This year the Historic Districts Council launched a new campaign to combat the potential loss of historic community libraries. The campaign is expected to lead to the nomination of all the New York City Carnegie Libraries to the New York State and National Register of Historic Places.
Listing on the Registers would both provide a variety of incentives for the libraries: they would be eligible for special funding of capital needs, appropriate alterations, renovations or restorations would have the added benefit of guidance from the New York State Office of Historic Preservation (SHPO) and protections: binoculars and demolitions or serious alterations would be reviewed and discouraged by SHPO, and communities would be given a clear path to weigh in their concerns.
Several of the Carnegies, including Brooklyn’s Macon and Bedford branches, Manhattan’s St. Agnes and 67th Street branches, and the Bronx’s Hunt’s Point and Mott Haven branches have been renovated in recent years, adding state of the art technology while restoring period details and providing improved public access.
The Historic Districts Council is hoping to raise $15,000 to complete the National Register nominations. To Make a donation to the Campaign to Preserve the Carnegie Libraries click here.
Photo: An Elmhurst Carnegie Library opened in 1906 and demolished in 2012.
On June 12, 1909, New York City began an eight-day celebration of the connection of the East Side of Manhattan with Long Island City in Queens with the Queensboro Bridge, designed by Henry Hornbostel.
Though it officially opened to traffic on March 30, 1909, the June festivities drew over 300,000 people (larger than the population of Queens at the time) to see the bridge lit up with electricity, and hear 1,500 children sing the “Star-Spangled Banner” in its honor. It meant that crossing the East River was no longer an obstacle to the development of the borough of Queens. Read more →
Lions, toucans, dolphins, dogs, cocks, —- critters galore tread the echoing halls of the Park Avenue Armory in this year’s annual Spring Show, NYC of Art and Antiques.
Made of glass, paint, leather, rosewood, bronze, silver and precious jewels these fanciful creatures are testimony to the enduring pleasures of the animal kingdom as a theme in art and design. And since the ASPCA is the sponsor and even beneficiary of a portion of some sales at this year’s event, tracking the artistic fauna forges a trail through the riches of an extravagant spring ritual. Read more →
Participants in New York Heritage Digital Collections are committed to enhancing the site by adding both content and contributing institutions on a regular basis. The goal of the project is to eventually connect one thousand collections and one million items from throughout New York State. All institutions interested in participating in the project are encouraged to contact the 3Rs organization that serves their region.
The New York 3Rs Association is a partnership among New York’s nine reference and research resource systems. The New York 3Rs was incorporated in 2003 to further the ability of those systems to provide statewide services. The members of the New York 3Rs Association are: the Capital District Library Council, Central New York Library Resources Council, Long Island Library Resources Council, Metropolitan New York Library Council, Northern New York Library Network, Rochester Regional Library Council, Southeastern New York Library Resources Council, South Central Regional Library Council, and Western New York Library Resources Council.
2009 will mark the celebration of the 400th Anniversary of Samuel de Champlain’s arrival on the big lake, Henry Hudson’s on the big river, and the 200th Anniversary of Fulton’s steamship. Both New York and Vermont will be celebrating Champlain.
Here is an interesting article in the Plattsburgh Press Republican about the family of Champlain’s 12-year-old bride Helene Boulle, daughter of Nicholas Boulle. Helene’s nephew Robert was the first of the family to travel to America and his descendants are still in the area:
Helene was married to the 43-year-old explorer when she was 12 but remained with her parents for a few years after the wedding because of her age…-
Robert Boulle farmed land on the Isle of Orleans in the St. Lawrence River near Quebec City, and that 160-tract of land is still intact, said Boule, who visited the property in the mid-1990s…-
Helene Boulle accompanied Champlain to the area in 1620, but returned to France in 1624.
The New York Times is reporting on a new book by Gail Fenske, a professor of architecture at Roger Williams University: The Skyscraper and the City: The Woolworth Building and the Making of Modern New York.
On the evening of April 24, 1913, President Woodrow Wilson pressed a tiny button inside the White House, lighting up the Woolworth Building in Manhattan. It was “the tallest structure in the world, with the one exception of the Eiffel Tower in Paris,” The New York Times reported, and it was a marvel of architecture and engineering.
Of course, the Woolworth Building has been surpassed in height — by the Chrysler Building in 1930 and by the Empire State Building in 1931 — and it has at times seemed to recede into the fabric of Lower Manhattan. The building’s owners at one point considered converting the building into luxury apartments, but now the structure is being refurbished as top-end offices. The book places the Woolworth Building in the context of its time and place: the booming commercial culture of early 20th century New York- the often unsettling experience of modernization- advances in technology and communications- and a new phenomenon of “urban spectatorship” that made skyscrapers sources of public wonder and admiration.
Many innovations set the Woolworth Building apart. It contained a shopping arcade, health club, barber shop, restaurant, social club and even an observatory. Its use of technology — including an innovative water supply system, a electrical generating plan, high-speed electric elevators providing both local and express service and what Professor Fenske calls “the first prominent use of architectural floodlighting in the world” — also set it apart. So did the construction process, run by the builder Louis Horowitz of the Thompson-Starrett Company, who managed to avoid labor conflict, rationalize the building process and set a record for speed — paving the way for the famously rapid completion of the Empire State Building nearly 20 years later.
The building has survived the Woolworth Corporation itself. The company announced in 1997 that it would close its remaining discount stores. The company was renamed the Venator Group, began focusing on athletic wear, and since 2001 has done business under the Foot Locker name. Although there are no longer Woolworth’s stores in the United States, the Woolworths Group, a former subsidiary of the American company, continues to operate hundreds of retail stores in Britain.
The historical memory of recent Central Park concerts has been called into question in a recent New York Times article. Apparently the great concerts of central park weren’t so great after all, at least in terms of attendence numbers.
Here is an official history of attendance at great public gatherings in Central Park: James Taylor played in Central Park’s Sheep Meadow in the summer of 1979, and officials announced that 250,000 people came. A year later, Elton John performed on the Great Lawn, and the authorities said he drew 300,000 people. Then Simon and Garfunkel performed in September 1981, and city officials and organizers reported that 400,000 people had packed into the park. Ten years later, it was announced that Paul Simon drew 600,000. The biggest concert of all, it seems, was by Garth Brooks, on Aug. 7, 1997, at the North Meadow, with a reported attendance of 750,000 people.
This month’s Bon Jovi concert was actually counted and seems to have put serious doubt in these numbers.
Bon Jovi played on the Great Lawn, and the city’s official head count came to 48,538 people — a number tallied by parks workers with clickers at the entryways to the lawn. This total includes only the people admitted to the 13-acre oval that makes up the Great Lawn, and not any of those gathered in the walkways and swaths of ground to the east and west of the lawn.
Still, the Bon Jovi crowd was a fraction of the colossal throngs that are part of the city’s collective mythic memory. If fewer than 50,000 people were able to fill the oval, how could a half million more people get anywhere near the Paul Simon concert held in the same space?
Apparently, they didn’t. Former city parks administrator Doug Blonsky explained the previous numbers like this: “You would get in a room with the producer, with a police official, and a person from parks, and someone would say, ‘What does it look like to you?’ The producer would say, ‘I need it to be higher than the last one.’ That’s the kind of science that went into it.”
Records Revisited was packed floor-to-ceiling with discs of a vintage and variety that drew a steady stream of record buffs to 34 West 33rd Street. The shop, more like an archive than a store, held approximately 60 tons of swing, big band jazz and other styles on vinyl, forming one of the largest collections of 78s in the world.
The shop has been closed since Mr. Savada’s death in February. Last Thursday, his son, Elias Savada, was poring over a cardboard box, one of 1,300 being filled with records and put on waiting trucks. The collection will be sent to Syracuse University’s Belfer Audio Laboratory and Archive, which will now have the second-largest collection of 78s in the United States, after the Library of Congress, university officials said…-
The Syracuse University archivists couldn’t be more pleased with the obscure records arriving in numbered boxes. Not only is there a huge swing collection, but also recordings of country, blues, gospel, polka, folk and Broadway tunes. Suzanne Thorin, the university’s dean of libraries, said the truckloads of Mr. Savada’s records — at least, the tiny percentage sampled so far — has revealed fascinating auditory treasures, including Carl Sandburg reading his own poetry while accompanying himself on the guitar, and Hazel Scott, the pianist and singer. There are also many rare recordings preserved only on V-Disc records produced for American military personnel overseas in the 1940s.
Now that the news has trickled down that the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, popularly known as the “G & B,” has given its enormous genealogical collection (75,000 volumes, 30,000 manuscripts and 22,000 reels of microfilm) to the New York Public Library – I thought we’d take a look at the fall out.
Faced with a dwindling endowment, the members-only G & B, as it is known, sold its four-story building on East 58th Street in Midtown Manhattan last year for $24 million. It bought an office condominium in Midtown where it will now focus on grant-giving, tours, lectures and other means of encouraging genealogical research. One of the first grants was about $1 million to the library for a four-person staff to process and catalog the G & B collection within two years.
The heaviest criticism comes from members themselves. Dick Hillenbrand of the Upstate New York Genealogy Blog has been following the struggle inside the G & B for over a year. Members posting to the blog decried last year what they called a plan to “disenfranchise all members of the NYG&BS and absolutely and forever empower a board of 15 to unilaterally make decisions about the NYG&B’s assets and future.” They were apparently right about that.
Hillibrand’s latest post laid out some of the opposition positions:
Looks like the present total membership of the G&B of 15 members, made an unrecoverable decision. If you are a former member and donated your time, money, effort, books and manuscripts to the G&B because you thought that they would be there forever, guess what? When you voted your rights away and became former members it was all over.
The statements that we were told about moving the society to new quarters to be able to keep the collection available to all former members, well would you consider those as untruths? . You will never be able to roam through the open stacks of your old friends. At the NYPL you must fill out a call slip of the book you want and wait for a runner to bring it to you. You will never again have the pleasure of finding the rarity treasure sitting on the shelf right near the item you were interested in.
The official blog of Genealogy Bank, took no position, but had this context to add:
The NYPL’s genealogy collection – more formally called: The Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy has long been known for its strong collection of research materials gathered for over a century – from the founding of the NYPL in 1848.
When I first began using the NYPL in the 1960s it was administered by Gerald D. McDonald who served from 1945-1969 and then by Gunther Pohl (1969-1985) and John Miller (1985-1987). The Division is currently under the capable leadership of Ruth Carr long serving Chief of that Division.
Randy Seaver, blogging at Genea-Musings said: “I welcome this move since it brings records out of the ‘-members only’ repository into a public repository. Of course, I wasn’t an NYG&BS member and I don’t have an emotional attachment to NYG&BS or NYPL.” He also called on the NYPL to:
1 – Put the NYG&BS catalog on their web site – either as part of the current NYPL catalog or as a separate catalog until the NYG&BS material can be integrated into the NYPL catalog. That way, researchers in the genealogy world can identify records of interest to be searched.
2 – Digitize as many unique records as possible and make them publicly available on a web site, subject to copyright restrictions.
3 – As NYPL catalogs and/or digitizes the NYG&BS collection, index the names in the manuscript and/or estate papers collections? The records that nobody knows what’s in them. If they can’t or won’t do that, would they please request volunteers to do it with them or for them?
G&B was founded in 1869 and moved into the recently sold building in 1929. Early members were interested in 17th-18th century Dutch and English roots. Holdings include censuses, deeds, baptisms, births, deaths and wills. However, after WWII, the group had almost disappeared with members conflicted about its direction, despite the increasing popularity of genealogy following the major impact of “Roots,” Ellis Island’s restoration and database, and commercial websites devoted to family history.
The New York Times is reporting that the New York Historical Society’s plans to build an enormous tower in Central Park West has been seriously revised following heavy pressure from historic preservation interests:
After a year and a half of controversy and intense opposition by preservationists and neighborhood groups, the New-York Historical Society at 77th Street and Central Park West has abandoned its pursuit of a $100 million, 23-story luxury condominium tower, along with a five-story annex that would have risen above an adjacent empty lot the society owns at 7-13 West 76th Street. Instead, the society has embarked on a $55 million, three-year renovation of its galleries, entrance and facade that will create a permanent main-floor exhibition hall showcasing some of its treasures, an interactive multimedia orientation program in its auditorium, an 85-seat cafe and a below-ground children’s gallery and library, society officials said…-
A wide coalition of opponents had criticized the height of the tower — 280 feet, doubling the 136-foot height of the current structure — and had charged that the tower would deform the skyline of Central Park West and cast a shadow on Central Park. The society’s building has landmark status individually, and as part of the Upper West Side-Central Park West Historic District and a smaller domain, the Central Park West-76th Street Historic District.
The New York Historical Society is the city’s oldest museum and research library. It was founded on November 20, 1804. Facing economic distress and inadequate management the society limited access to its collections in the early 1990s. In 1988 hundreds of paintings, decorative art objects, and other artifacts were discovered in horrendous conditions in a Manhattan art warehouse. That same year, the board dismissed nearly a quarter of its museum staff, closed half of the gallery space and curtailed visiting hours. James B. Bell, the society’s director since 1982, resigned.