Articles by

samantha schnell

Samantha Schnell is a first-year MFA candidate in the Writing Program at Columbia University School of the Arts. After graduating from Amherst College, she spent a year teaching and tutoring in a 6th grade classroom at a charter school in the Boston area. Now, she has dreams of living and writing in New York or Paris, her two favorite cities in the world. In her free time, she likes to read, travel, drink lots of coffee and watch Downton Abbey.

06/12/13 9:00am

Woolworth Building_NYC_Interior_Skyscaper Museum-19
Last month, Untapped Cities was lucky enough to snag a ticket to an exclusive tour of the Woolworth Building with the Skyscraper Museum. The tour, held in honor of the building’s 100th birthday, began in the lobby. With great satisfaction, we stepped past the sturdy “TOURISTS ARE NOT PERMITTED” sign and, under the guard’s watchful eye, gazed up at the dazzling mosaic ceiling and the pinkish marble walls. We only spent about fifteen minutes in the lobby, but we would have been happy to stay there for hours. Clutching our cameras, we tread softly past the old-fashioned elevators and mail drop. We studied the detailed Byzantine-style mosaic, with its glittering phoenixes and florals, and the archways, which are decorated with gargoyle-like busts of the various men who helped build the Woolworth, tucked away like little inside jokes.  (more…)

06/03/13 11:00am


In this week’s Vintage Photos post, Untapped Cities brings you New York City through the lens of the Wurts Brothers, one of the most prominent photography studios of the 20th century. Brothers Norman and Lionel founded the company in 1894, and it quickly became the go-to studio for photos of architecture in New York. The Wurts Brothers took photographs for famous clients such as Con Edison, Otis Elevator and Cass Gilbert, the architect who designed the Woolworth Building. Norman’s son, Richard Wurts, joined the company in the 1920s, and would become well-known for his stunning photographs of the New York World’s Fair in 1939-1940.  (more…)

05/24/13 9:00am
Front entrance to the Hotel Pennsylvania.

Front entrance to the Hotel Pennsylvania.

Last month, the Hotel Pennsylvania Preservation Society finally breathed a deep sigh of relief. The historic Hotel Penn, across the street from Penn Station, has been denied landmark status several times in recent years and its owner, Vornado Realty Trust, planned to demolish it in order to build a new office complex in its place. After a five-year battle, however, Vornado gave up its plan to tear down the hotel and has launched an effort to restore the hotel to its former glory instead.  (more…)

05/20/13 9:00am

Coney Island, 1910s, as it looked in my great-grandparent's time.

Summer is almost here; soon it will be time for New Yorkers to get out their bathing suits and head over to Coney Island for some sunshine and corn dogs. Despite the brutal damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy, our favorite spots on Coney Island–the Cyclone, Nathan’s Famous hot dogs, the New York Aquarium, and more–have re-opened their doors, ready to feed and entertain New Yorkers all summer long.  (more…)

05/17/13 3:00pm
Results for Athens

Results for Athens

New York is known for a lot of things—taxis, bagels, Central Park, the subway—but it is not known for privacy. Privacy, in fact, can be pretty hard to come by. Last month, BMW Guggenheim Lab launched “Public/Private,” a new interactive project that explores our individual and collective experiences of privacy in cities around the world. In order to participate, you must first enter your information: gender, age and city. Next, you evaluate the level of privacy you seek in various locations in your city: workplace, home, school, parks, streets, etc. Finally, you rate your level of satisfaction with your city. Once your results are calculated, you can compare them to those of other users living in your city, and discover how your city’s collective data matches up to other cities around the world. (more…)

05/16/13 2:00pm
Shinglekill Falls, New York

Shinglekill Falls, New York

Public pools always seem like a good idea; there’s nothing more refreshing than jumping into a rectangle of clear, blue water on a hot, humid day. In reality, however, public pools can be a crowded, smelly, noisy, dirty nightmare filled with chlorine (and, in all likelihood, urine). But luckily—even for those of us who can’t afford a membership to a fancy private pool—there is an alternative: fresh water swimming holes.