Archive for the ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ Category

The ghosts that haunt a Hell’s Kitchen tavern

September 26, 2013

Landmarktavern2When the Landmark Tavern opened in 1868 at 11th Avenue and 46th Street, the Hudson River was just one block over (no 12th Avenue in those days).

The modest saloon catered to hungry and thirsty dockworkers and merchant seaman in what used to be a mostly Irish immigrant neighborhood.

Through the 1980s it was a favorite of the Westies, a violent Irish gang.

Now, it’s a hangout for locals and tourists. And ghosts, apparently. Rumor has it that three in particular rattle around the old mahogany bar and the upstairs rooms.

Landmarktavern1936One is the spirit of George Raft, “the Hollywood tough guy who grew up in Hell’s Kitchen,” wrote John Strausbaugh in a wonderful 2007 New York Times article.

“His ghost is said to haunt the bar, along with that of a Confederate Civil War veteran who, knifed in a fight, staggered up to the second floor to die in a bathtub that’s still there.”

A 19th century child haunts the Landmark as well. “The ghost of an Irish immigrant girl who died in her bed wanders the third floor,” wrote Strausbaugh.

A 2000 writeup in New York magazine adds even more detail: that the little girl came to New York during the potato famine and died of cholera.

The Landmark isn’t the only old-school tavern haunted by dead 19th century New Yorkers. A sailor named Mickey supposedly knocks around this Soho saloon.

[Bottom photo: Landmark Tavern in 1936, from the NYPL Digital Gallery]

Madison Square Garden moves to Eighth Avenue

March 4, 2013

This 1930ish postcard shows what was then the “new” Madison Square Garden on Eighth Avenue and 49th Street.

It’s the third incarnation of New York’s iconic arena, and the first one located no where near Madison Square.

Madisonsquaregarden49thstreet

It moved here in 1925, and for the next four decades hosted boxing matches, circuses, rodeos, Billy Graham revivals, ice shows, and of course the Rangers and the Knicks.

Was this a good place to watch a game? It looks awfully cramped and crowded from outside.

In 1968 the Garden moved again, this time to its current home at 33rd Street and Seventh Avenue. In its place we have the office tower Worldwide Plaza, which looks strangely similar to the old MSG.

Some great old photos of the Garden and its very cool marquee can be found at Wired New York.

Sleet and snowy stoops on a West Side street

February 4, 2013

Australian-born Martin Lewis’ “Stoops in the Snow” dates to 1930—and it perfectly balances the still beauty of a New York snowfall with the miserable struggle that ensues while trying to navigate it.

This scene could depict almost any residential New York block, with its uniform brownstone steps and elevated train platform in the distance.

Stoopsinthesnow

Luckily Lewis’ original title for the etching, “Stoops in the Snow, West 40s,” narrows down the neighborhood for us.

Lewis tends to keep the locations of his etchings vague, as he did with this piece depicting a busy workday morning somewhere in the city.

Frozen-in-time stores from 1970s Hell’s Kitchen

December 6, 2012

Back in August, an Ephemeral reader emailed me some photos he had taken in the early 1970s on Ninth Avenue from the West 30s to the 50s as part of a college sociology class.

Hellskitchen1970sa&pI posted four of these wonderful moments of a vanished time: scenes of unglamorous shoppers and neighborhood folks going about their day.

These photos are from the same reader. They focus less on people and more on the storefronts fading fast or gone forever, a small A&P food market (they used to be all over Manhattan) and a no-name barbershop that could never make it today because it has no gimmick and capitalizes on no trend.

[Wait, update: According to readers, the barber shop is still there. A different facade, but they're still cutting hair!]

Hellskitchen1970sbarbershop

If you look at the stores on either side, you can see that one is a Borden’s Ice Cream shop, the other a meat market.

I love the little kid on skates playing hockey in the street. No helmet!

The cross streets carved into tenement corners

December 3, 2012

Hiding in plain sight in the city’s tenement districts are the names of streets that intersect at certain corners.

Stantonandessexsign

Chiseled into a cement plate, they’re the 19th and early 20th century solution to figuring out where you were a 100 or so years before the GPS on your phone could do it for you.

Thirdave109streetsign

Not always in the best condition, like this East Harlem example above, these corner carvings are charming and fun to come across.

10thave52ndstreetsign2

The best neighborhoods to find them: the Lower East Side, East Village, Hell’s Kitchen, East Harlem, and the brownstone enclaves of Brooklyn.

Mottstreetsign

Sometimes you only find one street name—Like Mott Street here at Broome Street, with a tiny T that looks like it was added by hand!

A 1959 teenage gang murder rocks the city

September 10, 2012

It all seems quaint now, but violent teenage street gangs were a new phenomenon to 1950s New Yorkers.

Among the most notorious of the estimated 150 gangs were the Mau Maus, Bishops, Dragons, and Egyptian Kings.

They terrified residents, who felt threatened by the rumbles and sporadic killings that took place in tightly packed postwar neighborhoods.

But no gang-related murder got as much newspaper ink as that of the Capeman—aka Salvador Agron, a 16-year-old Puerto Rican kid who had joined an Upper West Side gang called the Vampires.

On August 29, 1959, Agron and his crew met at midnight at May Matthews playground on 45th Street off of Ninth Avenue.

They were looking to fight members of the Norsemen, a mostly white gang. Instead they came across some local teenagers.

Mistaking them for gang members, Agron, dressed in a black satin cape, stabbed two 16-year-olds each in the heart. They staggered to nearby doorways before dying (right).

Part of the media uproar had to do with Agron’s dismissive, cocky attitude toward the crime.

Anti–Puerto Rican sentiment among city residents didn’t help either.

In 1960, he got the electric chair, but then had his sentence commuted in 1962.

Released from prison in 1979 (after escaping two years earlier), he became a youth counselor and died in 1986 at age 42 from pneumonia.

Paul Simon turned Agron’s life story into a Broadway musical in 1998—but it closed to poor reviews a few months after opening.

“Moments of a vanished time” in Hell’s Kitchen

August 23, 2012

Inspired by the 1972 Helen Levitt photo “Kids With Laundry” that was posted here last week, Ephemeral reader Paul Mones sent me these snapshots he took in the early spring of 1973.

Born in the Bronx, Mones was a college student then; the photos were part of an essay for an urban sociology class he took at SUNY Buffalo.

They chronicle some seemingly ordinary street scenes from 33rd Street to 50th Street or so: the merchants, shoppers, pedestrians, and storefronts of a typical stretch of Manhattan in the early 1970s.

I imagine that Mones didn’t think he captured anything remarkable when he developed the film. But he did: They’re lovely, unposed glimpses into little moments of a vanished time, as he put it.

Check out the hand-painted bar signage, pre-Korean deli vegetable dealer, metal garbage can, and messy bargain bins outside a discount store that’s now probably the home of a fusion restaurant or upscale cocktail lounge.

And a shoeshine stand/umbrella repair place! So many relics of another era.

[All photos copyright Paul Mones]

Street names carved into neigborhood corners

August 9, 2012

This street address in Hell’s Kitchen, on a traditional turn-of-the-century tenement building, looks like it was meant to last.

Over in Brooklyn Heights though, this one is faded and weathered; you can barely make out the T at the end of the “ST” on both sides.

It too is on a red brick building, but this one was probably a private home for a well-to-do family.

Many old city neighborhoods still have these street name carvings, like the East Village, the Lower East Side, and this beauty in Tribeca.

The dates on top of old New York buildings

June 7, 2012

It’s lovely to look up at the top of a residence, church, or factory and see the year the structure went up in bold numerals.

Too bad developers no longer date their buildings—it helps give a sense of how the city evolved.

I love the style of the “1891″ on top of 451 Washington Street. Now it’s a co-op, but it started out as the Fleming Smith Warehouse, where wine was stored.

This handsome clock tower crowns the former Sohmer Piano Factory on Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City. Built in 1886, the company stayed there almost a century, decamping for Connecticut in 1982.

“Established 1890″ this Hell’s Kitchen tenement tells us. But what was established—just the building? Or a specialty business? No clues survive.

The Esther Apartments at 126 Ludlow Street date to 1930. I guess the faux Hebrew lettering helped attract renters in a heavily Jewish neighborhood?

What happened to the residents of The Whitby?

January 30, 2012

Ex-chorus girls and actresses. Retired jazz musicians. A female impersonator who once worked the vaudeville circuit.

These were some of the characters interviewed in a 1988 New York Times article who lived at the Whitby—a grand 1923 apartment building designed by Emery Roth on 45th Street just west of Eighth Avenue.

The article chronicled a familiar story. The Whitby—once a residential hotel popular with theater people and in the 1980s a rental with rates as low as $221 a month—was going co-op. The retired show folk who lived there feared the change about to hit their eclectic longtime home.

“‘It was a home for actors,” said Jon Richards, an 84-year-old retired Broadway actor who has lived at the Whitby since the 1964 New York World’s Fair. ”We walked in, and we walked in among friends, among family.”’

In the article, a rep for the Whitby’s owner said none of the tenants would be kicked out if they couldn’t afford to buy their apartments.

I wonder what happened to them in the ensuing 24 years—and if the Whitby is now populated by executives and bankers rather than eccentric theater people.

[Top photo: from Streeteasy.com. Bottom: a photo of the Whitby originally from The New York Times, by way of thewhitby.com]


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