Archive for October, 2008

Twilight falls over the Flatiron

October 31, 2008

Luxembourg-born American artist Edward Steichen added color to his 1904 photograph of the Flatiron Building, casting it in a moody, blueish glow.   

Completed in 1902, the Flatiron Building is considered one of New York’s first skyscrapers . . . even though it’s only 22 stories high.

A spooky old house in Bushwick

October 31, 2008

Bushwick Avenue in the late 19th century was lined with the mansions of local beer barons. This was back when the neighborhood was populated by German immigrants who built several successful breweries.

One mansion that still stands—and stands out—is at the corner of Bushwick and Willoughby. In the early decades of the 20th century it was the home of Frederick Cook, a doctor and explorer who claimed to be the first man to make it to the North Pole.

Unfortunately his claim was pretty much disregarded; he eventually went to prison for stock fraud and died in 1940.  

But his home is still in Bushwick, between a Kentucky Fried Chicken and the elevated tracks of the M train. Reportedly Black Panthers stayed in the house in the 1970s. In 2008, graffiti mars the brick facade and the turreted roof gives it a haunted house vibe. 

A pot of flowers greets guests at the front door. Despite the way it looks from the street, it’s not a totally abandoned house after all.

Was Alfred E. Neuman from Brooklyn?

October 31, 2008

This goofy, big-eared kid sure looks like the Mad magazine mascot. According to Completely Mad, the kid’s mug was commonly used in ads across the U.S. in the early 1900s. Mad’s founders made the image their own in 1954, a year after the magazine was born.

The Ritter Painless Dental Co. stood at Flatbush and Third Avenue in Brooklyn. This photo looks like it was taken around 1910.

Little Nemo in the Sunday New York Herald

October 29, 2008

Little Nemo in Slumberland follows a boy named Nemo (“nobody” in Latin) whose dreams take him on fantastical adventures through surreal landscapes and distorted worlds—until the last panel, when he wakes up. 

This full-page Sunday comic strip by Winsor McCay ran in two sensationalist city papers: the New York Herald from 1905 to 1911 and William Randolph Hearst’s New York American from 1911 to 1913.


Reportedly the strip wasn’t terribly popular when it originally appeared—well, it was up against slapstick comics like the Katzenjammer Kids.

In 1966, the Metropolitan Museum of Art staged an exhibit of McCay’s black and white line drawings. Little Nemo’s fan base has been increasing ever since.  

Kansas? Nebraska? Nope, 19th century Brooklyn

October 29, 2008

It’s hard to imagine that in the 1860s, when this photo was taken, much of Brooklyn consisted of farmland dotted with the occasional house and tree.

This is before Brooklyn was even a united city; Kings County around this time contained a couple of different cities and several small towns that had yet to be combined into the borough of Brooklyn as we know it today. 

But things would change soon. Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden as well as major thoroughfares like Eastern Parkway and Ocean Parkway would all be built in the next few decades, ushering in a big Brooklyn population boom.

More vintage ads that are fading fast

October 29, 2008

Ghostly reminders of businesses long gone can still be spotted all around the city, like this rug cleaning sign in the South Bronx:

And an ad for shoe polish on 125th Street:

Wexler’s Jewelers (“since 1900”) and Wenleys (“latest fashions”) share the side of a building on 34th Street across from Penn Station:

Halloween in Greenwich Village

October 27, 2008

Before the annual Village Halloween Parade got its start in 1973, there was the Greenwich Village Halloween Carnival, as reads the poster this 1920s-era bohemian chick is putting up on a street sign pole.

It’s tough to make out the fine print and find out where it was held, for example. But it looks like someone named Paul Whiteman was the sponsor.

Lee Harvey Oswald’s South Bronx years

October 27, 2008

Lee Harvey Oswald is usually associated with New Orleans, the city of his birth; the Soviet Union, where he defected to in 1959; or Dallas, for obvious reasons. But he actually spent a few years living in the South Bronx when he was 13 and 14 years old.

In 1952, after moving to New York City with his mother and brothers, he lived in a couple of different apartments near the Grand Concourse, attending Junior High 117 and then Junior High 44, according to a November 1963 New York Times story.











Lee Harvey Oswald as a kid. His Bronx class picture perhaps?

All was not well with young Lee, however. The Times article quotes a next-door neighbor, Gussie Keller, saying that Mrs. Oswald was concerned about her son, who was in trouble for skipping school. She “used to talk to me all the time and cry,” Keller said. The Oswalds returned to New Orleans in 1954.

Partying the 1980s away at The Saint

October 27, 2008

Opened in 1980 in the same building that previously housed vaulted rock club the Fillmore East on Second Avenue and Sixth Street, The Saint featured a 5,000 square foot dance floor and planetarium-like dome.

It must have been something, because it’s one of those legendary places that 80s-era clubgoers are still raving about, even though the party has been over since 1988.

This 1986 ad appeared in the now-defunct neighborhood monthly East Village Eye. A bank branch exists at The Saint’s location today.

W.H. Auden: An English poet in the East Village

October 24, 2008

Poet Wystan Hugh Auden arrived in New York City in 1939. After stints at the George Washington Hotel on East 23rd Street and in Brooklyn Heights, he and companion Chester Kallman settled into a second-floor apartment in an unremarkable tenement at 77 St. Marks Place.

They lived here from 1953 to 1972, a year before Auden’s death at 66.

Auden in his St. Marks Place digs. Hannah Arendt reportedly described his living quarters this way: “His slum apartment was so cold that the toilet no longer functioned and he had to use the toilet in the liquor store at the corner.” The building now houses a restaurant, La Palapa.

Auden may have been British by birth, but some of his poems referenced New York. “September 1, 1939” starts: “I sit in one of the dives/on Fifty-Second Street/Uncertain and afraid/As the clever hopes expire/of a low dishonest decade.”

Another, from 1947, is titled “In Schrafft’s,” the name of the chain of ice cream parlor/restaurants that dotted the city until the 1970s. It begins: “Having finished the Blue plate Special/And reached the coffee stage/Stirring her cup she sat/A somewhat shapeless figure/Of indeterminate age/In an undistinguished hat.”