPPER GAVE UP LIFE FOR CANINE CREW OF ROWBOAT']

Fox was one of several deaths caused by the curious water occurrence off the Sea Gate shore known as The Potato Patch, a one-mile long watery stew of twisting currents near a row of jagged rocks and old piers, where Atlantic Ocean waters meet those of more tranquil Gravesend Bay.  A 'peculiar rip' with a benign name, the choppy currents were a constant vexation one hundred years ago, "a miniature maelstrom where scores of small boats and boatsman have come to grief."

A potato patch is an old nautical name for rough, choppy waters near a shoreline.  There is a similar occurrence in San Francisco also called the Potato Patch Shoal (watch video of it here) that frustrates ships and surfers to this day.

At left: location of the Brooklyn Potato Patch, off the coast of Sea Gate and the Coney Island beach.

The patch could overturn small boats and submerge their crewmen before anyone on shore could take notice. The Sun claimed in 1912 that it had an "unenviable record for boat mishaps and drownings."

The area along the western portion of Coney Island had become more residential by this time. Once called Norton's Point, a rowdy getaway popular with the likes of Boss Tweed, it had been redeveloped in the late 1890s as the respectable residential community of Sea Gate. The Atlantic Yacht Club operated as an upper-class alternative to the amusements of Coney Island further east, and, in fact, does so to this day.  All of this served only to increase small-craft traffic along the shore, particularly sporting and recreational crafts.

On March 1914, two men disappeared into the waters when their canoe was pulled into the tidal disturbance. The New York Times reported "it is feared that their boat was overturned in the rough water known as the potato patch."

The effect of the patch were greatest in the late afternoon when the tide came in. A 1910 swim meet, delayed by only an hour, unceremoniously ended at the treacherous tidal scar. "[W]hen the swimmers came to it ... they found in it their Waterloo, as not even a rowboat could pull through it with the current and wind that prevailed."

Bearing witness to many of these disasters was an operating station for the Marconi Wireless Company, famous for its role in picking up messages from the RMS Carpathia after the sinking of the Titanic. And also Its most famous operator was David Sarnoff, later the founder of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA).

I found references to the Potato Patch well into the 1920s.  I'm sure the waters in this area are still turbulent to this day; however they are likely no match for modern vessels. It does not appear to have caused many injuries after this date. It's also doubtful that children are jumping into random rowboats anymore.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

If you lived here, you'd be scared right now

My new column for the Huffington Post just went live. It's kind of an overview of why we continue to produce ghost story podcasts every year for Halloween. (Well, outside of having a hell of a good time doing them!) And then my countdown of eight of New York City's most haunted houses -- actually haunted, according to legend.

Check out the article here: The 8 Most Haunted Houses in New York

 At top: The Morris-Jumel Mansion, a gorgeous house still standing in Washington Heights and definitely worth a visit. The scandalous Mrs. Jumel may still be floating around inside. Courtesy Library of Congress

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mysteries and Magicians of New York: Whimsical spirits, scary legends, strange magic and the original ghost busters

A session with a ouija board, a haunting illustration from a piece of 1901 sheet music 'There's A Charm About The Old Love Still'. (NYPL)

PODCAST Our sixth annual ghost story podcast takes a little twist this time around. Oh sure, we have two of New York's most FAMOUS horror stories in our first part, beginning with a spirited sailor named Mickey who haunted a classic structure on the Lower West Side. Today it's the Ear Inn, where you better watch your drink. Then we switch to a Colonial-era tale of obsession and entrapment in old Flatbush, the tale of Melrose Hall with its secret passages, stairwells and dungeons.

But in the second half, we observe New York's spiritualism craze of the early 20th century through two frightening faceoffs. In the first, its the madame of the Ouija board, Pearl Curran, and her ghostly companion Patience Worth vs. one of New York's original ghostbusters, the adventurer and conjurer Joseph Rinn (pictured at right). And in the final tale, Tom explores the secrets of Harry Houdini and what happens when a close confidante -- in this case, the noted author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle -- believes his powers are of a supernatural variety.

Featuring our annual ghost-story dramatics, a few sound effects, and the surprising haunted history of Carnegie Hall!

To get this week's episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services, subscribe to our RSS feed or get it straight from our satellite site.

You can also listen to the show on Stitcher streaming radio and Player FM from your mobile devices.

Or listen to straight from here:
The Bowery Boys: Mysteries and Magicians of New York


From the pages of the New York Post, July 1936. Crowds hunt for the spirit of Angelina, the Italian 'banshee'. Crowds lined up to get a glimpse, so many that 'special police patrols' were called to control the search.  [source]

The house of Revolutionary War veteran James Brown, today the worn and welcoming Ear Inn, is almost 200 years old, which means it has a great many ghosts, including a couple literal ones, including the randy spirit of a sailor named Mickey. (Picture courtesy Flickr/wallyg)

The haunted Melrose Hall in Flatbush, Brooklyn, the site of some improbable architecture and a terrible crime. Is that Alma peering from the third floor window? Do you dare enter? 

Pearl Curran, the St. Louis woman who began conjuring the spirit of an 17th century English woman named Patience Worth, via the Ouija board. She was frequently questioned by prominent medium debunkers, including Houdini's friend Joseph Rinn.

Harry Houdini in 1912, about to step in to a sealed sunken chest, which he will inevitably escape from. But what was his secret? Was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle -- and his wife Lady Jean -- onto something about Houdini's secret powers? (Courtesy Library of Congress)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

True horror: Four 1950s New York atomic panic videos

The early 1950s provided residents of New York with ample reasons for doom and gloom, thanks to fears of an atomic attack. America paid the price for using the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, helping to end World War II, by living with the anxiety of an atomic horror on its own shores for the next forty years. Not surprising, this was the decade that the destruction of New York City began graphically appearing in motion pictures in earnest.

Although a great many films focused on the destruction of West Coast cities -- the famous 'A Day Called X' depicts the evacuation of Portland, Oregon -- New York City also received its fair share of warning due to its size and prominence. Videos on survival and the construction of fall-out shelters, meanwhile, usually focused on the suburbs.

1. Civil Defense: NY Streets Cleared In Air Raid Drill
The citizens of New York City, a rather 'prime target for an atomic attack', prepare for an enemy 'onslaught' in an orderly fashion, at least according to this video. No panics, only 'precision'.


2. Duck And Cover
The classic 'duck and cover' video was produced in 1951 using children from P.S. 152 (today the Gwendoline N. Alleyne School) in Astoria, Queens. Perhaps one of your parents stars in this video? The use of an animated turtle playfully hid the consequences of the bombardment of radiation and helpfully ignored how useless a maneuver like duck and cover would possibly be in such an attack.

3. Air Raid!
From the WNYC-produced film The Price of Liberty in 1952, this well-directed video is structured like a suspense film. We're in good hands, thanks to 'brazen voiced shrieks' and some film noir shadow effects.


4. Atomic Attack
Then, if you have the stomach, there's an entire 1953 50-minute film about a suburban family who -- thankfully -- live just outside of New York City to survive a devastating blast from a hydrogen bomb. From the company that now provides you with cell phones!


5 He May Be A Communist
Of course, the real threat are the communists in our midst. Luckily in this video, New York proves to be stridently anti-Communist. Look there's a parade!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

'Copper' prizes! Contest over: Winners and answers below

I've been on Twitter every Sunday at 10pm EST during broadcasts of BBC America's 'Copper' throwing out trivia and other observations on 19th century New York.  I had a blast doing this kinda thing during 'Mad Men' earlier this year, and I've also started with the new season of 'Boardwalk Empire'.

Well, this Sunday is the season finale ('A Vast and Fiendish Plot'), and the folks at BBC America have sent me over some fabulous 'Copper' swag to give to Bowery Boys listeners and readers. The 'Copper' prize package include a dark-grey 'Copper' tee-shirt, a promotional poster featuring Detective Kevin Corcoran and a wearable re-creation of a Metropolitan Police badge!

I'll be giving away three 'Copper' prize packages later this afternoon.  To win one of them, you'll need to answer three trivia questions which will be posted below at 4 pm EST today.

The trivia questions will involve New York City history in the year 1864. If you've listened to our podcast #128 Hoaxes and Conspiracies of 1864, then you have all the answers at your disposal.

The first three correct responses will win. If you're one of the winners, I'll email you back letting you know and asking for a mailing address to send your prizes.

THE CONTEST IS OVER! See below for winners and for the answers to the questions.

Question 1: Who was mayor of New York City in November 1864? 
Answer: Charles Godfrey Gunther

Question 2: Confederate conspirators set blazes within several New York hotels on the evening of November 25, 1864, using volatile 'Greek fire' stored in valises. But in an unplanned maneuver, one conspirator also set fire to the stairwell of an additional building, the only place attacked that was not a hotel. In fact, it was one of New York’s most popular attractions in 1864.  Its proprietor wrote a letter to the New York Times stating his establishment was ‘as safe a place of amusement as can be found in the world.”  Who was that man and what was the name of this place? 
Answer: P.T. Barnum and his American Museum

Question 3: The Booth brothers were performing at the Winter Garden on November 25, 1864, in a special production of ‘Julius Caesar’ to raise funds for the erection of a statue of William Shakespeare to be placed in Central Park. One of the Booth brothers was later himself immortalized in a statue, in 1916, dressed for another Shakespearean role -- Hamlet.  Which Booth brother received this honor and which Manhattan park is he standing in?
Answer: Edwin Booth, and you can find his statue in Gramercy Park

Thank you everybody for sending in your answers! I had an overwhelming response and a great many of you got all three right. But the first three of you to answer correctly -- and the winners of the 'Copper' prize packages -- are Brian S. from New Jersey, Jocelyn from Florida, and Laura S. from New Jersey. (A runner-up commendation to Toni E., who got all the answers right but sent them just a few minutes too late.)

Friday, October 12, 2012

The ghouls return: The Bowery Boys ghost story podcasts

It's our favorite time of year -- time for the annual Bowery Boys New York ghost stories podcast! The new show -- featuring four more frightening tales -- will be available this Friday.

Catch up on the tradition by listening in to our last five ghost story shows. You can listen at the links below, download them from iTunes or find them anywhere you listen to podcasts:

Ghost Stories of New York (2007) [download] [iTunes]
The ghosts of a tragic Ziegfeld girl, a scandalous doyenne of old New York, a bossy theater impresario and the ghoulish bell-ringer of St. Mark's-in-the-Bowery. [original blog post]

Spooky Stories of New York (2008) [download] [iTunes]
The drunken spirits of the Algonquin, the mysteries of a hidden well in SoHo, the fires of the Witch of Staten Island, and 'the most haunted brownstone in New York'. [original blog post]

Haunted Tales of New York (2009) [download] [iTunes]
The secrets of the restless spinster of the Merchants House, the jovial fright of the Gay Street Phantom, the legend of the devil at Spuyten Duyvil Creek, and the spirit of a dead folk singer. [original blog post]

Supernatural Stories of New York (2010) [download] [iTunes]
The scary revelations of a New York medium, married Midtown ghosts who fight beyond the grave, a horrific haunting at a 14th Street boardinghouse, and the creepy tale of New York's Hart Island. [original blog post]

Haunted Histories of New York (2011) [download] [iTunes]
What's horrors are buried at the foot of the Statue of Liberty? What's below a Brooklyn Catholic church that makes it so dreadfully haunted? What ghost performs above the heads of theatergoers at The Palace? And what is it about the Kreischer Mansion that makes it Staten Island's most haunted home? [original blog post]

Above: From the Harpers Weekly illustration 'The Apparition', courtesy New York Public Library

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Panic at the Polo Grounds: The first Boston-New York World Series sparks an insane stampede 100 years ago

Above: the crowds at the Polo Ground for Game One. Many of these same people were certainly on hand for the fateful Game Four.

One hundred years ago today, in the frantic fall of 1912, even as the nation was in the midst of an intense three-way race to elect a new president, New Yorkers and Bostonians were overwhelmingly -- perhaps even unnaturally -- distracted.  For the first time ever -- since the introduction of the World Series baseball championship in 1903 -- a New York club was finally battling for ultimate victory against a Boston team.

The two cities had been in perpetual competition for most of their history; organized sport merely provided a formalized outlet to rally regional pride. [For more information, check out my article on the roots of the Boston-New York rivalry.]

The two cities should have already met on the diamond for the 1904 World Series, as the New York Giants were victors of the National League, while the Boston Americans led the American League.  Boston clutched that particular victory by defeating another team from New York, the upstart New York Highlanders (who later became the Yankees).

However, the Giants refused to play the Americans in the World Series, a tantrum thrown by managers aimed at the 'inferior' American League (originally the junior circuit). Rules were changed the following year to make championship play between the leagues compulsory.

Eight years later, in 1912, the New York Giants were matched against the same Boston team under their new name -- the Boston Red Sox.  No hesitation this time around.  They were undeniably the two best terms in America, and both clubs were determined to win the title for their home cities.

For this Series, teams shuttled back and forth between Boston's Fenway Park and New York's premier baseball venue of the day, the Polo Grounds.

Above: A view of the Polo Grounds during Game Four, absolutely packed to the rafters

Game One, played at Polo Grounds, went to Boston.  Game 2, at Fenway, lasted so long -- eleven innings -- that the game was declared a tie on account of darkness. (Night baseball wouldn't be played at Fenway until 1947!)  New York then won the second game at Fenway the following day, tying up the match.

For a fourth consecutive day of baseball, the teams were to return to the Polo Grounds (located at W. 157th Street and 8th Avenue). New Yorkers had the momentum, anxious to build upon their triumph in Game Three.  Both teams, already exhausted, packed into trains and headed back down to New York, arriving that evening at Grand Central. The Giants headed to their respective homes in the city, the Red Sox to their accommodations at Bretton Hall on Broadway and 86th Street.

Fans were already so excited for Game Four the next day that some were already lined up at Polo Grounds before the players even arrived in New York.

Unfortunately, one curious obstacle threatened to ruin everybody's good time: mud.

The Polo Grounds were an uncovered grass field and throughout most of that evening it was pelted with rain, turning this fairly new ballfield (re-built in 1911 after a fire) into what the Evening World called "a mysty mystery" of gray and yellow-brown fog.  The infield was protected by a tarp, but the outfield was battered by the elements. Was it in any condition for a major baseball game?

Commissioners failed to decide that morning whether the game could commence, and baseball fans grew restless. Well, that's an understatement. Giants fans were enraged. "[T]he lynching-hungry scream of an infuriated mob" filled the air around the stadium, as thousands more joined the brave few  still in line from the night before should the field reopen.

An Evening World reporter followed a groundskeeper along the soggy field who lamented, "They can play on it, all right ... Sure, they can play, but oh, me poor grass!"

Umpires were given a police escort into the Polo Grounds at 11 a.m. to inspect the condition of the field. By that time, the mob was practically foaming at the mouth, with "a blood-curdling shriek of 10,000 fans stretch[ing] from 157th Street to 140th Street, thousands and thousands of them." [source]

At left: Photo from the Evening World, 10/11/12

Precisely at noon, the commission, located at the Waldorf-Astoria, telephoned to announce that the baseball game could be played, and the throng thundered into the stadium. The Evening World compared it to the Spanish running of the bulls. "[N]o man of this generation ever saw such racing and pounding along the sloping approaches of the Polo Grounds and began slamming down seats at one minute past twelve o'clock today."

According to New York Post columnist Mike Vaccaro in his book on the 1912 World Series 'The First Fall Classic', the stadium filled to capacity with thousands more watching from various nooks and crannies, over 40,000 people, "officially...the third largest in this history of this stadium (and, thus, the history of the sport) but unofficially shattered that record to smithereens." Many thousands more listened in to an announcer in Herald Square.

And so, here's the punchline: after all that madness, the New York Giants lost the game, on the muddy and thoroughly distressed Polo Grounds, to the Boston Red Sox, 3-2! The New York Times intoned, "Nine Grim Innings To Red Sox Victory."

In fact, they went on to lose the entire series to Red Sox.

Below: For Game One, Mayor William Jay Gaynor threw out the first pitch, sitting alongside the mustachioed Massachusetts governor Eugene Foss. Less than a year later, Gaynor would succumb to injuries brought on by a bullet lodged in his throat, the unlucky souvenir of an 1910 assassination attempt. [Read more about Gaynor here.]

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Rough and rusted: Walking the last section of the High Line

The last remaining unrenovated tracks of the West Side Elevated Railway: Seen better days, but haven't we all? (Click onto pictures for a larger view)

This past weekend, Open House New York, in association with the clothing company Uniqlo, opened up the remaining portion of the West Side Elevated Railway -- aka the High Line. Urban explorers could walk the rusted, overgrown loop from a street-level ramp on 34th Street and stroll over the Hudson train yards, eventually connecting with the end of the developed portion on 30th Street.

While this section of the elevated structure offers little in the way of beautiful surrounding architecture, it is notable for having unencumbered views of the Hudson and a dramatic bend over rows of unoccupied subway cars. That stunning view should be preserved when the $90 million rehabilitation begins later this year.

More uncertain is the fate of the strange growth that has sprouted upon the elevated trains since they were abandoned in the late 1970s. Bushes and small trees thrived from crevasses of rusted railroad ties.

At right, a perfectly healthy evergreen shrub of some sort, begging for Christmas decorations. I'm starting a movement -- protect the High Line Christmas shrub!

 The first phase of new development will include a simple elevated walk constructed on the south portion of the tracks. In its current state, the corroded tracks disguised in thickets of weeds and were hardly safe for children or high heels. But for lovers of graceful urban decay, it was a rich opportunity. Uniquo is sponsoring another weekend on the tracks this weekend, but unfortunately it's already sold-out too!

Maybe they should consider, I don't know, leaving it wild and overgrown for awhile? New Yorkers seem to be enjoying it as is.

The pictures below are courtesy Sean Nowicke. You can visit his photo blog for many more amazing images of the undeveloped section.

For information on the history of the High Line, check out our podcast from earlier this year. (Here's the blog page.) And you can find my free walking tour of the developed part of the High Line here, with mention of the Starrett-Lehigh Building, pictured below:

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Open House New York: Ten fascinating FREE places to visit

This weekend is the tenth annual Open House New York, with dozens of landmarks and cultural attractions throwing open their doors to the public, in all five boroughs. It's probably the best weekend of the year to experience places in New York you would have never thought accessible and a great opportunity to finally go visit that historical place you've always wanted to get to but didn't have the time. Now is the time.

A great many events required reservations and, of course, most of those were quickly filled. But there are a great many places that are open without reservations and free to attend. You don't actually have to spend any money outside of the purchase of a MetroCard. Check out the complete list yourself on the Open House website here.

Below are my recommendations for must-see stops for your weekend. I'll be spending my weekend hitting several Open House sites, including some of those listed below; you can follow along with my trek through the city on Twitter (@boweryboys). At one point, I'm sure to be posing with somebody in a period costume, if not actually putting one on myself.

My recommendations for the weekend:

Manhattan, Washington Square North
Open: Sunday 10am-3pm
Why here? It's a window, opened briefly, into one man's brilliance. Hopper lived and worked most of his career from apartments in this Greenwich Village brownstone.  New York University is opening up his studio for the afternoon so you can see how a modern master created works like 'Nighthawks', pictured above. (Incidentally, I talk about Edward Hopper's studio in my Washington Square Park walking audio tour. Combine both the tour and the visit to the studio for a perfectly excellent Sunday afternoon.)

Manhattan, 11th Avenue and 15th Street
Open: Sat/Sun 11am - 3pm
Why here? When the original pier burned down in 1947, engineers came up with a novel way to replace it. The pier stays aloft in the Hudson River with floating caissons, inspired by the concrete breakwaters used in Normandy during World War II. For years, it served as the headquarters for the Department of Marine and Aviation. Check out the renovations and feel the magic of '50s floatation architecture. Read more about the history in this 2003 Villager article.

Manhattan, 414 West 141st Street
Open: Sunday 6pm-8pm
Why here? Alexander Hamilton lived here, and you've perhaps not been here since they moved the whole thing and situated it in St Nicholas Park last year. They've also opened the place for Open House after the other sites have closed, so it makes a nice way to close out your weekend.

Manhattan, 802 Broadway
Open: Saturday 12-3:30pm, Sunday 1-3:30pm
Why here? A magnet for high society during the 19th century, Grace is one of America's most beautiful churches. And now you can do a self-guided tour through this historic place, with guides in print and accessed by your mobile phone. Fun fact: This is where P.T. Barnum staged the wedding between Tom Thumb and his lilliputian bride Lavinia. (Image above courtesy NYPL)

Bronx, 2640 Grand Concourse
Open: Sat 10am-4pm, Sun 1pm-5pm
Why here? You might have visited the house where Poe wrote 'Annabelle Lee' before, but have you seen the curious Poe Park Visitor Center? I love coming to the Poe cottage because it taxes your imagination trying to envision how bucolic the land surrounding it must have been when he lived here in 1846. His child bride Virginia died in the first floor bedroom.

Bronx, 2900 Southern Boulevard
Open: Sat/Sun 10am - 6pm
Why here? Sadly, one of my all-time favorite Bronx attractions, Wave Hill, is not participating in Open House, but you can get your natural-beauty fix at the New York Botanical Garden this weekend. Just walk up and mention Open House New York weekend, and they'll give you a free pass to the garden grounds. The leaves are just beginning to change after all....

West Brighton, Staten Island, 33 Saint Austin's Place
Open: Saturday 10-4pm, with guided tours at 11am, 1pm and 3pm
Why here? It's a revealing footnote to history.  This charming, brown-shingled home with a fabulous porch is the smallest commission ($5,500) ever taken by the renown architectural firm McKim, Mead and White, better known for palatial classics like old Penn Station.

Sunset Park, Brooklyn, 140 58th Street
Open: Saturday 11am-5pm
Why here? It's so damn big! Originally built in 1918, this cavernous complex was the largest military supply base in the United States during World War II, a must for admirers of photogenic industrial beauty. And perhaps the strangest detail of all -- it's designed by Cass Gilbert, who less than a decade earlier gave Manhattan the Woolworth Building. Over a decade after the terminal was finished, he'd move on to design the Supreme Court building in Washington. (Picture above courtesy Life Google images)

Fort Greene, Brooklyn, Fort Greene Park
Open: Saturday 11am-3pm
Why here? Although you can't climb to the top, just being able to walk inside of it -- knowing nearby there's a crypt containing the remains of victims who perished during the Revolutionary War -- is rather profound. Plus any day spent in Fort Greene Park is a good one.

Kew Gardens, Queens, 127-15 Kew Gardens Road
Open: Saturday 2pm and 6:30pm
Why here? New York cemeteries are always worth checking out during Open House. Green-Wood and Woodlawn both have events this weekend and are worthy of an afternoon stroll. But what makes the trip to this Kew Gardens burial ground from 1875 worthwhile is something called 'Spirits Alive' -- people dressed as historical figures standing next to the graves of people they're representing. Morbidly intriguing! Come at 6:30pm for a twilight 'theatrical performance with a small orchestra'.

And although I've suggested it in the past, a wacky tour through the beautiful and absolutely strange Grand Lodge of Masons in Chelsea will pretty much make you want to reach for your Dan Brown novels.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

October is for lovers -- of architecture and archives!

The Eero Saarinen-designed TWA Flight Center at JFK International Airport, pictured above under construction in 1961, is Thursday's Archtober Building of the Day! 

 Argh! There is so much to do in the month of October. Tomorrow, I'll elaborate at length on this weekend's big tenth anniversary Open House New York. But don't let that and your premature search for Halloween decorations get in the way of taking part in two other marvelous October surprises:

It's Art and Architecture Month here in New York, and the second annual Archtober festival is already underway, a month-long array of exhibits, tours and presentations on city design.  As paired with a few Open House opportunities this weekend, the festival is the absolute best time of the year to learn about and marvel over New York's distinctive architectural history.

You can find a calendar of events here, but some highlights you'll want to explore:

-- Several architectural boat tours around Manhattan throughout the month, hosted by AIA New York and the Center for Architecture

-- Walking tours of note include the Big Onion tour of Brooklyn Heights (13th and 20th), a stroll through Hidden TriBeCa hosted by the Municipal Art Society (20th) and a special stroll past all the new and wacky structures in Washington Square, Cooper Square, Bond Street and the New Bowery, led by AIA New York (27th)

-- A special previews and opening reception for the FDR Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island, which officially opens on October 24th.

Most of the above need reservations. You can find more information at the Archtober website.

They also honor one structure a day as the Archtober Building Of The Day, offering tours of some of those particular buildings.

And next week is New York Archives Week, which is also featuring some pretty astounding and unusual exhibitions, many free to the public.  This blog would be nothing without the availability of public archives, so I'm definitely running to some of these events. I mean, who doesn't love themselves some good ephemera? The full calendar is here, but ones of note include:

-- Archives in Action: Use of Archives for Girl Scouts of the USA 100th Anniversary, with a tour of their Fifth Avenue collection

-- A look inside the Curatorial Center at the Museum of the City of New York, with highlights from their manuscript and ephemera collections

-- Tour of the beautiful Central Synagogue Sanctuary on 55th Street and a lecture on the architectural drawings of Henry Fernbach, a leading architect of Jewish civic and religious buildings in New York

But I think one of my favorites has to be the October 10th presentation by the Greater Astoria Historical Society, a look at a half-century of maps from the E. Belcher-Hyde Map Company which produced maps of the New York area for over 100 years. Check here to make reservations.

At right: A 1918 atlas of Queens, produced by the E. Belcher-Hyde Map Company

Top image courtesy Life Google Images. Bottom image courtesy New York Public Library

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

City of debauchery: New York history and Sunday night TV

Party at Pompadou's Bordello: Cocktails and carousing on 'Copper' Courtesy BBC America

My first ever column for the Huffington Post is available to read on their site. I look at the different ways that three Sunday night 'prestige' shows -- BBC America's Copper, AMC's Mad Men, and HBO's Boardwalk Empire -- approach the task of integrating New York City history into their plotlines.

Click here to read the article and even leave a comment if you'd like --   Copper, Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men: Getting New York City History Right on Cable's Hottest Night