Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group
Recommended by Marjorie Cohen, BNHG planning committee member
Seymour Durst, son of the founder of one of New York City’s most prominent family-owned real estate firms, was a passionate collector of all things New York. Before his death in 1995, he amassed almost 35,000 pieces of New York history—books, prints, maps, photographs, and postcards. In New York Rising ten scholars chose items from the Durst collection and occasionally images from other sources to tell the story of New York’s development over the past 400 years. New York Rising is a companionable guide to how the city got from there to here, from the image of a 1628 print of Fort Amsterdam, with its tiny houses clustered just outside the fort, to the final image in the book, a contemporary photo of Times Square.
Recommended by Jim Mackin, BNHG planning committee member
Jim uses the New York Society Library for most of his eclectic range of books about New York City. For example:
Ned Harrigan from Corlear's Hook to Herald Square(1980) by Richard Moody is a biography of half the great vaudeville team of Harrigan and Hart, made more famous by the George M. Cohan song “H - A - double R I, G A N Spells Harrigan”. He lived on West 102nd Street and the bio covers quite a bit of early musical theater history.
Before Harlem: The Black Experience in New York City before World War I (2006) by Marcy S. Sachs. This book leads up to the Harlem Renaissance period with the history of where African-Americans lived in Manhattan at the turn of the last century. The Tenderloin district and San Juan Hill in the West 60s figure prominently, but most of the attention is given to the likes of Phillip Payton, J. Rosamond and James Weldon Johnson. This book is essential to understanding how Harlem came to be.
A good companion book to the above is “Race and Real Estate: Conflict and Cooperation in Harlem, 1890-1920” (2015) by Kevin McGruder, which covers the intricacies of how African-Americans populated Harlem. The nasty side of the story is the higher rents extracted as a by-product of racism. Good street and building detail makes for an absorbing read and an urge to walk Harlem’s streets.
Although I read it a few years ago, I’ve had occasion to revisit one of my favorite New York City books: “New York's Legal Landmarks: A Guide to Legal Edifices, Institutions, Lore, History and Curiosities on the City’s Streets” (second edition, 2018) by Robert Pigott. If you have reported for jury service downtown, you have only scratched the surface in seeing the city’s vast judicial infrastructure. This book is delightful in its detail and will challenge and educate you.