Friday, May 30, 2014

The sumptuous story of Ladies' Mile: Traces of cast-iron grandeur, the architectural delights of the Gilded Age


The opening of Siegel-Cooper department store, 1896, created one of the great mob scenes of the Gilded Age.  Today, TJ Maxx and Bed Bath and Beyond occupy this once-great commercial palace.  

PODCAST  Ladies' Mile -- the most famous New York shopping district in the 19th century and the "heart of the Gilded Age," a district of spectacular commercial palaces of cast-iron. They are some of the city's greatest buildings, designed by premier architects.

Unlike so many stories about New York City, this is a tale of survival, how behemoths of retail went out of business, but their structures remained to house new stores. This is truly a rare tale of history, where so many of the buildings in question are still around, still active in the purpose in which they were built.

We start this story near City Hall, with the original retail mecca of A.T. Stewart -- the Marble Palace and later his cast-iron masterpiece in Astor Place. Stewart set a standard that many held dear, even as his competitors traveled uptown to the blocks between Union Square and Madison Square.

 Join us on this glamorous journey through the city's retail history, including a walking tour circa 1890 (with some role play involved!) of some of the district's best known buildings.

PLUS: Why is Chelsea's Bed Bath and Beyond so particularly special in this episode? You'll never buy towels there the same way again!

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 it straight from here:
The Bowery Boys #1645 Ladies' Mile

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America's first department store -- A.T. Stewart's Marble Palace, near City Hall. The building is actually still there today! The address is 280 Broadway. (Courtesy NYPL)




Stewart's even more celebrated department store at Astor Place, nicknamed the Iron Palace with its cast-iron construction. Unlike Stewart's first store, this one is no longer there. (NYPL)



1903: Ladies on a freezing day, surrounding the 23rd Street entrance to the Sixth Avenue Elevated Railroad, placing them just a few blocks from the biggest department stores in the world. (Courtesy Museum of the City of New York)

 6th Ave & 23rd St.


 The entrance to Stein Brothers on 23rd Street. There's a Home Depot in this building today, but you can still see the SB insignia over the door. And below, the street scene in 1908.(Photo: Edmond V Gillon, MCNY)

[32-46 West 23rd Street.]
[West 23rd Street from 6th Avenue East.]


Adams Dry Goods, decades after the shop at closed. In later years, it was a Hershey's plants and a military storage space. Today, on the ground floor, there's a Trader Joe's grocery store. (Photo: Edmond V Gillon, MCNY)

  [675 Sixth Avenue.]


1901: Women in front of the Church of the Holy Communion, the elevated train in back of them. (MCNY)

Street Scenes, Sixth Avenue at 20th Street.

The windows at Simpson Crawford Co. at Sixth Avenue and 20th Street, 1904. (MCNY)

Simpson Crawford Co. 

The Siegel-Cooper department store fountain, with a statue of Republic (by Daniel Chester French) and electric lights in a kaleidoscope of colors. And, below it, another view of Siegel Cooper from the opposite side of the tracks. (MCNY)

  Siegel Cooper

Retail Trade - Dept. Store 1896. Siegel Cooper Co. (Exterior) 6th Ave at 18th St.


Ladies in the Siegel Cooper canned goods department. The store canned its own food. Very organic! (MCNY)

  Retail Trade Dept. Store.


An overhead shot of Macy's at 14th Street and the Sixth Avenue elevated railroad station. (MCNY)

[6th Avenue and 14th Street.]


Lord & Taylor's, at Broadway and 20th Street, 1904. (Wurts Brothers, MCNY)
Broadway and East 20th Street. Lord and Taylor, old building.

Inside WJ Sloane, Carpets Rugs and Furniture, at Broadway and 19th Street (MCNY)

W.J. Sloane, Carpets Rug & Furniture, 19th St. & Broadway.

The Flatiron Building, completed in 1902, is considered part of the Ladies Mile Historic District, even though it was never a department store.



Thursday, May 29, 2014

Chelsea and the Chocolate Factory (or rather, Hershey and his Sixth Avenue chewing gum plant)


Hershey's employees cut and pack chewing gum at Sixth Avenue and 21st Street.

For five glorious years in the early 1920s, Hershey's Chocolate operated a candy plant at Sixth Avenue, in the neighborhood of Chelsea. While chocolate bars and chocolate coating for other candies were produced here, the Chelsea plant primarily focused on a new confection, one that ultimately failed -- Hershey's Chewing Gum.

But let me back up. The grand building that sits there today -- one of the prominent members of Ladies Mile Historic District and the current home of Trader Joe's -- was originally built for the department store Adams Dry Goods.  Founded in the mid-1880s, Adams Dry Goods had been slowly expanding along this block, enjoying a surge of business thanks to the Sixth Avenue elevated train.

Below: The Adams Dry Goods building in 1978 (photo by Edmund V Gillon, MCNY): 



Other department stores sprouted up along the street, most notably the Siegel-Cooper department store in 1896.  (That building is home today to Bed, Bath and Beyond.)  Siegel-Cooper was a sparkling Beaux-Arts treasure, 750,000 square feet with dozens of departments for shoppers, and its ambition and size drew headlines and the curiosity of New Yorkers.

Naturally, Samuel Adams, the proprietor of Adams Dry Goods, wanted to compete with this retail behemoth, so in 1899 he hired Siegel-Cooper architects DeLemos & Cordes to design a massive new store with an opulent interior central court.  Large second floor windows offered views to elevated train passengers of the store's most notable trade -- men's clothing.  (Much of Ladies Mile, in contrast, catered to women.)

Below:  Adams Dry Goods today. After a period in the 1990s-2000s as a Barnes and Noble bookstore, today it holds a Trader Joe's:




But Adams' timing was rather poor.  For just a few years later, the more successful department stores (including Lord & Taylor and B Altman) fled to Herald Square and Fifth Avenue.  Hugh O'Neill's, the department store one block south, bought Adams Dry Goods and prepared to merge the businesses, even planning an underground tunnel under West 21st Street to link to two large structures.  This never came to fruition, and both O'Neill's and Adams Dry Goods went out of business for good.

The abandoned building was briefly used by the US Army for storage before being acquired by a most unusual new tenant -- Hershey's Chocolate.


Candy man Milton S. Hershey had been successfully manufacturing treats in his hometown of Derry Church, Pennsylvania (which now took the mogul's name -- Hershey) and was looking for a another hit after the success of the Hershey's Kiss.  He thought chewing gum was the logical next step.

In New York he bought some gum-making equipment and had it shipped to his Pennsylvania plant where production began on Hershey's Chewing Gum. "Six sticks for a nickel" went the slogan.

In January 1918, Hershey leased Adams' former department store on Sixth Avenue and eventually moved elements of his candy production there, including his entire chewing gum business.

I haven't been to locate the exact reason why.  Early in his career, Hershey operated a candy shop on Sixth Avenue and 42nd Street, and his wife had been a clerk at B Altman's a few blocks down.  With his chief competitor Wrigley's located in Chicago, perhaps his return to New York was his official stab at planting roots in an urban market.

Soon the Sixth Avenue shop was whirring with the sound of boilers, mixers, candy presses and wrapping machines, sending out five thousand boxes of chewing gum a day, and a lesser amount of other candy items.  Wheat was carried in from the Pennsylvania plant and added to the gum to make it more chewy.

As you can see here, the implements of candy-making fit oddly into the cavernous Sixth Avenue department store:



Sadly, future residents of Chelsea would be robbed of the delightful aromas of chicle and chocolate, as Hershey's chewy offering did not take off.  With raw ingredients being hard to obtain in the early 1920s, the product was discontinued, and Hershey eventually closed the plant in 1924.

However I'm sure you can buy gum at Trader Joe's that currently occupies the building.

Hershey's plant photographs courtesy the Museum of the City of New York (see originals here)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maya Angelou 1928-2014



A photo from her nightclub and theater years, G. Paul Bishop Jr. photographer

"“I never agreed with Thomas Wolfe,” she remarked quietly. “I never thought you can’t go home again. I’ve been coming home to Harlem for 50 years.”

-- from a terrific story in the New York Times from 2007 about her ornately colorful Harlem apartment

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Follow the Bowery Boys on Instagram!

The Bowery Boys are now on the photo-sharing service Instagram, traipsing through the city streets in search of quirky places and historic oddities. Follow up as we wander through all five boroughs this spring and summer, looking for surprising and stunning details hidden among the city's avenues, parks and coastlines.

 If you have an account, just click this box and follow us over there:




  We have a new podcast on the way this Friday so stay tuned!

Friday, May 23, 2014

The location of the X-Men's home and its dark historical secret


The next time you read an X-Men comic book or see one of their blockbuster films, remember that the whole thing is taking place in Westchester County, just 50 miles north of New York City.

The address of Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters (aka mutant teenagers) is 1407 Graymalkin Lane, a fictional street near the very real hamlet of Salem Center (part of North Salem, NY).

In fact, Google Maps gives its exact location near the New York and Connecticut border:


According to the 2009 comic book X-Men Manifest Destiny #3, the Beast, the most intellectual of mutants, stumbles into the area's history and information on its original settler -- Charles Graymalkin and his wife Marcia.

There's a unsettling secret to Mr. Graymalkin;  the religious man discovered his teenage son Jonas having sex with another boy in the barn, so he tried to kill him and bury him in the woods.  At some point in the 19th century, this insanely large mansion was built here and eventually inherited by the parents of Charles Xavier, who was born and raised in these luxurious trappings.

Luckily, the buried boy Jonas was a mutant with some type of ability that manifested in the darkness.  He survived for 200 hundred years until he was discovered by our heroes.  How convenient that a school for mutants was located there. If only all New York history was this wacky!

The Westchester mansion made its first appearance 51 years ago in the first issue of the Uncanny X-Men:



Image above courtesy Marvel Comics

New Bowery Boys T-Shirts: The Boss Tweed and The Stuyvesant


Here's your new look for the spring! Proclaim your love of New York history and the Bowery Boys podcast and blog with these two new exclusive T-shirts.  

The gold-on-black model is called The Boss Tweed, great for either a night out on the town at Delmonico's or an all-nighter at a Five Points stale beer dive.  


The red-on-white model is called The Stuyvesant, perfect for any budding director-general looking for something fashionable to wear to the beach, gym or rowdy Dutch port town.  




The shirts are $20 apiece (XL and larger $25) plus shipping.  You can purchase them here: the official Bowery Boys Shopify store.

This pricing is for a limited time only so buy shirts for you and your gang today!  All profits go back into the improvement of the podcast and blog, so you'll even be helping make our show better than ever.  In a few months we hope to have a couple more items to choose from.

Thanks for shopping and supporting the Bowery Boys! We tip our hat to you.

NOTE: The Boss Tweed is unisex while the Stuyvesant is in both unisex and women's sizes.

Shirts and logo designed by Thomas Cabus.  Thanks to Shahar Shamir for modeling.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The adventures of Tony Pizzo, the sailor handcuffed to a bike



It's Fleet Week!  The streets of New York are filled with hundreds of Marines and sailors who arrived yesterday in New York Harbor.  I'm pretty sure, however, that none of them hit the streets handcuffed to a bicycle.

That distinction goes to the enigmatic Tony Pizzo who, in 1919, rode his bicycle from Los Angeles to New York City.  And then, the following year, he rode it back again.

Pizzo set off from Los Angeles in grand style 95 years ago this week (May 21, 1919), joined by fellow sailor C.J. Devine who was attached to another bicycle.  The men were handcuffed to these specially designed bikes during a ceremony in Venice Beach by none other that Hollywood's greatest star -- Fatty Arbuckle.

Pizzo, a failed actor, embarked on the trip as a dare from Arbuckle, who wagered the sailor $3,500 that he couldn't make it to New York by November 1.  Why a military man was wiling away his time doing this in the months after World War I is beyond me.  (One press clipping describes him as "a discharged sailor.")  In reality this was an elaborate advertising stunt.  One newspaper reports that "[t]he men were advertising the Fisk tire, Morrow brakes and Crown bicycles."

"One can hardly realize the trouble that these two riders were put to," remarked the League of American Wheelmen, "for they had to eat, drink, wash and take care of themselves generally while handcuffed to their wheels."

The two men made their way across America, selling souvenir postcards to fund their cross-country journey.  Unfortunately, in Kansas, Devine was hit by a car, so Pizzo went the rest of the way alone.

He finally arrived in New York on October 30, greeted by guests at the Hotel McAlpin in Herald Square. He checked into a room still handcuffed to his bicycle and was only separated from the device a day later by Mayor John Hylan.

Pizzo "regarded his bicycle with dislike," according to the New York Times. "[H]e would not do it again for one million dollars."

But, in fact, he did do it again, re-chained to the same bike, riding back to Los Angeles the following year.  Fortunately, Devine had recovered from his injuries and accompanied Pizzo as his manager.

Below: From a Philadelphia newspaper, May 1, 1920


Apparently Pizzo just couldn't stop biking.  In 1921, he embarked on another dare, the intent of which is indicated on his retooled bicycle below -- to visit the governors of all 48 states. (picture courtesy Flickr/Zaz von Schwinn)





Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Coney Island's many death and destruction amusements


The entrance to the Johnstown Flood presentation (Cleaned-up photo courtesy Shorpy)

On May 31, 1889, a dam near the town of Johnstown, PA, collapsed after a brutal day of torrential rain, flooding the valley with 20 million tons of water and destroying everything in its path. There was virtually no escape, and 2,209 people died in the deadly flood.  Railroads, bridges and iron works were wiped off the map.  It remains one of the greatest disasters in America history.

Several years later, in 1905, on the Coney Island boardwalk, visitors could relive the danger in a bizarre reenactment set upon one of the biggest stages in the United States.  That's entertainment!

The elaborate amusement, touted as "the greatest technical production in the world," was only one of several theatrical presentations offering death and destruction, vivid dioramas of history and horror, for the pleasure of summer audiences.

These strange amusements were a precursor to the modern Hollywood disaster film, but they also served a more demonstrative purpose.  They provided Coney Island with a way to compete with Broadway, using new technologies and sophisticated stagecraft to recreate nature's most horrifying scenarios.  Crowds marveled at the trickery, often rendering events with a macabre beauty.



On Surf Avenue and 17th Street, one could visit the horror of the Galveston Flood, recounting the 1900 disaster (actually a hurricane) that killed over 8,000 people.  The Evening World declared, "How the very spirit of the horrible hurricane can be caught by mechanical and electrical devices is the secret that will make the Galveston flood famous."

Down on Fifth Street, audiences delighted to a revival of the eruption of Mount Pelee, which killed almost 30,000 people in 1902.  Opening just two years after the disaster, the Pelee attraction was particularly luscious and comfy -- "cooled by six big ventillators and ventillating fans run by electric motor" -- as audiences witnessed the effects of faux lava catching houses on fire. [source]

Not to be outdone, in 1906, impresario Herbert Bradwell, the producer of the Johnstown Flood attraction, expanded the water and light effects to recreate Noah's Biblical flood.  The Deluge was both cheap spectacle and a morality play in five scenes, employing a flagrant water and light show to retell the ancient Biblical story, from the construction of the Ark to a host of tableaux outlining a possible future of "universal peace." [source]


Coney Island's most famous amusement parks certainly got in on the apocalyptic action.  Luna Park presented the thrill of fire-fighting with the 1904 show Fire and Flames.  Dreamland also joined the fray that year with Fighting The Flames where patrons could witness the horror of burning tenement.

Later that year, Dreamland replaced its fire fantasy with a vivid retelling of the San Francisco Earthquake, mere months after it killed almost 3,000 people and leveled the city.  The Earthquake featured a cast of 350 people within a stage creation of pyrotechnics and smoke effects, leveling the city on a nightly basis.

Below: Luna Park's Fire and Flames and Dreamland's Fighting the Flames were both featured in separate films.  






Perhaps the most dazzling of the many death and destruction features were the various incinerations of the ancient city of Pompeii.

The first came in 1903 down near the Manhattan Beach Hotel with The Last Days of Pompeii, which nightly decimated the ancient Greek city, using a host of firework tricks and various maudlin theatrics. A year later, Dreamland brought the Fall of Pompeii, with a thrilling simulacrum of fire, ashes and lava. [picture source]


But in terms of the sheer amount of destruction imaginatively depicted, nothing could top Dreamland's 1906 show called The End of the World, which destroyed all of mankind in an auditorium seating 1,200 people.

"The expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise and the destruction of the world by fire are the principal episodes in the production in which ... more than a hundred people, a large choir and an organ take part." [source]

Below: The entrance to the End of the World



Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Five items from the Village Voice, 50 years ago this week


Washington Square North, looking west, 1950, photo by Walter Sanders, Life Magazine

The entire back catalog of the Village Voice, New York's original alternative weekly, is available online through Google News.  The early issues are especially full of character, a scrappy counter-culture organ which provides an interesting window into downtown Manhattan.  Here are some highlights from an issue which came out fifty years ago this week:

1) Washington Square Park, both the physical epicenter of Greenwich Village and the gathering place for the Village's various cultural factions, faced a possible makeover by the city in 1964.  "This plan has two objectives.  The first is to clean up the park, which is now physically run-down and neglected.  The second, in response to complaints by adjacent property-owners, is to discourage beatniks and other 'undesirable elements' from congregating there." [source]

The park had been a magnet for the beatnik scene since the early 1950s.   The folk singers who would gather on Sunday afternoons had won a major victory in 1961 after a so-called "beatnik riot" convinced the city to allow musical crowds to congregate there

The park was eventually altered that year, but one major change would have been applauded by all -- the traffic lane that cut under the Washington Square Arch and through the park was officially closed.

2) Sara D. Roosevelt Park in the Lower East Side, meanwhile, remained a disheveled dump, and the Voice clearly saw it as a symbol of the city's neglect of the poor. "While the Parks Department is champing at the bit to pour $750,000 into Washington Square .... Sara Delano Roosevelt playground resembles a post-war Berlin.  The latter, at Forsyth and Chrystie Streets, has been the scene of unrelieved wreckage for almost six years.  It was torn up to make way for a subway and no one one thought to put it back together again.


The Delacourte Theater, June 1964, a performance of Hamlet (courtesy NYC Parks)

3) The New York Shakespeare Festival has a new home at the Delacourte Theater in Central Park, but writer John Wilcock, author of the Village Square column, pines for the festival's shaggier, less respectable days.  Respectability has rendered it commonplace, according to Wilcock. Now you have to line up to grab a seat!  "This is an improvement?"

4) The Black Revolution and The White Backlash, a lecture at Town Hall, featured an interesting group of guests, including LeRio Jones (aka Amiri Baraka):


5) The jazz and folk clubs: A glorious sampling of musical icons that week -- Ella Fitzgerald, Stan Getz, George Carlin, the Highwaymen, Woody Allen, Jose Feliciano, Cannonball Adderley





Friday, May 16, 2014

The short shelf life of the Tip-Tops, the Brooklyn baseball team situated near the Gowanus River and named for bread


The piping hot uniforms of the Brooklyn Tip-Tops, worn by baby-faced manager Lee Magee

For a brief shining moment between 1914 and 1915, Brooklyn had two major league baseball teams -- the legendary Brooklyn Dodgers and the not-so-legendary Brooklyn Tip-Tops.

Baseball has long been a sport of two parallel sports leagues -- the National League and the American League -- which have gotten together at season's end to play the World Series since 1903.  But for an unusual moment in 1914 and 1915, there was a third baseball league called the Federal League.

A cartoon from the May 12, 1914 New York Tribune:



The Federal was formed specifically in protest to the signing practices of the two dominant leagues, doing away with pesky reserve clauses (binding players to certain teams for almost their entire careers) and offering higher salaries.  For a second, it seemed possible that the Federal League might provide a new way to organize a major sport.

There were eight teams in the Federal league which such unusual names as the Chicago Whales, the Newark Peppers and the Baltimore Terrapins. (Yes, somebody named a ball team after a turtle.)

Within the New York area, one franchise was awarded to Brooklyn, owned by a baker named Robert Ward.  His bakery for Tip-Top Bread (centered at 800 Pacific Street in today's Prospect Heights) was obviously so lucrative that he eventually sank one million dollars in funding the team that eventually took the name of his baking enterprise -- the Brooklyn Tip-Tops.

Brooklyn's other team, the Dodgers, had conveniently vacated their old wooden field, Washington Park, for their brand home Ebbets Field in Flatbush.  Ward hastily prepared to move the Tip-Tops into the Dodgers' old home by paying for a spectacular upgrade to the dilapidated Gowanus park.  It was located between 1st and 3rd Streets at Fourth Avenue.

The baker, with his brother George S. Ward, sunk more than $250,000 into the new concrete-and-steel ballpark, situated so near the Gowanus that fans got a good whiff of its toxic odors on summer days.

The new park itself was rather flawed with bleachers extremely close to the field.  According to author Daniel Levitt: "[T]he tiny foul territory caused nearly all foul balls to end up with the spectators.  At the time fans were not allowed to keep foul balls ... leading to a tacky atmosphere as team officials constantly wrestled balls away from fans."

Another set of cheap sets, derisively called 'sun bleachers', which provided an unpleasant scorching experience during the summer, were quickly closed after some bad publicity.

Below: Inside the refurbished Washington Park on opening day of their second (and final) season



Construction equipment still darted the grounds when they opened on May 11, 1914.  "The Federal League opened here with a bang," said the Evening World.  "Bands, horns, sirens and vocal assistance from 16,000 fans gave New York's fourth baseball club a noisy welcome." (The other three being the New York Giants, the New York Yankees, and, of course, the Dodgers.)

At first, Brooklynites emphatically supported their new team, quickly nicknamed the BrookFeds.  But it soon became obvious that the team was nothing to write home about.

They finished their inaugural season with an unimpressive record of 77 wins, 77 losses.  In comparison, the Giants, located at the Polo Grounds, made it to the World Series.  However, the young team did finish better than the Yankees (57-94). And even managed to best the Dodgers (65-84)!

Given Ward's religious beliefs, he instructed that no Sunday games be played at the park, a serious blow given that it was the only day off for many potential working-class fans.

Another strike against the team occurred during the winter when the team was unable to sign away more successful players from the other two leagues.  The one exception was the outstanding Lee Magee (pictured above in a Tip-Top uniform) who was hired away from the St. Louis Cardinals and even managed the team during the 1915 season.  He would later join the Yankees.

"If hustling, hard work and ambition among the players make a winning team, the Brooklyn fans will see one in Washington park this year," Magee claimed.

An ad for second season opening day, from the Evening World.  The flag raising mentioned below is pictured above:



The fans showed up for the beginning of season two, but enthusiasm quickly ebbed.  In fact, that first game against the Buffalo Buffeds (yes, that's their name!) seemed to auger a host of frustrations for the rest of the season;  it went unusually long almost into night -- the park was not lit -- with "three hours of errors and wrangling."

Behind the scenes, the two other leagues were busy trying to dismantle the Federal League who had filed an anti-trust suit in January.  It did not help the mood in New York that the Tip-Tops were doing worse under Magee.  They completed their season 70-82, second to last behind the scathingly terrible Baltimore Terripins.

Below: Magee with the manager from the Buffalo Buffeds:



Machinations outside New York doomed the team.  The National and American Leagues managed to eradicate its rival through series of brokered deals and buyouts.  One of these deals changed the face of American baseball, when the owner of the Chicago Whales was allowed to buy the Chicago Cubs and move them into the Whales' new stadium -- Wrigley Field.

The only team that remained to battle back against the two leagues was the Federal League's least successful team -- the Baltimore Terrapins.  They sued the leagues saying it was a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.  The case went all the way to the Supreme Court who, in the landmark case Federal Baseball Club vs. National League, handed Baltimore something they were very familiar with -- defeat.

On December 18, 1915, the Tribune revealed the fate of Brooklyn's second baseball team:

"The Brooklyn Tip-Tops will withdraw from Washington Park, leaving the site barren of baseball and the city in the hands of the Superbas [Dodgers].  Organized baseball will reimburse George S. Ward annually with 5 percent of the assessed value of Washington Park for twenty years."

By 1916, Tip-Top went back to meaning fresh white bread.

While Washington Park was eventually dismantled, a part of it still exists.  Today on the site is a yard for Con Edison.  The western wall along Third Avenue was once part of the ball park.  Perhaps if you go over to the Gowanus Whole Foods, you can walk over a block or two and check out this incredible piece of sports history!


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Forgotten paradise: Welcome to South Beach, Staten Island


South Beach, Staten Island, 1973, photographed by Arthur Tress

As a resort and amusement mecca, the time of Staten Island's South Beach has come and gone.  The waterfront community south of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge still has a classic old boardwalk, built in 1935 as New Deal project and appropriately called the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Boardwalk.  And there are still recreational facilities for baseball and hockey found just off its old boards.

But priorities have changed here. Similar to the fate of Rockaway Beach, most of the amusements were gone by the 1970s,  Several sections of neighborhoods along the shore were gravely damaged in 2012 by Hurricane Sandy.

Its doubtful this area will ever return to its glory days of the early 20th century when Happyland Amusement Park brought a bit of Coney Island magic to the shore.  Further inland, real estate developers were changing the landscape with planned communities that eventually appealed to New Yorkers of Italian, Irish and Hispanic descent.

Here's some views of South Beach and adjacent Midland Beach from early in the century and then some drastically different views from the 1970s. Photos are courtesy the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library:



From a 1908 advertisement: "A delightful ferry sail down the bay and trolley ride through Staten Island's verdant hills will bring you to HAPPYLAND, on South Beach, looking out toward the ocean.  The new combination ticket feature provides, for a quarter, admission to the park, vaudeville, dancing pavilions, Bill's Ladder, Paris by Night, Foolish House, Georgia Minstrels, Dib Dab Slide, Electric Slide, Hippodrome, Circle Swing, Fat Saidy and the Human Roulette Wheel."








Brooklyn Daily Eagle ad from 1913 (courtesy the blog wagnerowitz)






Below the beaches in 1973, photographed by Arthur Tress