Tag Archives: Queens

Whither Tourism? The Problems of Path Through History

PathThroughHistoryHistoric Hudson Valley announced that it is removing the animals from Philipsburg Manor for a cost savings of $200,000/year. The organization manages several sites including Kykuit and Sunnyside in Westchester County. Two oxen, 18 sheep and lambs, and chickens have been relocated to farm sanctuaries.  In addition, 13 people were let go earlier this year including the site manger of Sunnyside.

Philipsburg Manor and Sunnyside were two of the sites singled out in the August, 2012, Path through History kickoff program as primary tourist destinations in the Lower Hudson Region. I had heard about the departure of the animals through the grapevine. Continue reading

Bungalows of Rockaway: Film Screening, Discussion

The Historic Districts Council (HDC) will show the 2010 documentary film, “The Bungalows of Rockaway,” produced by Jennifer Callahan and Elizabeth Logan Harris follwed by a panel discussion.The film highlights the rich history of the Rockaway bungalows. Although of the more than 7,000 bungalows dotting the peninsula in 1933, fewer than 500 remain today. The documentary, narrated by Estelle Parsons, features rare archival footage, maps, and interviews with historians, prominent New Yorkers, and several of the longtime residents and vacationers.
In 2012, HDC named the Far Rockaway Beach Bungalows to its Six to Celebrate list, six historic New York City neighborhoods that merit preservation as priorities for HDC’s advocacy and consultation over a yearlong period. HDC is working with the Beachside Bungalow Preservation Association to get the remaining bungalows of Beach 24th, 25th and 26th Streets on the State and National Registers of Historic Places and to raise awareness about this irreplaceable part of New York City’s history.

The screening will be followed by a “Q & A” session and discussion with Richard George, executive director of the Beachside Bungalow Preservation Association- Nancy Solomon, director of Long Island Traditions and author of the National Register nomination- David Selig, owner of Rockaway Taco- Jeanne DuPont of Rockaway Waterfront Alliance, andthe filmmakers. The program will be moderated by journalist Eve M. Kahn.

The event will be held on Monday, June 11, at 6:30 pm at Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue at East 2nd Street, Manhattan.  Fees: $10 for the general public, $5 for Friends of HDC, seniors and students. Advance reservations are required. Tickets can beordered via Paypal through hdc.org or by calling 212-614-9107. A limited number of complimentary tickets will be available to Far Rockaway residents. Please contact ftolbert@hdc.org for more information.

Photo courtesy Historic Districts Council.

NYC Historic Districts Council Names Six to Celebrate

The Historic Districts Council, New York’s city-wide advocate for historic buildings and neighborhoods, has announced the 2012 Six to Celebrate, an annual listing of historic New York City neighborhoods that merit preservation attention. This is New York’s only citywide list of preservation priorities.

The six neighborhoods were chosen from applications submitted by neighborhood groups around the city on the basis of the architectural and historic merit of the area, the level of threat to the neighborhood, strength and willingness of the local advocates, and where HDC’s citywide preservation perspective and assistance could be the most meaningful. Throughout 2012, HDC will work with these neighborhood partners to set and reach preservation goals through strategic planning, advocacy, outreach, programs and publicity.

“Neighborhoods throughout New York are fighting an unseen struggle to determine their own futures. By bringing these locally-driven neighborhood preservation efforts into the spotlight, HDC hopes to focus New Yorker’s attention on the very real threats that historic communities throughout the city are facing from indiscriminate and inappropriate development.” said Simeon Bankoff, HDC’s Executive Director. “As the only list of its kind in New York City, the Six to Celebrate will help raise awareness of local efforts to save neighborhoods on a citywide level.”

Founded in 1971 as a coalition of community groups from New York City’s designated historic districts, the Historic Districts Council has grown to become one of the foremost citywide voices for historic preservation. Serving a network of over 500 neighborhood-based community groups in all five boroughs, HDC strives to protect, preserve and enhance New York City’s historic buildings and neighborhoods through ongoing programs of advocacy, community development and education.

The Six to Celebrate will be formally introduced at the Six to Celebrate Launch Party on Wednesday, January 18, 2012, 5:30-7:30pm at the Bowery Poetry Club (308 Bowery at East First Street). For more information or tickets, visit www.hdc.org.

The 2012 Six to Celebrate (in alphabetical order):

Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

Elegant rowhouses, Victorian-era mansions and pre-war apartment buildings combine with parks, vibrant commercial streets and impressive institutional buildings to make Bay Ridge a quintessential New York City neighborhood. For more than 30 years, the Bay Ridge Conservancy has been working to preserve and enhance the built environment of this architecturally and ethnically diverse area.

Far Rockaway Beachside Bungalows, Queens

Once upon a summertime, Far Rockaway was the vacation spot for working-class New Yorkers. Although recent decades have erased much of this history, just off the Boardwalk on Beach 24th, 25th, and 26th Streets rows of beach bungalows built between 1918 and 1921 still stand. The Beachside Bungalow Preservation Association is seeking to preserve and revitalize this unique collection of approximately 100 buildings.

Morningside Heights, Manhattan

Situated between Riverside Park and Morningside Park, two scenic landmarks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, and developed mainly between 1900 and 1915, Morningside Heights is characterized by architecturally-unified apartment buildings and row houses juxtaposed with major institutional groupings. The Morningside Heights Historic District Committee is working towards city designation of this elegant neighborhood.

Port Morris Gantries, The Bronx

In the South Bronx neighborhood of Port Morris, a pair of ferry gantries deteriorating in an empty lot may seem an eyesore to some, but the Friends of Brook Park sees them as the centerpiece to an engaging public space. Taking inspiration from other New York City waterside parks, this new park will combine recreation, education, and preservation of New York’s history for residents and visitors alike.

Van Cortlandt Village, The Bronx

Once the site of Revolutionary War-era Fort Independence, Van Cortlandt Village developed into a residential enclave in the 20th century. Built on a winding street plan designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, responding to the hills and views of the area, the neighborhood consists of small Neo-Colonial and Tudor revival homes and apartment buildings, including the Shalom Alecheim Houses, an early cooperative housing project. The Fort Independence Park Neighborhood Association is seeking to bring awareness to the neighborhood’s historic and architectural value as well as nominate it to the National Register of Historic Places.

Victorian Flatbush, Brooklyn

Located in the heart of Brooklyn, Victorian Flatbush is known for being the largest concentration of Victorian wood-frame homes in the country. The area presently has five New York City Historic Districts, but the blocks in between them remain undesignated and unprotected despite architecture of the same vintage and style. Six local groups representing Beverly Square East, Beverly Square West, Caton Park, Ditmas Park West, South Midwood and West Midwood have joined together with the Flatbush Development Corporation to “complete the quilt” of city designation of their neighborhoods.

Lower Hudson Valley History: Stories on the Wind

When I was a boy I worked on a farm in Little Neck, Queens in New York City. It was the only working farm left in Queens. The land was originally settled by a Dutch family. Every morning I would awake and bike from one side of Queens to the other. There I would feed ducks, cows, till, gather eggs, and eat my lunch under a huge tree or when it rained in the barn. Continue reading

Addisleigh Park: Jazz Greats, Sports Stars & Politicians

On Tuesday, March 2, 2010 (from 6:30-8:30pm) the New York City Historic Districts Council will offer a cultural resource survey presentation on Addisleigh Park, a little-known but culturally significant neighborhood in Southeast Queens. The event will be held at the Neighborhood Preservation Center, 232 East 11th Street, Manhattan.

In 2007 HDC began an effort to document Addisleigh Park, home to numerous major African-Americans figures such as James Brown, Roy Campanella, W.E.B. DuBois, Count Basie, Lena Horne, Jackie Robinson and Ella Fitzgerald (to name just a few). Once completed, they submitted all the material to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, who recently calendared a historic district, partially in response to our work. This free program will allow participants a firsthand look at the research and learn more about this neighborhood and its storied past.

The event is free to the public. Reservations are required, as space is limited. For more information, please contact Kristen Morith at (212) 614-9107 or kmorith@hdc.org.

A New Book Highlights Brooklyns Evergreens Cemetery

Organized in 1849 as a non-sectarian cemetery Evergreens Cemetery in Brooklyn (it actually borders Brooklyn and Queens) and covers 225 acres and is the resting place of over a half million people. This remarkable cemetery of rolling hills and gently sloping meadows features several thousand trees and flowering shrubs in a park like setting and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also the subject of an outstanding new book, Green Oasis in Brooklyn: The Evergreens Cemetery 1849-2008 by noted historian John Rousmaniere.

This oversize book filled with unique and picturesque photographs by Ken Druse, traces the history of the Evergreens Cemetery beginning with the land on which the cemetery was founded, and it’s design by some of the most acclaimed architects of their time, Alexander Jackson Davis and Andrew Jackson Downing. It also shows how the forces that shaped the history of New York – population growth, immigration and growing wealth – also shaped the Evergreens. Among the monuments of fascinating characters buried there are those of Brooklyn’s Eastern District Fire Department (site of a statue memorializing a fireman who died in the Brooklyn Theatre Fire of 1876), Chinese American plots, the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Memorial, Stranger’s mound (pauper’s graves), the graves of more then 500 entertainers, the 20th Regiment of U.S. Colored Troops plot, Yusef Hawkins (the 16-year-old African American youth who was shot to death in 1989 in Bensonhurst sparking racial tensions), Max Weber, Anthony Comstock, and literally thousands of other notable people.

Take a listen to NPR’s recent tour of The Evergreens here.

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Passing as Black: A Pioneer of American Alpine Climbing

There was an interesting review of Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line by Martha A. Sandweiss in the New York Times Book Review yesterday. The book is about Clarance King, first director of the United States Geological Survey (USGS), American alpine climbing pioneer and author who passed as black, married a former slave, and lived two lives from his home base in New York City.

Passing Strange meticulously — sometimes too meticulously- the book can be plodding — recounts the unlikely convergence of two lives: King was born in 1842 in Newport, R.I., to parents of longstanding American stock, and Ada Copeland was born a slave in Georgia, months before Confederate guns fired on Fort Sumter. Copeland, like most slaves, is woefully underdocumented- we know that she somehow became literate, migrated to New York in the 1880s and found a job in domestic service. King, by contrast, is all but overdocumented- after schooling, he went west as a surveyor, summing up 10 years of work in two books, including the 815-page “Systematic Geology,” which told, one historian said, “a story only a trifle less dramatic than Genesis.”

The pair met sometime around 1888, somewhere in bustling New York. By telling Copeland he was “James Todd,” a Pullman porter from Baltimore, King implied his race- a white man could not hold such a job. They married that year (though without obtaining a civil license), settling in Brooklyn and then, as Copeland had five children, Flushing, Queens. All the while King maintained residential club addresses in Manhattan, where colleagues knew him as an elusive man about town. Living a double life is costly, and King’s Western explorations never quite delivered returns, so the Todds were always broke.

King was among the first to climb some of the highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada range in the late 1860s and early 1870s and wrote Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada, which includes accounts of his adventures and hardships there.

According to The Literature of Mountain Climbing in America (1918):

The beginnings of mountaineering in America have to be looked for mainly in early histories and narratives of travel, though the first ascent in the Canadian Rockies is chronicled in the supplement to a botanical magazine. The first magazine article upon American mountains seems to be Jeremy Belknap‘-s account of the White Mountains, printed in the American Magazine in Philadelphia in February, 1788. The first book was Joel T. Headley’s The Adirondack, published in 1849. The Alpine Journal of England, the earliest of such magazines, had a short account of a climb in Central America in its first volume, 1864, and in the third volume, 1867, there was an account of an ascent of Mt. Hood. The first book devoted to alpine climbing in America was Clarence King’s Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada.

As an aside, among the men who were associated with Clarence King was his good friend, artist John Henry Hill. Hill accompanied King on two expeditions west (1866 and 1870) as a staff artist but his New York claim to fame is his work on the Adirondacks which he first visited in the 1860s. He camped and sketched throughout the Adirondacks, and from 1870 to 1874, lived in a cabin he dubbed “Artist’s Retreat” that he built on Phantom Island near Bolton’s Landing, Lake George. During one winter, Hill’s brother, a civil engineer, visited and the two men set out on the ice to survey the narrows and make one of the first accurate maps of the islands which Hill than made into an etching “surrounding it with an artistic border representing objects of interest in the locality.” On June 6, 1893 Phantom Island was leased by the Forest Commission to prominent Glens Falls Republican Jerome Lapham.

His journal and much of his work is held by the Adirondack Museum, and additional works can be found at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Brooklyn Museum of Art, New-York Historical Society, and the Columbus Museum of Art.