12 Gay Street: Where the Ghosts still come to Party

This quiet house on Gay Street, built in 1827, was once a bustling speakeasy and the home of a mayor’s mistress. Thanks to its name, this charming little street happens to be one of the city’s most photographed.  Alas, it was called “Gay Street” long before the word “gay” developed its present meaning. The street…

House of Death

This serene-looking brownstone, built in the 1850s, witnessed 22 deaths. Their spirits never left . . . This dignified yet unremarkable house that stands on one of the Greenwich Village’s loveliest blocks, has earned a reputation as one of the most haunted places in the city. Built in the 1850s as a single family house,…

75½ Bedford Street: A Tiny House with a Huge History

This tiny, 9 1/2-foot-wide house used to be a carriage entranceway for the neighboring house, but in 1873 was turned into a small home—the narrowest in the city! From then on, it was owned by various tradespeople, functioning at different times as a cobbler’s shop and even as a candy factory. But its life as a…

St. Paul’s—a Chapel Older than the United States

Built in 1766, St. Paul’s is New York City’s oldest public building in continuous use as well as Manhattan’s oldest surviving church building. After Manhattan fell to the British in 1776, a raging fire set the city ablaze. Nobody knows for certain whether the fire was an accident or an act of arson by retreating…

New York City Hall

The first city hall in Manhattan was built the mid-17th century by the Dutch. It was located in the City Tavern on Pearl Street and served beer. The city’s second city hall, built at the beginning of 18th century by the British, stood on Wall Street. After the British were gone and New York City…

Cartier Building—A Pearl of Fifth Avenue

It’s not so much the shimmering beauty of natural pearls that made them more valuable than diamonds during the Gilded Age, but rather the danger inherent in the task of finding the perfect pearl. The divers plunged deep into the waters in search of the gems—alas, most of the mollusks were empty or the pearls…

St. Thomas—Medieval Church on 5th Avenue

The St. Thomas church we now see is not the first St. Thomas on 5th Avenue. Its predecessor, St. Thomas by Richard Upjohn, stood on the same spot from 1870 to 1905. Nestled among 5th Avenue’s most spectacular Gilded Age mansions, it was the parish of the wealthiest—where the Vanderbilts themselves came to worship. The…

Neue Gallery—Grace Vanderbilt’s “Gardener’s Cottage”

The beautiful mansion that houses Neue Gallery was modeled on the 17th-century Place des Vosges in Paris. It was designed in 1914 by the architectural firm of Carrère and Hastings, well-known for their Beaux-Arts masterpieces such as the New York Public Library. While most of the grand, single-family mansions of Fifth Avenue were destroyed in…

A.T. Stewart’s Valuable Bones

It can certainly be considered a sign of success when even your bones have monetary value. Not too many people in history have had their bones stolen and held for ransom, but Alexander Turney Stewart was one such person. A.T. Stewart, an Irish immigrant, pioneered the concept of modern shopping. The idea that seemingly existed…

Anna Held—the First Star of Ziegfeld Follies

Whatever she lacked in talent, she more than made up for with her spectacular looks and playful flamboyancy. With her hourglass figure, flirty personality, and love of show business, Anna Held completely captivated America’s collective imagination as one of the turn-of-the-century’s most glamorous stars. The original leading lady of the Ziegfeld Follies and the first…

Marble Palace—the First Department Store in the Nation

A.T. Stewart, an Irish immigrant with a genius for commerce, is credited with the invention of modern day shopping. He came up with such groundbreaking concepts as ready-to-wear clothes, garment displays in store windows, and clearly marked price-tags. He was the first to offer his customers fixed prices, eliminating the undignified process of bargaining. He…

Grand Central Terminal—a Beaux-Arts Masterpiece

Grand Central Terminal, built in 1913 to replace a previous outdated structure, stands as a grandiose Beaux-Arts edifice. Beaux-Arts, the academic architectural style taught at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris during the 1830s-90s, was based on the aesthetic principles of neoclassicism. It became popular in America as a result of the City Beautiful movement,…