Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Steinway & Sons on the Lower East Side

Did you know that Steinway & Sons was once located on the Lower East Side?

Though German immigrant Heinrich Steinway founded in the iconic company 1853 out of a small shop at 75 Varick Street, his sons opened an upscale showroom at 107-109 E. 14th Street in 1864.

In 1866, they opened Steinway Hall in the rear of the showrooms, which quickly became the center of New York City's cultural elite. The concert hall hosted the New York Philharmonic for a quarter of a century, until they moved to the newer Carnegie Hall in 1891.

(Images: left, Steinway ad from 1907; right, a photo of 107-109 E. 14th Street from 1892).

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lower Manhattan During the Revolutionary War

Here is a map of major forts and artillery batteries in Lower Manhattan during the Revolutionary War.

In the Summer of 1776, George Washington's 10,000-strong Continental Army fortified Manhattan Island, concentrating five Brigades below Houston Street.

The only major road into the city at the time, the Bowery, was heavily barricaded and used to maneuver thousands and thousands of troops and supplies in and out of the largest Army encampment on Manhattan Island.

"Bunker Hill" was a heptagonal fort built atop a 100-foot elevation on the Bayard estate -- today the heart of Chinatown. This fort was fitted with six mortars and twelve cannons and provided a 360-degree view of Lower Manhattan.

Iconic martyr Captain Nathan Hale was stationed at Bunker Hill, before being captured by the British and hanged.

Learn more about the Lower East Side during the Revolution: "The Bowery: A History of Grit, Graft and Grandeur"

Sunday, September 4, 2011

2 Doyers Street, Then & Now

Chinese Tuxedo Restaurant at 2 Doyers Street (at Bowery) c. 1910 (left), and 2010 (right)

Here is a chapter about the restaurant (with great images) from "Manhattan's Chinatown":

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Housing Crisis of 1920

The Telegraph-Herald (Dubuque, Iowa), April 19, 1920
In the spring of 1920, thousands of families were ordered to vacate their homes during one of the worst housing crises in New York City history.

The combination of a severe housing shortage and immense population boom at the end of WWI led to waves of mass evictions for much of the city's working-class and working-poor population.

Motivated by a post-war interest in Manhattan real estate, unscrupulous landlords used loopholes in the housing laws in what surmounted to nothing less than class warfare; tenants were essentially extorted into paying over 25% more in rent or face eviction. Tens of thousands who could not pay were forced into homelessness.

The abandoned apartments were then rented for over four times the market value to "pleasure seekers" and people with "abundant war profits or earnings," according to a April 19, 1920 Telegraph-Herald (photo).

Over 73,000 families were registered as homeless by the Spring of 1920, many living in parks throughout the city in tents provided by the U.S. Army.

Tombs Prison being dismantled, c. 1898

Rare image of the original Tombs Prison being dismantled to make way for a newer structure, c. 1898. Apparently nothing was spared. There was a push to rebuild the structure in Central Park for nostalgic purposes but the cost was too prohibitive. Here is a great article mentioning the preservation effort at the time: