Michelle is the founder of Untapped Cities. She can usually be found in New York (where she grew up), Paris, backpacking in South America or Southeast Asia, or in-transit between. She has an obsession with buses, shoots with a Nikon SLR camera, and destroys cellos on stage with her indie rock band. She’s traveled to 35 countries, including working for earthquake disaster organizations in Peru and Sumatra. She is an author of 100 Ways to Make History, published by the New York Public Library. She holds a masters in urban planning from Columbia University, a B.A. from Harvard in the History of Art & Architecture, and is a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music. Follow her on Twitter @untappedmich.
Recently, we took you inside the music shop Retrofret in Gowanus which specializes in rare and bizarre instruments. What we didn’t share with you yet is that one floor below, connected to Retrofret is an organ workshop! The shop not only repairs organs for such venerable churches as Trinity Wall Street and St. Thomas on 5th Avenue and 53rd Street, but used to build them from scratch too.
It may surprise you, but the annual Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden is a must-visit for architecture buffs, as well as kids. All of the city’s main architectural landmarks (current and long-demolished) are present and they’re all made from plant parts! Untapped contributor Ben Huff recently went to check it out and shared with us his photographs. Scroll through to see places like the Guggenheim Museum, Yankee Stadium, and the George Washington Bridge on display at the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.
Recently, Untapped Cities reader Rachel Potter submitted the following preservation query to our mailbag:
I have a question about landmark preservation rules – recently I saw the article about the ‘64 World’s Fair [in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park] and the decision whether to restore or demolish them. I also learned that JFK’s Pan Am Worldport is being torn down. I’m confused though, since both of these sites have historic landmark status, how is it possible to demolish them? Isn’t the point of landmark status to ensure their preservation in the midst of projected redevelopment?
Yesterday, just as we were publishing about the return of the MTA’s vintage “Nostalgia” trains and buses, we caught sight of the Omnibus in Midtown on 3rd Avenue with a sign “Keep Back: BUS IN TOW.” The service started yesterday along 42nd Street, so its possible the bus might need some maintenance. This exact bus (#2969) was also featured at the MTA Vintage Bus Festival and a very observant reader noted via Twitter that this is the same as type of bus Rosa Parks was on when she refused to give up her seat.
For more than half its life, Lower Manhattan’s iconic Woolworth Building has been off-limits to all but the lucky few employed in its handful of professional office spaces. While the lobby has been technically closed to the public since World War II, the management doubled down on its policy after 9/11, erecting the infamous “TOURISTS ARE NOT PERMITTED” sign much bemoaned by local architecture buffs.
On Wednesday, January 22nd at 6:30pm, we’ll be offering readers the chance for intimate, hour-long tour led by Jason Crowley, a preservationist and architectural historian who is working to digitize and catalogue the extensive collection of Woolworth Building archives. You will not only get to see the famous lobby, but also the vault of the former bank and past entrances to subway lines in the basement of the building.
Jason will lead us across the street to City Hall Park where we’ll examine the highly ornamented exterior of what was once the tallest building in the world. After discussing the Woolworth’s crucial importance to the development of the skyscraper and the New York City skyline, Jason will take us into the lobby, where he’ll share commentary on the vaulted ceilings and sculptural details.
Following the tour, Untapped Cities history columnist Benjamin Waldman will lead guests to an optional cocktail hour at Fraunces Tavern. While you mingle with other members of the Untapped community, Ben will be on hand to discuss the evolution of New York City’s skyscrapers from Trinity Church to the World Trade Center, as well as the zoning changes they’ve necessitated.
Tour has limited capacity. Tickets available for tour only, tour and cocktail-hour Q&A, or cocktail-hour Q&A only.
See more of Untapped Cities’ upcoming events here.
The Grande Harvest Wines Mural in Grand Central Terminal. Image via Justin Ferate
For everyone that survived the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade yesterday (or the crowds in the subway), we have a fun fact that comes to us from tour guide and historian Justin Ferate. One of the murals in Grand Central Terminal was designed by the same person who created the first balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day, including Felix the Cat!