Archive for the ‘Houses of worship’ Category

The East Village is a crowded necropolis

March 10, 2014

I don’t know how many New Yorkers are officially buried inside the borders of the East Village.

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But considering that the neighborhood has three burial grounds dating back to the late 18th century—and had at least one more on 11th Street, now the site of apartments—it appears to be a part of the city that officially hosts more than its share of dead.

NewyorkcitymarblecemeteryThe New York Marble Cemetery, founded in 1831 as the final resting place for members of the city’s oldest and most distinguished families.

The narrow entrance is on Second Avenue between Second and Third Streets, and along the walls are vaults containing Varicks, Motts, Pecks, and Deys.

The last of the 2,080 internments took place in 1937, though most vaults date from 1830 to 1870.

Around the corner on Second Street is the similarly named New York City Marble Cemetery, home to 258 vaults housing Roosevelts, Willets, Blackwells (at right), Kips, and the wonderfully named merchant Preserved Fish.

This graveyard, also once set amid undeveloped land, filled up fast; by 1835, it reached its limits.

At the northern end of the neighborhood is the cemetery ground at St. Mark’s Church, at Second Avenue and 11th Street.

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The remains of Peter Stuyvesant, who died in 1672, are contained here. Walk along the brick paths, and you’ll see that the churchyard features dozens of marble markers noting the vaults of ex-mayor Philip Hone and ex-governor Daniel Tompkins, among others.

11thstreetcemeterySt. Mark’s Church also had another graveyard across Second Avenue on 11th Street dating to 1803, according to the New York Cemetery Project website (seen here on an old city map).

“An unknown number of individuals were buried at St. Mark’s Cemetery until burials there were prohibited in 1851,”  the website states.

“The remains from this graveyard were removed to Evergreens Cemetery in Brooklyn in 1864 and residences were built on the site.”

Whoever was once interred here now resides in the necropolis that is Brooklyn.

Three centuries at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue

February 24, 2014

“The pace was leisurely, with bicycles, horsecars, broughams, and hansom cabs comprising traffic,” states the caption to this 1898 photo looking north on Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street. It’s from New York Then and Now.

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The twin lamppost makes a nice contrast to the twin Moorish-style towers of Temple Emanu-El, built in 1868 and a mainstay of this section of Fifth Avenue until 1927.

The building on the northwest corner at 42nd is the circa-1875 Hotel Bristol. See the stone wall with a low fence on the far left? There’s no New York Public Library Building yet.

The year this photo was taken, the Croton Reservoir would be torn down—the wall looks like part of the reservoir structure.

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What a difference 76 years make. Fifth Avenue’s residential era is long over; it’s now the city’s commercial heart.

The temple, lampposts, and Hotel Bristol are gone, but the six-story building from 1870 on the far right still exists, with a Russell Stover candy store at the ground floor.

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Thirty-eight years later, in 2014, Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street is still a crowded commercial corner, with one church steeple still in view.

What happened to the six-story building at the far right? It was swallowed up by H&M!

Caring for the East Village’s babies and derelicts

February 3, 2014

SaracurryIf you’ve spent any time on St. Marks Place between First and Second Avenues in the past year, you may have noticed that the block has been renamed Sara Curry Way.

Who was Sara Curry? This young transplant came to the city in the late 19th century and witnessed a tragic accident that strengthened her resolve to make working with poor children her life’s mission.

Born in Utica in 1863, Curry was orphaned as a child and went to work in a local factory.

There, she “studied the problems of other girls who worked long hours for a living,” her New York Times obituary noted. “In her spare time, she devoted her energies to helping them.”

SaracurrywaysignA wealthy New York City resident heard about her efforts to help working women upstate.

He arranged for Curry to come to New York in 1894 and help run a nursery for poor working mothers at the Mariner’s Temple, a circa-1795 Baptist Church on Henry Street. That led her to do missionary work in Chinatown with the disadvantaged, and then, in 1896, her true calling.

“One day, on seeing a child crushed by a truck, she resolved to devote her life mainly to children,” stated the Times.  The child was one of thousands of “street Arabs” who roamed the city in the late 19th century, because their parents worked or they had no homes to go to.

Littlemissionarysdaynursery2014“With only enough money to pay a month’s rent and immediate necessities, she rented a room at 204 Avenue C, which became her first nursery, and in it she cared for a dozen babies.”

In 1901, the nursery, now funded by benefactors, moved to larger quarters at 93 St. Marks Place, the heart of the city’s Kleindeutschland. There, Curry helped care for 200 children of poor mothers who had to work and had no safe place to bring their young children.

Called the Little Missionary’s Day Nursery , it was an homage to Curry’s small stature and nickname “Little Angel of the Missions.”

“Miss Curry never lost sight of social conditions in the children’s background, wrote the Times.

“She made thousands of visits to their parents, visited the sick, served Thanksgiving dinner by the hundreds.”

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Sara Curry died in 1940. But her nursery school still exists on St. Marks Place.

[Top photo: Little Missionary's Day Nursery; bottom: Good Housekeeping, 1904]

A little girl’s diary sheds light on the 1849 city

January 9, 2014

“I am ten years old to-day, and I am going to begin to keep a diary,” wrote Catherine Elizabeth Havens on August 6, 1849.

CatherinehavensandfatherCatherine only kept her diary for a year. But lucky for us, as an adult, she had the foresight to publish it in 1919.

Now, future generations can peek into what day-to-day city life was like for kids in the mid-19th century.

Well-off kids, that is. The daughter of a businessman (with her father at right), she first lived on exclusive Lafayette Place, then in Brooklyn, where she tells us her brother “liked to go crabbing.”

Her family finally settled on Ninth Street near Fifth Avenue. “It is a beautiful house and has glass sliding doors with birds of Paradise sitting on palm trees painted on them. And back of our dining room is a piazza, and a grape vine, and we have lots of Isabella grapes every fall.”

CatherinediaryexcerptThe city is getting too built up, she writes. “I walk some mornings with my nurse before breakfast from our house in Ninth Street up Fifth Avenue to Twenty-Third Street, and down Broadway home.

“An officer stands in front of the House of Refuge on Madison Square, ready to arrest bad people, and he looks as if he would like to find some.”

Catherine goes to a girls’ school; she likes piano lessons but dislikes history. Her family occasionally attends the “brick church” on Beekman Place and Nassau Street (below). She and her school friends raise $300 to help victims of the Irish potato famine.

Like all super-aware city kids, she knows all the leading attractions. She visits Vauxhall Gardens, mentions a wax figure at Barnum’s Museum, and remembers how moved her father was when he saw Jenny Lind sing at Castle Garden.

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She gets cream puffs from Waldick’s Bakery on Sixth Avenue and Eighth Street and chocolate on Broadway and Ninth Street. “Down Broadway, below Eighth Street is Dean’s candy store, and they have molasses candy that is the best in the city.”

CatherinediarymarblecemeteryShe tells us about the sounds of old New York. “Stages run through Bleecker Street and Eighth Street and Ninth Street right past our house, and it puts me right to sleep when I come home from the country to hear them rumble along over the cobblestones again.”

Catherine shops A.T. Stewart’s store on Chambers Street and likes Arnold and Constable on Canal Street, where “they keep elegant silks and satins and velvets, and my mother always goes there to get her best things.”

CatherinediarybrickchurchAnd she loves playtime in the park. “I roll my hoop and jump the rope in the afternoon, sometimes in the Parade Ground on Washington Square, and sometimes in Union Square.”

 The adult Catherine dedicated her published diary to her nieces and nephews, so perhaps she had no children of her own. I would love to know what happened to this thoughtful, literate girl, whose words give us a wonderful window into the pre-Civil War city.

[Third image: The Spangler Farmhouse, once on 14th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue and included in the published version of Catherine's diary]

Poster stamps of the city’s top draws in 1915

January 2, 2014

I’d never heard of poster stamps until an Ephemeral reader told me about them.

Popular in the mid-19th century into the early 1900s, these advertising labels, each a little larger than a postage stamp, were a trendy collectible at the time.

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They generally featured products and services—and in the case of these poster stamps, found in a thrift store and dating to about 1915, the product was New York City.

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The reader who brought them to my attention was kind enough to send me images of 15 stamps, all by acclaimed poster artist Franklin Bittner.

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Many are of the tourist attractions found on postcards today: the Statue of Liberty and the Plaza Hotel, for example.

Yet some feature places and buildings that don’t necessarily make it on the double-decker bus tours these days . . . or no longer exist at all.

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The Hippodrome, once on Sixth Avenue at 43rd Street, is gone, and Times Square’s Astor Hotel no longer exists either.

St. Paul’s Chapel on Lower Broadway is mostly known now for its role as a relief center on and just after September 11, 2001. The Washington Square Arch is still there and must-see for out-of-towners. But no cars anymore.

Thanks to Lisa for sending them over!

All the ways New York celebrated the New Year

December 30, 2013

You could make the argument that New York practically invented, or at least modernized, the New Year holiday.

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It all started with the early Dutch settlers, who began the tradition of New Year’s calling: going around the colony “calling” on their friends and neighbors to wish them well in the coming year (and indulge in plenty of pipe-smoking and partying too).

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In the 19th century, New Year’s calling persisted, and bells would ring at midnight on January 1 at Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan.

By the 20th century, both traditions were replaced with something new: the dropping of an illuminated ball in Times Square starting on December 31, 1907.

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Gathering in restaurants and bars became popular, as this photo, dating to 1910-1915, shows. Prohibition would soon put a damper on that.

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The down and out weren’t excluded from welcoming the New Year. Here, men dine at a Salvation Army dinner sometime before 1920.

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In 1942, some Greenwich Village boys blow horns in front of Max Moscowitz’ clothing store, on Bleecker Street and Sixth Avenue.

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In 1956, Times Square was packing in what looks to be a mostly orderly crowd—even then, they must all be from out of town!

The beautiful saloon ceiling on Grand Street

October 7, 2013

OniealsexteriorThere’s a lot of New York history at 174 Grand Street.

This corner, at Centre Market Place, was the location of a polling place in the 1860s, a church in the 1870s, and a deadly jewelry store robbery in the 1920s.

A brothel operated there, as did a saloon-turned-speakeasy catering to officers who worked across the street at the old police headquarters.

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Cops didn’t have to actually cross the street to get a drink there. A tunnel was dug from the police building directly to the bar (and still exists today; it’s now a wine cellar). Very convenient.

Oniealsceiling1Now it’s the site of a restaurant/bar called O’Nieal’s. And though the neighborhood no longer has raffish old New York charm, O’Nieal’s lovely ceiling will transport you back to that version of the city.

The beautifully carved chunk of mahogany wood spans the entire restaurant. Walk in, and look up.

[Top photo: onieals.com]

The East Village’s loveliest 19th century bell

September 14, 2013

StbrigidschurchAfter St. Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church underwent an expensive (and very beautiful) renovation from 2008 to 2012, church leaders reportedly didn’t have enough funds left over to put the church bell back in the tower.

So now the bell sits in front of the church on Avenue B and Eighth Street, quietly greeting passersby.

It’s a wonderful piece of East Village history dating to 1858—just 10 years after St. Brigid’s was built.

That’s when it was known as the “famine church,” as it was constructed by Irish immigrants who lived in the 19th century Dry Dock District (bas reliefs of some of their haunting faces decorate the beams inside).

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This is a church bell with a rebel streak. In 1991, during the Tompkins Square Park riots, it played a key role warning protestors that police were heading into the park.

“Local activists, planning a response to the melee, were surprised when the bells of St. Brigid’s Church on Avenue B tolled early on June 3 to signal the arrival of hundreds of police officers at the park,” recalled The New York  Times in a 2011 article.

Broken remains of a Norfolk Street synagogue

September 12, 2013

NorfolkstreetsynagogueThe once-spectatular, now rundown building at 60 Norfolk Street started out in 1848 as the Norfolk Street Baptist Church.

It still has all the wonderful Gothic Revival touches of a mid-19th century church: arched windows, four-leaf tracery, and a high, vaulted nave inside.

Ten years later the church moved out, following its well-to-do members uptown as the neighborhood became an enclave of poorer immigrants.

Norfolkstreetsynagogue1900sA Methodist church took it over until 1885, when Orthodox Jewish congregation Beth Hamedrash Hagadol bought it for $45,000—and stayed for 122 years.

Founded by immigrants, Beth Hamedrash Hagadol was “the oldest Orthodox congregation of Russian Jews in the United States,” states nycjewishtours.org.

The congregation made some cosmetic changes so the place looked more like a synagogue.

“The new owners added a Jewish star to the roof and reconfigured the altar area to become a bima, but otherwise left the plain Gothic church intact,” says Inside the Apple.

In its day, thousands of Lower East Side residents worshipped here. But you know the story: the neighborhood changed, residents moved or died, and the congregation dwindled.

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Designated a city landmark in 1967, Beth Hamedrash Hagadol leaders closed the synagogue in 2007.

Since then, time and harsh weather have taken their toll. Windows are blown out, moldings have chipped, plaster falls, and overgrown brush block the entrance and give an eerie, abandoned feel.

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Last year, the congregation asked the landmarks commission for permission to tear down the synagogue and  sell the land to developers.

That request is on hold. In a city that loves its past, it’s surprising money can’t be found to turn around this historic bit of the Lower East Side.

[Second photo, about 1900: Wikipedia; Third photo, Wikipedia]

Madison Square before the Met Life Tower

May 6, 2013

Before the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company tower went up in 1909, Met Life had a smaller headquarters at East 23rd Street and Madison Avenue.

MadisonSquareMetLifepostcard

It’s the stately building on the corner in this October 1906 postcard, which notes the “New and Old Parkhurst Churches” next door.

Charles Henry Parkhurst was a Presbyterian minister and social reformer who gained fame in 1892 when he railed against corruption at Tammany Hall from his pulpit. His efforts led to housecleaning and reform inside the Democratic political machine.

The churches, the then-brand new one at the far left and the old Gothic-style church next to it, long ago got the heave ho.


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