Monday, October 31, 2011
New York Tours By Gary: Elm Park, Elmwood, the Apthorpe Estate or as it is...: This is looking north east from 100th street between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues. The Ninth Avenue el looms over what is now called Col...
The large pile of rocks and stones in the lower right foreground is the remains of the original Croton Aqueduct of 1842. The aqueduct ran above ground and eventually to a receiving reservoir located between 86th and 79th streets and between 6th and 7th avenue. This area is now within Central Park and is the site of the Great Lawn. From there the water flowed through pipes to the distribution reservoir located between 41rst and 42nd streets, between 5th and 6th Avenues. The site is now occupied by the main branch of New York Public Library.
Eventually the above ground aqueduct was placed underground and the structure you see in the photo was rendered obsolete. The aqueduct was a hinderance to traffic flow on too many streets, and as soon as the aqueduct was no longer used, where it blocked a street it was knocked down. In many cases the stones were used in construction of other structures. Saint Paul the Apostle on 60th and 9th Avenue used a good deal of aqueduct chunks in it's construction.
This is an image of the the mansion built by successful merchant, loyalist and member of the Governors council (until 1783 when the British surrendered the colonies) Charles Apthorpe. The house, which was finally finished in 1764, was the center piece of a 268 acre estate called Elmwood. The house sat on a rise in the property so as to afford a view of the mighty Hudson River. 153 of the acres had been purchased from Oliver DeLancey (the street was named for his father Stephen who's property was once centered down there) who had a large piece of property that included a house on what is now 86th street and Riverside Drive. The house pictured stood at what became 91rst street between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues.
The 69th Regiment used the park as their review and drill grounds in 1855 and the grounds were used for a picnics and sporting contests.
However, it was the afternoon of July 12, 1870, that people remembered. On that day three thousand Irish Protestants were enjoying a picnic on the grounds of Elm Park. A mob of Irish Catholic laborers entered the park in what was to become known as the Orangeman Riots, killing five picnickers and injuring hundreds.
This is the house as it looked in 1891, just before it was demolished in favor of the ever encroaching city. The streets which ultimately cut through the property were laid out in 1811 and through out the post Civil War era those streets on a map became realities. There had been lanes going through the property, a wide lane lead from the house down to the old Bloomingdale Road and other smaller lanes cut through as well. Jauncey Lane and Striker's Lane were two lanes (that also served as property lines). Striker's Lane is significant as it is the name of the family that received a piece of the Apthorpe property after 1783 and was the name of the bay at what is now 96th street and Riverside Drive. The Striker's owned an inn on the bay and you can be sure that this lane lead right to the front door of Striker's Inn.
Another 1891 view. Apthorpe’s life was shattered with the outbreak of revolution. After the disastrous Battle of Long Island (really Brooklyn Heights) George Washington fled to Manhattan and up the Bloomingdale Road, a road that the British had laid out in 1703, to regroup, taking over the mansion as his headquarters. As soon as other American officers had moved their soldiers to Bloomingdale and the Elmwood estate, Washington moved on.
Within hours the British General Howe arrived, taking the mansion as his headquarters, remaining through the fighting of the Battle of Harlem Heights. Before the war was over, Sir Henry Clinton and Lord Cornwallis had also taken over the mansion.
With the final defeat of the British, Apthorpe was arrested and tried for high treason. For reasons never fully explained, he was released and permitted to keep most of his estate; although his sizable property in Massachusetts was confiscated.
On January 3, 1789 the mansion was the scene of the marriage of Apthorpe’s daughter to Congressional Delegate Hugh Williamson. Maria Apthorpe was described as “lovely and accomplished,” by the New York Daily Gazette. On April 4th 1789, the first Congress on The United States meets at the old Federal Hall (now the location of the Federal Hall National Memorial on Wall Street). This marriage says quid pro quo to me; in other words it would explain Apthorpe's release. Oliver DeLancey, Apthorpe's neighbor and a real thug (a rich boy thug - but a thug is a thug) lost everything and was deported to England.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Up at the top is a triangular shaped lot with a house indicated as well as the name M.T. Brennan. He was a Tammany Hall connected officer in the New York City Fire Department who did very well. The house and surrounding land were ultimately sold the Isidore and Ida Straus who died on the Titanic. The house, which contained the first cast iron / porcelain clad bath tub in the United States. The Straus's were health conscience and believed in out door exercise and the children in the household had use of a baseball diamond. The land around the house was ample and contained what was called "the old barn" that the children had use of as well. The Bloomingdale Road was very important to George Washington as he escaped New York after the disastrous Battle of Long Island (Brooklyn) and there were skirmishes all along the road. One of those skirmishes centered around a barn next to a buckwheat field centered around what is now 106th Street and West End Avenue. The barn at that site was owned by a dutch farmer who also owned the buckwheat field next to it. Is it not possible that the old barn was the site of that gun fight? Quite possibly the place where Massachusetts born Thomas Knowlton, leader of Knowlton's Rangers, died during a failed surprise attack on the British during the Battle of Harlem Heights? It is possible that this is the place. It is also possible that it was here, or near here, that Nathan Hale was sent on his "secret", or as his friends called it a "suicide mission" by Knowlton. Nathan Hale, a zealous patriot, quite possibly defied all orders and started what became known as the Great Fire of 1776. Hale had been seen by British Officers with "incendiary devices" down in lower Manhattan. Knowlton died on September 16th and the Great fire was on September 21rst. Possible.
This 125th Street looking west from 7th Avenue. This is in the middle of World War II, the street cars still running across this well traveled and even then congested street but the marquee's are the give away. DuBarry Was A Lady starring Lucille Ball, Red Skelton and Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra was released in 1943 and is playing at Oscar Hammerstein's Harlem Opera House. Ethel Waters is at the Apollo and Johnny Come Lately, also 1943, starring James Cagney and (featured prominently on the the marquee) Oscar winner Hattie McDaniel. This was the Broadway of Harlem. On 7th Avenue between 124th and 125th was the Harlem Casino, built in the late 1880's when Harlem was populated by a large German Jewish community and was largely Caucasian. In 1910, local resident (111th and 7th Avenue) Marcus Loew converted the casino into a 1606 seat theater equipped for movies, vaudeville and legit theater. After the turn of the century Harlem became home to a large community of middle class African Americans. Even with the population shift, African Americans were not served at many local restaurants, not admitted into various theaters and when they were admitted, only in the balcony. This strip was often referred to as the great "white" way.
By World War II, as the demographics of the area changed, so did the Jim Crow policies. Economics dictated this change. This may explain why Hattie McDaniel is featured so prominently on the marquee of Loew's Victoria.
This is a detail from an 1867 map showing what we now refer to as 125th street. The little village, the cluster of buildings anyway, is the village of Manhattanville. East of Amsterdam Avenue, known then as 10th Avenue, 125th street intersected with a street called Manhattan Street. Today, the intersection is still there, sort of. The original cross streets have been renamed or obliterated by Morningside Gardens and the Grant Houses. If you look at a Google map of this area, you will see that if you draw a straight line, east to west across the grid, LaSalle Street is 125th Street west of Amsterdam Avenue. There are extreme anomalies in the grid here, West 125th street intersected by West 129th Street for example. The original name of the subway stop at 125th Street was Manhattan Street.
This is part of the area called Manhattanville. There is still a Manhattanville Post Office on West 125th Street. The NYCTA bus depot is referred to as "The Manhattanville Depot". Manhattanville was a self contained village dating from the very early 19th century. A very mixed neighborhood in that there was the Tiemann Paint Works, The Tiemann Estate (on what was the southern border of Manhattanville) Convent of the Sacred Heart, Manhattanville College (now located in Westchester County) and the Oswald Ottendorfer estate running from Broadway (or the Boulevard as it was known then) to the river beginning at West 135th Street. There was also a passenger station located at grade level (meaning street level) at 130th street. Although passenger service on the line had ended long ago, the little station house stood until the 1920's. Between the Tiemann and the Ottendorfer estates, there was this valley, and there still is. At the center of this valley, the heart of the community called Manhattanville, was the industrial / working class section. This picture shows a house that lasted until at least 1931 (this is the date of the photo). It stood on what was 127th street just east of "Old Broadway".
This is the same early 19th century wood frame house from the north side of it. This structure probably predates the Civil War. It stood on"Old Broadway", a street that still exists. It is a remnant of the old Bloomingdale Road continuation north of 111th Street, Kingsbridge Road.
This place makes me want to get gas. We are looking east from the corner of 12th Avenue and Manhattan Street (125th Street). There is still a gas station on this site and the service area behind the pumps is now a defunct car wash. In the background is the Sheffield Farms milk processing facility, making such things as Sealtest Milk.
This is yet a different gas station. There are still 2 gas stations along Manhattan Street (125th) and I believe that this is the one further east from the one below. I am basing this on the fact that you can see the Sheffield Farms sign in the background in the previous picture. I also believe that we are looking west towards the Riverside Drive Viaduct which would place this station east of the previous picture.
This is looking west towards Broadway and the arch of the I.R.T. Manhattan street station. The house in the foreground is the same house in the March 4th photos. This is about 1920.
According to the New York City record of registered voters of 1887 and 1888, James, Abraham and Richard Pettits called this home. Originally 77 Manhattan Street, later 515 West 125th
This is the Dr. John Ferdinand home at 230 West 125th Street. It was located on the south side of 125th Street just west of 7th Avenue. The site now is included in the lot upon which the old Blumstein's Department Store building still stands today. The good Doctor Ferdinand lived here from 1880 to 1887, after residing on West 127th Street during the 1870's. This house is on the real 125th street as it is way east of the intersection of Manhattan Street and 125th Street.
This is on the north side of 125th street between First and Second Avenues. This picture represents several things. It is a homage to an ever-changing city. We have a middle class single family wood frame home from the mid nineteenth century sandwiched between an industrial building on the left and a tenement building on the right.
The frame house has a mansard roof judging by the shadows being cast by the projecting windows. There was a major flirtation, or as Christopher Gray in the Sunday Times called it, a "heyday of mansard roofs" between 1868 and 1873. One of the earliest uses of the this french architectural import was at 17 East 128th Street.
The buildings were built at different times, as the neighborhood changed, so did what was being built. By the early 1880's the area became more accessible with the opening of the Second Avenue El. These structures, none more than 85 years old in this 1932 photograph, are soon to vanish. By 1934 construction for the Triboro Bridge will be in full swing and the entire block would disappear.
This is Broadway at West 106th street prior to the subway being built. The picture was taken September 25, 1900 and the path up the center malls with their very old trees (elms?) would soon disappear.
The building straight up the path behind the trees is the Manhasset, part of the big wave of apartment building development in anticipation of the opening of the subway. Originally designed by Joesph Wolf, construction began in 1899. The first 8 floors were finished by 1901 but the developer defaulted. A new owner steps in with the architects Janes & Leo who finish the building with three more stories and the distinctive mansard roof. Along with their Dorilton on Broadway and 71rst street, Janes & Leo's Manhasset is a New York City landmark.
The group of trees on the left is part of Bloomingdale Square. Now known as Straus Park as the Titanic has not been built yet. Behind the trees is the still standing but substantially altered apartment buildings (now joined together as one) that are the home to the Indian Cafe and 107 West.
This is West 106th Street and Broadway looking east from the center mall. This building, on the south east corner of 106th and Broadway, is home to a pool hall, now the location of Body Strength gym.
This is the side of the building on 106th and Broadway. In the previous picture you can see that there is a pool hall in residence on the 2nd floor. The sign on the third floor is advertising a "Modern" Hebrew school. The 2nd floor windows in this picture are displaying the Star of David. There is Hebrew on the awning over the entrance to the upper floors as well as on the store front to our right. In addition the little wood frame building to the east (our left) has something in Hebrew in it's store front as well. That little building is still standing
This is the Bloomingdale (Dutch) Reformed church. This is actually the 4th building. The first three were located at what is now (approximately anyway) 68th and Broadway. This church lasted only 10 years, the land becoming more valuable than what was on it (a common theme in this town) and gave way to the present 949 West End Avenue.
This is the third Bloomingdale Reform Church at 68th and Broadway. It could seat a 1000 people. The buildings to the left in the background are on Central Park West at 72nd street. That is The Dakota on the left and the Hotel Majestic on the right. The hotel, which stood on the south side of 72nd street and Central Park West was replaced by the art deco twin towers of The Majestic Apartments.
Friday, October 28, 2011
This could pass as a southern plantation but it was really on the block between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive between 99th and 100th streets. It was referred to as "The Colonial White House", but it was a nickname. The columns are what sparked the comparison to the executive mansion in Washington DC.
The house lasted until 1910. The property, along with the house, was eventually replaced by 276 and 270 Riverside Drive.
This grainy shot is of the back of the house, the eastern facade, looking from West End Avenue. That appears to be some sort of crop growing in the foreground. This is one of the properties that lost a chunk of their front lawn. Eminent domain prevailed and Riverside Avenue, renamed Riverside Drive, was cut through by 1880.
This is the house, it is yellow as it is a wooden structure, in a post Civil War map.
This is part of the same series. The path next to the train tracks was probably located just a little east of the promenade that is now over the tracks. The park had a great deal of re-landscaping during the Westside Improvement Project and the tracks were covered, not moved. The field to the west of the tracks is landfill that will very soon be the West Side Highway, the ball fields and the swing rings at Hudson beach.
This beautiful house, with it's glass enclosed conservatory, was on 103rd street between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive. It is the original 310 Riverside Drive.
This is detail of the Foster Mansion.
All though there were earlier experiment with gravity powered rides in 15th century Russia called "Russian Mountains" and built under the orders of Russia's very own Catherine the Great in the Gardens of Oranienbaum in Saint Petersburg, a primitive roller coaster opened in 1784. Some believe that the roller coaster was given to the world by the French. The Les Montagnes Russes à Belleville (The Russian Mountains of Belleville) constructed in Paris in 1812.
In 1827, a mining company in Pennsylvania constructed what became known as a "gravity railroad", an 8.7 mile downhill track used to deliver coal. By the 1850s, the "Gravity Road" (as it became known) was providing rides to thrill-seekers for the outrageous price of 50 cents a ride. Using this idea as a basis, LaMarcus Adna Thompson began work on a gravity powered "Switch Back Railway" that opened at Coney Island, New York in 1884. Riders had to climb to the top of a platform and rode a bench-like car down the 600 ft track up to the top of another tower where the vehicle was switched to a return track and the passengers took the return trip. This track design was soon replaced with an oval complete circuit. In 1885, another coaster pioneer Phillip Hinkle came along and introduced the closed-circuit coaster with a what is called in the industry a "lift Hill", called the Gravity Pleasure Road, which was soon the most popular attraction at Coney Island. Not to be outdone, in 1886 LaMarcus Adna Thompson patented his design of roller coaster that included dark tunnels with painted scenery. Called"Scenic Railways", these rides were to be found in amusement parks across the county from then on.
This is for my friends on 135th street. This theater was the Claremont Theater. With 1350 seats it opened in 1914. It was built for movies only, no vaudeville. It was designed by apartment building architect Gaetan Ajello, this was a departure from his usual line of work. The theater was gutted after 1933 when it became a automobile showroom. The space was used as a roller rink, dance hall and ballroom. It is now a "Tuck-away" storage facility. The White terra cotta front with it's motion picture camera at the top has been Landmarked by the city.
There was a Wurlitzer organ installation done just prior to opening and then it was repossessed by Wurlitzer in 1916. That organ was eventually shipped to a theater in Chicago and is now in a seminary somewhere in Illinois and is still playable.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
This is the Hamilton Palace. It is one of the largest "dollar" stores in Manhattan. Everything from off - shore versions of Crest toothpaste to Guayabera shirts, slightly irregular undershirts to cleaning products you never heard of. It was once, however, the outer lobby and retail space structure for the 1913 Hamilton Theater.
Just a little detail, the caryatids are cast iron as are the frames around the windows.
Given the RKO logos above the boxes, this is what the theater looked like when RKO ran it. The Hamilton was built by Vaudeville impresario B.S. Moss and was designed for legit theater and high class vaudeville. Movies came later, once RKO bought the Hamilton and added motion pictures to the vaudeville shows. The Hamilton was one of the first theaters to show talkies in New York City.
This is what it looks like now. Actually what it looked like in 2006. The theater had / has not been used as a theater for over 40 years. Although you cannot tell from the pictures, it is in remarkably good shape for a theater this old, and this under - maintained. The boxes, as you can see, are still intact, even the boxes on the orchestra floor. A new roof put on in 1998 prevented any serious water damage to the plaster work. The space had been vandalized over the years however. All the stain glass exit signs were gone. Anything brass or copper has been striped. There are no banisters anywhere and the copper duct work that obviously went to power the "shin busters" was gouged out of the stage floor.
The Hamilton stopped showing movies in 1965. After that it became a sports arena (what sports I do not know but probably boxing), a church and a disco. The theater's last use was as a beer and soda (maybe cigarettes as well) wholesaler. In the previous picture you can see a ramp going up the to the stage. This was installed to accommodate a fork lift. A doorway with a metal role gate was cut into the asbestos fire curtain.
These are the house right boxes. This is a rarity as boxes where generally removed from theaters that were not built for movies. The boxes would block the throw from the projection booth on the sides, especially after wide screen formats were introduced.
The photos had to be enhanced. When I got there, I was told that the property manager did not know how to turn on the lights.
This is a view towards the stage from the house left boxes. The large rectangular panel on the sound board above the proscenium looks as if something was cut out and removed. Given what looks like a piece of canvas hanging down from the bottom of that panel, I'd say that a mural was cut out.
The dimmer board, original maybe.
The grid, high up above the stage.
The stage from the fly loft. This is looking towards stage left. In the bottom right corner of the picture you can see the top of the roll gate that was put in after the fire curtain had a door cut into it. The fire curtain appeared to have been lowered permanently.
These are the onstage "Star" dressing rooms. This is still the Hamilton. Apparently the beer and soda distributors also distributed cigarettes.
Those doors lead to dressing rooms on the level just above the stage level dressing rooms. You will notice the absence of any lighting fixtures. This area was pitch black, I just held the camera into the area and shot this photo. Apparently some of the people who distributed beer, soda and cigarettes also slept here.
There were at least three floors of dressing rooms above the stage level. There was no lighting in any of the rooms or the stairs that led up to them. The stairs also lead to the fly loft and eventually the grid.
A sink in one of the dressing rooms. Even with the window back there, the room was pitch black. Not knowing what the floor was like (or even if there was a floor) I just held the camera into the room and shot.
Some sort of necessity of projection, what it is I do not know. It was dark in there. There were no windows in the booth as it was added to the theater after opening, so it was dark in there.