Archive for the ‘Upper West Side/Morningside Hts’ Category

Before the Majestic went up on Central Park West

July 4, 2013

Central Park West is lined with incredible apartment buildings with Art Deco touches. One of the loveliest and most renowned is the Majestic, the 29-story, circa-1931 residence at 72nd Street.

Hotelmajestic

But before that Majestic blew New Yorkers away with its style, another Majestic occupied the site: the equally as sumptuous Hotel Majestic.

Themajestic1931Built in 1894 when Central Park West was still a low-rise thoroughfare dominated by the Dakota up the block, the Hotel Majestic “had private bowling alleys, a grand lobby, horse-drawn carriages out front, and a rooftop garden,” writes Kevin C. Fitzpatrick in A Journey Into Dorothy Parker’s New York.

Parker lived there with her widowed father as a teenager—along with Gustav Mahler, Edna Ferber, and other celebs of the Gilded Age.

Luxury goes in and out of style, and by the 1920s, the first Hotel Majestic just wasn’t cutting it.

Old signs left behind on defunct city streets

June 24, 2013

If you have no idea where Manhattan’s College Place once was, you’re not alone.

This stretch of modern-day West Broadway between Barclay and Murray Streets was given the name in 1831, a likely nod to Columbia University, which once existed nearby.

Collegeplace

Columbia moved uptown, and eventually the name fell out of use. A remnant of the old moniker is carved into a red-brick building at Warren Street.

75thand9thave

Meet me at the corner of 75th Street and Ninth Avenue? It sounds odd to our ears, but it wasn’t until 1896, when Ninth Avenue was renamed Columbus Avenue.

The tenement building with the address chiseled into it predates the name change.

Mysterious male names over tenement doorways

May 13, 2013

Ever notice that when a tenement building has a name, it tends to be female? Bertha, Florence, Rose, Sylvia—names popular at the turn of the last century, when so many tenements were built, are etched above doorways all over the city.

But a handful of tenements buck the trend and appear to be named for a man. Is it the developer himself, or just a random name that happen to appeal to circa-1900 ears?

Jerometenementname

I wonder if that’s the case with Jerome. It’s the name of a tenement in Morningside Heights, perhaps a nod to Leonard Jerome, a flashy 19th century financier whose name still graces a park and thoroughfare in the Bronx? He’s also the grandfather of Winston Churchill.

Theodoretenementname

Theodore, on the Upper East Side, could be a tribute to Theodore Roosevelt. Or the builder’s son or brother?

Rogertenementname

The Roger, on 160th Street and Edgecombe Avenue in Washington Heights, is named for Roger Morris, a British army colonel who fought in the French and Indian War.

In the 1760s, he retired to an Upper Manhattan estate (now known as the Morris-Jumel Mansion) that still stands today.

Edgarcourttenementname

I don’t know who Edgar was or why a tenement on West 125th Street was named for him. But instead of the name being carved above the door, it’s laid in tile on the floor.

Cool old-school store signs found all over the city

May 4, 2013

You don’t see too many delis with a Te-Amo Imported Cigars sign anymore. This one was spotted above a bodega on Graham Avenue in East Williamsburg.

Teamocigarsignbrooklyn

Did neighborhood delis used to offer shoeshines, as the other end of the sign implies?

Manhattanflowershopsign

I don’t know what was covering up this Manhattan Flower Shop sign, on Manhattan Avenue in Morningside Heights. But I’m glad it’s visible again. The hand-drawn lettering is so charming.

Joejuniorsignthirdave

Is this Joe Junior diner, on Third Avenue in the teens, owned by the same people who ran the late, great Joe Junior on Sixth Avenue and 11th Street? I love a restaurant that spells seafood with two words.

Johnsshoerepairsign

“Factory Methods Used” may have been great advertising in the 1970s. But in today’s artisanal, DIY world, John’s Shoe Repair, on Irving Place, would have to instead boast that they rebuilt shoes by hand.

Salernosurgicalsuppliessign

Salerno Surgical Supplies is also on Graham Avenue in East Williamsburg. Its presence here might shed some light on the average age of neighborhood residents.

Strolling through Riverside Park to Grant’s Tomb

April 24, 2013

A few solitary, turn-of-the-century New Yorkers took advantage of the quiet, lovely paths of the upper portion of Riverside Park in this vintage postcard.

Grant’s Tomb, opened to much fanfare in 1897, looms ahead.

Riversidedrivepostcard

The road beside the Hudson River looks more like the Henry Hudson Parkway, not Riverside Drive, no?

Up ahead, north of Grant’s Tomb, lies another little-known tomb of a child that still exists today.

The Titanic love story of Isidor and Ida Straus

April 15, 2013

IsidoridastrausIf you’ve seen the movie, you might remember this tragic side story. But on the 101st anniversary of the demise of the unsinkable liner in the Atlantic, it bears another telling.

Germany-born Isidor Straus came to the U.S. in 1854. He got started in the dry-goods business, and by 1902, he and his brother co-owned Abraham & Straus and Macy’s, opening the famous Herald Square store that year.

Isidor and his wife, Ida, also a German immigrant, married in 1871. Successful and wealthy thanks to Isidore’s business efforts, they became generous philanthropists.

In 1912, after a trip to Germany, they were booked to return to New York on the maiden voyage of the Titanic. In the early morning hours of April 15, with the fate of the ship sealed and women and children getting into lifeboats, Ida Straus refused to leave Isidor.

Strausparkstatue

“Mrs. Straus almost entered lifeboat 8 but changed her mind, turned back, and rejoined her husband. Fellow passengers and friends failed to persuade her otherwise,” states Stuart Robinson in Amazing and Extraordinary Facts: the Titanic.

Strausparksign“She is reputed to have told Isidore: ‘We have lived together for many years. Where you go, I go.'”

Passengers reported seeing the couple “standing alongside the rail, holding each other and weeping silently,” according to a 2012 New York Post article.

Isidor’s body was recovered, but Ida’s was never found. A memorial service for the two held at Carnegie Hall a month later drew thousands, including Mayor Gaynor, Andrew Carnegie, and other notable New Yorkers.

In 1912, the city renamed a park at 106th Street and Broadway Straus Park in honor of the couple, who had lived on 105th Street.

A monument dedicated three years later featured the biblical inscription, “lovely and pleasant they were in their lives, and in their death they were not divided.”

Vintage Coca-Cola signs hiding on city corners

April 12, 2013

This one is pretty tricky to spot, as the old-school red and white sign blends in with the new sign below and the similarly colored building.

Cocacolachinatownsign

But look at the 7Up and Coca Cola logos—beauties! They were spotted on the corner of Hester Street and the Bowery. Anyone want to wager a guess as to the decade the sign went up?

Cocacolasignmanhattanave

An Ephemeral reader tipped me off to this torn and tattered deli awning and very weathered vintage grocery sign underneath on Manhattan Avenue and 116th Street. Thanks, I. A.

More vintage Coca-Cola signage on city storefronts can be found here.

The long-gone ironworks of an older Manhattan

March 29, 2013

You don’t always notice them underfoot as you walk down New York’s sidewalks. But these old manhole and coal chute covers—the ones with the name and address of the ironworks company that created it—provide clues about an older, vanished city.

IClamanstoverepairscover

Take this one above, made by the homey-sounding I. Claman Stove Repairs company. It was spotted on Washington Place in the West Village.

I. Claman was located at 94 Orchard Street, an address now occupied by a craft brewery that caters to a young, social, moneyed crowd.

BMasormanholecover

B. Masor & Co. used to make manhole covers like this one, found off the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, at 721-31 East 133rd Street.

I’m not sure if the address is for Manhattan or for the Bronx. Either way, the business is kaput.

Abbotthardwaremanholecover

Abbott Hardware, once at Columbus Avenue in the West 90s, created this coal hole cover. It’s still part of the sidewalk on St. Luke’s Place off Seventh Avenue South.

But the days of upper Columbus Avenue housing an ironworks company are long over. The old tenements there were razed decades ago to make way for big-box apartments—strangely all in the same shade of beige.

The Phantom of the Opera murder at the Met

March 4, 2013

HelenhagnesIt happened during a performance of the Berlin Ballet at the Metropolitan Opera House on July 23, 1980.

Helen Hagnes, a gifted 31-year-old violinist (left), left her instrument on her chair in the orchestra pit during an intermission at about 9:30 pm.

When the performance resumed, Hagnes’ seat was still empty. After the show, police were called in.

Following an all-night search, Hagnes’ naked body was found inside a six-story air shaft. She’d been tied up, gagged, and thrown from the roof.

As brutal as the crime was, it didn’t take police long to solve what had been dubbed the “Phantom of the Opera” murder.

MetoperahouseoutsideFirst, there was the partial palm print found on the roof. And because the knots used to bind her limbs were the same knots used by stagehands, investigators figured the killer was employed by Lincoln Center and knew the opera house’s layout.

That led police to question a 21-year-old stagehand named Craig Crimmins. Eventually, Crimmins confessed: He told cops that he was drunk when he encountered Hagnes in an elevator.

He tried to rape her in a stairwell, and when she resisted, he forced her to the roof and kicked her into the air shaft.”Something snapped in my brain,” he told a judge in 1981, who sentenced him to 20 years to life.

[Top photo: New York Times. Bottom photo: Blehgoaway]

Some mysterious names carved into tenements

January 7, 2013

I love that even the lowliest tenements typically have names. A developer would complete his building, then carve a word or two above the entrance—such as the name of the street or a popular politician—to distinguish it from the pack.

Tenementclaremount

Some names are obvious, others more mysterious, such as this one in the East Village. The Claremount is a handsome building on East 12th Street. But why Claremount?

Claremont Avenue, named for an old New York family, is a short street in Morningside Heights, but I’m not aware of any connection between the Claremonts and the East Village. Perhaps it just sounded posh.

Tenementnonpareil

The Nonpareil is a tenement on Edgecombe Avenue on the Harlem/Washington Heights border. It translates into “having no match” or “unrivaled.” Quite a boastful name for such a humble building!

Tenementminneola2

Minneola is reportedly a Native American word for “a pleasant place.” Hence this building, in the South Village. Or is it a misspelled homage to Mineola, Long Island?

Tenementhelencourt

Helen Court sounds like a soft, peaceful tenement. It’s in Harlem near 125th Street. Helen was a popular name about a century ago. Who was Helen—the developer’s wife or daughter?


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