History

Freshness Elsewhere

by Don Friedman on February 23, 2018


The change in both perception and physical reality caused by skyscrapers (that I’ve been talking about) was, of course, not limited to any one location. The picture above (high-resolution here) is Court Square in Memphis in 1906. The square appears to be a pleasant small park, surrounded by buildings with a fairly consistent four- and five-story cornice line.

And, a couple of blocks away, are three skyscrapers, looming over the past. In fine New York style, the plain brick walls of the side lot-line facades are just as visible as the ornate front facades. By 1906, skyscrapers were spreading from the handful of cities where they were prominent in the 1890s to smaller and less overtly modern cities like Memphis, recreating the same debates about acceptable height and density that had already started – and in some cases finished – in New York, Chicago, and elsewhere.

I don’t know how Memphians saw those early skyscrapers. (I guess I could research that question, but that seems like an excessive amount of work for a 200-word blog post.) I do know that those buildings are as foreign for their context as New York’s were for its context, and maybe more so. New York had two decades of proto-skyscrapers and pre-skeleton-frame skyscrapers before the real race on height began; while Memphis was suddenly thrust, via technology transfer, from low-rise to high-rise,

More Freshness

February 22, 2018

To continue yesterday’s train of thought, here’s the Chrysler Building in 1930, roughly a year after completion. Again, if you want a very high-resolution copy, click here. We’re looking northwest to the Chrysler, at 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue. The tall, vertically-striped building on the right is the Daily News building at 42nd and Second; […]

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Looking With Fresh Eyes

February 21, 2018

That’s the Singer Tower as seen from Liberty Street, just east of Nassau Street, in 1910. If you’d like to download a ridiculously high-resolution copy, click here and wait a while. This picture emphasizes something that’s easy to forget in 2018, and that’s how alien the early skyscrapers were compared to the cityscape around them. […]

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Before “Presidents Day”

February 19, 2018
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A Cell in an Abandoned Jail

February 3, 2018

The scars on the far wall, below the graffiti, are where a sink and toilet were once mounted. The bed was on the right. The entire cell is roughly 3 feet by 7 feet. Not all historic structures need to be remembered fondly.

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A Review of a Review

January 28, 2018

The Happy Pontist certainly makes History of the Modern Suspension Bridge by Tadaki Kawada sound like a great read. Another book on my todo list…

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Relative Time

January 27, 2018

I was fooling around with the OldNYC index to the NYPL Digital Collections when I stumbled over the attached photos and caption. The intersection of Kissena Boulevard and Sanford Avenue is right in the heart of downtown Flushing, and a place I must have walked by 8 or 9000 times in the seventeen years I […]

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More Vestiges

January 22, 2018

This is an interesting article by Sarah Bean Apmann for the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation: The Lasting Imprint of Stuyvesant Street. Ms. Apmann is focussed on one of Greenwich Village’s many peculiarities in street layout, but there’s more to discuss in a larger context. First, oddly, Stuyvesant Street does not quite run true east-west. That’s […]

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A New Publication

January 8, 2018

Gabriel Pardo Redondo of OSE and Berta de Miguel Alcalá of Vertical Access‘s – not coincidently, a married couple – have a new paper out in Loggia on preservation engineering in New York. Somehow my name ended up on it, even though Gabi and Berta did about 98 percent of the work. If you go to […]

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The Title Tells It All

January 1, 2018

The caption for this photo at the Library of Congress is “New York, New York. Blowing horns on Bleeker Street on New Year’s Day”. It’s dated 1943. Good enough for me.

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