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The birth of the New York Times, 166 years ago today

First issue of the New-York Daily Times, later the New York Times, on Sept. 18 1851.   First issue of the New-York Daily Times, later the New York Times, on Sept. 18 1851. 113 Nassau St.  Illustration from 113 Nassau St.  Illustration from “Henry J Raymond and the New York Press for Thirty Years” by A.S. Hale and Company

On September 18th, 1851, an editorial appeared in a new New York newspaper that began as follows: “We publish today the first number of the New-York Daily Times, and we intend to issue it every morning (Sunday excepted) for an indefinite number of years to come.”  The editorial was written by the newspaper’s co-founder, Henry Jarvis Raymond.  The newspaper would later lose its hyphen and the word ‘daily’, and starting in 1861 it would publish on Sunday as well.   But 166 years later, it has so far kept its promise, and remains, despite the struggles of the internet age, one of the most influential news sources in the world.

When one looks at the New York Times’ current headquarters, a 52-floor skyscraper built in 2007 just off of Times Square, it’s hard to imagine the much more humble origins of this institution nicknamed ‘The Grey Lady’.  It was first published in a loft in a brownstone at 113 Nassau Street between Ann and Beekman streets.  The building was then half-finished and the windows lacked glass.  The writers and editors worked by candlelight.  Times writer Augustus Maverick called the conditions ‘raw and dismal.’   The first issue was four pages and cost a penny.

“We do not mean to write as if we were in a passion, unless that shall really be the case; and we shall make it a point to get into a passion as rarely as possible. There are very few things in this world which it is worth while to get angry about; and they are just the things that anger will not improve.”

— Henry Jarvis Raymond, from the first issue of the New-York Daily Times on Sept. 18, 1851

The New York Times was founded in an already crowded newspaper environment by two men–Henry J. Raymond and George Jones.  New York was then teeming with dailies and weeklies, mostly published within a few blocks of City Hall.  In the early 1850s, two papers stood above the others: Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune and James Gordon Bennett’s New York Herald.  The Times was founded as an alternative to these and other papers of the era–less focused on the scandal and sensationalism of the Herald and others in the ‘penny press’, but also lacking what for some was the moral righteousness and partisanship of Greeley’s Tribune.  Raymond founded the Times with the hope of creating a more moderate, trustworthy news source, though like the Tribune it was pro-Republican once the party was founded in 1854.  Raymond himself held many political positions as a Republican and once became chairman of the Republican National Committee.  During his presidency the paper was a staunch defender of Abraham Lincoln.

Raymond and Jones first met while working for Horace Greeley at the New York Tribune in the 1840s.   Both men were from up north.  Raymond was born in Lima in upstate New York and studied in Vermont.  Jones was born that state.   Both worked at various newspapers in the region and Jones also worked as a banker.   Before founding the Times, the two had together tried to takeover the Albany Evening Courier, then a powerful newspaper in New York State edited by Albany political giant Thurlow Weed, also a friend and ally of Raymond.  In 1848 Weed offered to sell the paper to Raymond and Jones, but the deal was blocked by one part-owner who refused to sell, William White.  Had this deal happened the New York Times would have never been born.

After starting at 113 Nassau Street, the Times moved up to 138 Nassau Street in 1854.  Then in 1858 the Times arrived at its address for nearly 50 years–41 Park Row.  This street become known as ‘Newspaper Row’ and was home to several of the most powerful newspapers in the country.  The first Times building on Park Row was a 5-story Romanesque building designed by Thomas Jackson, the first building ever to be entirely devoted to one newspaper.  It was from here that Raymond and Times part-owner Leonard Jerome defended the newspaper during the 1863 Draft Riots with gatling guns mounted on the roof.

Raymond's grave at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn Raymond’s grave at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn

Raymond died in 1869, at only 49 years of age.  The paper was taken over by Jones who was the publisher until his death in 1891.  Under Jones, the Times led the attacks on Boss Tweed, one of the most corrupt politicians in New York’s history, a man who nonetheless had a great deal of power after the Civil War.  However, the Times’ reporting and cartoons by Thomas Nast helped bring his downfall and eventual arrest.  Tweed once offered the Times $5 million to not publish an article on him, but he was rebuffed.  In 1869, the Times also hired its first female reporter Maria ‘Middy’ Morgan, who covered livestock, equestrian events and horse racing.

In 1889 the Times commissioned a new and larger building at the same location, a building which reflected the growing power of the city’s press.  This 16-floor building (2 floors were added later) by architect George Post still stands today and is currently occupied by Pace University. However, the cost of the building helped contribute to a dire financial situation for the Times in the 1890s.  The paper’s circulation dropped to 9000 and the paper was losing $1000 per day when it was bought in 1896 by Adolph Ochs, whose family still owns the paper today.  Ochs would revive the Times and turn it largely into the newspaper we know today, in part by returning to Raymond’s vision of a paper with a moderate to progressive stance that was above tabloid sensationalism.  Ochs would soon move the Times’ offices uptown to Longacre Square, which was promptly renamed Times Square.  The Times remains near Times Square today.

Remarkably, the rather non-descript original home of New York Times at 113 Nassau survived until 2007 when the building was demolished to make way for a 30-floor apartment building, the Lara.  The Times left the building after only three years in 1854.  The building later served as the Leggats Brothers Bookstore, home to George Cram’s atlas company, an Italian restaurant, and lastly, a McDonald’s.  A plaque honoring Raymond and the New York Times once graced the sidewalk.  However, the building was never considered for landmark designation.  Today, both the building and the plaque, and any other trace of the newspaper, are gone.

Clockwise from top left: 138 Nassau Street--the second office of the New York Times (1854-58), illustration from Clockwise from top left: 138 Nassau Street–the second office of the New York Times (1854-58), illustration from “Henry J Raymond” by A.S. Hale; New York Times Building (1858-1889) built in 1858 at 41 Park Row; Grave of George Jones, co-founder of the Times, at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow NY.; New York Times Building (1889-1904) also at 41 Park Row built by George Post, now occupied by Pace University.

Where to celebrate Presidents’ Day in and around NYC

Until the election of the 45th President, New York City didn’t immediately conjure up presidential imagery.  The most popular attractions–the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty or Central Park aren’t closely connected to the presidency.  But New York has deep roots connected to the US presidency. Two presidents were born here.  Three died here.  Two were inaugurated here.  Three presidents and one vice-president studied at Columbia University in New York.  One president is interred here. Five First Ladies were born in New York, and nine from New York State.  Four vice-presidents died in New York.  And nearly every president came to New York City at some point.

Aside from Donald Trump, the US presidents that loom the largest in New York are George Washington and Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt.  There are numerous attractions related to all three in and around New York City.

The Washington Square Arch in Greenwich Village, built to commemorate Washington’s inauguration in NYC

Washington was from Virginia of course but he spent much time in New York.  He commanded the Continental Army in New York during the Revolutionary war and there are several buildings in New York or the surrounding area that Washington used has headquarters, including the Morris Jumel Mansion in Washington Heights.  The Old Stone House in Brooklyn is a museum that documents the Battle of Brooklyn between Washington’s Continental Army and the British.

Bust of Franklin Roosevelt at Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island

From 1785-1791, New York City was the capital of the United States.  Thus, in 1789, the first presidential inauguration took place in NYC.  Washington lived in two homes during his time in NY, neither of which survive but plaques mark their spots.   There are nine full-sized statues of the 1st US president in NY, as well as the Washington Square Arch in Washington Square.

However, the presidential family that has the deepest ties to New York, with due respect to the 45th president, is the Roosevelt family.  Descended from Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam, the Roosevelts represented old New York society.  Franklin and Theodore came from different branches of the family and were 5th cousins.  Both families were from New York, but they spent summers in two different countryside locations–Theodore’s side in Oyster Bay on Long Island, and Franklin’s side in Hyde Park in upstate New York.  Both lived in New York for significant periods of time.

Aside from Washington and the Roosevelts, many other presidents have ties to New York City.  Below is a list of 10 places you can visit in New York City that have connections with one or more presidents–most are buildings that presidents visited.  Also there are three worthwhile sites outside of New York that are accessible by car or train.  Most of the sites in New York City are free to visit.

Federal Hall on Wall Street, site of Washington’s 1st inauguration.  In front is a statue of Washington by John Quincy Adams Ward

Federal Hall

Model of the original Federal Hall and Washington’s Inauguration.

Federal Hall was the first Capitol of the United States, and the site of George Washington’s inauguration in 1789, as New York City was the capital of the US until 1791.  Though the actual Federal Hall was destroyed in 1812, you can visit the Federal Hall National Memorial on Wall Street at the same location.  The building was built in 1842–a beautiful Greek Revival building that originally served as the United States Customs House.  The Memorial is free to visit and contains many wonderful artifacts and exhibits including the pavestone where Washington stood for his inauguration, the Washington Bible, and a scale model of the original Federal Hall.  Outside is an 1882 statue of George Washington by sculptor John Quincy Adams Ward.

Fraunces Tavern

Fraunces Tavern at the corner of Pearl and Broad Streets

Fraunces Tavern, originally founded by Samuel Fraunces in 1762, is situated a short walk down Broad Street from Federal Hall.  Though most of the building is a reconstruction, it stands a a beautiful example of Colonial Revival architecture.  It still functions as a tavern and a museum on the upper floors.  The highlight of the museum is the Long Room, a recreation of the banquet hosted by George Washington on December 4th 1783 when he resigned from the Continental Army.  Other exhibits highlight New York’s role in the American Revolution.

Historically Fraunces Tavern played a significant role in the Revolution and the early American Republic.  Revolutionaries often met here.  The owner Samuel Fraunces is believed to have served as a spy for the Americans during the war.  After the Revolution Fraunces Tavern was the location of many US government offices.  And in 1804 Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton shared a civilized meal together at Fraunces Tavern a week before their famous duel.

The Long Room, where Washington celebrated the end of the American Revolution in 1783 The presidential pew with painting of the Great Seal of the United States above.

St Paul’s Chapel

St Paul’s Chapel is the oldest building in Lower Manhattan and the most physical direct link in the neighborhood to the time that President and General George Washington spent in New York City.  During the two years he lived in New York as president from 1789-91, he attended services here.  His pew is preserved.  The surrounding graveyard contains the remains of several soldiers in the American Revolution including General Robert Montgomery.  5 US presidents have attended services here including Washington and George W Bush.

Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site

Teddy Roosevelt’s birthplace

Located at 28 East 20th Street near Madison Square is a reconstruction of the brownstone townhouse where Theodore Roosevelt was born and lived until he was 14.  Though the original 1848 rowhouse was demolished in 1916 (Theodore Roosevelt himself had no interest in preserving it.), the Women’s Roosevelt Memorial Association purchased the lot after his death in 1919 and rebuilt the brownstone in its original Greek Revival style.  Today it is open as a house-museum and is filled with actual furnishings of the Roosevelt family or authentic period furnishings.  Guided tours by National Park Service rangers are free.

Roosevelt’s boyhood reading chair at the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace

City Hall

New York City’s City Hall, built in 1812, has hosted dozens of presidents visiting New York City.  One of the city’s nine full-sized statues of George Washington is inside, an 1857 cast of Jean-Antoine Houden’s 1792 statue of the first US president.  The highlight is the Governor’s Room, which contains George Washington’s desk as well as 108 portraits, one of the richest collections of personal portraits in the United States.  Among the paintings are nine John Trumbull portraits inclduing George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay.   The Trumbull Hamilton is the basis for his face on the $10 bill.  City Hall is closed to the public except for guided tours, currently on Thursdays at 10:00 a.m.  Registration is required.

Aside from visits by many US presidents, President’s Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S Grant both lay in state at City Hall after their deaths.

The Great Hall of the Cooper Union

The Great Hall of the Cooper Union, where 8 presidents have spoken. An exhibit outside the Great Hall

The Cooper Union was built by the philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859 to provide free higher education as well as to provide a venue for ideas to be debated.  Inside the Union’s Italianate brownstone Foundation Building at Cooper Square is the Great Hall of the Cooper Union, where at least 8 presidents have spoken, most significantly (then-candidate) Abraham Lincoln in 1860.  Lincoln’s Cooper Union Address was seen as vital for Lincoln gaining the Republican nomination for the 1860 US Presidential Election.

From the outset, Peter Cooper intended the Great Hall to be open to a wide range of political ideas.  Cooper was a Democrat (though an abolitionist as well) and happily opened the doors to Republicans like Lincoln in 1860.  Other speakers here have included Ralph Nader, Hugo Chavez, Joseph Cambell, members of the women’s suffrage movement, and others.  An exhibit of the Hall’s history is located inside.  The Cooper Union is not open for visitors but events are held at the Great Hall which are open to the public.

Waldorf Astoria Hotel

The 1893 clock inside the Waldorf-Astoria

The Waldorf Astoria Hotel was the home of US Presidents in New York from Herbert Hoover to Barack Obama.  The presidential suite is specifically designed to emulate the White House.  The lobby, built in an elegant Art Deco style, is open to the public and one of the city’s amazing pubic spaces.  The centerpiece in the lobby is a clock that was cast in England in 1893 and was displayed at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893.  Topped by a miniature of the Statue of Liberty, the bronze column also has reliefs of 6 US presidents along with Queen Victoria and Benjamin Franklin.

Along with several US presidents, innumerable kings, queens, diplomats, politicians, and celebrities have stayed or lived at the Waldorf Astoria.  Herbert Hoover lived here until his death in 1964.  Songwriter Cole Porter lived her for 30 years and his grand piano is in the lobby.  The Khrushchev family stayed here in 1959.

Roosevelt House

in 1908 Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt moved into a Neo-Georgian townhouse purchased by Franklin’s mother Sara Delano Roosevelt.  They lived here until the Roosevelt’s moved to the White House in 1933.  It is today owned by Hunter College, which Eleanor Roosevelt had a long relationship with.  It’s named the Sara Delano Roosevelt Memorial House, or the Roosevelt House.

The house is not a museum and lacks the rich collection of authentic furnishings that you see at the Theodore Roosevelt House.  However, free guided tours on Saturdays go over the Roosevelts’ lives and political careers.  After he was elected, Roosevelt assembled his political team here and planned much of the New Deal at this house.  Here he appointed New Yorker Frances Perkins Secretary of Labor, the first woman to serve in the cabinet.  One of her proposals would become what we call Social Security.  The house contains many portraits of the Roosevelts and several political posters from the time.

Grants Tomb

Grants Tomb, officially dedicated in 1897 Sarcophagi for Ulysses and Julia Grant

Two presidents have been born in New York City, and one is interred here.  Ulysses S Grant is entombed the stunning Neoclassical General Grant National Memorial, popularly known as Grant’s Tomb.  Grant was not from New York but lived his final years here.  Late in his life, after many financial difficulties in his post-presidential years, he enjoyed renewed popularity due to the publication of his memoirs.  He become a very popular citizen of the city, and when he died in 1885 unexpectedly of throat cancer, there was a public push to have him interred in New York City and build a suitable memorial.  It took 12 years to plan and build and was dedicated in 1897.  For many years it was New York’s most popular attraction, outdrawing the Statue of Liberty.  In particular it was visited by Civil War veterans.

Mural of Grant and Lee at Appomattox inside Grants Tomb

Even in a city with so many architectural riches, Grant’s Tomb is impressive.  The design was inspired by the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus in ancient Turkey (a popular inspiration at the time, found in many New York buildings) and the Roman building Tropaeum Alpium in France; while inside it bears resemblance to Napoleon’s Tomb in Paris.  The interior is rather simple, containing the two giant wooden sarcophagi–one for Ulysses S Grant and one for his wife Julia Grant.  Inside are mosaics illustrating events in Grant’s career and busts of five Civil War generals.

Columbia University

The Low Memorial Library at Columbia.  It is the main building open to the general public and hosts a visitor center.  Daniel Chester French’s Alma Mater statue stands in front.

Columbia University, besides Harvard, Yale and the College of William and Mary, is perhaps the university most associated with US presidents.  Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt studied here along with Barack Obama, while Dwight Eisenhower served as its president.   The Roosevelts both studied law here but did not complete their degrees; both were awarded JDs posthumously.  Barack Obama transferred to Columbia from Occidental College and finished with a B.A. in Political Science.  Daniel D Tompkins, the sixth Vice-President of the United States, also studied at Columbia.

The campus in Morningside Heights, between 114th and 120th Streets.  Built in the Beaux-Arts style by the architects McKim, Mead and White in the late 19th Century.  It is considered one of the USA’s most beautiful college campuses.  Though today most buildings are off limits to non students, the campus is still well worth a visit for the architecture alone.  There is a visitor center at the Low Memorial Library building (open only Monday-Friday) and the university maintains a visitor information website with a self-guided tour.

Sagamore Hill National Historic Site

Sagamore Hill is Theodore Roosevelt’s summer home in Oyster Bay on the north shore of Long Island (the ‘Gold Coast’) and his primary residence for much of his adult life.  He’s buried in nearby Youngs Memorial Cemetery.  It is primarily accessible by car; it’s approximately one hour from the city.  However, it is possible to take a train (to either Syosset or Oyster Bay) and then either take a taxi or a shuttle which is available in the summer only.  See the Website for details.

Hyde Park: Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site

Theodore’s side of the family summered on Long Island, whole Franklin’s side summered at Hyde Park in the Hudson Valley. Springwood, the house where Roosevelt was born, was built around 1800 in the Federal Style, though portions have been added on since.  It was purchased by Roosevelt’s father James in 1866 and Franklin was born here in 1882.  Franklin would spend most of his life here, though he and Eleanor would also have the townhouse in the city.  Roosevelt spent much of the summer here during his presidency.  And the first Presidential Library was established on the grounds by FDR himself in 1941.  Franklin and Eleanor are buried at the estate.

Again, Hyde Park is easiest to visit by car.  It’s about an hour and a half north of NYC.  You can also take a train to Poughkeepsie and either transfer by taxi or a shuttle service available in the summer.

Lincoln Depot Museum

Statue of Lincoln in front of the Lincoln Depot Museum in Peekskill

This wonderful museum is a surprising find.  It was opened only in 2014.  It is located in Peekskill  NY (very near Bear Mountain State Park) 40 miles north of New York in the Hudson Valley inside a restored train station where Lincoln stopped en route to his inauguration in Washington from Springfield IL.  He stopped briefly at the station and was greeted by William Nelson, a local lawyer with whom Lincoln had served in Congress years earlier.  He spoke in front of 1,500 people who gathered to see the President-elect.

The small museum is filled with artifacts with a focus on Lincoln’s connections to New York State as well as the Civil War. Though easily walkable from the Peekskill train station, visiting by car would allow you to easily combine the visit with surrounding sites.  Unfortunately the museum opens in April for the summer only but does host events on February 18th.

Some great exhibits soon closing in New York’s museums

New York has over 100 museums and collectively they contain hundreds of fabulous exhibits. Often most fascinating are the temporary exhibits.  Several fantastic exhibits in New York are set to close within a month or less.  Check them out before the vanish:

Alexander Hamilton: Striver, Statesman, Scoundrel at the main branch of the New York Public Library.  A great exhibit that covers Hamilton’s life and features exhibits including notes from George Washington’s first Inaugural Address, which Hamilton helped Washington with.  Closes December 31st.

Dinosaurs Among Us at the American Museum of Natural History.  An exhibit that documents the evolution of some dinosaurs into birds.  Closes January 2nd.

E Mau Ke Ea: The Sovereign Hawaiian Nation at the National Museum of the American Indian.  Closes January 2nd.

Jerusalem 1000-1400: People under Heaven at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
A superb collection that stresses Jerusalem’s cultural diversity during this period, making it a topical experience today.  Closes January 8th

Who Shot Sports: A Photographic History, 1843 to the Present at the Brooklyn Museum.
A must for sports lovers–and incredible collection of sports photos.  I reviewed it on my blog last week.  Closes January 8th.  The BM charges the full $16 adult admission to see this exhibit, though it is only $10 on the first Saturday.

The Battle of Brooklyn at the New-York Historical Society.  The Exhibit documents the important Revolutionary War battle on Long Island during which George Washington is forced to abandon New York, though he preserves the Continental Army.  Filled with various artifacts from the battle and the time period, including copies of the Declaration of Independence and Thomas Paine’s Common Sense.  Closes January 8th.

Agnes Martin at the Guggenheim Museum.  Closes January 11th

Odessa / Оде́сса: Babel, Ladyzhensky and the Soul of a City at the Yeshiva University Museum at 15 West 16th Street.  This exhibit is at the top of my to-do list.  Looks like a good one for Jewish interest or Slavophiles.  Closes January 15th

Insecurities: Tracing Displacement and Shelter at the Museum of Modern Art.  I haven’t seen this yet but it looks like a powerful take on an important social issue.  Closes January 22th.

Word and Image: Martin Luther’s Reformation at the Morgan Library and Museum.  90 objects including one of six original copies of Luther’s 95 Theses.  Closes January 22nd.

America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan.  A fantastic exhibit that helps connect Muslim culture to New York and New Yorkers.  Closes January 31st.

We were all New Yorkers then

I was living abroad in Moscow, Russia when September 11th happened.  I was teaching English lessons and heard bits of news from clients during the afternoon (it happened after 4 pm there). At first I was sure it was a terrible accident.  Someone told me about a second plane but I assumed he had heard the same story twice or something.  Then walking home my wife called me, clearly shaken, and told me that both of the Towers were completely destroyed.  We had both been to WTC multiple times.

My photo of the Twin Towers in September 1998.

I immediately went home and glued myself to the news for hours and days, listening to NPR and the BBC via the internet.  Back then I was on dial-up so I mostly depended on audio and text reports so I wasn’t exposed to the constant repeat showings of the video that many people saw.

Flowers outside the US Embassy in Moscow

Via the Internet and satellite TV, September 11th was a global news event of unprecedented proportion.  I can’t think of an event in my lifetime that captured the whole world like that, except perhaps the finals of World Cups.   I was born after the Moon landing and JFK’s assassination.  Perhaps Lennon’s death was comparable.  The entire world focused on Lower Manhattan.  Everyone saw the images of the aftermath so familiar now:  the video of the towers falling, the debris, the mayor leading the response, the firefighters working tirelessly, etc.  The French newspaper Le Monde said, “We are all Americans.”  But we were all New Yorkers.

My wife and I visited NY later that year (we moved to NY permanently in 2012) and of course we saw what we could of the World Trade Center site, called Ground Zero.  We saw the temporary memorial at the fence of St. Paul’s Chapel, a moving collection of flowers and photos of the victims.  We saw already the ways the city had changed as a result, with so much more security.  We heard stories from people who witnessed the event, including a friend who was in a neighboring building that morning and saw the second plane hit.

The makeshift memorial on the fence around St. Paul’s Chapel next to the World Trade Center.

10 years later the 9/11 Memorial opened at the site.  It continues to draw people from all over the world–four million during its first year.  In 2015 the observatory at One World Trade Center opened.  Nearly everyone who visits New York now visits the site.  It’s a place they saw on the news, and know a great deal about.  They appreciate the magnitude of such a loss of life.

For New Yorkers who lived here at the time, the relationship with the World Trade Center is much more personal and evokes powerful emotions.  The site is a mass graveyard, often for friends or loved ones.  New Yorkers witnessed the events with their own eyes, not on the news.  They were intimately familiar with the buildings, and some went there every day.  I know many people who experience powerful feelings whenever they return to Ground Zero, and some who cannot bring themselves to return.

For many New Yorkers the contrast between their visit to the 9/11 Memorial and that of the thousands of visitors there can be jarring.  People are there who had little connection to the events, taking pictures, eating, posing for selfies, and otherwise acting as common tourists.  Furthermore, there’s a sense that the Memorial is not for New Yorkers.  To an extent that’s true perhaps.  The area is designed to accommodate mass tourism.  Brochures are available in over 10 languages.  The area is filled with tour groups.  And right next the Memorial is the One World Observatory which is an attraction with a very Disneylike feel.  Moreover, the recent opening of the (rather upmarket) Westfield shopping mall adjacent to the Memorial seems rather crass to many.

One of the pools at the 9/11 Memorial

For people visiting New York who haven’t experienced the 9/11 Memorial, a respectful visit to the site is certainly high on the list of things to see.  There are few complaints from locals or visitors about the memorial itself.  The giant pools and waterfalls drown out surrounding noise to allow reflection.  The sight of the names is very moving.  And the site creates a huge sense of scale which communicates the magnitude of the events here.  The design of the memorial accommodates crowd flows well.  And it’s also very near other important historic sites and attractions including the observatory atop 1WTC, St Paul’s Chapel with George Washington’s pew inside, Trinity Church where Alexander Hamilton was buried, Wall Street, etc.

Postcards, a memorial dedicated to 274 Staten Islanders who died.  The memorial is oriented towards the exact spot where the Twin Towers stood.

A cross made from debris of the Twin Towers at the Church of the Good Shepard in Inwood, Manhattan A cross made from debris of the Twin Towers at the Church of the Good Shepard in Inwood, Manhattan

To appreciate the events of September 11th off the beaten track, I recommend visiting one of the many other memorials dedicated to the event throughout the city and the metropolitan area.  There are 9/11 Memorials throughout the five boroughs and many towns within commuting distance have memorials dedicated to the members of the community who were victims.  A ferry ride away from Lower Manhattan is the ‘Postcards’ memorial dedicated to all Staten Islanders who died.  At nearby Hanover Square is the Queen Elizabeth II Garden, a memorial to the 67 British victims of September 11th. In Coney Island there’s the Brooklyn wall of Remembrance.  And there are countless others.  Just off of Times Square is the Pride of Midtown firehouse which lost 15 firefighters on 9/11 and there’s a plaque honoring them outside.

Memorial to 43 victims in Huntington, Long Island Memorial to 43 victims in Huntington, Long Island

Back to school in New York

Public schools as well as many charter and private schools started the 2016-17 year this Thursday, ending the summer season as children return from summer camps, trips abroad or other activities to their classrooms.  The first day of school is a special day in any community.  In New York, it also presents an opportunity to reflect on the architecture of New York’s public schools.

Like churches (or other houses of worship), public library buildings, and other public building, schools are often neighborhood landmarks that remain as while neighborhoods change around them.  Though sometimes the school moves to a new building and a new school moves in, the building itself most often remains standing, and most often as a public school.  A few have been converted to other purposes, such as the MOMA PS1 in Queens, a school turned art gallery.  In any case they stand is powerful anchors of a community.

School buildings built since the 1960s and 70s have been generally very modern in design and very pragmatic, on focusing on their utilitarian value to the students and educators.  But in the past schools were built to be impressive landmarks, and many in fact are now protected by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The oldest surviving school building in the city is the 1787 Federal-style Erasmus Hall Academy in Brooklyn, which is currently not in use (the building is on the Erasmus Hall Educational Campus which is still a functioning high school).   Erasmus Hall was originally a private school but absolved into the New York public school system in 1896.

Public schools in New York were built at a rapid pace during the guided age. in the 1880s-1920s.  At the time New York’s population was growing rapidly due to immigrants.  The public schools were seen as powerful tools to help immigrant children assimilate and shield them from poverty they often lived in.  They were built as large structures with large windows (a contrast to the dark crowded tenements where many lived).  A prominent example is the Al Smith school PS 1 built in the heart of the Lower East Side tenement district.  In those days schools were meant to provide a respite for impoverished children.  They were also meant to assimilate the children–requiring English only and forcing children to eat American-style lunches rather than ethnic immigrant fare.

During this period public schools were largely the work of the architect C P J Snyder, who was the Superintendent of School Buildings from 1891-1922.  His influence on the city was immense–350 schools were built under his supervision, many which are still in use.   Snyder combined beautiful architectural styles of the time such Gothic Revival, Romanesque and Neoclassical but also made them pragmatic and utilitarian buildings.  Forced to build with limited budgets, Snyder included many cost saving methods such as using the same design for several schools.

On this day in NYC: The Declaration of Independence in New York

Illustration of George Washington reading the Declaration of Independence in New York on July 9th 1776.  St. Paul’s Chapel, which still stands, is in the background right.  The image by A.R. Waud appeared on July 9th, 1870 in Harper’s Weekly.

On July 9th 1776, George Washington read aloud the Declaration of Independence which had been read first 5 days earlier in Philadelphia.  He read it in front of his troops in the area then called the Commons, where today’s City Hall Park is.  The spot is commemorated with an inscription on the pavement inside City Hall Park.

Inscription on the pavement in City Hall Park commemorating Washington’s reading of the Declaration of Independence, unfortunately faded badly.

Inspired by Washington’s reading of the Declaration, soldiers and patriots marched down to Bowling Green Park and tore down a statue to King George III, which had been erected only six years earlier to try to improve support for the monarchy in the city.  The statue was melted down and used to make bullets used by the Continental Army.  Today, a fence surrounds the park what was originally installed to protect the
statue of George.  It had crowns on its lampposts which were sawed off by the patriots.

Painting by Johanes Adam Simon Oertel depicting the pulling down of the statue of King George the III at Bowling Green Park. This painting hangs at the New-York Historical Society. Painting by Johanes Adam Simon Oertel depicting the pulling down of the statue of King George the III at Bowling Green Park. This painting hangs at the New-York Historical Society.

New York City was at the time Rebel territory but would be abandoned by Washington later that year and held by the British for the remainder of the war.   Washington would return to New York at the end of the war to officially liberate the city on November 25th, 1783, when the final British troops evacuated the city.