Bloomingdale Neighborhood Stores, Part Two

A previous post (LINK)  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.

NE Corner Broadway and 103 Street

Another early shop was W. G. Spencer’s Bicycle Shop housed in this wood-frame structure at Broadway and 96th Street, SE corner. This bike shop and others in the area served the cycling craze of the 1890s when cyclists pedaled their way uptown to the Claremont Inn on Riverside, just above Grant’s Tomb.

Bicycle Shop, Broadway and 96th Street

Another Caitlin Hawke discovery: there was a store on Broadway at 108th Street, what we would today call a “destination” store: Emmanual Blout’s Victrola Store.  Mr. Blout’s store replaced a group of stores shown in a photo (below) dated 1910, including a restaurant and a funeral parlor. The photo of the Blout store is undated; in both the 1912 and the 1923 Trow New York City Directories, the store is listed at 2799 Broadway.  As the sign indicates, this store was distributing the machines and records of the Victor Talking Machines Company manufactured in Camden, New Jersey.

Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in the 1877, and in the 1890s Emile Berliner fostered the transition from cylinders to flat discs, coining the term “gramophone.” Later, E. Johnson used Berliner’s work and founded Victor Talking Machines, making Victrolas and records, and developing a famous brand, with Nipper the dog pictured listening to “his master’s voice” coming from the horn on the machine. This website has the details of these wonderful machines that were ushering in a new age of communication: http://www.victor-victrola.com/. In the 1930s as the radio became popular, replacing the talking machines, RCA took over the company, forming RCA Victor.

Mr. Blout was an investor in the Berliner Company, then in Canada. His store offered more than just machines and records.  In 1920, a musical publication, The Musical Monitor, announced that a Miss Helen Colley would be using the talking machine to teach classes at the store in musical appreciation, nature study, English, and physical training, for “teachers, mother and children.”

Broadway and 108th Street 1910 (Museum of the City of New York)

Victrola Store

Victrola Talking Machine 1906

Another store selling machines, vacuum cleaners “hand and electric,” owned by a M. Loeb, is also listed in the Trow 1912 Directory, at 2789 Broadway.

If you were a Bloomingdale resident needing coal or wood, it might be supplied by Weber, Bunke & Lange, at 96th Street and the North River (the Hudson’s name); their office was at 2546 Broadway.

Pharmacies—and later drugstores—were numerous in the Bloomingdale neighborhood. One of the earliest photos of a pharmacy shows Baltzley’s, located at 96th and Broadway in the Wollaston that was built in 1900. The photo shows a large array of products, and this store had a Post Office operating there as well, although it may have just been a drop-off location. Mr. Albert B. Baltzley owned it, his daughter Elizabeth worked there as a cashier, while a Mr. Henry “Hank” Miller was the popular manager.

Baltzley’s Pharmacy, Broadway and 96th Street

In the early days of Bloomingdale, pharmacies custom-made the compounds according to a prescription written by a doctor. Despite the training provided by pharmacy schools, the mixture of these raw ingredients was subject to great variation, and doctors became unhappy with the process. In addition, there were many patent medicines sold in the early pharmacies that often contained alcohol, opium, morphine or cocaine. Regulating prescriptions and other medicines became part of the early 20th century movement to make both food and drugs safe, starting with the first drug laws in 1901. Eventually “drugs” became manufactured products sold to the pharmacies.

Here’s another photo of a drugstore, this one at 110th and Broadway, taken when there was street work underway, perhaps part of the 1904 subway construction. (There’s a lot more to see here; a meat store, a fruit store, and a taxi company advertising their services to “out of town resorts”.)

Drug Store at Broadway and 110th Street

There was a Hegeman Drug Store on the corner of 101st Street and Broadway in 1909. There is no photo of this location, but an image in the Getty collection shows a Hegeman’s with a soda fountain in 1907.  In 1909, a newspaper advertisement lists the Broadway location, in which the items for sale included perfumes, toilet dainties, bath room luxuries, candies, cigars, stationery, drugs, medicines, rubber goods, sick room supplies, syringes, water bottles, bandages, and “other drugstore products.”  In 1914 Hegeman’s and another New York chain, Riker’s, combined to make a 105-store chain, the largest in the country.

Hegeman Drug Store with a soda fountain 1907 (Museum of the City of New York)

“Soda Fountains” evolved from an early pharmacy product: a drink of soda water at the store, to help settle a stomach. Soon someone discovered that a splash of sweet syrup could be added to the soda water, and then ice cream and other ingredients. The soda fountain was born, a standard feature of drugstores. It was also a lucrative new revenue source.

The other large chain of drugstores was formed by Louis Liggett in Boston in 1903, and, by 1914, he had 52 stores. The 1922 advertisement mentioned below showed four Liggett stores in the neighborhood, on Broadway at 80th, 86th, 103rd, and 110th Streets.  Liggett also formed a “retailer’s cooperative,” the United Drug Company, that became the Rexall line of stores.

In a newspaper advertisement in 1922, a free tube of Listerine toothpaste was offered in numerous drugstore locations, including several in our neighborhood: Marcel at Broadway and 103rd; on Columbus there was Edward Ackerman at 740, Henry Buch at 661, C. J.W. Reed at 888, Richless Pharmacy at 775, Uran’s at 997, and Charles O’Connor at Columbus and 94th. Over on Amsterdam, there was Louis Klein at 876, Bedrick’s at 515, and S. Coden’s at 81st Street. Dorb Drug was at Broadway and 92nd Street, and William McDonald at 2781 Broadway.

This photo, taken at Broadway and 91st Street­­­­­­­­­, shows a Teitelbaum’s Drug Store.

Teitelbaum’s Drug Store

In October of 1908, The City Record listed places where men could register to vote in the 19th Assembly District which covered the Bloomingdale neighborhood. This listing gives a glimpse into the variety of stores serving the men of the neighborhood: tailor shops at 2669 Broadway and 870 and 906 Amsterdam; a cigar store at 2782 Broadway; barber shops at 203 West 104th and 948 Amsterdam. Much later, the Broadway Barbershop, owned by Mr. Demetriou, who took it over in the 1950s, would become a part of the collection of the Museum of the City of New York when it closed. Now, there a museum of New York City barbershops just opened in our neighborhood, at Columbus Avenue between 73rd and 74th Streets.

In every neighborhood, the cigar store was ubiquitous. Initially there were United Cigar Stores and D. A. Schulte stores, one of those pictured here, next to the Riverside movie theater. There was another store at Broadway and 85th Street, as reported in a news story of a 1928 robbery.

Schulte’s at Broadway and 96th (Museum of the City of New York)

These large corporations were also able to put out public messages, like this United Cigar poster, issued during World War One, promoting daylight savings time.

In the late 1920s, Schulte thought it a good idea to merge with the Huyler candy company that had started a chain of luncheonettes, thus combining the cigar counter with the quick-lunch spot. A.D. Schulte was also known for its coupons, collected by men at purchase and used by women to order housewares from their catalogue. In 1919, Schulte leased the corner of Broadway and 104, including two buildings on 104th Street, although which specific corner is unknown.

Meanwhile, United Cigar had combined with the Whelan Drug stores, getting the cigar stand and the soda fountain combined too. The Depression hit these retailers hard, and resulted in United Cigars and Schulte merging.

Berenice Abbott 1936 photo of a Whelan’s Drug Store (New York Public Library)

The stores labeled “5, 10, 25 cent stores” were another popular chain store in the early 20th century. F.W. Woolworth and S.H. Kress stores were the two largest in numbers of locations, and both were based in New York City, (but neither started there). By 1914, Woolworth’s had 774 stores including 40 stores in Canada and 40 in England.  Woolworth’s was one of the first retailers to allow their customers to handle the merchandise before a purchase. The store made all prices either five or ten cents, until twenty-cent items were offered in 1932. In 1935 they discontinued these selling-price limits.

Mr. Woolworth’s family made news as his daughter, Edna, Mrs. Franklyn Hutton, who lived at 2 West 80th Street, until she committed suicide in 1924. Her daughter, Barbara Hutton, then five years old, went to live with her grandfather at his Fifth Avenue mansion. She became “the poor little rich girl” at her 1932 debut that was an ostentatious display in the Great Depression. Unfortunately, this New Yorker led a troubled life, spending her fortune, creating scandals and working her way through seven marriages and divorces.

Woolworth’s was on the Upper West Side in two locations: at 79th and Broadway in the 1930s, and also at 91st Street and Broadway. Much later, there was a Woolworth’s on Columbus in the retail space serving Park West Village. When Social Security began in 1936, Woolworth’s sold wallets containing a display-version Social Security Card, half the size of a real card with “specimen” written on it. Nevertheless, that fake-card number was used by over 5700 people by 1943. As late as 1977 the number was still in use!

Woolworth’s ended in 2008 during the Recession. New York City still has its stunning 1910 Cass Gilbert “Cathedral of Commerce” in downtown Manhattan, converted to residential space not long ago.

Advertising on top of certain buildings was part of the street scene; this photo (below) from the Museum of the City of New York shows Oliver A. Olson’s store with many billboards.  Olson’s had been a “high class” specialty store for women in its time on the Upper West Side. This view is of a 1907 postcard. Olson’s was mentioned in a 1919 article about the formation of a Mutual Protective Association formed with a number of New York City department stores, to protect against shoplifters and pickpockets. This member list  included many of the stores that have continued or disappeared over the years: Best & Company, Stern Brothers, Franklin Simon, Bloomingdale Brothers, Gimbel Brothers, Saks & Company, and Lord & Taylor.

Oliver A. Olson’s went bankrupt during the Depression and their corner at 79th and Broadway was taken over by Woolworth’s.

1912 photo of Olson’s store on Broadway at 79th Street

1914 photo of Olson’s with advertising signs on roof

1957 photo of Woolworth’s at Broadway and 79th Street

Girls shopping at Woolworth’s 1941 (Museum of the City of New York)

All of these mentions show the variety of shops meeting the personal needs of the Bloomingdale residents. An important supplier was Kayser’s shown in the photo below in their 1937 Art Deco form with a new kind of black glass. This store was on Broadway at West 83rd Street. Julius Kayser founded his silk glove company in 1880, and, by 1911, it had grown to silk gloves, hosiery and underwear — and patent leather gloves also. After Mr. Kayser’s death in 1920 the company grew and lasted into the 1960s, absorbing numerous other companies that made these items.

Kayser’s store at Broadway and 83rd Street (Museum of the City of New York)

Something we don’t see in the streetscape today: there was a gas station on Amsterdam Avenue at 90th Street, as shown in this 1936 photo.

Gas Station on Amsterdam Avenue at 90th Street, 1936 (New York Public Library)

Another one-of-a-kind store was the Broadway Bird Store, located at 93rd Street, in the 1920s. The store sold canaries and parakeets, and also aquariums and fish, as well as dog supplies.

Another retailer on the Upper West Side was a woman named Polly Adler who had a lingerie shop at 2719 Broadway in the 1920s.  The shop did not last for long. Polly’s real infamous talent was in the numerous brothels in apartments she established around town, many on the Upper West Side. She was arrested numerous times during the 1930s, and eventually left town for the west coast, writing a best seller in 1952, A House Is Not A Home, made into a not-too-good movie with Shelley Winters in 1964.

SOURCES

Federal censuses available at www.ancestry.com

New York Public Library photographs database

Trow’s Directories located at the New York Public Library and the New-York Historical Society

Trager, James. New York Chronology. New York, Harper Collins, 2003

Susi, Michael. The Upper West Side. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2009

The New York Times archive

West 102nd & 103rd Block Association Blog

Library of Congress Chronicling America newspapers database

Real Estate Record & Guide online

Museum of the City of New York photographs database.

 

 

 

 

 

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Provisioning Bloomingdale: Stores that fed the residents of Bloomingdale

Here is another post on the Bloomingdale neighborhood of the Upper West Side. It was written by Pam Tice, member of the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group’s Planning Committee. 

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.

Washington/Gansvoort Market 1886, Museum of the City of New York

When Bloomingdale first developed, all the food retailers were private ventures, although one, Mr. Astor’s Market, was a marketplace concept, as described below.

The Upper West Side transitioned in the 1870s from an area of rocky terrain with small dwellings, many with market gardens, to fully urbanized streets by the early 1900s. In 1879, the opening of the Ninth Avenue El generated increasing real estate sales. Later, in the early years of the 20th century, the construction of the IRT subway under Broadway would generate another building boom. Numerous social-welfare institutions moved to the area or were created there, touting the fresh air as a primary reason. Even a few left-over country mansions remained from the early days of the Bloomingdale Road that brought families to upper Manhattan away from the dirty air and disease-prone lower Manhattan.

Here are a few of Mr. Bracklow’s photos taken in the late 1890s of the Bloomingdale neighborhood.

Bracklow photo of a farm on West End Avenue 1890

Bracklow photo of old wooden houses on Amsterdam Avenue 1899

A comparison of the 1880 Federal census to the 1900 census tells a story of Bloomingdale’s dramatic residential development. The census counts individuals in dwelling units, in family groups, so there are no notes on the existence of stores. However, the census taker sometimes makes a note on the neighborhood’s larger facilities housing many residents and also uses the column “occupation” to note a retail establishment.

In 1880, there are just two Enumeration Districts, 527 and 528, for all of the Bloomingdale neighborhood, covering a portion of the 12th Ward, from 86th to 108th Streets. ED 527 has 179 dwellings housing 1194 inhabitants, and ED 528 has 218 dwellings with 1453 inhabitants. Mrs. Skinner appears as the Matron for the “Children’s Fold,” an orphanage at 93rd Street and the Boulevard, the earlier name for Broadway. She is caring for 65 children ages 6-10 years. There is a small hospital at Ninety-Ninth Street and Eighth Avenue. Mr. Hiram Downs is operating the Downs Hotel at the Boulevard and Tenth Avenue. Mr. Marshall, the second owner of the Clendening mansion, covered in an earlier post on the hill at 104th Street and Ninth Avenue, is listed. Elm Park and its hotel, also covered in an earlier post, is on another West Side hill. Many of the residents of these Enumeration Districts are immigrants from Germany, Ireland and elsewhere.

The Downes Hotel on the Bloomingdale Road July 1888

How did these residents supply their homes and facilities? By the 1870s, milk was beginning to be bottled, and delivered by wagon; previously, the milk was in large cans, and scooped out into containers provided by the customer. It would be a while longer before pasteurization was established. In the 1850s, New Yorkers had come to realize that the milk from one or two cows established near a brewery and fed the discarded mash were producing swill milk that was making many children sick. The Dairy in Central Park was established to make this point: that cows producing fresh milk should be the healthier norm.

As the city grew, dairy farms developed north of the city, supplying dealers by either boat or train down to the city to the lower West Side where the wagons were loaded. By 1903, two major dairies were located just to the north of Bloomingdale, on 125th and 130th Streets, far to the west, near the railroad. The milk trains supplied them, and milk was then pasteurized, bottled and sent out for delivery in wagons to drop thousands of bottles around our neighborhood.

Numerous other items were delivered by wagon until stores were established: butchers delivered meat, fruit and vegetable dealers loaded up at Washington Market and moved through the neighborhood, and ice and coal were brought in. Perhaps those with market gardens in the neighborhood sold their fresh produce directly or by pushcart.

There is no Business Directory for the 1880s nor does the Robinson Atlas, online at the New York Public Library, note the existence of stores on the ground floor of the clusters of “flats” beginning to fill in the streets and avenues of Bloomingdale. The 1880 census column noting occupation sometime notes “retail bakery” rather than “baker” for a man, giving  a clue that a store exists. Most were small operations; it wasn’t until chain stores developed that we can find newspaper ads, some with location addresses. We have to assume that basic needs are being met with local retail and wagon-deliveries, with other shopping venues reachable downtown on the El or the streetcars.

The Ladies Mile shopping district was another source of groceries, although too far for daily shopping when refrigeration was still limited. Two of the largest stores there, Siegel Cooper and O’Neill-Adams had fully-stocked grocery stores along with their dresses, corsets, hats and other clothing.  The regular grocers of New York City made an attempt to put a stop to the selling of groceries in these “department stores” but were not successful. In addition to the oddity of selling groceries under the same roof as clothing, the Siegel-Cooper store also had a bank, barbershop, jeweler, drugstore, telegraph and post offices, a doctor’s office, manicure and hairdresser, a restaurant and a tearoom, a wine shop, hardware, pets, and, on occasion, exotic shows and lectures.

By the time of the 1900 Federal census, a massive population increase had taken place in Bloomingdale.  Just 97th to 108th Streets had twelve or more Enumeration Districts. One ED, covering Central Park West to Columbus, from 97th to 98th Streets, has 72 dwellings with 1269 individuals living there. There is a Trow Business Directory available for 1900, with the businesses arranged by type, as the Yellow Pages does today. The Directory lists many retail stores, especially along Amsterdam and Columbus. Many of the buildings along Broadway were just being constructed in the early years of the 20th Century as the IRT sparked development; stores were developed later there.

Bakers were numerous in the business directory; there are five on Amsterdam with street numbers 500-900 which covers the Bloomingdale neighborhood. George Barthold had his bakery at 968 Amsterdam. He immigrated from Germany in 1873, and lived with his wife, Augusta, two sons 18 and 20 years old who are also bakers, yet another baker named Otto living there too, along with other staff, Bertha the bookkeeper, Marta, the store tender, and Annie from Ireland, helping with the housework.

With a neighborhood of so many German immigrants, delicatessens were popular; there are eight on Amsterdam and six on Columbus in the area north of 86th Street, counted in a perual of the business directory. Numerous fruit dealers, retail butchers, and stores selling butter, eggs and cheese are there too. There are many other types of business too, to be covered in a later post: bootblackers, dressmakers, and numerous coal and ice dealers.

One delicatessen in our neighborhood, Richard Hellmann’s store at Columbus and 84th Street, operating after 1905, became famous much later as his wife Nina’s mayonnaise was served from a blue-ribboned jar on the counter. By 1916, Hellmann figured out how to stabilize his product and pack it in jars. He incorporated his company in Long Island City, delivering his mayonnaise by truck around the city, and eventually around the country. Check your Hellmann’s jar today: the blue ribbon is still there.

In his book of postcard images, The Upper West Side, Michael Susi captures the Park & Tilford store at Broadway and 101st Street, on the street level of the Chepstow apartment building. The Chepstow is one of several on the Upper West Side designed by architects Mulliken and Moeller who are known for their brick and terra cotta work; they also designed Bretton Hall at 86th Street and Broadway.

Park & Tilford was established in the mid-nineteenth century by two ambitious young men, John Tilford and Joseph Park, who were both grocery store clerks in downtown Manhattan. The establishment of their stores followed the development of residential Manhattan, and, by 1900, they were on Sixth Avenue at Ninth Street, two locations on downtown Broadway, on Fifth Avenue at 59th Street at the South East corner, and on the Upper West Side first at Columbus Avenue at 72 Street, and then in their Bloomingdale location. Their elegant Columbus Avenue building still stands, now a residential building. There’s no record found as to how long they were at the Chepstow but their presence, a grocery store catering to “the carriage trade” shows how the neighborhood was developing.

Park & Tilford at Broadway and 101 Street, image from Michael Susi’s book

Park & Tilford provided “first class groceries.” Besides many imported gourmet foods, they sold wines, confectionaries, cigars and personal items.

This advertisement from 1911 describes their wine selection (and lists the Bloomingdale location).

Park & Tilford advertisement 1911

Park & Tilford advertisement 1913

Mr. Park and Mr. Tilford played a role in the development of the product still around today: Philadelphia Cream Cheese. The grocers worked with William Lawrence, a farmer and cheesemaker,  to make a Neufchatel cheese; he added cream to the curds, labeling it “cream cheese” and went on to mechanize its production, eventually forming a new company. Cream cheese made in Philadelphia was already known, thus the name of the company, which wrapped its products in rolls in a foil wrapper and shipped it down to the city.

Park & Tilford was one of the earliest “chain store” grocers, but struggled with family changes after their founders died in the 1890s. Mr. Park’s children both married people he did not approve of, and he wrote them out of his will, leaving his million dollar fortune to charities while settling small annual amounts on his son and daughter. The son became an object of derision in the press when he sued the estate to recover more of his father’s fortune, claiming that he had been brought up “in idleness” and had no skills to take care of himself and his wife, an actress.  Mr. Tilford’s sons seem to have been raised to be part of the family business, and it passed into their hands. In 1928, the Schulte Retail Stores Corporation, a chain of more than 40 cigar stores, merged with Park & Tilford. Tom Miller, in his excellent blog post DAytonian in Manhattan, wrote about the Columbus Avenue store 

There were many other retail “grocery chains” that developed before 1900 and into the first years of the 20th Century. The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Store, founded in a shop at 31 Vesey Street in downtown Manhattan, is perhaps the most famous and historical of all the retail grocers, lasting until the economic downturn of 2008. In 1914, there were over 800 stores across the United States, New York City included. Unfortunately, their daily newspaper ads do not list locations but suggest that there were many choices. One source notes that A&P established ”Economy Stores,” smaller shops located in many neighborhoods.

Early grocery stores were nothing like our supermarkets of today. Customers came into the store and waited their turn at the counter where assistants fetched what was required. Items did not come in consumer-sized packaging; the assistant had to weigh and measure precise amounts. Shopping became a social occasion with customers and store staff engaged on conversation while their orders were collected. This labor-intense system led to the change that was initiated at a Piggley Wiggley store in Memphis in 1916, the first self-serve market where customers walked around and chose their items and brought them to a “checkout” in a wooden basket.

Gristede Brothers started at 42nd Street and Second Avenue in 1888; they had five stores by 1903 and 45 locations by 1914.   There may have been a store on the SW corner of Amsterdam and 109th Street, as a real estate sale is noted there in 1910.  In a news report about a water main break on Broadway, there is a Gristede store mentioned at 89th Street.  Another chain, A. F. Beckman & Company is listed in the 1900 Trow Directory at 908 Columbus Avenue, and eight other locations. They grew to 25 locations in 1914. Andrew Davey owned 19 grocery stores according to an 1898 Trow Directory; there was one at 736 Amsterdam Avenue, and two others at 754 and 781 Columbus Avenue.

James Butler owned 43 stores by 1914; in 1898 he had three on Columbus at 620, 702, and 754, and one at 774 Amsterdam. In the early 1880s, Mr. Butler had invested his $2000 life savings in a grocery store on Second Avenue in Manhattan. The number of stores grew; when Butler died, he was worth $30 million, and had more than 1,100 stores, second only to the A & P. He too considered his shops as catering to “the carriage trade”; his locations on Columbus and Amsterdam were meant to serve the families living on Central Park West and west of Broadway.

Mr. Butler owned an estate in Tarrytown, New York, and was neighborly with the Rockefellers. He was also a prominent owner of racehorses, and built the Empire City Racetrack in Yonkers. He made home deliveries from his stores, and when his delivery horses became old, they left the streets to retire to his estate. He established Marymount College in memory of his wife. He made many gifts to the Catholic Church over the years, so many that the Pope awarded him a Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Gregory. Throughout his life, even as his fortune grew, he called himself “the Egg and Butter Man.” His son James Butler Jr. was more interested in horse racing than grocery stores, and as the Depression played out in the 1930s, the company sought “reorganization” and then bankruptcy. One lone store was still operating in 1940 in Queens. In October 1940, Butler Jr. died after being thrown from a horse. Mr. Butler’s store pictured here was in Astoria, Queens, but all of the establishments were branded in green and gold exteriors.

James Butler store in Queens, example of how these stores appeared

James Butler store ad

While there were many chain stores, most of the grocers were still independently single store operations. For instance, we find John B. Accietto, an Italian immigrant, with a store at 767 Columbus Avenue. In the 1900 Trow Directory he is listed as a grocer; in the 1900 census, he is listed as a fruit dealer. He is a widower with children, all girls, aged 20, 16 and 14. His 20-year-old daughter has married, and she and her husband, John Persilo, and child, live at 767 Columbus also. This example of a family business appears to be the norm for food purveyors in Bloomingdale.

The Astor Market opened on the SW corner of Broadway and 95th Street in 1915. Vincent Astor was a major property owner on the Upper West Side, inheriting numerous land holdings through family connections to the Apthorp estate, and other acquisitions.  While serving on the city’s Commission on Markets, Mr. Astor decided to build a model market to provide fresh food at lower prices to the neighborhood. The main floor had over 200 square feet of selling space, leased to butchers, greengrocers, and other merchants. A fish market was on the lower floor, where the Thalia space is today. A newspaper description described the Florentine style of the market, with high, arched windows and a great sgaffito frieze on the entire building cornice with the theme of food: “cattle, sheep, ducks, pigs and fish held in composition by garlands of fruit and vegetables.”

The market, in what the newspapers called “a high class apartment district” had clean white tile floors, and white Carrera glass counters.” Meat and poultry was in plate glass cases cooled by frosted coils first cooled by ice machines in the basement. The store had an incinerator that burned all waste and garbage. There was a plan to open a lunchroom in the complex, but no evidence that it happened. However, even with Astor’s subsidy, the market did not last. One resident is quoted in a New York Times article, saying that the new market “was not worth the time and carfare” and she would continue shopping at the stores closer to her home.  Thomas Healy, a successful restaurant owner, bought the site, transformed the market into a restaurant called the Sunken Garden and an indoor skating rink which later became the Symphony Theater, and today, Symphony Space. After he acquired an additional lot south of his facility on West 94th Street, he built Pomander Walk.

Astor Market on Broadway at 94th Street 1915

Opening Day at the Astor Market 1915

Another source, the 1912 real estate map of our neighborhood, notes a few of the businesses in certain buildings, confirming the pattern of small shops in the buildings now covering most of the Bloomingdale area. On the east side of Amsterdam Avenue between 98th and 99th Streets, there is a bakery and a carpet store; between 97th and 98th a Chinese laundry and a drugstore on the corner of 98th. Columbus has the same pattern: a bakery, a confectionary store, and a drugstore on the North West corner of 96th.

Confectionary stores were a regular features of the neighborhood. Many also sold ice cream, although that treat was also available from wagons, as it is from trucks today. Sweet shops were often run by women who began by making candy at home and then opening small shops, as these did not require much equipment or capital. Of course ice cream was also a feature of the drug stores, another type of shop to be covered in a future post.  By the 1930s, chain candy shops were developing: Barton’s, Barracini’s, Huyler’s, and Loft’s. In the 1940 telephone directory, a Barracini is listed at 2345 Broadway, and a Barton’s, was located near our neighborhood, at Broadway and 81st Street. A man raised in our neighborhood also remembers one between 96th and 97th on Broadway, probably located there to also serve the patrons of the nearby movie theaters.

Barton’s Candy at Broadway and 81st Street, Library of Congress photo

One of New York’s most famous ice cream makers, James M. Horton, started out in the milk-producing business in Orange County, and then moved into ice cream production. One of his facilities, at 302 Columbus Avenue, at 74th Street, lasted until 1922. The building provides the memory of this company, whose ice cream was served at White House events and glamorous ocean liners.

Horton’s Ice Cream at 302 Columbus Avenue

Thanks to the New-York Historical Society, there is a readable copy of the 1922-23 Trow’s Directory available in digital format. However, there is no business directory in “yellow pages” format. Finding food purveyors in the Bloomingdale area is difficult, as the directory is now a multi-columned, thick book, more like our phone directories of today. The A&P stores which were undoubtedly here are not listed, nor are the other chains named above. Using the name “Academy” and “Riverside,” the area’s telephone exchanges, turned up a few shops, an Academy Delicatessen at 2746 Broadway, a Riverside Lunch Shop at 2566 Broadway, and an Astor Court Fruiterer at 2436 Broadway.

The 1940 telephone directory, online at the New York Public Library, does not have a yellow pages, but numerous Bloomingdale businesses are listed. There is just one Acker Merrall & Condit grocery store, at 2377 Broadway. Gristede’s has seven stores on Amsterdam between 77th and 115th Streets; seven on Columbus, with two at 93rd and 104th Streets, and eleven on Broadway from 75th to 111th Streets, with stores at 99th, 103rd, 108th in our neighborhod.  There is a Winkelmann Brothers grocery store at 2388 Broadway, next door to Reyman’s French Pastry Bakers at 2387.  The A&P stores are listed by their store number in the directory: there are A&Ps at 724 and 768 Amsterdam, 2507, 2732, 2827 and 2886 Broadway, and 727 and 908 Columbus, with nine stores along Columbus in total. This Berenice Abbott photo from the mid-1930s, while taken on the East side, serves as an example of a grocery store window during this period.

Berenice Abbott of an A&P in 1936, Museum of the City of New York

  

Another source for finding local stores is a 1940 Yearbook from Joan of Arc High School on West 93rd between Columbus and Amsterdam (now a junior high). Many local retailers took small ads in the back of the  book. On Amsterdam Avenue we find Hunters Food Market at 951, Kimker’s Delicatessan at 712, and H. Rudnick at 93rd. On Columbus Avenue, Tony River’s Fancy Fruits and Vegetables is at the corner of 97th Street, Gramercy Market between 96th and 97th Streets, Pfeiffer’s Market with high grade meats and produce at 731, Joseph Schmid offering meats, poultry and fish at 725, and Ralph’s “quality fruits and vegetables” at 711 Columbus. On Broadway, the New Riverside Market with meats, poultry and game, at 2749 Broadway between 105 and 106, Rosmar Butchers at 2603 Broadway between 98th and 99th Streets, and the New American Food Center at 2551, on the southwest corner of 96th Street. The Gristede Brothers placed a general ad representing all their Bloomingdale stores.

Caitlin Hawke, who covers many neighborhood historic spots in her marvelous blog for the 102-103 Block Association, helped identify this old sign from the Hudes Delicatessan, at the northwest corner of Broadway and 103 Street. The sign re-appeared recently when the storefront was under reconstruction. Caitlin quoted Manhattan Mark who comments on the West Side Rag and reports that the Hudes family started their business in the 1930s and lasted into the 1950s. In the 1940 telephone directory, this was B. Hudes & Sons, 2703 Broadway, AC (Academy) 2 4116.

Old delicatessen sign, Broadway at 103 Street

Caitlin’s work also uncovered a Hanscom’s Bakery at Broadway and 103 Street; in the 1940 Phone Directory, there are also Hanscom’s Bakeries on Broadway at 79, 93, 97, and 112 Streets. This Albok photo of a foggy New York Street in the 1930s uses a Hanscom Bakery to set the mood.

Mr. Albok’s photo of a Hanscom Bakery

The New York Public Library has a file of “Tenements and Storefronts” in their digital photo collection, but there is only one photo taken on the Upper West Side, of a butcher shop (with a butter and egg store next door and a delivery truck in the foreground) on Amsterdam Avenue between 67th and 68th Streets. Here it is, as a representative of the 1930s era.

 

Butcher shop at Amsterdam Avenue 67-68 Streets , New York Public Library photo

As this piece was being written, the 1940s New York City Tax Photos were offline. When they reappear, later this year (2018), there may be another batch of neighborhood photos to add to our work.

SOURCES

Federal censuses available at www.ancestry.com

New York City maps located at the New York Public Library

Trow’s Directories located at the New York Public Library and the New-York Historical Society

Baics, Gergely. Feeding Gotham: The Political Economy & Geography of Food in New York City 1790-1860. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2016

Smith, Andrew (ed). Savoring Gotham. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015

Susi, Michael. The Upper West Side. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing,  2009

The New York Times archive

Library of Congress Chronicling America newspapers database.

Museum of the City of New York photographs database.

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New York’s Colored Orphan Asylum

Asylum at Fifth Avenue and 43rd Street in 1863

Summary of Presentation by Dr. William Seraile 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).

1863 Draft Riots in New York City

Laundry work 1860

For most of its history, the COA typically housed and educated children to about the age of 12.  Older children, 12 to 18, were indentured, mainly to rural areas in New England, New York and New Jersey. Unlike indentured white orphans, indentured black children rarely had the opportunity to further their education by serving as apprentices to skilled laborers.

Children at play 1863

 

After the Civil War a new COA was built in 1868 at 143rd Street and Amsterdam Avenue.  In 1907 it relocated to Riverdale.  It remained there until 1946, when the COA shifted from a residential institution to an emphasis in foster care and adoption.  The Riverdale site is today the Hebrew Home for the Aged.

By the time it closed in 1946, the COA had provided care for approximately 15,000 children, yet its trustees/managers were reluctant to treat African Americans as equal partners. With the exceptions of James McCune Smith who served as physician for twenty years, and a few teachers or matrons, the colored staff was limited to menial positions.  The first African American trustee was not brought in until 1939 and shortly thereafter the first Jewish trustee. It was also at this time that the trustees started to work with Harlem churches to strengthen their mission of providing for orphaned, neglected and delinquent

Despite its shortcomings, the orphanage providing nurturing, education, lessons in morality and stablity to children who otherwise would have been left on the streets.   After a series of mergers, the COA survives today in the Harlem Dowling-West Side Center for Children and Family Services.  A recent merger with Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry has expanded its reach in providing family services.

 

 

 

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Bloomingdale’s Finest Mansion: From Elmwood to Elm Park, 1764-1891

This post covers another one of Bloomingdale’s lost structures. It was written by Pam Tice, a member of the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group’s Planning Committee.

When you walk from West 96th to 91st Streets on Columbus Avenue, or walk east from Broadway to Columbus on those streets, you’ll notice you are on a hill.  The crest of the hill on 91st Street, about 100 feet west of Columbus, is the location where, starting in 1764, a colonial mansion stood for 130 years.  Originally, it was surrounded by a 300-acre estate. Over the years, though, the land was whittled back through legacy gifts and real estate sales, as the development of the West Side played out until finally, just the mansion stood, surrounded by a small park. This structure and the land encapsulates the history of our Bloomingdale neighborhood, and is presented here.

In 1764, wealthy merchant Charles Ward Apthorp built what was widely recognized as one of the finest mansions in all of New York City. Like many of his contemporaries, Apthorp purchased land on the west side of Manhattan, no doubt picturing himself as one of the landed gentry of the American colony. He had moved to New York from Boston where his father, Charles Apthorp, was one of New England’s wealthiest merchants, and served as the paymaster and agent for the Royal Army and Navy, furnishing supplies and money to the British forces in Boston and Nova Scotia.  He also imported and sold many kinds of goods, including slaves.  His eighteen children married into many of the other prominent families of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Now in New York, Charles Ward Apthorp married Mary McEvers at Trinity Church in 1755. She was the daughter of John McEvers of Dublin, another successful New York merchant. They had ten children: Charles, James, George, Grizzel (named for her Boston grandmother), Eliza, Susan, Rebecca, Ann, Mary/Maria, and Charlotte; six of them lived to adulthood.

In 1762 and 1763, Charles Ward Apthorp purchased nearly 300 acres in Bloomingdale from two owners, Dennis Hicks and Oliver de Lancey, whose ownership can be traced back to Dutch landowners, starting with Bedlow.  I. N. Phelps Stokes, in his book The Iconography of Manhattan, details the purchases of the Apthorp Farm which was also known as Elmwood, recognizing the beautiful trees surrounding the mansion. The house was finished in the early summer of 1764, located on a hill overlooking the Hudson River.

A short drive from the home led to the Bloomingdale Road, then the westside’s main thoroughfare.  The estate also included two lanes that served as shortcuts to neighboring estates, including Apthorp Lane that stretched all the way east through the land we know as Central Park to the Boston Post Road near today’s Fifth Avenue.

The estate was described in a later advertisement:

300 acres of choice rich land, chiefly meadow, …on which there are two very fine orchards of the best fruit …an exceeding good house, elegantly furnished, commanding beautiful prospects of the East and North-Rivers, on the latter of which the estate is bounded. Also, a two-story brick house for an overseer and servants, a wash house, cyder (sic) house and mill, corn crib, a pidgeon (sic) house, well stocked, a very large barn, and hovels for cattle, large stables and coach houses, and every other convenience. About the dwelling house is a very handsome pleasure garden, in the English taste, with good kitchen gardens well furnished with excellent fruit trees of most kinds.

Here is a sketch view of Elmwood:

Apthorp Mansion possibly 1839

Charles Ward Apthorp was one of the prominent Royalists of New York City, serving on the Royal Governor’s Council 1763-1783, through the turbulent years of the American Revolution. After the Revolution, he was charged and convicted of treason, but for reasons not documented, he was permitted to keep his estate, but lost his holdings in Massachusetts and other New England states.

One account of Apthorp describes his flight to the Royal Governor’s ship in June, 1776, when he was summoned before the provincial Congress as a suspected Loyalist. In 1779 he was indicted for treason and the following year his Bloomingdale estate was offered for sale. Nevertheless, he was allowed to return to New York and acquitted of the charges against him.

The Apthorp home in Bloomingdale played a role in the 1776 Battle of Harlem Heights. As the British troops moved into Manhattan, the American Patriots moved up the island to the Bloomingdale neighborhood. Under the authorization of the Provincial Council, General Washington took over the mansion as his headquarters before moving uptown to Colonel Roger Morris’ mansion, today called the Morris Jumel mansion. On the evening of September 14, 1776, in the Apthorp drawing room, Washington and his men planned the operation that would send Nathan Hale to spy on the British on Long Island—which then cost him his life.

After the American patriots were pushed further north, the Apthorp home became the headquarters, at various times, of the British Generals Cornwallis, Clinton and Carlton for the duration of the British occupancy of the city, until 1783.

On January 3, 1789, Maria Apthorp’s wedding to Hugh Williamson took place at Elmwood. The family’s connection to the new United States appears to have been fully realized, as she married a delegate from North Carolina to the Congress which was meeting in New York City at that time. Williamson was 58 years old, compared to her 22 years—perhaps prompting James Madison’s remark to a friend that he hoped that this beautiful girl was “pleased with her bargain” and hoped she would “never repent.”  Maria died in the early 1790s, after having two sons, both dying as young men.

Hugh Williamson was both a doctor and a statesman. Older than all of the Apthorp children, he took charge of consolidating their Bloomingdale land under his name, and then paid-off a mortgage on the property. He never remarried, and when he died in 1819, he left the property to his niece Maria, daughter of Charlotte Apthorp, and the wife of Alexander Hamilton’s son.

Charlotte Augusta Apthorp married John Cornelius van den Heuvel, and they built their mansion on a portion of land south of Elmwood. Their mansion later became Burnham’s Hotel (1833) and eventually their land was the site of the Apthorp Apartment House, built in 1908.  Their granddaughter married John Jacob Astor III, thus bringing the Astor family name onto certain property deeds in the neighborhood; the Astor son, William, built the Apthorp.

Yet another Apthorp daughter, Rebecca, appears on early Bloomingdale maps as the owner of some remaining woodland lots totaling 50 acres—her name appears on mid-19th century maps.

Charles Ward Apthorp died in 1797.  In 1799, William Jauncey, a wealthy Englishman, purchased Elmwood and its remaining land. Apthorp Lane became Jauncey Lane. Accounts differ as to whether he was a married man with no children or a bachelor, but his niece, Mary Jane Jauncey (who may have been an adopted child), was destined to inherit his fortune. When she eloped with a Colonel Herman Thorne, her uncle was unhappy, but did not cut off her family. In Jauncey’s final will, he left the Elmwood estate to her son, William Jauncey Thorne, when he became 21 years old, and providing he changed his last name to Jauncey, dropping the Thorne name.

William Jauncey died in 1828;  in 1829 the Thorne family moved to Elmwood. They did not stay long, however, and moved to Paris in 1830 where they lived in lavish style in the leased Hotel Martignon on the rue de Varenne. Their son, William, never made it to his 21st birthday when he would have inherited Elmwood. He died in England at age 19 when he was thrown from a horse while hare-hunting with his Cambridge friends. A second son died while serving in the Mexican-American War; a third son eloped to South America with an Italian opera singer. A daughter ran away with a Frenchman (she later returned home); another daughter ran away to South America to become an opera singer. Still another married a French baron, but had to sue her parents to receive a promised dowry. The Thornes returned to New York in 1846, and in 1849 built a large home at 8 West 16th Street. There is no record found as to how or if they used the Elmwood estate, but retreating to the Bloomingdale countryside was still, no doubt, a popular summer activity.

News accounts of Colonel Thorne covered his ”fortunate marriage” and began to refer to “Colonel Thorne’s Elm Park.” An article about wealthy New Yorkers interested in horse racing discussed the “Elm Park Pleasure Ground Association,” a membership organization that leased the grounds of Elmwood for their track. The newspaper account indicated that the group investigated “antecedents” as part of their membership approval. No person was given access to the track “in Ninetieth Street” unless they were a member, and goes on to report “… these gentlemen, although seen with the habitues of Bloomingdale, form a quite separate class.” When Colonel Thorne died in 1859 the fast horse-racing gentlemen were concerned about the loss of their track, and were investigating moving it to the new Central Park, an early example of New Yorkers finding their space in the new park. (No such racing track was designated.)

On May 4, 1860, The New York Times printed a sad short piece about the auction of “Elm Park” and the end of an era of rural country living in Manhattan. The next day, the Times reported that the “large property belonging to the Jauncey estate, and more recently to the estate of Colonel Thorne, located between Eighty-ninth and Ninety-third Streets and Sixth and Tenth Avenues, and comprising about 500 lots,” was sold at the Merchants Exchange by Anthony J. Bleeckee. There appear to have been various bidders on pieces of the property, although not by name.

Nevertheless, some portion of the land and the old mansion house remained intact. Elm Park became a prominent feature of the Upper West Side neighborhood. In the 1860s it is referred to as “Conrad’s Elm Park.” In the 1860 federal census, a George Conrad, his wife and six children are listed as a household that the census taker labeled “Elm Park Pleasure Grounds and Elm Park Hotel.” The other people listed in the census are “three barkeepers, 3 domestics and 3 laborers.” All are German immigrants. This map of the mid-1860s shows the park’s dimensions and structures within.

Early map of the Westside showing Elm Park from NYPL Map Division

In the Civil War years, Elm Park was referred to in news accounts as the place used by various New York regiments to gather as hundreds of soldiers prepared to head to the South to fight.  Much of the city’s open space was used in this way—Jones’ Wood on the eastside, and numerous sites further downtown. These encampments in Elm Park at various times included the Lincoln Calvary, the New York Mounted Riflemen, and New York’s 29th Regiment, an all-German military unit under Col. A. von Steinwehr.

After the war, Elm Park continued to be used as a picnic ground usually following a military parade. The growing influence of German immigrants offering summer outdoor entertainments with music, dancing and beer-drinking in many places in the city included Elm Park. The Saengerbund, a confederation of German Glee Clubs, met in the city, and had picnics at Elm Park. A group gathered in the Park to watch a balloonist take off—a Frenchman who performed from a trapeze while he sailed out over the Hudson and landed in the water (he was rescued). The Spiritualist Society gathered there and generated numerous news reports, some making fun of this popular post-War activity of calling up the spirits of the departed.

Other accounts of the Apthorp Mansion indicate that it became a saloon and dance hall. Further, its abundant outdoor space could accommodate many thousands of people at summer events.  When the mansion was serving as a hotel, it was said to have a large outdoor platform for dancing at park events. Finally, when the property was sold in 1894 (after the mansion was removed) the owners/heirs were the Bernheimer family, although it was not clear how long they had been the owners. This is the same family that were owners of the Lion Brewery further uptown at Columbus Avenue and 108th Street. There is evidence of Bernheimer ownership of other lots of land close to Elm Park, as noted in real estate transactions reported in the newspapers.

On July 12, 1870, an event occurred at Elm Park that once again put this space at the heart of the city’s history. Several organizations of Protestant Irish Americans that together were part of the Loyal Order of the Orange marched uptown that day to a celebration and picnic at Elm Park. July 12 commemorated the date of the victory of the Battle of the Boyne of William III, the King of England and Prince of Orange, over James II in 1690. Just as we see this phenomenon of “race ascendancy” today, the Orangemen of New York City were in league with the nativist Anglo-Americans who were reacting to increasing immigration of Irish Catholics.

As they marched, the Orangemen passed work crews of Irish laborers laying pipe at 59th Street, and, further along, working on broadening the Boulevard (later named Broadway). They taunted the workers with slurs. The Irishmen gathered, armed with clubs, and followed the marching Protestants, and, when they reached the Park, a riot ensued. Some blamed the New York City Police Department who “withdrew” as they decided their duty had ended when the parade reached the Park. Eight people were killed on this day, and many more wounded.

This 1870 riot sparked an even larger riot in 1871, although not on the West Side. That year, the Tammany government first denied a permit for 1871, keeping their Irish constituents happy, but then succumbed to pressure from the city’s elites and issued the permit.  Historians of the city view this event as one of the key moments that loosened Tammany’s hold on the city government, as the city’s elites had “allowed” Tammany so long as the leaders could keep the immigrants under control. It took more time, but eventually Tammany was broken and a movement arose to take over city government by the ”wisest and best.”

The earlier riot in 1870 appears to have had no effect on the continuing operation of Elm Park. News accounts of the events that took place there began to refer to “Wendel’s Elm Park.” Louis Wendel had become the Park’s manager, and was linked to the management of other city spaces. If the Bernheimers owned the Elm Park space at this time, Wendel may have worked for them. By the 1880s, he had management over Elm Park, Lion Park (near the Lion Brewery), the Wendel Assembly Rooms on West 44th Street,  Schutzen Park in Brooklyn, and the West Side Casino.  When Elm Park was finally sold in the 1890s, a news story mentioned a brewery there, although there is no photo, map, or other reference to determine the existence of that facility.

Wendel was a New York character representing a time in the City’s history when Tammany still ruled. He became an Alderman in 1884 and was caught up in the “Broadway Railroad Steal” when nearly all the City’s Aldermen were said to have taken major bribes for the extension of the surface streetcar service south from Union Square. In a State Senate investigation in 1886, the Aldermen came to be known as “the Boodle Aldermen.” Eventually, some were brought to trial and convicted, but not all of them, and  Wendel escaped this fate.

Long after Elm Park had closed down, in 1907 Wendel was investigated, court martialed, and removed from his position as Captain of a New York Guard unit, the First Battery, based at the armory on West 44th Street next to his “Assembly Rooms.” Wendel was removed for stealing funds. He died in 1914, reported to be ”a broken man” living on a small allowance supplied by his wife.

In 1891, the Apthorp mansion was torn down. It was important enough in the City’s history that The New York Times wrote an “obituary” for the house, describing its history.

The Apthorp and Jauncey estates continued to create property problems in the Bloomingdale neighborhood until 1911 when a settlement was made and described in The New York Times. The little lanes crossing the Apthorp estate, as well as the Bloomingdale Road, running north/south between Amsterdam and the newly-named Broadway became parcels of land to which the heirs to the estates claimed ownership, initiating lawsuits to hold on to their parcels. Some say that these “paper roads” held up development in this West Side neighborhood until all cases were finally cleared.

Here are two photographs of the mansion just before it was demolished in 1891:

Apthorp Mansion before it was demolished

Apthorp Mansion

Bloomingdale’s Apthorp family lives on in New York City history in just a few places. Trinity Church has a family vault where Charles Ward Apthorp and other family members are interred. There is an Apthorp chair at the Metropolitan Museum, in their American collection, although it may be from the Boston branch. And, amazingly, the New York Botanical Garden has included the Apthorp Mansion in their depictions of important New York City buildings in their holiday train display.

Apthorp Mansion displayed in New York Botanical Garden holiday train show

 

Sources

Stokes, I.N. Phelps The Iconography of Manhattan Island 1498-1909 Volume 6. New York: Robert H. Dodd, 1915-1928

The New York Times archive

Columbia University’s Real Estate Record

New York Public Library’s Digital Collections – maps

Museum of the City of New York’s photo collection

Daytonian blog posts

Library of Congress Chronicling America collection of New York City newspapers

McKenney, Janice E. Women of The Constitution: Wives of the Signers (online at Google Books).

 

 

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Bloomingdale’s West 96th Street Was the Focus of the 1925 Solar Eclipse

In this summer of 2017 as we prepare for the solar eclipse on August 21, a recent reference to the 1925 eclipse in The New York Times and the importance of our Bloomingdale neighborhood inspired further research.  This event, known as the Upper Manhattan Eclipse, did not occur in the heat of summer, but on a freezing, cold day: January 24, 1925.

Predictions of the path of a solar eclipse were pretty accurate by 1925, but not perfect.  Ancient societies—including the Babylonians, the Chinese, and the Maya—had developed the ability to predict solar eclipse patterns, but it wasn’t until 1715 that astronomer Sir Edmond Halley made his critical breakthrough, using Isaac Newton’s law of gravity. This achievement enabled predictions of exactly where the eclipse would occur and how long it would last at that point.

Astronomers had predicted that the total solar eclipse in January 1925 would travel across the U.S., and the edge of the “total darkness” would hit the west side of Manhattan around 72nd Street. Everyone north of this edge would experience total darkness, while those south of it would be in the “partial” area, just as all of New York City will be this year.

However, as the 1925 eclipse proceeded, and reached totality at 9:11 AM, the edge turned out to be somewhere between West 96th and West 97th  Streets. Scientists had learned something new and added to their knowledge base. Pundits named it “The West 96th Eclipse.”

There was the usual preparation for this event in 1925 —- the news warned individuals to look at it through tinted glasses, a bit of exposed film, or even a broken piece of dark blue or brown glass. The greatest new efforts appear to have been the need to get up high in an airplane. News reports of the day reported that the 25 airplanes that took off from the Army Air Corps’ Mitchel Field on Long Island.

Another exciting feature of the day was the U.S. Navy’s airship Los Angeles which they brought to Lakehurst, New Jersey, and flew out over Montauk on the morning of the event, loaded with cameras, telescopes, and 42 people. Here’s short film of that event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7XPjfCaltw

Many spectators went up into the city’s skyscrapers, hoping to get a viewing post above ground. The Woolworth building opened their observation deck early. Although it was a Saturday, this was still a workday for many, and even the New York Stock Exchange was open, although with a delayed opening that day. Passengers on ocean liners in the harbor crowded the decks in the cold morning air.

Uptown, students crowded onto the Columbia and City College campuses, and others headed for open spaces in Central and Riverside Parks, and further uptown in Washington Heights. Many people must have been ready to just stay in bed on this Saturday morning, since the temperature was at just nine degrees, and a record-breaking 27 inches of snow had blanketed the city days before. (That record wasn’t broken until the 2011 snowstorm.)

Here is a photo owned by the Mystic Seaport Museum, Rosenfeld Collection; it’s identified as taken in New York City, and probably somewhere north of 96th Street.

1925 Eclipse photo somewhere north of 96th Street

 

On January 30, 1925, the Jewish Chronicle of Newark printed a thoughtful piece: “The Eclipse From a Moral Point of View” marveling at the work of scientists to gain every possible bit of information from the memorable event, and urging people to respect the precise methods of the scientific spirit in a world where wild rumors, malicious gossip, and subtle propaganda can often replace durable truth—something to remember this year also!

On March 7, 1970, in the mid-afternoon, there was a 96% totality solar eclipse in New York City that West Siders may remember, as many people gathered in Riverside Park to experience it. This one was made especially memorable as it was the first to be broadcast in color. (The first televised in black and white was in 1950.)

West Sider, Carly Simon, may have been inspired by this event when she wrote her hit “You’re so Vain,” singing “you flew your Lear jet up to Nova Scotia/to see a total eclipse of the sun.”

Sources

The New York Times archive

Photo posted on http://mysticseaportcollections.blogspot.com/2015/02/cold-and-darknyc-january-24-1925.html

American Museum of Natural History Planetarium blog: http://www.amnh.org/our-research/hayden-planetarium/blog/84-years-ago-the-sun-blinked-out/

Other newspapers available on www.genealogybank.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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Dining Out in Bloomingdale

Here is another piece written on places that used to be in the Bloomingdale neighborhood, written by Pam Tice, a member of the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group’s Planning Committee. Thanks go to Chuck Tice and Marjorie Cohen as editors.  All of these blog posts have been moved to the BNHG new website:  www.upperwestsidehistory.org.  We will continue to post in both places.

New York’s City’s restaurant history is a popular topic for many social historians. They have traced New York’s history of famous restaurants from the 1830s Delmonico’s on the corner of Beaver and William Streets, (moving twice as the city grew), to the lobster palaces of Times Square, to the bohemian dining of Greenwich Village. Worked into this panoply is the history of a developing middle class, the creation of social spaces where women could meet outside the home, the development of dining places for the growing office workforce of New York, and the growing acceptance of the food and cooking of the millions of immigrants who came to the city.

This post is a collection of “snippets” about restaurants found while focusing on Broadway from 86th to 110th Streets, with more emphasis north of 96th Street. The popular Automat and Schrafft’s located there already have well-researched general histories. Many old photographs of the city contain images of restaurants. Restaurant information is found in advertisements, appears in historic postcard collections, and in The Real Estate Record and Guide.  Searches through the menu collection of the New York Public Library revealed little for our Bloomingdale neighborhood. In the early twentieth century, there were no “restaurant reviews” as we have today; a restaurant was mentioned only when an incident occurred there, or changed owners, or was sold.

Restaurants as a regular feature on the city blocks of Bloomingdale did not begin until the population grew enough to produce dining patrons. From the earliest days of the Bloomingdale Roadlater the Boulevard, finally becoming Broadwaythere were inns, and they served food, but these were not restaurants in the modern sense with food offered throughout the day and evening, with a number of dishes to choose from. Typically, in an inn, the owner served a single meal at an appointed time, and the eating was communal. Saloons had been around for a long time, but their food was merely an accompaniment to drinking

The Downes Boulevard Hotel was located at Broadway and West 103rd Street. The Jones homestead between 101st and 102nd west of West End Avenue became the Abbey Hotel in 1844, but it only lasted until 1857.  In the 1890s, when the bicycling craze swept New York City, the enthusiastic cyclists streamed up Riverside Drive and Broadway, to a number of  “bicycle gardens” that served them, including Schaaf’s Bicycle Inn at the Boulevard/Broadway and 112th Street.  Some of these became the saloons and dance halls of Little Coney Island (click for previous post) along 110th Street that so irritated the real estate developers.

Downes Boulevard Hotel at Broadway and 103 Street

Downes Boulevard Hotel at Broadway and 103 Street

Cycling near Grant's Tomb NYHS photo

Cycling near Grant’s Tomb NYHS photo

Close to the Bloomingdale neighborhood was the Claremont Inn, which Marjorie Cohen wrote about in an excellent piece published in the West Side RagPeople out for a carriage drive and the cyclists relaxed at the Inn in the 1890s, and then, a little later, automobile touring groups found their way there. The Inn was recommended for summer dining in guidebooks in the 1930s-1940s before its demise in 1951.

Carriages at Claremont Inn 1895

Carriages at Claremont Inn 1895

This photo (below) shows the Colonial Restaurant on Broadway at the southwest corner of West 108th Street.   The photograph is dated circa 1910 which makes sense because the 1902 property map for that corner shows no building; on the 1912 map there is a building taking up about half the block.  The Columbia Spectator for November 1912 had an advertisement for the Colonial Restaurant at Broadway and 85th Street, with a branch at “Broadway near 110th Street. Steaks, chops and seafoods are featured, and the management also extends to the Oxford Lunch at 2546 Broadway near West 96th Street.”

Colonial Restaurant c1910 Broadway at 109 Street

Colonial Restaurant c1910 Broadway at 109 Street

From the earliest days on Morningside Heights, Columbia University students hung out at the Lion Palace on Broadway at 110th Street, which was the local saloon of the Lion Brewery located on Columbus Avenue at 107 to 109 Streets. The Lion Palace evolved into a theater, and then a movie house, the Nemo, by 1916. Another Columbia neighborhood restaurant was Kennelly’s, pictured here. Their ads in the Columbia Spectator ran from 1916 to 1922.

Kennelly's Restaurant Broadway at 111 Street

Kennelly’s Restaurant Broadway at 111 Street

Between 97th and 98th Streets on the west side of Broadway was a well-known German beer garden spot, the Unter den Linden, named for the boulevard in Berlin. Here it is on a 1916 map, showing a lot of empty space around the building, space that served outdoor diners in warmer weather.

1916 Bromley Map showing Unter den linden's location at Broadway and 97 - 98th Street

1916 Bromley Map showing Unter den linden’s location at Broadway and 97 – 98th Street

A 1933 article in The New York Times about New York’s German beer gardens mentions this particular location, as does Peter Salwen in his book Upper West Side Story. Salwen describes the shade trees, small tables and the colored lights overhead: “In May and June when the lindens shed their sweet-scented white blossoms, you could drop in after dinner to enjoy waltzes from the German band in a setting that was almost rural.”  This was also the type of place that attracted the cyclists on Sunday afternoon jaunts. Michael Susi has a postcard view of the Unter den Linden on page 72 of his Upper West Side book. By 1919, however, the Real Estate Record and Guide is reporting the sale of this corner where a 16-story apartment-hotel still stands today.

German and Austrian influence on the neighborhood is also reflected in this photo of Broadway at 104th Street, showing “Old Vienna” and “New Vienna” restaurants. This food was one of the first ethnic cuisines adopted by Americans, which eventually stretched from hot dogs to coffee cake and strudels, and to potato salad. In these early 20th century restaurants, no doubt there was Wiener schnitzel and apfelstrudel on the menu.

Old and new Vienna Restaurants Broadway and 104th Street

Old and new Vienna Restaurants Broadway and 104th Street

Another type of early 20th century restaurant is the tea room, a place where women could find light refreshment, either alone or together. Hard to imagine now, but “proper women” could not appear in a restaurant alone, or even with a female friend, in the early years of the 20th century. Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s daughter, Harriot Blatch, sued the Hoffman House in 1907 for refusing to seat a friend and herself. She lost her suit in 1909, and even an attempt by the New York State legislature to end this discrimination failed. Finally, restaurant owners recognized that a new generation of womenmore independent, educated, and earning an income should be accommodated, and they became acceptable customers. But for years, a woman dining alone was advised to “bring a book” lest anyone think she was there for a nefarious reason.

To accommodate women, department stores began to offer tea-room service. The Women’s Exchange Movement, established to help “gentlewomen” who had fallen on hard times, began to serve tea and light lunches at their locations, where women sold their hand-made items, like baby clothes, linens, and jam. The Schrafft’s restaurants, discussed below, grew out of this need to provide safe places for women diners. Here is a tea room in our neighborhood in 1935, on Broadway, between 105th and 106th Streets.

1935 Tea Room on Broadway between 105 and 106 Streets

1935 Tea Room on Broadway between 105 and 106 Streets

Restaurants developed in many of the apartment-hotels that became residential choices on the West Side. The Clendening Hotel, at Amsterdam Avenue and 103rd Street, the Marseilles at Broadway and 103rd Street, the St. George at 102nd Street, and many others had dining rooms for their guests and other customers. In their advertisements, hotels offered the European Plan (accommodation, no food) or the American Plan (room rent with three meals). At the St. George, lunch was priced from 40 cents, and dinner from 60 cents. This one from the West End Hotel on 125th Street is typical of this type of restaurant.

Clendening Hotel

Clendening Hotel

West End Hotel Menu 1

West End Hotel Menu 1

West End Hotel Menu 2

West End Hotel Menu 2

 

At both the northwest and southwest corners of 100th Street and Broadway there wereand still arerestaurants. The building that houses the Metro Diner today was established in 1871 as the Boulevard House; Peter Doelger bought it in 1894, adding to his line of saloons. For a while it became “Conroy’s”my friend Rich Conroy discovered one of his ancestors had lived upstairs there, Irish-born John Conroy, with his wife and four children. The building has never been landmarked, but it has been altered, and steel-beamed, and it’s a miracle that it still exists.

Old Saloon at Broadway and 100th Street

Old Saloon at Broadway and 100th Street

On the southwest corner, the two-story Carleton Terrace restaurant stood until, in 1923, the 15-story Carleton Terrace Hotel was built, and offered a roof-garden dining spot, another restaurant style of that era. Rooftop dining and dancing was popular in the hot summer days before air conditioning. Michael Susi includes a photo of the Carleton roof in his book on page 72. The Carleton Terrace later became the Whitehall Hotel.

Carleton Terrace at Broadway and 100th Street

Carleton Terrace at Broadway and 100th Street

 

View of Carleton Terrace and old saloon, photo thanks to Caitlin Hawke

View of Carleton Terrace and old saloon, photo thanks to Caitlin Hawke

Whitehall Hotel Restaurant, photo thanks to Caitlin Hawke

Whitehall Hotel Restaurant, photo thanks to Caitlin Hawke

Another popular restaurant, Archambault’s, was at the southwest corner of Broadway and 102nd Street. The owner, F. A. Archambault, was the “proprietor” of the Hotel Belleclaire at 77th Streetalso the site of a popular roof-garden restaurant. Archambault’s lasted for several years, gaining a newspaper mention in 1913 when Mrs. Strauss’ maid, “melancholic,” tried to jump from the fourth floor of the apartment building that housed the restaurant, bringing all the diners out to the street. Mrs. Strauss hung on to her maid, and she was rescued.  In 1929, William Childs of the Childs-restaurant family bought the restaurant to develop a chain of restaurants patterned after foreign destinations, naming it “Old Algiers.”

The opening of the IRT subway along Broadway in 1904 spurred the growth of the neighborhood. Early immigrants who had settled on the Lower East Side moved to the neighborhood, bringing what one writer called the Lower East Side’s “gift of the Jewish deli.” These food stores and restaurants soon became a popular feature. I could not find one north of 96th Street of the size and reputation of those stores at 86th Street and further south.  The word “delicatessen” was of German origin, and meant a place that served and sold cured meats and sausages. Barney Greengrass, on Amsterdam at 86th Street, with both meat and fish offerings, was established in 1908, and is still there, as is Fine and Shapiro on 72nd Street.  Artie’s at 83rd Street and Broadway is attempting a revival of this style.

Of course the new residents brought the dairy restaurants too. Steinberg’s Dairy Restaurant was on Broadway’s east side between 81st and 82nd; their sign was recently uncovered when the Town Shop moved, causing neighborhood memories to reawaken. But just because I did not find a photo or a mention in our neighborhood north of 96th Street, doesn’t mean one did not then exist.

Steinberg's advertisement

Steinberg’s advertisement

An eating craze that began before the turn of the 20th century was an adaptation of authentic Chinese food: chop suey. I found an 1911 advertisement for a chop suey place in the Columbia neighborhood, and others may have existed on our Bloomingdale blocks.  Much later, when Americans had been introduced to many other Chinese cuisines, our neighborhood became well-known for its Sichuan restaurants.

Much has been written about fast-food dining getting its start in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Our neighborhood developed three restaurants operating in this mode. At first I wondered why the Automat and Schrafft’s chose their locations, since we are not a commercial neighborhood of offices and big department stores. However, we were an area with a dense population, and had lots of movie theaters between 96th and 110th Streets, including the Nemo, the Olympia, the Midtown, the Stoddard, the Riviera, and the Riverside. Pre- and post-theater dining spots were necessary.

The Automat building on the southeast corner of Broadway and 104th Street is one of our neighborhood landmarks today. Built in 1930, it lasted until 1954. The popular Automats introduced “waiter-less dining,” standardized and predictable food items, and the added attraction of the mechanized offering of food when nickels were put in a slot. Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart brought the Swiss-invented, German-manufactured equipment to Philadelphia, and then branched out to New York City in 1912.

When the last Automat closed in 1991 (on Third Avenue at 42nd Street) many nostalgic articles were written. Our Automat at 104th Street had the distinction of being the site of the mysterious deaths of two persons in 1934. A despondent man committed suicide by placing cyanide in a roll, and, after leaving it on a plate at a table to go to the men’s room, a neighborhood woman took the remains and also died. This story has become a cautionary tale, with the lesson of never, ever eating any leftovers in a restaurant.

Automat on Broadway at 104th Street

Automat on Broadway at 104th Street

On the northeast corner of West 104th Street, the Broadway View Hotel was built in the 1920s, replacing the Metropolitan Tabernacle that had been located there. Lost in foreclosure in 1933, the hotel became the Regent, and a Riker’s took the corner store in 1947. This chain of what we would call a coffee shop today had locations all around Manhattan, and even had its own dishes, as pictured.  One in Greenwich Village has been identified as the place Edward Hopper chose to make his famous painting “Nighthawks,” a work of art that has come to represent the loneliness of the large city.

Riker's China

Riker’s China

Our neighborhood Riker’s is best known for hiring ceramicist Michael Spivak to design swirling mosaic abstract murals for its corner columns, an artwork that has (miraculously!) partially lasted to today. The scaffolding currently around the building makes a good photo harder to take today, but here is a portion of the artwork.

Riker's mosaic Broadway at 104th Street Pam Tice photo

Riker’s mosaic Broadway at 104th Street Pam Tice photo

Mosaic detail Broadway at 104 Street, photo by Pam Tice

Mosaic detail Broadway at 104 Street, photo by Pam Tice

Our neighborhood Schrafft’s was located on the ground floor of the apartment building stretching from 107th to 108th Streets on the east side of Broadway, today the space occupied by the Garden of Eden. There was another one at Broadway and 82nd Street, where Barnes and Noble is now located. Schrafft’s began as a candy shop owned by a Bostonian, William G. Schrafft. Frank Shattuck owned a chain of the stores, and it was his sister who suggested providing light lunches for “ladies” and the idea took off, particularly in New York’s shopping districts where there were many lunching (and working) women  who wanted a place to eat where they would be comfortable. The shops were a “retreat” from the bustle of the city, and served predictable comfort food, like creamed chicken and lobster Newburg, but also offered banana splits and ice cream sundaes, as the “special treat” that dining out could provide, and a place to bring a deserving child. All of them had candy counters ready to provide a take-home box of chocolates. They became cultural icons, with The New Yorker providing regular comical snippets “overheard at Schrafft’s.” Even W. H. Auden composed a poem in 1947 “In Schrafft’s.”

Schrafft's at 2786 Broadway, 1930, MCNY photo

Schrafft’s at 2786 Broadway, 1930, MCNY photo

Schrafft's 2786 Broadway, interior, MCNY photo

Schrafft’s 2786 Broadway, interior, MCNY photo

Finally, there was a restaurant called Cecil at the Hotel Narraganset on Broadway at 93rd Street.

Cecil Restaurant Broadway at 94th Street 1924

Cecil Restaurant Broadway at 94th Street 1924

Moving away from Broadway, just a couple of other dining spots in the Bloomingdale neighborhood include:

  • The Campus Restaurant run by the Gossler Brothers, taking advantage of the El’s 104th Street stop, at 900-906 Columbus Avenue. This 1919 postcard shows the wonderful time everyone is having at this neighborhood spot. It’s mentioned numerous times in the 1920s in the Columbia Spectator as a place for student organizations’ dinner meetings.
Postcard of Gossler's, Columbus Avenue and 104 at the El stop

Postcard of Gossler’s, Columbus Avenue and 104 at the El stop

  • Chateau Stanley at 163 West 97th Street where PS 163 is located today.  Before Chateau Stanley was located there in the 1920s, the space was Peter’s Italian Table D’Hote Restaurant in 1910, a place I was glad to find, as Italian dining was another “foreign” food that Americans adopted as restaurants developed early in the twentieth century. Michael Susi has photos of both in his postcard collection book, page 91.
Chateau Stanley on West 97th where PS 163 is today

Chateau Stanley on West 97th where PS 163 is today

Chateau Stanley advertisement

Chateau Stanley advertisement

Sources

Michael V. Susi. The Upper West Side. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2009

James Trager. West of Fifth: The Rise and Fall of Manhattan’s West Side. New York: Atheneum, 1987

Peter Salwen. Upper West Side Story, A History and Guide. New York: Abbeville Press, 1989

Michael Lesy and Lisa Stoffer. Repast: Dining Out at the Dawn of the New American Century 1900-1910. New York: W.W. Norton, 2013

Michael and Ariane Batterberry.  On The Town in New York. New York: Routledge, 1999

The New York Times archive

The New Yorker archive

Real Estate Record and Guide available online

The Library of Congress newspaper archive, Chronicling America

Website: www.restaurant-ingthroughhistory.com

Digitized photo and map collections of the New York Public Library

Digitized photo collection of The Museum of the City of New York

Numerous sites found while Googling restaurant names.

 

 

 

 

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¡Unidad Latina! — Political Activism on the UWS in the 1960s and 70s

On June 7, 2016, the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group presented a program about political activism on the UWS in the 1960s and 70s. The main speaker was Rose Muzio, Professor of Politics at SUNY Old Westbury and author of Radical Imagination, Radical Humanity: Puerto Rican Political Activism in New York. The program was rich in detail. The following is a summary of some of that program only based on notes I took during the presentations.  — Jay Hauben

PHOTO BY MAXIMO COLON Reprinted by permission

PHOTO BY MAXIMO COLON
Reprinted by permission

Rose Muzio, who had been a member of El Comité-MINP which started in the UWS in 1970, began her presentation by describing the harsh conditions in NYC for Black and Latinos in the 1950s and 1960s. She asked why in the 1940s and 1950s did so many Puerto Ricans leave their beautiful island. Her answer was PR is a colony. Mainland companies took much PR agricultural land for manufacturing leading to high unemployment. Local governments encouraged migration so as to deal with the unemployment and discontent. For a while there were manufacturing jobs in NYC. When NYC deindustrialized in the 1960s and 1970s, more than 500,000 jobs were lost. Unemployment among Blacks and Puerto Ricans was two times the overall unemployment rate in NYC. Meanwhile school segregation was increasing and Blacks, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans were on average charged higher rents for worse housing than other people.

But this was a time of decolonization and rising expectations around the world. The anti colonial movements, the Cuban Revolution for a more equal society and the anti-VN War movement were inspirational. Resistance groups and movements in the US arose to oppose economic inequality and racism, e.g., the Black Panthers, the Brown Berets, and in NYC CORE, the Young Lords, student groups at Columbia and CUNY and worker groups. After emerging in 1969 in East Harlem, a branch of the Young Lords advocated for community control and independence for Puerto Rico. In a famous garbage offensive they gathered the garbage that NYC did not remove from East Harlem streets and made a big heap on Third Ave, lighting it on fire. The resulting media coverage raised the profile of Puerto Rican grievances.

Rose Muzio gave this as background for the UWS squatters movement called Operation Move-In* that opposed urban renewal (urban removal). In 1970, after a young boy, Jimmy Santos, died from carbon monoxide poisoning in a first-floor apartment on West 106th Street, anger exploded. People broke into buildings that were boarded up waiting for demolition as part of urban renewal and occupied them by moving families in. This was followed by a group of young Puerto Rican and one Dominican softball players occupying a storefront on Columbus Ave near 88th Street. Those young Latinos became El Comité. Over time El Comité transformed into a political group which won the first district-wide bilingual program. That program benefited all the mono-lingual students. El Comité forced Channel 13 which was a public TV station (PBS) to do a series on Latinos in NYC. They did that by breaking into the station while it was on the air and making a statement that was broadcast live. El Comité started a Latina unity organization that gave strength to women to take on many challenges. El Comité formed a Black and Puerto Rican construction workers coalition which forced the city to open its construction jobs across race lines. They issued a bi-weekly newsletter, Unidad Latina, which routinely contained articles addressing local issues as well as the struggle for independence in Puerto Rican. There were also projects that did not succeed but El Comité inspired people and drew them into more collective action.

Rose Muzio ended her presentation by saying El Comité helped her set the foundation for her life and her life’s work and continues to inspire former members and those touched by the group which disbanded in 1986.

Next, Máximo Rafael Colón showed many of the wonderful photographs he took documenting the marches and struggles in the 1960s and beyond. In his photos were many of the activists that went on to be leaders in the movements that emerged. Interesting to me many of them became journalists** like Pablo Guzman and Juan Gonzales. Colón called attention to the Puerto Rican political prisoners over the years and especially Oscar López Rivera who is still in prison after 35 years. Oscar López Rivera committed no violent crime. His crime was called sedition, thinking that there has to be a change, independence for Puerto Rico. Colón called Oscar López Rivera the Nelson Mandela of the Puerto Rican people. In 1971, the Young Lords and El Comité objected to the Puerto Rican Day Parade appearing as a spectacle of Puerto Rican compliance with the institutions of oppression. Some of the photos showed the fight against the Parade Committee. One photo showed activists marching in the parade. Colón also called our attention to the Broadway Local whose members were white youth facing the same contradictions and fighting for progressive change and to the East Harlem Rainbow Coalition which marched in support of the presidential candidacy of Rev Jesse Jackson.

There followed a panel of four women, Carman Martell, Ana Juarbe, Annie Lizardi and Lourdes Garcia who lived and worked in the UWS and were politicized by the movement all around them. Coincidentally two of the women moved from PR to around 101nd St in the early 1950s. One of the women was three years old at the time the other was seven when they arrived from PR. The four women told about how they used their lives for social purposes. The last of the four panelists was Lourdes Garcia who told many details of the economic situation in PR today.

It was clear that the harsh conditions in the UWS in the 1950s and 1960s, the political activism these conditions gave rise to and the struggle for Puerto Rican Independence helped these women and many other people become conscious political actors for the rest of their lives.

*1970 Squatters’ Movement

Factors such as urban renewal, the physical expansion of major institutions like Columbia University, and the lack of sufficient public housing made it very difficult for low-income families to find housing in New York City during the late 1960s. During the summer of 1970, communities responded with a squatter movement which installed over 300 families in vacant apartments across the city. Most of these squatted apartments, frequently slated for demolition in urban renewal areas, were owned by the city or by large institutions. Led by African-American and Latino families, this squatter movement received support from Met Council on Housing in the form of help with repairs, negotiations with landlords and fighting evictions. Squatters succeeded in delaying institutional expansion into Morningside Heights. Some landlords yielded to demands, providing services in squatted apartments and for a few, the right to remain in their new homes. The squatter movement gained significant media coverage, giving exposure to critical housing issues such as urban renewal, property speculation, long-term vacancies and the need for affordable housing.

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** Legendary New York City newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin once joked that the Young Lords, a militant Puerto Rican group, produced more great journalists than Columbia University’s journalism school. Several alumnae of the Young Lords did go on to careers as journalists after raising hell in the streets of Spanish Harlem. A few even made their marks in public media.

How a militant Puerto Rican activist group influenced public media

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