We’re back with the video series “A City Full of History,” delving into the lesser known aspects of New York City history produced by Untapped Cities contributor Dan Thurber, who runs the YouTube channel Bookworm History. Most recently, we traveled to Inwood Hill Park to see the Inwood Native American Caves. This week we visit Frederick Catherwood’s Panorama in SoHo, one of the most popular entertainments in old New York City!
By the time Frederick Catherwood arrived in New York City in 1836 he was already well-traveled beyond his 37 years of age. Born in London in 1799 he served as an architect’s apprentice for six years, took art classes at the Royal Academy, and spent thirteen years studying and drawing ancient ruins around the Mediterranean. Returning to London he worked for Robert Buford at his panorama in Leicester Square, where he learned the business of popular entertainment. Buford painted several panoramas based on Catherwood’s drawings, while Catherwood gave lectures on his travels to an interested public.
Robert Barker’s Rotunda at Leicester Square, London (Image in the public domain, from the British Library)
After arriving in New York he worked briefly as an architect before traveling to Central America with his good friend John Lloyd Stephens. Stephens’ books, Incidents of Travel in Central America and Incidents of Travel in Yucatan were profusely illustrated by Catherwood, who put his art and architecture backgrounds to work creating incredibly detailed and accurate drawings and surveys of the ruins they saw.
While in New York, in between trips with Stephens, Catherwood plunged back into the entertainment business, opening his own panorama at the corner of Prince and Mercer Streets. Come along with us to pull back the veil over this little-known, fascinating figure in New York history as we pay a visit to Mr. Catherwood’s Panorama!
Next, check out another panorama that is still viewable, inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art.