Archive for the ‘Chelsea’ Category

Life and humanity on the “wonderful roofs” of John Sloan’s New York

November 28, 2021

If you’re familiar with John Sloan’s Lower Manhattan paintings and illustrations from the first half of the 20th century, then you’ve probably noticed a running theme among them: tenement rooftops.

“Rain Rooftops West Fourth Street,” 1913

Like other Ashcan and social realist artists of his era, Sloan was captivated by what he saw on these roofs—the people he surreptitiously watched; their mundane activities; their delight, despair, and sensuality; and the exquisite vantage points roofs offered of a city on the rise.

“Sunday Paper on the Roof,” 1918

“These wonderful roofs of New York City bring me all humanity,” Sloan said in 1919, about 15 years after he and his wife left his native Philadelphia and relocated first to Chelsea and then to Greenwich Village, according to the Hyde Collection, where an exhibit of Sloan’s roof paintings ran in 2019. “It is all the world.”

“Roof Chats,” 1944-1950

“Work, play, love, sorrow, vanity, the schoolgirl, the old mother, the thief, the truant, the harlot,” Sloan stated, per an article in The Magazine Antiques. “I see them all down there without disguise.”

“Pigeons,” 1910

His rooftop paintings and illustrations often depicted the city during summer, when New Yorkers went to their roofs to escape the stifling heat in tenement houses—socializing, taking pleasure in romance and love, and on the hottest days dragging up mattresses to sleep.

“I have always liked to watch the people in the summer, especially the way they live on the roofs,” the artist said, according to Reynolda House. “Coming to New York and finding a place to live where I could observe the backyards and rooftops behind our attic studio—it was a new and exciting experience.”

“Red Kimono on the Roof,” 1912

Rooftops were something of a stage for Sloan. From his seat in his Greenwich Village studio on the 11th floor of a building at Sixth Avenue and West Fourth Street, Sloan could watch the theater of the city: a woman hanging her laundry, another reading the Sunday paper, a man training pigeons on top of a tenement and a rapt boy watching, dreaming.

Sloan described his 1912 painting, “Sunday, Women Drying Their Hair,” as “another of the human comedies which were regularly staged for my enjoyment by the humble roof-top players of Cornelia Street,” states the caption to this painting at the Addison Gallery of American Art.

“Sunday, Women Drying Their Hair,” 1912

Of course, roofs also meant freedom. In the crowded, crumbling pockets of Lower Manhattan filled with the poor and working class New Yorkers who captured Sloan’s imagination, roofs conveyed a sense of “escape from the suffocating confines of New York tenement living,” wrote the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

“Sunbathers on the Roof,” 1941

In the early 20th century, many progressive social reformers preferred to see these roof-dwelling New Yorkers in newly created parks and beaches, which were safer and less private.

But “Sloan embraced what he called ‘the roof life of the Metropolis’—as he did its street life—as a means to capture the human and aesthetic qualities of the urban everyday, a defining commitment of the Ashcan School,” wrote Nick Yablon in American Art in 2011.

A woman found bludgeoned in a Tenderloin hotel sparks a trial that riveted New York

November 8, 2021

It happened on Broadway and 31st Street in room 84 of the Grand Hotel, in the middle of the Tenderloin—Gilded Age New York’s vast vice playground of brothels, dance halls, theaters, and gambling dens.

After knocking on the door several times on the morning of August 16, 1898, a chambermaid entered the room and found the corpse of a pretty young woman, her head in a pool of blood and her clothed body spread out on the floor.

The stylishly dressed woman “had been bludgeoned with a lead pipe to the skull, her neck was broken, and one of her earlobes was torn by the violent removal of an earring,” wrote John Oller in Rogues’ Gallery: The Birth of Modern Policing and Organized Crime in Gilded Age New York.

“Her clothing was undisturbed, the bed linens fresh and unmussed,” wrote Oller. “On a table in the center of the room stood an empty champagne bottle and two glasses.”

Police in the Tenderloin were used to gruesome crime scenes, and they were summoned to the hotel to piece together evidence.

The details were intriguing. Though the woman had signed into the hotel as “E. Maxwell and wife, Brooklyn” and was then seen by hotel staff meeting a man in a straw hat, her real identity was Emeline “Dolly” Reynolds, a petite 21-year-old who two years earlier left her well-off parents in Mount Vernon to try to make it as an actress in Manhattan.

Reynolds wasn’t getting anywhere as an actress however. For a time she sold books, then met a married man named Maurice Mendham (above). This wealthy stockbroker helped set her up in an apartment on West 58th Street, bought her jewelry, and lived with her “as man and wife,” as a prosecutor later put it.

Just as interesting to detectives was the check that fell out of her corset during her on-scene autopsy. “It was made payable to ‘Emma Reynolds’ in the amount of $13,000,” wrote Oller. “Dated August 15, 1898, the previous day, it was drawn on the Garfield National Bank, signed by a ‘Dudley Gideon,’ and endorsed on the back by ‘S.J. Kennedy.'”

Investigators soon learned that Mendham had an alibi; he was in Long Branch at the time. They also discovered that ‘Dudley Gideon’ didn’t exist. But S.J. Kennedy did, and they began taking a closer look at this 32-year-old Staten Island dentist who practiced on West 22nd Street and was introduced to Reynolds by Mendham.

“Reynolds’ mother told police that about a week before the murder, Dolly told her that Dr. Kennedy (above) volunteered to put $500 on a horse race for her,” according to Strange Company. “She had drawn the money from her bank, and would meet him on the evening of August 15 to deliver what he promised would be a highly profitable investment.”

Police arrested Kennedy five hours after Reynolds’ body was discovered.

After denying he knew Reynolds, Kennedy then admitted to being her regular dentist, according to Oller, and that he saw her in his office the previous week. He insisted their relationship was professional and that he did not place any bets for her, had never been to the Grand Hotel, and his signature on the $13,000 check was forged.

Still, hotel employees ID’d him as the man in the straw hat they saw with Reynolds the day before her body was found. Kennedy also could not explain his whereabouts at the time of the murder, estimated to be at 1 a.m. He thought he’d been to Proctor’s Theatre on West 23rd Street (above), but he couldn’t recall the name of the play he’d seen, wrote Oller.

Police and prosecutors came up with a theory to connect Kennedy to Reynolds. “According to the theory, Dolly was just one of the ‘lambs’ that Kennedy, a feeder for a group of confidence men, was tasked with separating from their money,” explained Oller. But there were some holes, such as why the check was for $13,000, and why the dentist murdered her so viciously.

The March 1899 trial riveted New York City, and newspapers printed lurid front-page headlines with illustrations of the courtroom. Hotel staff and guests (like Mrs. Logue, above) took the stand; Kennedy did not. The jury quickly convicted Kennedy and sentenced him to die in Sing Sing in the electric chair.

But then, the convicted dentist got a lucky break, when in 1900 the Court of Appeals granted him a new trial due to “hearsay” that was used as evidence in the first trial.

The second time, the jury deadlocked, with 11 voting to acquit. At a third trial, Mendham testified, and “his evasiveness about the extent of his relationship with Dolly Reynolds fed the defense’s insinuation that he was somehow behind the murder,” wrote Oller.

While crowds sympathetic to Kennedy rallied outside the courtroom, the jury couldn’t agree on a verdict once again. The city declined to try the case a fourth time. Kennedy was released from the Tombs and returned to Staten Island to a hero’s welcome.

“He resumed his dental practice and lived quietly in New Dorp, dying at age 81 in August 1948, almost 50 years to the day after the murder of his patient Dolly Reynolds,” wrote Oller.

[Top image: San Jose Mercury News; second image: MCNY X2011.34.35; third image: New York World; fourth image: The Scrapbook; fifth image: MCNY 93.1.1.15639; sixth image: New York World; seventh image: New York Journal]

The two most romantic street names in old Manhattan

May 17, 2021

New York has always been a city that encourages love and passion, with plenty of lush parks, quiet corners, and candlelit cafes lending privacy and romantic ambiance.

Couples living in 18th and early 19th century Manhattan didn’t have these places at their disposal when they wanted some alone time, of course. But they did have options—like the two now-defunct streets named “Love Lane.”

The first Love Lane began at the foot of the Bowery, called Bowry Lane on John Montresor’s 1775 map (above, and in full via this link). This map laid out the small city center at the tip of Manhattan and along the East River.

Love Lane off the Bowery (referenced in an 1818 New-York Evening Post ad, above) was a “road on the Rutgers Farm, running on or near the line of the present Henry Street,” states oldstreets.com, a site that explains the history of city street names.

Thomas Allibone Janvier’s In Old New York, published in 1893, mentions this “primitive” Love Lane, which he also places on the former Rutgers Estate near present-day Chatham Square. Valentine’s Manual of Old New York, from 1922, states that Love Lane was the original name for today’s East Broadway; it was a lane that led to the Rutgers Farm.

Exactly what colonial-era New Yorkers did on the Love Lane of the Rutgers Estate wasn’t specifically recorded by these authors. But we do have a better idea of what lovers (or would-be lovers) did on the city’s other Love Lane—which ran along West 21st Street in today’s Chelsea. Apparently, they went for long, secluded carriage drives.

“Before this area became incorporated into an expanding New York City, 21st Street was a rural lane known as the Abingdon Road, which connected Broadway with Fitzroy Road, as 8th Avenue was then called,” explains nysonglines.com.

“Abingdon was nicknamed Love Lane, because carriage rides out to the country (i.e. Midtown) were apparently the main form of dating, and coming back by Abingdon was taking the long way home.”

Different sources have Chelsea’s Love Lane taking various routes. But it seems to have begun at Broadway (then called Bloomingdale Road) and followed 21st Street west before intersecting with Fitz Roy Road, following today’s 22nd to 23rd Street, and running to Tenth Avenue beside the Hudson River.

“There is no record to show where the name came from,” wrote Charles Hemstreet in Nooks and Corners of Old New York. “The generally accepted idea is that being a quiet and little traveled spot, it was looked upon as a lane where happy couples might drive, far from the city, and amid green fields and stately trees confide the story of their loves.”

Valentine’s Manual agrees that this Love Lane followed Abington Road up the West Side to Fitz Roy and 21st Street, but has it turning east to Third Avenue and 23rd Street.

Chelsea’s Love Lane (above, in an 1807 map by William Bridges and Peter Maverick) was “swallowed up,” Hemstreet wrote in 1899, with the opening of West 21st Street in 1827.

Both of these Love Lanes have long disappeared from the urbanscape. But if you’re wishing you could live on a street with such a romantic name, head on over to Brooklyn.

Love Lane, a sweet one-block former mews in Brooklyn Heights, is quiet, tucked out of the way, and intimate. How this street got its name is something of a mystery, which the Brooklyn Daily Eagle explores in a 2019 article. It may have been a romantic path down to the East River; it could have something to do with the women’s college once located around the corner.

[Top image: Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps; second image: New-York Evening Post; third image: unknown; fourth image: New-York Evening Post; fifth Image: NYPL]

The Chelsea ‘Muffin House’ where a beloved brand was baked

May 9, 2021

In the 1830s, Clement Clarke Moore began selling off parcels of land from his country estate, a retreat north of Greenwich Village that his grandfather had named Chelsea in the 18th century.

Moore—a wealthy professor best known as the author behind ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas—planned to develop his estate into a fine residential neighborhood for elite members of the growing city, according to the Chelsea Historic District report.

Unfortunately, the new Chelsea neighborhood didn’t last as an enclave of huge brownstones and mansions. Instead, it became a “comfortable and middle class” district through much of the 19th century, per the CHD report.

By the end of the 19th century, the exclusively residential neighborhood Moore had planned gave way to commercial enterprises—including one iconic bakery brand that introduced New York to the English muffin and is still sold across the US today.

That brand was Thomas’ English Muffins, which were baked in the basement of the circa-1850 brick house on 20th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues (photos above).

The Thomas’ English muffin story begins in 1874, when baker Samuel Bath Thomas (above) left England and settled in New York City, determined to bring his family’s English muffin recipe (these muffins were originally called “toaster crumpets,” reports The Nibble) to the American masses.

He opened his first bakery in 1880 at 163 Ninth Avenue, according to a 2006 New York Times article. Business was good. So in the early 20th century, Thomas opened another bakery around the corner in the basement and ground floor of 337 West 20th Street, a three-story dwelling with a hidden back house on the property.

“Sam’s muffins were sold on the streets of New York by those basket-carrying, bell-ringing muffin men of song and story, by Sam in the retail store—upstairs from the bakery and downstairs from his apartment—and by pushcarts to restaurants in the neighborhood,” states a New York Daily News article from 1980, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the English muffin’s introduction to the United States.

“Finally, as the fame of Thomas’ muffins spread to the suburbs, which were then places like Queens and Brooklyn, Sam bought a horse and wagon to haul around all the muffins he was making,” the Daily News wrote. (See the above photo, with the 20th Street store address on the side of the wagon.)

Thomas died in 1918 just as a new English muffin plant was going up in Long Island City. The business carried on with the help of relatives before being sold to a manufacturer, which still produces them today.

But what of the former bakery at 337 West 20th Street? It’s unclear when it was abandoned; the ground floor was still used as a storefront in the tax photo from 1940. But amazingly, the enormous oven in which Thomas’ muffins achieved their nook and cranny goodness was found in 2006 behind a basement wall.

Tenants of the apartment on the other side of the wall made the discovery of the “room-size brick oven,” as the Times described it. The nonworking oven—likely originally built for the foundry that used to be in the basement before being converted to bakery use—was built into the basement foundation, and most of it stretches underneath the courtyard between the main building and the back house (below).

Number 337 is now a co-op apartment residence. On the facade of the building is a charming sign giving some historical background on what’s now affectionately known as the “muffin house.”

[Third and fourth photos: Thomasbreads.com; fifth photo: NYC Department of Records and Information Services; seventh photo: Streeteasy.com]

What remains of the Stern’s store on 23rd Street

April 5, 2021

When the Stern Brothers opened their new Dry Goods Store at 32-36 West 23rd Street in October 1878, New York’s growing consumer class was floored.

The three Stern brothers from Buffalo had outgrown their previous shop on West 23rd Street as well as their first New York City store, established in 1867, around the corner at 367 Sixth Avenue). So a new cathedral of commerce was needed, and it featured a stunning cast-iron facade and five stories of selling space.

Stern’s was now the city’s biggest department store—one that catered to both aspirational middle-class shoppers and the wealthy carriage trade. These elite shoppers entered a separate door on 22nd Street, so as not to rub shoulders with the riffraff.

But everyone who came to Stern’s left feeling like a million bucks.

”When the customer entered the store, he was welcomed personally by one of the Stern brothers, all of whom wore gray-striped trousers and cutaway tailcoats,” wrote the New York Times in 2001, quoting Larry Stone, who started at Stern’s in 1948 as a trainee and retired as chief executive in 1993. ”Pageboys escorted the customer to the department in which they wished to shop, and purchases were sent out in elegant horse-drawn carriages and delivered by liveried footmen.”

Stern’s was such a popular spot on 23rd Street—the northern border of what became known as the Ladies Mile Shopping District, where women were free to browse and buy without having to be escorted by their husbands or fathers—this dry goods emporium was enlarged in 1892.

The store was always a stop for tourists, too. “We got off [the Broadway car] at 23rd Street and Josie took us to the Stern Brothers, one of the large and select dry goods houses where we saw the latest fashions,” wrote 12-year-old Naomi King, who kept a travel diary of her visit to the city with her parents from Indiana in 1899.

King wrote that she saw “all the new spring styles [and] the new spring color: amethyst, purple, or violet in all shades [and] stripes extending to gentlemen’s cravats in Roman colors.”

But Stern’s reign as one of the most popular shops on Ladies Mile wouldn’t last—mainly because Ladies Mile didn’t last. Macy’s was the first store to relocate uptown, from 14th Street and Sixth Avenue to Herald Square, in 1903.

Other big-name department stores followed. Stern’s made the jump to 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue in 1913, leaving their old building behind, according to a 1967 New York Times article marking the store’s centennial. For most of the 20th century, the palatial building on 23rd Street was used for light industry and commercial concerns.

That 42nd Street flagship store would ultimately close in 1970, wrote Gerard R. Wolfe in New York: A Guide to the Metropolis. By 2001, Stern’s shut down all of its stores and went out of business.

Since 2000s, Home Depot has occupied the old Stern’s dry goods palace, and it seems as if every trace of Stern’s has long been striped from the building.

Except on the facade. If you look up above the Home Depot Sign, you can see the initials “SB,” a permanent reminder of this magnificent building’s original triumphant owners.

[Top three images: NYPL Digital Collection]

Hanging laundry in a tenement backyard, 1912

August 17, 2020

John Sloan painted many rooftop scenes, typically depicting the ordinary activities he would see on the Greenwich Village and Chelsea roofs of his neighbors.

In 1912, a woman hanging her laundry to dry apparently caught his eye, and the painting “A Woman’s Work” is the result.

It’s Sloan at his best: her face is turned away while she secures the garments to the rope, and the laundry lines and tenements in the background seem to isolate her from the rest of the city.

The painting belongs to the Cleveland Museum of Art. “With its generally sunny mood, the painting lacks the nightmarish qualities of contemporary photographs of slum conditions in New York by Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine,” the museum states. “Nevertheless, it offers a window view on how poor and working-class residents lived in America’s biggest city — and how laws and regulations shaped their world.”

How NYC taught school during a lethal outbreak

August 17, 2020

School districts all over the country are facing a dilemma right now. Should they hold classes in school buildings—or keep schools closed, as they have been since the coronavirus pandemic began, and continue teaching kids at home via digital classes?

In the early 1900s, New York school and health officials faced a similar dilemma. So they came up with a novel way to teach kids safely under the threat of a lethal infection: they built outdoor and open-air classrooms on rooftops, in schoolyards, and even on ferryboats (above, 1908).

Pioneered in Germany in the early 1900s, fresh-air classrooms, as they were also known, were adopted by some New York City schools to prevent the spread of tuberculosis in the city’s crowded, airless school buildings.

Tuberculosis may not have been a full-fledged pandemic in New York at the time. But the “white plague,” also known as the “captain of the men of death,” was Gotham’s leading killer in 1900.

A cure for TB wasn’t developed until the 1940s. In the 1900s and 1910s, treatment meant fresh air and sunlight. Prevention efforts included public health campaigns against spitting and building apartments and hospitals that allowed for better ventilation and light.

A school for kids stricken with TB opened on a ferry docked at the East River (top photo) in 1908. Four more ferries and the Vanderbilt Clinic on 16th Street were also converted into classrooms, with students gathered around on chairs and a teacher leading lessons, according to the 1918 book, Open-Air Schools.

Thanks to their success, public health officials began thinking about using the same strategy to prevent infections in kids who might be predisposed to the disease because of their home environment or their own physical health. They also proposed that so-called “normal” pupils would benefit as well.

So in 1909, the city set aside $6500 for the construction of open-air classrooms, according to the New York Times on October 30 of that year.

An elementary school on Carmine Street began holding “open-window” classes, as did a grade school in Chelsea. In these and other public schools, “there is no supplementary feeding, no rest period, and no extra clothes provided,” Open-Air Schools explained. “The children wear their street wraps in cold weather.”

[At right: A student in an outdoor class on the Lower East Side, 1910]

Horace Mann, the private school then located in Morningside Heights, also launched open-air classes. The school built open classrooms on the roof, with windowed walls on three sides of each room. “Indoor toilet rooms are provided and also an indoor room where children may go to get warm if necessary.”

Kindergartners were not spared from the open-air school idea (above). Young kids at Brooklyn’s Friends School were taught on the roof. “As yet the children are wearing their own coats and wraps, but later in the season we expect to have sitting-out bags…only in the really cold weather are the blankets to wrap up the smaller children used,” a November 5, 1911 Brooklyn Daily Eagle article stated, quoting a teacher.

In the coldest weather, some schools provided students with a new garment called a “parka,” or “fuzzy Eskimo suit,” as one Brooklyn school described them in a 1933 Brooklyn Times Union article (photo above).

Other cities across the country launched their own outdoor or open-air classrooms, including Chicago, Cleveland, and Boston.

The open-air school movement seems to have died down by the 1930s though, perhaps because TB wasn’t quite as feared, and a new scourge—polio—began causing panic, especially in the summertime when public pools opened.

Could New York City kids (and their teachers) handle open-air or outdoor classes today? Interestingly, according to the newspaper sources used in this post, parents did not have a problem with the open-air policy.

[Top photo: LOC; second photo: LOC; third photo: MCNY, 90.13.4.66; fourth photo: MCNY 90.13.4.68; fifth photo: MCNY 90.13.2.36; sixth photo: LOC; seventh photo: Brooklyn Times Union; eighth photo: LOC]

The Medieval granite fortress once on 14th Street

July 6, 2020

It rose like King Arthur’s castle on 14th Street: a stone citadel complete with arched entryways, crenellations on top of its towers, and what look like arrow loops from the very top, the better to rain arrows down on enemy invaders.

What was this imposing granite fortress? The Ninth Regiment 14th Street Armory, completed in 1896 just west of Sixth Avenue.

For eight decades, this rough-cut armory held court on the north side of the street—first amid department stores, the 14th Street Theatre, and residential brownstones, and then among a changed neighborhood of light manufacturing and discount houses.

This wasn’t the first armory on the site. It replaced an earlier one opened in 1863 that extended to 15th Street and was nicknamed the “Palace Garden.”

Both the older and newer armory were constructed as part of a great wave of armory-building in New York City between the Civil War and World War I. That’s when the US Army went from a “state-controlled, decentralized army of citizen soldiers” to a “federally maintained, centralized corps of professional soldiers,” wrote Nancy L.Todd in New York’s Historic Armories: An Illustrated History.

“Armories had three basic functions: they served as military facilities, clubhouses, and public monuments,” wrote Todd. As far as a public monument, the 14th Street Armory was a spectacular expression of power and might.

You’d think such an armory would be landmarked and preserved—for its architecture or its historical backstory.

But in 1971, New York bulldozed the castle and replaced it with a new concrete armory building (above, in the 1980s). It was described as “a gross and overbearing modern drill hall,” by the AIA Guide to New York City, according to the New York Times in 1993.

By the 1990s, the new armory had outlasted its military function; it was closed in 1993. What to do with a massive masonry building on a major street that was starting to attract new residents and retail stores?

Other New York City armories no longer used by the military were turned into homeless shelters (Brooklyn’s 23rd Regiment Armory), sports complexes (Armory Track on Fort Washington Avenue), and arts centers (the Seventh Regiment/Park Avenue Armory).

New York State, which owned the building, decided to go with a mixed-use developer. Today, the site is occupied by the McBurney YMCA and topped by apartments.

[First and third images: New York State Military Images; second and fourth photos: New York City Department of Records and Information Services; fifth photo: NYPL]

Ghost buildings standing out in the desolate city

April 13, 2020

There’s something about New York right now, with its (mostly) emptied streets and deserted sidewalks, that makes the phantom buildings of an earlier Gotham come out of hiding.

You know these phantom tenements and walkups—their faded outlines tend to reappear at construction sites, giving us a glimpse of the low-rise city of another era.

Sometimes they’re a longtime ghostly imprint overlooking the empty lot left behind when the building was torn down—like the one above on East 45th Street, with its distinctive chimney.

This one above, on Lafayette Street, is another unusual one, perhaps it’s the ghost of a Federal-style house from the first half of the 19th century, when many of these little homes were built (and still survive) in Lower Manhattan.

Here’s another stubby building at the corner of Lafayette and Bleecker, its chimney just visible against the lovely and much taller Bayard-Condict Building, constructed in 1899.

What will take the place of this low-rise walkup on York Avenue and 86th Street, old enough to have been dwarfed by century-old tenements?

This phantom building down at Hudson Yards might be gone by now. The building it left its outline on may have met the bulldozer, or a shiny new tower is obscuring it once again.

The slight slope to the top floor of this outline makes me think it was once a stylish brownstone or rowhouse, probably one in a group built in the late 19th century on a block in Midtown East.

Finally, on East 57th Street is this little guy, likely a 19th century apparition clinging to a more modern apartment building while haunting the bright busy Whole Foods at street level.

What life was like in a Manhattan “fever nest”

April 6, 2020

New Yorkers in the 19th century came up with some very descriptive slang names for poor, crowded neighborhoods where disease outbreaks tended to happen.

One is a “lung block,” or an entire street with a high number of residents living with the “white plague”—aka tuberculosis.

Another is a “fever nest,” seen in the image above. It’s unclear if the illustration depicts East 32nd Street, possibly near the shantytown called Dutch Hill, or West 32nd Street, which could have been the upper end of the Tenderloin, Gilded Age New York’s vice district.

When was this illustration of a fever nest done? Based on the wide skirts the women are wearing, the unpaved road, and the scavenging pig in the foreground, I’d guess it depicts the 1860s—a decade racked by outbreaks of cholera and other illnesses spread via unsanitary conditions.

[Image: CUNY Graduate Center]