Archive for the ‘Maps’ 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.

Stmarkschurchyardvaults

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.

Whatever happened to lovely Livingston Street?

December 16, 2013

LivingstonplacemapBrooklyn Heights still has its Livingston Street, named after the old New York family that counts 19th century state governor Hamilton Fish as a descendent.

But what about Manhattan’s Livingston Place—a pretty little London-esque lane (seen here on a midcentury map) which served as a bookend for the east side of Stuyvesant Square since 1836?

Livingstonplace1939nyplLovely Livingston Place lost its original moniker in the 1950s, when the city decided to rename the road, which stretched two narrow blocks from 15th to 17th Streets alongside Beth Israel Hospital.

The new name: Perlman Place. Nathan D. Perlman was a judge as well as vice-president of Beth Israel who died in 1952.

Plans to honor Perlman by putting his name on this picturesque lane (here in the 1930s) was not universally well received.

“In a city as rich with history as New York street names should not be changed without overwhelmingly good reason, long consideration, and ample public debate,” The New York Times weighed in in 1954. “Such changes are confusing to the public, they make maps obsolete, they break the traditions of the past.”

Livingstonplace2013

The City Council approved the name change anyway—and Manhattan lost a slender connection to its colonial beginnings.

[Middle photo: NYPL Digital Collection]

Is this the oldest historic sign in Chelsea?

September 16, 2013

The Landmarks Preservation Commission does a nice job of posting red, black, and white street signs in historic neighborhoods, detailing the backstory of the area and providing a map of street boundaries.

But I’ve never seen one like this, in blue and yellow with super 1970s typeface.

Chelseahistoricdistrictsign

It’s on West 20th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, and a small line at the bottom says “copyright 1970″—the same year Chelsea earned historic district status.

Could an old-school version of today’s historic district sign really survive for 43 years on a Chelsea street…marred only by a few stickers and some light graffiti?

An Adirondack forest hiding in mid-Manhattan

September 5, 2013

Northwoodscpconservatory

Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted’s plan for Central Park in 1857 was to bring the serenity of nature to a swampy, rocky stretch of the city.

After bulldozing shantytowns and draining swamps, they (and masses of laborers) spent the next several years fabricating pastoral lawns, hills, ponds, and lakes.

The also created the North Woods: a 90-acre refuge at the northern end of the park designed to replicate the secluded Adirondack forests of central New York State.

Centralparkmap1875

“Although much less was done to rearrange the northern end’s rugged topography than had been done elsewhere, park workers built a twelve-acre lake called the Harlem Meer on the swamp, carved out and planted the Ravine and Waterfall, and constructed another mile of drive, a mile and a half of walks, and several rustic bridges,” reports centralparkhistory.com.

Northwoodscpconservatory2The result: “Within the woodlands, traffic disappears, buildings are hidden by trees and a gentle stream bubbles over sounds of the city, states the Central Park Conservatory website.

It really does feel like a slice of the Adirondacks just yards from the subway. And hidden in the thick forest is one of the city’s oldest structures: a blockhouse from the War of 1812.

[Top and bottom photos: Central Park Conservatory]

How Manhattan’s Turtle Bay got its name

May 13, 2013

Turtlebay1878mapTurtle Bay is a wonderful name for an urban neighborhood.

I always imagine hundreds of turtles sunning themselves on the rocks along the East River between 45th and 48th Streets.

That’s where the actual bay was once located in Colonial-era Manhattan, surrounded by meadows and hills, with a stream that emptied at the foot of today’s 47th Street.

Click on the map for a bigger view; it was drawn in 1878 to accompany a book about New York during the Revolutionary War.

Turtlebay1853But while turtles were plentiful in Manhattan (and made for a tasty meal), the name may come from a corrupted Dutch word.

“Some historians attribute the name to the turtle-filled creek, while others say it had nothing to do with turtles, that the name was more likely a corruption of the Dutch word “deutal” (a bent blade), which referred to the shape of the bay,” states the Turtle Bay Association.

“Regardless, the turtle feasts of the day prevailed and so did the name, Turtle Bay Farm.”

Not the Hudson, a site about the East River, has a more definitive answer.

Beekmanmansion“It was named after the Deutal (Dutch for “knife”) Bay farm, which originally covered 86 acres of land shaped like a knife blade. Also occupied by turtles, historians are unsure as to which one of these factors resulted in the name.”

If it was named for the shape of the bay, it no longer applies. The “rock-bound cove” that sheltered ships from storms was filled in and smoothed over in the 1860s.

The Beekman mansion—known as Mount Pleasant (left)—once stood at the northern end of Turtle Bay; it was demolished in the 1870s.

The United Nations occupies most of the site now.

A 1660 map depicts New York’s humble start

May 6, 2013

Is this village-like settlement really the humble beginning of the bustling New York City of today?

Hard to believe, but that’s what the map says. It’s officially known as the Castello Plan, and the New York Public Library calls it the “earliest known plan of New Amsterdam and the only one dating from the Dutch period.”

Castellomapnewamsterdam1660

It looks tidy and sweet, but don’t be fooled. New Amsterdam in in the middle of the 17th century was “a thinly populated, uncomfortable and muddy place with few creature comforts and much lawlessness,” writes Eric Homberger in The Historic Atlas of New York City.

Four main roads took travelers northward: Heere Straet (Broadway) is on the left, followed by today’s Broad Street, William Street, and Pearl Street alongside the East River.

CastelloplanredraftThat fortified street crossing the island from east to west? Wall Street, of course, then 12 feet high and the northern boundary of the city.

There’s a very cool tool on Channel Thirteen’s website that includes a georeferenced version of the Castello Plan—letting users know the names of each street and who owned each house, building, and plot of land depicted.

 At left is more colorful redraft of the original map, done in 1916.

What the village of Brooklyn looked like in 1816

March 27, 2013

Atlantic Avenue was called District Street, a distillery existed at the foot of Joralemon, and Revolutionary War-era Red Hook Lane was a boundary line separating just-incorporated Brooklyn Village from the rest of the larger town of Brooklyn—one of six separate towns in Kings County.

Villageofbrooklynmap

If you’re wondering what things looked like at street level, this wonderful painting of a cold winter’s day on Front Street gives a closeup view. Both the painting and the map come from the Brooklyn Museum.

An Art Deco globe illuminates a New York lobby

February 23, 2013

DailynewsglobeThe 37-story New York Daily News building, at 220 East 42nd Street, is pure Art Deco beauty.

And it’s even more of a masterpiece thanks to the illuminated 12-foot globe that’s been revolving under a black glass dome in the lobby since 1930.

“Around it, spreading across the floor like a giant compass and literally positioning New York at the center of the world, bronze lines indicate mileage to various international destinations,” writes Fodors.com.

“The Daily News, however, hasn’t called this building home since the mid-1990s, 15 years after it played the offices of the fictional newspaper the Daily Planet in the original Superman movie.”

Dailynewsbuildingglobevintage

It attracts lots of gawkers today, just as it has for 80 years. [Image above courtesy of New York Architecture]

“The Ghetto” on a 1926 Manhattan map

February 12, 2013

I wonder when “ghetto” went from being a perfectly acceptable name for a Jewish enclave in a big city to a word that feels derogatory, almost slanderous?

This 87-year-old map doesn’t use the word as a term of reproach, and countless newspaper articles and postcards from the late 19th and early 20th century refer to the then–heavily Jewish Lower East Side as New York’s Jewish Ghetto.

Theghettomap

To contemporary readers, though, it can be jarring to see it on a reproduction of an innocuous map like this one.

Published by Fuessle & Colman, it depicts “the wondrous isle of Manhattan,” with the scale “all askew,” as the legend on the bottom right-hand side proudly states.

Old Chelsea’s winding, romantic Love Lane

February 6, 2013

ChelsealovelanemapWouldn’t it be sweet to live on a Manhattan street called Love Lane? Too bad we’re at least 200 years too late.

This 18th century country road seems to have started at Broadway (then called Bloomingdale Road) and followed a path along 21st Street through today’s Chelsea.

Based on old maps (like the one at left or below, from the Randel Survey) and descriptions, it appears to have cut across a long-defunct thoroughfare known as Fitz Roy Road.

It then curved through 22nd to 23rd Street, meandering over to Tenth Avenue and hugging the water line.

Chelsealovelinerandalsurvey

Love Lane is memorialized in old city history guides and newspaper articles as a shaded street that “figures romantically in the early history of New York,” according to a 1920 New York Times article.

“Before the war, Love Lane was [a] popular route for buggyride courtships, highlighted with a romantic trip along the Hudson River that ran along what is now Tenth Avenue,” states the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club website.

Luckily Brooklyn didn’t obliterate their Love Lane. This historic alley has a romantic back story.


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