Thumbing through the 1935 book Magical City : Intimate Sketches of New York by Vernon Howe Bailey, with accompanying notes by Arthur Bartlett Maurice, I recently discovered some treasures in the city that I didn’t realize existed, which is crazy since I’ve been working in the city for 30 years.
Exhibit A is Colonnade Row, a beautiful Greek Revival building in lower Manhattan. Maurice describes the building, which was formerly known as La Grange Terrace as an elegant neighborhood in the 1830s (when it was built). “Aristocratic families” settled there and made it a “social center”. By the 1880s the neighborhood became a publishing center for magazines with a half dozen housed there. He describes how in 1935 the building was occupied by an Italian restaurant in the center, flanked by little business offices. Colonnade Row still exits on Lafayette Street and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
Colonnade Row as drown by Vernon Howe Bailey in 1935
As Maurice describes Coenties Slip: “At the head of the Slip, where the Elevated road winds its way along Pearl Street on its way from South Ferry to Hanover Square, stood the Stadt Huys of Dutch days, the first City Hall on Manhattan Island. After the Erie Canal was finished in 1825, the slip, then only a tiny corner of what it is today, harbored many of the canal boats that plied along the new waterway connecting the Atlantic and the Great Lakes. Ten years later the land was filled in, bringing the Slip down to a new water’s edge on South Street. New buildings went up, only to be destroyed within a few months in the great fire of December, 1835. Below is the image of Coenties Slip that Bailey drew in 1935. Note the elevated train which no longer exists, although Coentis Slip still exists in the Financial District near Pearl and South Streets.”
Herman Melville Moby Dick begins with a scene of Manhattanites dreaming they are at sea: “Go from Corlears Hook to Coenties Slip.” Ishmael says.
Coenties Slip in Lower Manhattan
The Hall of Fame
The semicircular colonnade round the Gould Memorial Library on University Heights, the Bronx, is the main section of the Hall of Fame, designed to perpetuate the memory of America’s most famous sons and daughters. The names selected at the first meeting were George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Webster, Benjamin Franklin, U.S. Grant, John Marshall, Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry W. Longfellow, Robert Fulton, Washington Irving, Jonathan Edwards, Samuel F.B. Morse, David G. Farragut, Henry Clay and a dozen more including Edgar Allen Poe. The image illustrated in the book shows a beautiful building set up on a bluff, and I thought how sad it was that such a building was lost, until I Googled it. Alas, the Hall of Fame survives and is part of the Bronx Community College. It was built in 1900 as part of NYU’s University Heights Campus.
The Hall of Fame in the Bronx
What a stunning image of the Central Synagogue in the book, drawn with a streetcar passing by, ladies dressed as flappers standing nearby and romantic 1930 style cars driving by. What a shame I never got to see the building located on Lexington Avenue between 54th and 55th Street. Surely, I thought it had been replaced by office buildings or apartments. Alas, the Moorish Revival style building still stands and is a thing of beauty among the skyscrapers. Poignantly the book points out that “Recently the Synagogue has been active in caring for the German refugees from the Hitler rule.”
The Central Synagogue on Lexington Avenue between 54th in 55th Street
All four items featured here are worth visiting today, as modern day wonder of this great city. We have a nice selection of books about New York on our website: