Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The birthplace of a of song title.

This is the south east corner of 11th street and 6th Avenue in 1911, before it was renamed "Avenue of the Americas. These wood frame structures predate the civil war. The building on the corner was and always had been a saloon. A real sawdust on the floor type of dive under the shadow of the 6th Avenue El. The saloon predated the El and was a very much a local place where everybody knew your name. Gossip was exchanged, people drank, people settled conflicts in various ways. However it was during the Civil War that this tavern found it's way into immortality.  In New York, while north of the Mason - Dixon Line, there were those harbored sympathy for the Southern cause.  It boiled down to this: If the price of cotton goes up, it will affect a bottom line. The south was the producer of cotton and northern textile firms were the major buyers.  In addition to having a business world interest in the war, the notoriously corrupt mayor at the time, Fernando Wood, made no secret of where his sympathies lied. Mayor Wood, buy the way, had a summer residence around 75th street and Bloomingdale Road. 

The “Grapevine”, according to legend, was a popular spot amongst southern spies, Union officers who were spying on the southern spies, and many incognito newspaper reporters.
Of course everyone knew that the locals would go drink, gossip and eavesdrop on conversations there, so the tavern became known as the place where many rumors originated. This became the origin of the phrase “heard it through the grapevine”. The newspapers began using this phrase which became part of the local dialect.  Skip ahead to 1966, a song is written by Barret Strong and Norman Whitfield for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. Barret Strong was a singer with one hit (Money - That's What I Want) and could not find a follow up.  The old phrase was incorporated into one of the most famous American Pop songs of all time by local resident Whitfield.
These wooden structures were gone by 1915. On the far left of the top picture is is the still extant Second Cemetery of Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue, Shearith Israel. The First Cemetery is still down next to Chatham Square.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Doctor's Summer Home - Broadway and 94th Street

This is Doctor Valentine Mott. Born in Glen Cove Long Island in 1785, the good doctor went on to be called, some circles, the father of American vascular surgery. He was an artist and a pioneer on this new frontier of surgery. He was a firm believer in anesthesia, which he championed stating that "pain is the only evil" and that anesthesia was safe if administered correctly. Doctor Mott was also ambidextrous, a helpful trait in the pre-anesthesia world of surgery. You wanted a surgeon who was good with both hands at the same time as it sped up the procedure.   Although there is a Mott Street here in Manhattan, it is named after Joseph Mott, a local butcher and tavern owner who provided support to the patriots during the American Revolution.  Doctor Mott, though, did all right.

 This is the doctor's summer home. Although the Mott's owned a still extant townhouse at 1 Gramercy Park, this is where he spent a few summers. The village of Bloomingdale retained it's rural character even after the Civil War.  The house, built in 1835, was located on approximately 93rd and the middle Broadway.  If this is the Bloomingdale Road, as I believe it is, the house faced east, we (and Victor Prevost who took the picture) are facing west. This view was taken in 1853.

This is another view of the house, it is the one in the middle with the columns. It is possible that the this and the above picture were taken on the same day but the above picture is framed better as to only show the one house. Notice the telegraph poles in this picture, everything was getting so up to date on the Bloomingdale Road.