Posts Tagged ‘The Great Gatsby’

The “valley of ashes” in a 1920s Queens dump

November 15, 2010

The copious amount of ash produced by coal-burning furnaces throughout the city had to go somewhere, and one dumping ground was in Corona, Queens.

Called the Corona Ash Dump and nicknamed Mount Corona, it received daily ash deposits, rising like a mountain along the Flushing River.

The dump must have been an incredible sight. F. Scott Fitzgerald apparently thought so; he used it as a symbol of industrial society’s decay and the waste produced by the rich in The Great Gatsby:

“This is the valley of ashes, a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the form of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.”

Fitzgerald may have been surprised to learn of the fate of his Valley of Ashes; in the late 1930s, it was cleared away so the city could build Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, site of the 1939 World’s Fair.

The Queensboro Bridge: “mystery and beauty”

February 4, 2009

This postcard of the Queensboro Bridge—also known as the 59th Street Bridge or the Blackwell’s Island Bridge in its early years—reveals a structure surrounded by industry and grit. It opened in 1909, linking Manhattan’s East Side to the factories of Long Island City.

queensborobridge

The Queensboro still doesn’t get the appreciation the Brooklyn or Williamsburg Bridges receive. But it has fans who extoll its virtues.

In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that “the city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time in its wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.”

And of course, there’s Simon and Garfunkel’s ode to feelin’ groovy: “The 59th Street Bridge Song.”