New Yorkers are only learning about the grandeur and glory of the Brooklyn waterfront just as its industrial past fades and dies. For much as we like to talk about “reopening” the waterfront to the public, the truth is that the waterfront was historically closed so long as it was industrial. And nowhere was that more true than in Williamsburg, where the immense sugar refineries and warehouses ruled the East River from the Civil War foreword, barring all casual wanderers. Sugar’s reign came to a whimpering end in January 2004 when the American Sugar Refinery Company shut down operations at the Domino Sugar refinery site. A few months later, the 11-acre site was sold to developers for $55 million.
Train-lovers and Grand Central enthusiasts cannot miss the Grand Centennial Parade of Trains—the “grandest” train show in history—at Grand Central Terminal this weekend. On Saturday, May 11th and Sunday, May 12th, from 10am to 4pm, more than 20 historic train cars from around the world will be on display. The younger train enthusiasts will surely enjoy the model train collectible show, the “Master Lego Builder” from Legoland, and a series of fun activities at “Kid Junction.” Visitors will also have the chance to ride to Grand Central in style; vintage subway cars from the ’40s and ’50s will be running on Track 4 of the Times Square shuttle throughout the event. Get the full schedule of events here.
Be sure to check out our article on the secrets of Grand Central, in honor of the terminal’s one-hundredth birthday, and learn about what Grand Central Terminal could have been, if the original plans had been realized.
Maybe we’re imagining this, but we’re pretty sure this newsstand at the 72nd Street subway stop is designed in homage to the architecture of the subway station itself. While the newsstand vendor didn’t have a comment for us regarding the architectural distinction of this kiosk, we can tell you that the brick building, the original fare control house for the subway station, is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s also part of the original 28 stations of the NYC subway system, designed by architects George Heins and Christopher LaFarge.
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Legend has it that a pair of 19th-century cops were once patrolling a particularly crime-ridden stretch of 39th Street when the rookie remarked, “it’s hot as hell along here,” to which the veteran replied, “it’s hotter than hell, it’s hell’s kitchen.” For years, New York City’s real estate interests have been trying—mostly in vain—to rename Hell’s Kitchen as Clinton, after an unremarkable local park itself named for a former New York governor. But maybe they shouldn’t be so insistent – today it is Hell’s Kitchen’s real estate, not its crime rate, that is on fire.
This week in the Untapped Cities mailbag, an Untapped reader caught this flub by NBC News, which claims that the oldest private residence in the New York area is the 1712 Seydenham House. The Lent-Riker-Smith homestead was built almost 60 years earlier in 1665. The Lent-Riker-Smith homestead is the only remaining Riker house on the land given to Abraham Riker by Governor Peter Stuyvesant. The house is located discreetly behind a white picket fence between the entry to Riker’s Island and a Tudor garden apartment community in Queens.
For an in-depth look inside the Lent-Riker-Smith house and its current resident, Marion Duckworth Smith, check out Benjamin Waldman’s article on the Last Riker House.
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Untapped Cities writer Brian Orce sent us this photo of a quirky lighthouse atop a building in the Bronx, which he noticed while stuck in traffic along the Major Deegan Expressway. How did a beacon of the sea come to guide the commuters of New York City?
The building at 945 Summit Avenue was once the headquarters of H.W. Wilson, a publishing company, known for its Readers Guide to Periodical Literature. The lighthouse was part of the company logo, symbolizing the mission of H.W. Wilson: “To give guidance to those seeking their way through the maze of books and periodicals, without which they would be lost.”
The interior of the building still made use of pneumatic tubes, the once ubiquitous means of delivering mail in New York City, but is unclear if those details were kept after its conversion into the headquarters of Tuck-it-Away storage, who painted the lighthouse orange. H.W. Wilson merged into EBSCO Publishing in 2012, while Tuck-it-Away lost the famous eminent domain battle with Columbia University in West Harlem, forcing the move to the Bronx. The Bronx Times reports that Tuck-it-Away is considering a business incubator in the space as well.
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