Hangman’s Elm—the Oldest Living Tree in Manhattan

The sprawling English elm, which has been standing at the northwest corner of Washington Square Park for the last 300 years, is the oldest living tree in Manhattan. It was planted in 1679, a mere 15 years after the English took over the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam and renamed it New York. The tree’s…

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…

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…

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…

Grace Church—Marble, Talent, and Nepotism

The earliest example of Gothic Revival architecture in New York City, it was the very first commission of James Renwick Jr., who went on to design St. Patrick’s Cathedral and earn his place as one of America’s most prominent architects.

Airship Docking Station on Top of the Empire State

If you’ve ever arrived in NYC via one of the major airports, you must have fantasized about landing miraculously in the middle of Manhattan instead. Turns out that such a seemingly ridiculous idea was once actually considered. In the late 20s it was believed that cross-Atlantic travel would soon be executed using zeppelins or dirigibles….

The Longest Survived Elevator Fall in History

The Empire State Building has more than a fair share of earth-shattering records: it was the tallest in the world for astounding 41 years and was built with the lightening speed of 410 days. Yet it has another lesser known but no less astonishing record:  it was the location of the longest survived elevator fall…