Written by Pam Tice, member of the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group’s Planning Committee
Once we had a wall running right through our Bloomingdale neighborhood. Only it wasn’t called a wall; it was the Clendening Bridge, a portion of the Croton Aqueduct, the city’s first major infrastructure project to address the problem of getting clean water to New York City. Thanks to a young engineer named Fayette Bartholomew Tower, we have this drawing of our Clendening Bridge, published in his 1843 book after the Croton Aqueduct was finished. Even though the Bridge remained in place until the 1870s, no photograph has been found (yet).
The Croton Aqueduct, including the Clendening Bridge, ran through our neighborhood about 100 feet west of Columbus Avenue. It came down Amsterdam Avenue and swung over at an angle toward Columbus Avenue, straightening out at 105-104 Streets to head downtown in a straight line. Of course these avenues were Tenth and Ninth then, and not the roadways they are today. Much of the entire Croton Aqueduct was an above-ground “horse-shoe shaped brick tunnel 8.5 feet high by 7.5 feet wide, set on a stone foundation and protected by an earthen cover and stone facing at the embankment walls” according to a description by the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct.
Our Bloomingdale Wall
BNHG Bookshelf: Books BNHG members are reading and discussing
1917 New York Military Census
Bloomingdale Neighborhood Stores, Part Two
Provisioning Bloomingdale: Stores that fed the residents of Bloomingdale
The 10 Best Web Resources about New York City History
The 25 best books about the history of New York City's boroughs and neighborhoods
Dr. William Seraile's BNHG Presentation: New York's Colored Orphan Asylum
Park West Village: History of a Diverse Community
The 25 Best Books about New York City
Bloomingdale’s Finest Mansion: From Elmwood to Elm Park, 1764-1891
Daniel Wakin's Presentation on The Man With the Sawed-off Leg 1/17/18
Northern Exposure: Sara Cedar Miller’s Presentation 11/24/17
Bloomingdale's West 96th Street Was the Focus of the 1925 Solar Eclipse
How to Uncover the History of Your NYC Apartment Building
City of Tenants
¡Unidad Latina! — Political Activism on the UWS in the 1960s and 70s
Little Coney Island on West 110th Street
Making Music in Bloomingdale
The Home for the Relief of the Destitute Blind
The Bloomingdale Insane Asylum
The New York Pasteur Institute on Central Park West at 97th Street
John Clendening, Esquire, and his Bloomingdale Estate
Dining Out in Bloomingdale
The Lion Brewery, the Lion Park, and the Lion Palace
Bloomingdale/Manhattan Valley Chronology /
Battle of Harlem Heights
Measure of Manhattan
The Old Community on West 98th and 99th Streets
The Ninth Avenue El
The Story of 891 Amsterdam Avenue and How It Became a New York City Landmark
Neighborhood Nomenclature: Bloomingdale, the West End and Manhattan Valley
Upper West Side History: the Rise and Tragic Fall of a Model Who Broke the Rules
Bloomingdale History Map
Recommended by Pam Tice, BNHG planning committee member
Victory City: A History of New York and New Yorkers by John Strausbaugh is a rich and readable New York City history of the World War II years, with nearly half of the book covering the pre-War years and the cast of characters who took the stage by the time of the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Strausbaugh focuses on the people who made our history, from FDR and LaGuardia, to the role Vincent Astor played in developing spy networks, to the Manhattan Project, and the saboteurs who infiltrated the city regularly. He includes minor characters, from bobby-soxers and zoot-suiters, to gangsters and conscientious objectors, and just regular folks who stepped into famous photographs.
Recommended by Win Armstrong, BNHG planning committee member
We Are Staying: Eighty Years in the Life of a Family, a Store, and a Neighborhood Jen Rubin "outlines the tale of a successful family, storefront business with panache, and it includes the New York story of beginning, striving and belonging, and of heart, soul, and compassion for customers and workers. Just be sure you don't miss it."
--Gail A Brewer, Manhattan Borough President
Activist New York: A History of People, Protest and Politics
Steven H Jaffe traces the struggles for religious and press freedom in the Colonial and Revolutionary periods 1624-1783 on through Occupy Wall Street in 2011. The author Steven Jaffe is a curator of the Activism Exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York.
According to Eric Foner's forward, "Every generation of New Yorkers has witnessed the emergence of some kind of collective popular activism. Their movements have helped to make New York, and America, a freer, more equal society."
Recommended by Marjorie Cohen, BNHG planning committee member
New York Rising:An Illustrated History from the Durst Collection by Thomas Mellins. 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.
Waterfront Manhattan: From Henry Hudson to the High Line (2018) Dr. Kurt Schlichting tells the storied past of the Manhattan waterfront and the struggle between public and private control of the this most priceless asset. Jameson W. Doig, author of Empire on the Hudson, praised the book as succeeding "admirably in describing the evolution of Manhattan’s waterfront through the past several centuries--so far as I know there is no published work of such scope and richness.”
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.
While doing historical research, Gilbert Tauber, member of the planning committee of the BNHG, came across a surprising document in the New York County Clerk's office. In this article he notes the significance of the long overlooked 1917 New York Military Census and its possibilities for further research.
Earlier this year, while doing some research at the New York County Clerk’s office, I noticed a stack of large-format volumes bound in bright red cloth. I learned that they were records from a statewide military census that was conducted in June 1917
The volumes consisted of bound, typewritten ledger sheets listing names, addresses, ages, occupations, marital status, and much other information for most of the adult male population of Manhattan. According to the Bruce Abrams, the longtime archivist there, these volumes have never been published or digitized. (They are also difficult to search in their present form because they are alphabetized only by the first letter of the last name.) Although I have been doing historical research on NYC for many years, I had never heard of this census. It piqued my interest because my father had fought in World War I as a member of New York’s 77th Division
Looking into the New York Times online archives, I learned that the 1917 Military Census had included all New York State residents between the ages of 16 and 50, both men and women. The questions asked went far beyond those of the Federal census, including citizenship; any previous military experience; responsibilities for care of dependents; and any special skills of potential use to the war effort, such as nursing, the ability to type, drive a motor vehicle, or pilot an airplane. The questionnaires were slightly different for men and women. Upstate, the census was conducted through a house-to-house survey. In New York City, the authorities set up hundreds of census stations where people could come to fill out their questionnaires. The stations were largely staffed by volunteers, mainly women, from such organizations as the YWCA, the National League for Women’s Service and the Young Women’s Hebrew Association. It appears that the census was successful in reaching all but a tiny percentage of its target population.
Written by Pam Tice, member of the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group’s Planning Committee, this post is the ninth in her series on the past of buildings on the Bloomingdale neighborhood of the Upper West Side.
A previous post about food provisioning in Bloomingdale described the streetscape of Columbus, Amsterdam and Broadway, a dynamic jumble of food suppliers: fruit and vegetables, bakeries, meats, seafood, delicatessens, and wine/liquor stores. From 1890 to 1940 while a few food suppliers became chain stores, most Bloomingdale neighborhood shops remained “mom and pop” operations.
This post highlights a few of the other non-food shopkeepers providing goods and services for the neighborhood. With few exceptions, these also tended to be small shops: bootblacks early in the century, tailors, barbers, women’s hair salons, pharmacies, upholsterers, milliners, corset and flower shops. In the early years of the 20th century, the Upper West Side had an “Automobile Row” just above Columbus Circle where General Motors, Ford, Buick, Cadillac, Studebaker and Packard had display spaces. However, further uptown the stores tended to be small operations, each serving the neighborhood’s needs.
Early on, there were numerous neighborhood bootblacks. One of them was Riddick Darden, who is listed in the 1900 Trow Directory. The 1900 census reveals that he was a black man, living in a rooming house on 99th Street. He appears to have been a neighborhood regular, as he is still there in the 1920 census listed as the owner of a “bootstand” at 99th street.
Caitlin Hawke in her research of Bloomingdale neighborhood stores found this photo of Broadway’s northeast corner at 103rd Street, showing a shop selling feed and grain, demonstrating the country-like atmosphere of the turn-of-the-century Bloomingdale. The odd-shaped building on the horizon is the Home for the Destitute Blind constructed in 1886 but removed about thirty years later.
Written by Pam Tice, member of the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group’s Planning Committee, this post is the eight in her series on the past of buildings on the Bloomingdale neighborhood of the Upper West Side.
It was Bloomingdale’s residential development brought numerous retail food shops into the neighborhood, from the late 1880s to today, when the latest food store opening can still create excitement (see the frequent reporting on the new Trader Joe’s!). This post began as a search into our neighborhood food stores, focusing primarily on 86th to 110th Streets. This is a bit of an evasive topic, since most stores were small family-run businesses that did not advertise, and nor were publicly photographed. Moreover, the stores were part of a larger food retailing history from which individual stores developed, and how certain common products were created. Restaurants are another significant part of the neighborhood food story which were covered in an earlier post.
Food history is a popular topic among historians now. A recently-published book, Feeding Gotham: The Political Economy and Geography of Food in New York 1790-1860, by Gergeley Baics gives a fascinating history on how “food provisioning” developed in New York City. This book details the changes in the city’s food distribution as it changed from restricted public marketplaces built by city government to privatized food distribution as a function of the marketplace. These food markets were once part of the city’s landscape: Fly Market (replaced by Fulton), Catharine Street, Essex, Jefferson in Greenwich Village, and the Washington Market, on the lower west side. By the 1870s, the Gansevoort Farmer’s Market, near the Washington Market, was established: a vast stretch of wagons, as pictured below. Meat, poultry and dairy purveyors as well became the distribution center for the wholesale merchants who supplied the retail stores. This section of the city eventually gave way to Hunt’s Point in the 1960s, and what we now call Tribeca emerged as a new residential neighborhood.
Marjorie Cohen of the BNHG planning committee wrote this article which appeared originally in the website brickunderground.com
New York City has a history so rich and complex that it's probably impossible for one person to absorb it all. There are multitudes of books on the subject, and untold additional documents and artifacts relating to forgotten events and communities that have yet to be uncovered, that are sitting dusty under someone's floorboards, or that have been altogether lost to time and the elements. That's not to say it's not an enriching thing to try to wrap your head around.
For the New York history curious, we rounded up recommendations from local historians and authors of resources to begin exploring the big city's vast past. So far we have heard their picks for the best books about the city as a whole, and books about specific neighborhoods and communities. Now, we've got their picks for the best blogs, websites, podcasts, and social media feeds for understanding what came before.
If you finish the list and find yourself still wanting more, historian Justin Ferate has over 800 web resource recommendations on his website, organized by category.
Daytonian in Manhattan
“Tom Miller has exhaustively researched more than 200 buildings, most on the Upper West Side. If a building looks interesting, he’s probably jumped on it. His commentary is always fun to read, and Christopher Gray of the New York Times, who passed away recently, was the only other person who did what Miller does on a regular basis.”—Jim Mackin, historian andwalking tour guide
“Excellent and engaging research about notable Manhattan buildings that often includes the back story of their development and construction. The blog’s historical images and items of social and cultural interest give a well-rounded assessment of both the subject building and its cultural milieu.”—Ferate
Marjorie Cohen of the BNHG planning committee wrote this article which appeared originally in the website brickunderground.com
In a previous blog, Marjorie Cohen asked 11 authors and historians to choose The 25 best books about New York City history. So many good books came up in the process that she decided to save some of the haul for further lists. Having highlighted books that deal with the entire city in some way or another, in this blog she rounded up the best neighborhood-specific New York history books, again as selected by an array of experts. Here are their picks, organized roughly by the part of the city they cover.
South Street: A Photographic Guide to New York City’s Historic Seaport, by Ellen Fletcher Rosebrock
"Rosebrock’s book was published in 1974 by the still relatively new South Street Seaport Museum. It remains an excellent guide to the neighborhood, but is particularly interesting for its historic images, both those illustrating the 19th-century Seaport, and those showing the neighborhood in all its 1970s shabbiness—a period in the Seaport’s history that now seems equally remote.”—Anthony Robins, architectural historian and author or New York Art Deco
The Lower East Side Remembered and Revisited: A History and Guide to a Legendary New York Neighborhood, by Joyce Mendelsohn
“Were I limited to one recommendation for a book about the Lower East Side, this book would definitely be it. Briefly and succinctly, Mendelsohn chronicles sites and the historic transformation of this immensely culturally rich neighborhood. Five self-guided walking tours let the reader view more than 150 sites, aged tenements nestled next to luxury apartment towers which in turn abut historic churches and synagogues. This book is a treasure!”—Justin Ferate, historian
Dr. William Seraile's summary of his BNHG presentation on February 27, 2018.
William Seraile is Professor Emeritus of History at Lehman College of the City University of New York. He is the author of five books, including “Angels of Mercy: White Women and the History of New York’s Colored Orphan Asylum.”
The Colored Orphan Asylum (COA) was founded in 1836 by three Quaker women. It was sorely needed, since youth of color were excluded from orphanages for white children. The orphanage faced many obstacles throughout its existence including financial panics, fires, diseases and chronic money shortage. Racism led to its complete destruction in the Draft Riots of July 1863, when its building at 43rd and Fifth Avenue was looted and burned by the mob. The frightened children and staff escaped to the protection of a nearby police precinct and then to Blackwell’s Island (Roosevelt Island).
Winifred Armstrong and Barbara Ernest composed this pamphlet for the Park West History Group (predecessor of the BNHG) in 2007