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…

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…

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…

Rocking Chair Riots of 1901 in Madison Square Park

New York City has seen its fair share of civil unrest. One of them, however unlikely, was caused by rocking chairs and took place in Madison Square Park. The upscale Madison Square Park neighborhood, located in front of the posh Fifth Avenue Hotel, teamed with elegantly dressed and well heeled elites. One day in 1901,…

Books About New York

Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 (The History of NYC Series), Edwin G. Burrows, Mike Wallace The Island at the Center of the World, Russell Shorto Inside the Apple: A Streetwise History of New York City, Michelle Nevius, James Nevius Footprints in New York: Tracing the Lives of Four Centuries of New…

Central Park — the First Landscaped Public Park in the Nation

Central Park, the green wonder of New York, is the first designed urban park in the United States. It’s not the largest park in New York, falling in size behind Pelham Bay and Van Cortlandt Parks in Bronx, Greenbelt Park in Staten Island, and Flushing Meadows/Corona Park in Queens. Nevertheless, at 843 acres it is…

How the Metropolitan Museum was Born

On July 4, 1866, while celebrating America’s Independence Day in Paris, a group of American businessmen, financiers, artists, and thinkers of the day decided that New York City needed its own art museum. Thus, the idea of the Metropolitan Museum of Art was born. After four years of discussions in which American civic leaders, art…

New York Yacht Club, Born in Hoboken

Despite its name, the New York Yacht Club, one of the world’s most exclusive private clubs, was not formed in New York. The club was established and originally located across the Hudson River – in Hoboken. The idea was born during an outing on John Cox Steven’s yacht Gimcrack. While on the boat, a group of…

Sybil’s Cave and the Unsolved Murder of the Beautiful Cigar Girl

A recreational destination for 19th-century leisure seekers, Sybil’s Cave, achieved fame, or infamy rather, as the site of an unsolved murder. Sybil’s Cave was created in 1832 by the Stevens family as a folly. The man-made cave, adorned with an elaborate Gothic-style entrance, was built around a natural spring and served as a cafe where…

The Witch of Wall Street: the Legend of Hetty Green

There are people so odd, and so easy to loath, that their character loses its human form and becomes the stuff of legends. One such individual was a woman who went down in history as the “Witch of Wall Street.” She was awarded the title of the world’s greatest miser by the Guinness Book of…

Ode to a Brownstone

The character of New York’s many residential streets is defined by the perfect rhythm and uniformity of adjacent houses lined up in rows right next to one another and forming a solid street facade. Combining Yankee practicality with the romantic old-world feel, the brownstones are the soul of 19th century New York. Built all over…