Posts Tagged ‘Jack London’

City Hall Park and the rise of Newspaper Row

November 21, 2010

It’s no surprise that in the 19th century, all the big New York newspapers made sure they had office space as close to City Hall as possible. That’s where all the action was.

Which is how a small length of Park Row opposite City Hall earned its nickname.

On the left with the dome at the top is the New York World/Pulitzer Building. Next is the headquarters for the New York Tribune.

The one at right housed the The New York Times, before they moved uptown to Longacre—renamed Times–Square.

City Hall Park has a neat history. Adjacent to the old Collect Pond, it started as a 17th century commons where colonists took their livestock for water.

It’s been the site of rioting for 300 years now—and writer Jack London’s temporary home in the first decade of the 20th century.

Jack London: a hobo in City Hall Park

October 22, 2009

Writer and San Francisco native Jack London is usually associated with California, the Pacific Northwest, and Alaska, thanks to novels like White Fang and To Build a Fire.

But he spent some time in New York City too. While hobo-ing around the country in the early 1900s as a young man, London lived for a few months in City Hall Park downtown.

JacklondoninchairHe recounts a typical day as a park vagrant in his autobiographical memoir, The Road, published in 1916:

“It was during a week of scorching weather. I had got into the habit of throwing my feet in the morning, and spending the afternoon in the little park that is hard by Newspaper Row and the City Hall. It was near there that I could buy from push-cart men current books (that had been injured in the making or binding) for a few cents each.

“Then, right by the park itself, were little booths where one could buy glorious, ice-cold, sterilized milk and buttermilk at a penny a glass. Every afternoon I sat on a bench and read and went on a milk debauch. I got away with from five to ten glasses each afternoon. It was dreadfully hot weather.”

London goes on to describe a nearby game of “pee wee” played by some “gamins” before the cops broke it up. It’s a pretty neat glimpse into daily life in downtown New York City at the time. Read more from The Road here.