The city recently made over 870,000 photos available from the Municipal Archives. Jen Carlson at Gothamist has been digging through that pile of wonder and has been placing thematic collections online a few times a week. Friday's gallery of urban bicyclists caught my attention because the top photo here was taken at 119th and Manhattan Ave, which I often walk past on my daily commute.
Almost nothing on this block in the 1931 photo is there today. The building in the background at left (in front of the elevated tracks) is the only building that remains on the block. The Ninth Avenue El ceased operation in 1940. Even the fire hydrant has been replaced (albeit in the same spot)!
The emptiness of this part of Harlem stands out when you look at the aerial photo from 1996. Sometimes I curse myself for not having the foresight to photograph all the vacant lots when I moved into the neighborhood.
Last month I had the pleasure of visiting Washington DC with some Bay Staters. One afternoon was spent at George Washington's Mount Vernon estate. We got a tour through the house (no photos allowed) and wandered around the grounds where we saw the lower garden, the wharf on the Potomac, a horse barn, a slave cabin and Washington's tomb. We also toured the museum where George's dentures are displayed (no photos allowed).
Yes, that is a cherry tree in the middle photo. The garden had a variety of fruit trees shaped to grow low to the ground. The giant tulip poplar was planted by Washington himself in 1785.
Did you know that after the revolution George operated one of the largest distilleries in the new country?
According to legend it was on this date in 1626 that Peter Minuit bought Manhattan Island from the Lenape people who inhabited the island. The sale took place under a tulip tree in what is now Inwood Hill Park. The tulip tree fell in 1938. In its place is this glacial erratic and plaque.
Jumping back to New York, but staying with the revolution theme, this little monument within a circle certainly looks peaceful enough but it has had a contentious history. The monument is to British Major John Andre, who plotted with Benedict Arnold to turn West Point over to the British. Those plans went awry and Andre was soon caught in Tarrytown. He was then brought across the Hudson to Washington's headquarters in Tappan. Andre was tried and convicted in the '76 House tavern (still open after 230 years!). The monument, is maybe a half-mile away from the center of Tappan and is where Andre was hung and buried.
Andre's remains were returned to England in 1821. In 1879, Cyrus Field, who laid the first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable, paid for this monument. Despite being a century after the revolution, the monument was controversial and was vandalized and blown up. Field replaced the original monument with the current one and surrounded the new monument with the iron fence. Someone tried again to blow it up in 1885, but it's been pretty peaceful since then. After Field died his heirs refused to pay the property tax on the small plot of land and Rockland County, which could not find a buyer, took possession.
The tacky brass plaque commemorating "the fortitude of Washington and his generals" was attached to the monument by the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society in 1905.
If you're really motivated and read the pages I've linked to you'll notice some confusion about the ownership of the land. Rockland County says they took possession from the ASHPS in 1983. Other sources say the county got the land in 1904. If it weren't past my bedtime I'd investigate further.
Let's get away from New York and go to Texas. Back in October I went to a conference in San Antonio and took a couple of days off while I was there. The hotel I stayed at was a block away from the Alamo and I walked by the historic grounds several times a day. As you can see it is much quieter at night!
The old mission building is a shrine to where a small group of Texas defenders held General Santa Anna's army at bay for nearly two weeks. Elsewhere on the beautiful grounds is an excellent museum that tells the story of the events that led up to the Battle of the Alamo and the Texas revolution, a gift shop, and very large Koi swimming around in what was once the irrigation channels. Definitely go if you're visiting San Antonio.
As the name of that railroad implies, this is how you would have gone from Hoboken to Buffalo in the early 20th century. That route closed down ages ago but there are still commuters who make the long trek between Port Jervis and Hoboken every day.
Part of the Port Jervis Line was wrecked by Hurricane Irene so no trains were passing overhead when I was there. The line has been repaired and brought back into service so maybe I need to make a return visit.
I couldn't fit the big panoramic photo above so here you go.
Visitors going to Lincoln's tomb have no choice but to pass by Mr. Accordion, Roy Bertelli. As the story goes Mr. Bertelli was pleased as punch when he was able to buy the triangular plot near the entrance to Oak Ridge Cemetery. A couple weeks after his purchase he got a letter from the cemetery saying they had sold him the plot in error. What set Mr. Bertelli off, though, was the letter that followed from the cemetery's lawyer. The lawyer demanded that Bertelli return the plot, otherwise the cemetery would take him to court.
Well, the crypt is there in the cemetery today so we know how that story turned out. Bertelli purchased an above ground crypt and a tablet with an accordion engraved upon it. Apparently Bertelli would entertain cemetery visitors by climbing on top of the crypt and playing his beloved accordion. Mr. Bertelli chose to be buried elsewhere when he died in 2003, but not before arranging for perpetual care for his Oak Ridge crypt and tablet.
The Flintstone tomb is the final resting place for John Tanner, Illinois governor from 1897 to 1901. I don't know anything about Illinois governors except that the last few have wound up in jail. Tanner had integrity! He was the first governor to not send in state police during a strike, he eliminated Illinois' deficit, he set up the Western Normal School in Macomb, and sent ten regiments, including one African-American regiment, of state militia to Cuba for the Spanish-American War. I don't know if he played the accordion.