Posts Tagged ‘Wanamaker’s’

Why did thieves dig up this New Yorker’s corpse?

April 2, 2010

When he died in 1876, department-store magnate Alexander Turney Stewart was one of the wealthiest men in New York City.

He opened a succession of dry-goods stores in Lower Manhattan beginning in the 1820s.

But it was his “iron palace” at Broadway and 10th Street (in photo), the first store to have dozens of departments, that made him rich and renowned.

Which must be why greedy thieves decided to dig up his body two years after he was interred in a family vault at St. Marks in the Bouwerie and hold it for ransom.

This couldn’t have been easy. The vault, covered by a stone slab, was several feet in the ground.



Once the robbers removed another slab and entered the 15 foot–long vault, they still had to open the casket carry out the decomposed body.

The ghoulish crime netted the corpse-nappers $20,000 from Stewart’s widow, who then reburied her husband on Long Island.

The A.T. Stewart store was taken over by Wanamaker’s in the 1890s. Today, it’s the site of a massive apartment building called Stewart House.

The wheelmen (and women) of New York

May 1, 2008

Today marks the start of bike month in New York City. But cruising around on two wheels en masse is nothing new; Gothamites have been doing it since the late 19th century. In the 1890s, Ocean Parkway became the country’s first designated bike path, with thousands of “wheelmen” and “wheelwomen” pedaling the six miles from Prospect Park to Coney Island. 

From the New York City Parks photo archive, Ocean Parkway in 1894:

When a second Ocean Parkway path was completed in 1896, the New York Times described opening day, June 28, poetically:

“Over the return cycle path, in Brooklyn, which lies like a strip of gray ribbon from Prospect Park to the sea, there rode yesterday an army of cyclists. There were all sorts and conditions among them—the grave and the gay, side by side, each bent on doing his share to celebrate the formal opening of the second path in the Imperial Ocean Boulevard.”

Bicycles were like the iPhones of the 1890s. Here’s an 1898 bike ad from Wanamaker’s, the grand old department store formerly on Broadway and 9th Street (where Kmart is today):


It wasn’t long before some wheelmen were branded a menace. “Scorchers” were riders who blazed into the streets. “Cracks” raced their bikes. Papers were full of accident stories. Wet asphalt is dangerous, indeed!