Posts Tagged ‘Lafayette Street’

Marquis de Lafayette visits New York City

January 11, 2010

New York has a couple of major roads, a high school, even a housing project named after Lafayette, the French military leader who became a Major General in the Continental Army and promoted democracy at home in France.

He was a big hero in post-Revolutionary War years. So to help celebrate America’s 50th birthday, Lafayette was invited back to the U.S. in 1824.

His arrival in August of that year put the city in the grip of Lafayette fever. 

A third of the population of New York at that time—50,000 people—greeted him on lower Broadway.

      Touring Manhattan, he attended parties, plays, and a spectacular ball at Castle Clinton in his honor before taking off to visit the rest of the country. 

A plaque in the West Village marks his visit. It’s on Hudson Street affixed to P.S. 3.

At the time, the school was run by the “Free School Society” and was considered a fine example of public education, worthy enough to show the Marquis.

The most elegant address of the 1830s

June 8, 2008

With Bond Street now condo-ized and Cooper Square getting the glass box treatment, it’s worth looking back at what constituted luxe living in the neighborhood in 1833: Colonnade Row, located between the two on Lafayette Street. Back in the day, the nine Greek Revival marble mansions dominated what was then tree-lined, two-block-long Lafayette Place. The Astors, Vanderbilts, and Delanos called the mansions home.

They weren’t just magnificent to look at; each had central heat and hot water, and they were a stone’s throw from Broadway, the center of Manhattan’s hottest neighborhood. The moss on the columns is pretty too.

But you know the story. What was once an elite neighborhood became a seedy red-light district, and tiny Lafayette Place was widened, extended, and renamed Lafayette Street. Some of the deteriorating mansions formed the Colonnade Hotel in the 1870s; by the 1900s, five met the wrecking ball, and the four that remain today were divided into apartments.

They’re still beautiful, if kind of scruffy. But that’s okay; not everything in the city has to sparkle.