Many lives of Castle Clinton

A chameleon of function, Castle Clinton had many reincarnations, and it’s not finished changing yet. Built as a fortification, the masonry circular structure has functioned as an exhibition hall, theater, immigration station, public aquarium, and national monument. 1811-1822 Military Fort Along with other forts on Bedloe (Liberty) Island, Ellis Island, and Governor’s Island built to…

Jefferson Market Library – details that tell a story

Elaborate buildings’ details are often more than mere decorations–they convey meaning and tell a story. One of the most beautiful structures in New York’s architectural landscape is the spectacular Jefferson Market Library. Built a part of a multifunctional complex that included a jail, a market, and a fire tower, it used to house a courthouse….

Merchant House–a home saved by a love story

There is a lonely 19th-century house on East 4th Street. The only relic from the by-gone era, it owes its survival to a women’s broken heart. The house was bought in 1835 by Seabury Tredwell, a wealthy New York merchant. Mr. and Mrs. Tredwell oversaw a lively household consisting of their eight children, many relatives,…

Union Square Drinking Fountain

A female personification of Charity—a woman with two children holding a water pitcher—is not just a statue . . . it used to be a drinking fountain. One of the oldest in the NYC park system, the Union Square Drinking Fountain is also called James Fountain, reflecting the name of its donor, philanthropist Daniel Willis…

Hess Triangle — the smallest piece of private property in New York City

The tiny triangle in front of Village Cigars on Seventh Ave proudly displaying the words “Property of the Hess Estate Which Has Never Been Dedicated For Public Purposes” can easily be overlooked. Despite its small size, however, the triangle has a large story. In order to lay down new subway lines and extend 7th Ave…

The General Worth Monument—a gravesite in the middle of Broadway

The small pedestrian island bordered by 25th Street, Broadway, and 5th Avenue—where people regularly enjoy views of the Flatiron while reading, talking, sunbathing, or having a light snack—is actually a burial ground. The body of General Worth, hero of the Mexican War of 1846-1848, rests in peace under the obelisk. Most find their final resting…

Chester Arthur: the statue that kept losing its glasses

Sculptor: George Edwin BissellArchitect: James Brown LordDedicated: 1899 When serving as the 21st president of the United States, Chester Arthur exceeded all expectations. This was due in large part to the fact that nobody expected that much . . . One of the least-remembered presidents, he was known during his lifetime to be an exceptional…

William H. Seward Monument—it’s all about proportion

William H. Seward was a towering figure in 19th-century politics. Serving at different times as a senator, New York governor, and secretary of state (under Abraham Lincoln), he is credited with blocking the European recognition of the Confederacy as well as negotiating the anti-slave trade treaty with Great Britain, among other notable achievements. He was…

Tilden Mansion: Victorian facade and political scandal

Though Samuel Tilden failed to become an American president, he succeeded in creating a masterpiece of a home. While working as an attorney in 1863, Samuel J. Tilden purchased a home in Gramercy—the most fashionable area in town at the time. When he became governor of New York in 1874, he bought a mansion at…

The Illustrious Residents of Gramercy Park

The neighborhood of Gramercy is defined by a most unique feature: a private park. But it has attracted such an impressive number of notable personalities that the list of Gramercy Park residents may very well rival its “private park” reputation. #3&4 – James Harper (resident from 1847 to 1869) James Harper was the mayor of New York…

A Dutch Tradition in Gramercy

Even though New York City started its story as New Amsterdam, there is very little of the old Dutch town left to see. Through the years, the Dutch-looking houses perished or simply were replaced by newer structures. However, a small remnant of the old Dutch tradition can still be found in front of the house…

Grove Court—the Setting of O.Henry‘s Story

Grove Court was the setting of O. Henry‘s “The Last Leaf,” which tells the story of a sick woman who—looking from her sick bed at a vine through her window—convinces herself that she’ll die when the last leaf falls. But thanks to the power of art, she never sees the last leaf fall. A frustrated,…