Posts Tagged ‘old New York streets’

A century of fire hydrants cooling New York kids

July 28, 2014

I’m not sure exactly when the first New York City fire hydrant was wrenched open so neighborhood kids could play in the cool rush of water on a hot summer day.

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But this very New York way to chase away the heat may have caught on and been officially sanctioned in the late teens, when John Hylan was mayor (below, in 1921, in a NYC Municipal Archives photo).

“The mayor is particularly good to children,” the Queens borough president was quoted saying in a New York Times article from 1925.

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“It was his great heart that ordered the streets closed so that children could have a safe place in which to play, and it was his heart that ordered the policemen and firemen in summer to give the children baths from fire hydrants so that they might keep cool.”

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Since then, the spray—or trickle, as this NYPL photo of some boys on the Bowery in 1919 shows—from fire hydrants has cooled off millions of little New Yorkers, legally or otherwise.

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This AP photo was taken on Mulberry Street in 1936, the year of an exceptionally brutal heat wave.

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Turning Mulberry Street into a river looks a lot more exciting than hanging out under a giant shower at Lexington and 85th Street of “Croton surf,” as the caption to this 1920 NYC Municipal Archives photo calls it.

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New York in the 1960s could be pretty gritty, but at least the hydrants worked. Photographer Bruce Davidson captured this photo in 1966 of a boy on 100th Street.

A 10-day heat wave gripped the city in 1953, and Life magazine photographers captured some wonderful images of kids opening a hydrant (and then a police officer putting a stop to the fun).

[Top photo: “Hot Day,” Lothar Stelter, 1952 ©Lothar Stelter]

Tracking defunct Fitzroy Road through Chelsea

July 2, 2012

Most of the city is rectangular now, but New York used to be crossed by bending roads that followed the natural landscape.

Few survived after the street grid was established in 1811.

That includes Fitzroy Road, named for Charles Fitzroy, a British lieutenant who married the daughter of local landowner Sir Peter Warren.

Fitzroy Road, closed in the 1830s, once led from Greenwich Village to Chelsea and then met with Bloomingdale Road.

A 1920 New York Times article says it began on today’s 14th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues.

From there, it ran north to 20th Street, where it turned northwest across present-day Eighth Avenue, then back along Eighth Avenue to 23rd Street. That’s where it started veering back and forth from the east to west side of Eighth Avenue until 42nd Street.

At first, it doesn’t seem like any remnant of Fitzroy Road survives. But the same 1920 Times article notes that up until a few years ago—meaning the early 1900s—some vestiges existed.

And perhaps they still do. There’s an unnamed alley running in interrupted spurts between pre-1900 buildings from 15th Street (below, inaccessible thanks to a door and brick wall) and 21st Street (above, behind a gate) just east of Eighth Avenue.

Could these alleys be pieces of former horse paths—or perhaps they’re the last bits of colonial-era Fitzroy Road?