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

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

The Witch of Wall Street – the legend of Hetty Green

There are people so odd, so easy to loath, that their character loses its human form and becomes the stuff of legends. One such person was the 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 World…

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…

Mamie Fish – the “Fun-Maker” of the Gilded Age

    “Can I get something for your throat, dear?” – inquired Mr. Stuyvesant Fish. His wife retorted: “Yes, this diamond and pearl necklace I saw today at Tiffany’s.” The most irreverent broad of the Gilded Age, Marion (“Mamie”) Fish did not shine with beauty. Nore with education. Heavyset, stern, barely literate, and often quite…

Washington Square Arch – a Triumphal Arch and a Small Revolution

Triumphal Arch was built to celebrate the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration as the first President of the United States. Location: Washington Square South @ 5th Ave Opened: 1892 Architect: Stanford White Sculptors: Hermon Atkins MacNeil, Alexander Stirling Calder Style: Beaux-Arts Built to celebrate the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration as the nation’s first President,…

Stuyvesant Fish House @ 19 Gramercy Park South

The house at 19 Gramercy Park South does not look like much from the outside. But do not be fooled by the modesty of the facade – a hold out from the Gilded Age era, it just might be “the Greatest Private House in New York.” By the 1870s, the Gramercy Park neighborhood had become…

Pomona of the Pulitzer Fountain

Architect: Thomas Hastings;  Sculpture: Karl Bitter, Isidore Conti Date: 1916 Location: Grand Army Plaza at Fifth Avenue between 58th and 59th Streets. The exquisite female figure atop the fountain in front of the Plaza Hotel is an allegorical depiction of Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruitful abundance. Symbolizing bounty, she holds a basket of fruit as…

Mrs. Astor and “The Four Hundred”

  The winter social season in Gilded Age New York, which started in October and lasted until Easter, was a whirlwind of frantic activity that featured dinner parties, luncheons, receptions, opera performances and, of course, balls. The single most important event of the season was undisputably the annual ball thrown by Mrs. Astor, which always…

The Waldorf-Astoria: hyphenated hotel and a family scandal

Most family scandals don’t result in hotel construction. However, the famed Waldorf-Astoria owes its existence to the Astor family quarrel. The Astor fortune was divided between two branches of the Astor family headed by the two grandsons of the dynasty founder – John Jacob Astor III and William Backhouse Astor, Jr. Each of them had…