If you’ve ever lived in a tenement apartment, then you know nothing traps heat like those narrow, airless spaces.
To avoid roasting during a heat wave, tenement dwellers (two-thirds of the city lived in them in 1900, incredibly) sometimes took desperate measures, like sleeping on the roof or bedding down on the beach at Coney Island, on a pier, or in Central Park.
And of course, you could always lay out a blanket and pillow on the fire escape. None were especially safe options, but for poor people in a pre–air conditioned New York, you took your chances.
[Undated photo: Bettman/Corbis]