New Yorks Historic Bridges Over Troubled Waters

546px-High_Bridge_jehThe High Bridge is scheduled to reopen. This bridge is not to be confused with the High Line in Manhattan which is not a bridge. The High Bridge is a closed pedestrian crossing connecting the Bronx and Manhattan. The 1200 foot span was built in 1848 and is the oldest bridge in the city. It was constructed as part of the Croton Aqueduct system which carried water from Westchester to New York City.

The Croton Aqueduct still functions in Westchester not as a water-carrying system but as an elongated trail somewhat paralleling the Hudson River from Croton to Yonkers. The Aqueduct has devoted followers and a friends group and always is being used by hikers, strollers, runners, and families. It forms a living thread uniting the communities of the county. Read more

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. Read more

Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt’s Doomed Quest

The Stephen B. Luce Library at SUNY Maritime College, Bronx, NY, will host a guest lecture entitled  &#8220Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt’s Doomed Quest to Clean Up Sin-Loving New York.&#8221 Author and historian Richard Zacks will tells the story of Roosevelt’s two-year campaign as a reformist New York City Police Commissioner on Thursday, September 18th at 1:30 pm.

Zacks grew up in New York City, wandering to Times Square when it was still evil. His mother sought to refine his manners with white-glove dance lessons at the Pierre Hotel but that effort failed miserably. As a teenager, he gambled on the horses, played blackjack in illegal Manhattan card parlors and bought his first drink at age fifteen at the Plaza Hotel.

Zacks also attended elite schools such as Horace Mann (’73), University of Michigan (’79) and Columbia Journalism School (’81). He majored in Classical Greek and studied Arabic, Italian and French. Zacks spent the decade of the 1980s as a journalist, writing a widely syndicated newspaper column, as well as freelance pieces for the likes of The Atlantic, Sports Illustrated. His book Pirate Hunter has sold more than 175,000 copies and TIME magazine chose it among the five best non-fiction books of the year.

A Bronx Preservation Volunteer Opportunity

The Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum is looking for people who are up for an adventure – an adventure in preservation. For the past four years, the museum has partnered with Adventures in Preservation to recruit volunteers to spend a week doing hands-on restoration work at the National Historic Landmark in the Bronx. This year, volunteers will be restoring interior wood shutters. The adventure begins Monday, July 30 and lasts through Friday, August 3.

During five days of work, the two groups hope to complete as much work as possible and move the project one step closer to completion. Volunteers of all ages are welcome- no experience is necessary, just a willingness to work. A conservation expert will teach and guide the volunteers as they work.

The week also includes behind-the-scenes tours of the museum and lunchtime lectures on local history. The $295 fee covers lunches and snacks, materials, insurance and instruction. Full details and registration information are available at online.

Volunteers have contributed significantly to restoration projects at Bartow-Pell since 2008. They restored the walkways in the historic terrace garden, learning the traditional art of galleting as they reversed decades of inappropriate repairs. In 2011, they turned to the interior and began work on the shutter project that continues this year.

Bartow-Pell, an 1840s Greek Revival mansion, is owned by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, operated by the Bartow-Pell Conservancy, and is a member of the Historic House Trust of New York City. It is located at 895 Shore Road, Pelham Bay Park, Bronx, New York. For more information, see

Adventures in Preservation is a non-profit organization connecting people and preservation through enriching experiential programs. Participants have the opportunity to travel, experience their destination, and learn hands-on skills while preserving a valuable community resource. Learn more about how AiP volunteers combine their power with the strength of local communities to make a difference at

Photo: Volunteers remove layers of paint as part of the shutter restoration process (courtesy Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum).

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

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.

Books: The Bronxs Boulevard of Dreams

Stretching over four miles through the center of the West Bronx, the Grand Boulevard and Concourse, known simply as the Grand Concourse, has served as a silent witness to the changing face of the Bronx, and New York City, for a century. To coincide with the Concourse’s centennial, New York Times editor Constance Rosenblum has written a book, Boulevard of Dreams: Heady Times, Heartbreak, and Hope along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx that brings to life this historic street.

Designed by a French engineer in the late nineteenth century to echo the elegance and grandeur of the Champs Elysees in Paris, the Concourse was nearly twenty years in the making (it celebrated its centennial in November). Over that century it has truly been a boulevard of dreams for various upwardly mobile immigrant and ethnic groups, yet it has also seen the darker side of the American dream.

Constance Rosenblum unearths the history of the street and its neighborhoods through a series of life stories and historical vignettes. The story of the creation and transformation of the Grand Concourse is the story of New York—and America—writ large, and Rosenblum examines the Grand Concourse from its earliest days to the blighted 1960s and 1970s right up to the current period of renewal. Illustrated with historical photographs, the vivid world of the Grand Concourse comes alive—from Yankee Stadium to the unparalleled collection of Art Deco apartments to the palatial Loew’s Paradise movie theater.

The publishers call it &#8220An enthralling story of the creation of an iconic street, an examination of the forces that transformed it, and a moving portrait of those who called it home, Boulevard of Dreams is a must read for anyone interested in the rich history of New York and the twentieth-century American city.&#8221

NY Heritage Announces 14 New Additions

New York Heritage Digital Collections has added fourteen new digital collections to its cooperative site at , including three from Queens College- two each from the Brooklyn Public Library, CUNY Graduate Center, Yeshiva University, and Brooklyn College- and one each from SUNY Maritime College, Lehman College, and Metropolitan New York Library Council. These collections total 3016 items, and represent a broad range of research interests, including Brooklyn Democratic Party Scrapbooks, Fulton Street Trade Cards, Murray Hill Collection, Sailors’ Snug Harbor Archives, Waterways of New York, Breslau Memorial and Prayer Book, and Bronx Business for Everybody collections. is a project of the NY3Rs Association, which uses OCLC’s CONTENTdm Multisite Server to bring previously digitized collections together, allowing researchers to search across all items simultaneously. This project provides free, online access to images of cultural and historical significance in New York State.

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.

Edgar Allan Poe in New York City

The blog Ephemeral New York is taking note of the Edgar Allan Poe house museum in The Bronx, which is closing in the spring for year long renovations:

&#8220In 1846, Edgar Allan Poe, his wife (and cousin) Virginia, and his mother-in-law moved from Manhattan to a little wooden house built in 1812 in The Bronx’s rural Fordham neighborhood. The isolated, modest home, which rented for just $100 a year, must have suited Poe well- he wrote “Annabel Lee” and “The Bells” there.

But his time in the house would be short. Virginia succumbed to tuberculosis in 1847. Poe died in 1849 in Baltimore.&#8221

According to the blog, in 1905, the New York State Legislature set aside preservation funs, and in 1910 the house was moved to Kingsbridge Road and the Grand Concourse. New York City is a perfect location for a memorial to Edgar Allan Poe &#8211 he loved the city, any city.

The Boston of Edgar Allan Poe’s birth in 1809 was one of the world’s wealthiest international trading ports and one of the largest manufacturing centers in the nation. It was also a city of squalor and vice, with a grim and ghastly underworld. It was a fitting start for Poe, whose mother and father (both actors) died when he was young. He came to be a master of the macabre weaving elaborate short stories into a shroud of mystery and death and launching a number of new American pop culture phenomenons.

Poe was a man of the new American city, having lived in the five largest cities in America during his lifetime. His first published work &#8211 Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827) &#8211 was credited only to &#8220a Bostonian,&#8221 but as a young boy he was taken from his native city to Richmond, Virginia, and in his short life he also lived in Charleston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York City and the world’s largest city – London.

Poe was a sport, a libertine, as familiar with gambling, hard drinking, and womanizing, as he was with his many literary pursuits. Known to frequent Oyster cellars, brothels, casinos, and other dens of inequity, his literary work reflects the characters he met in his own life, the scoundrels, the bawdy women, and those on the margins of society &#8211 he delighted in showing local police unsympathetically in his writing.

Poe was also the first well-known writer in America to try and earn a living through writing alone. As a result, he suffered financially throughout his career until the day he was found on the streets of Baltimore, delirious and &#8220in great distress&#8230- in need of immediate assistance&#8221 according to the man who found him. At the time of his death, newspapers reported Poe died of &#8220congestion of the brain&#8221 or &#8220cerebral inflammation&#8221, common euphemisms for death from a disreputable cause like alcoholism. Thanks to a disparaging, and now long forgotten literary rival, Poe’s death at 40 remains a mystery – in the end he was the personification of a genre he is credited with inventing.

Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841) is the first true detective story. The Dupin character established a number of literary devices that inspired the likes of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot &#8211 the brilliant detective, his personal friend serving as narrator, and the final revelation offered before the reasoning is explained. But beyond inventing the detective mystery, Poe is best known as a master of the physiological horror story. The Cask of Amontillado, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Masque of the Red Death, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Tell-Tale Heart, and The Raven are disturbing and unsettling works that have found their way into popular culture in literature, music, films, and television. Poe’s writing influenced the creation of science fiction (he often mentioned emerging technologies, such as those in The Balloon-Hoax), and the areas of esoteric cosmology and cryptography. He continues to influence Goth pop culture.

Poe’s most recurring themes deal with death, its physical signs, the effects of decomposition, premature burial, reanimation of the dead, and mourning. But outside horror, Poe also wrote burlesque, satires, humor tales, and hoaxes often in an attempt to liberate the reader from cultural conformity – he wrote for the emerging mass market by including popular cultural phenomena like phrenology and physiognomy. He was also a literary critic, and a newspaper and magazine editor.