Albert Ulmann.

A landmark history of New York: also the origin of street names and a ... online

. (page 10 of 16)
Online LibraryAlbert UlmannA landmark history of New York: also the origin of street names and a ... → online text (page 10 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


be a long time growing north of the new building.
In 1890 the brownstone was painted white."

" They'd stare if they were to see New York to-
day, I guess," said Tom proudly.

" The brownstone idea seems all the more curious
when we are told that in 1807 a commission laid out
our present gridiron plan of numbered streets and
avenues up to One Hundred and Fifty-fifth Street.
The committeemen apologized, it is true, for having
done so much Maying out/ and acknowledged that
probably not for centuries would most of these streets
be occupied. Less than one century has passed and
nearly every inch of ground is now covered with its
pile of brick and mortar.

"In 1814, while the war with England was in
progress, New York was thrown into a fever of ex-
citement by a rumor that the Island of Manhattan
was to be invaded by the British. As usual, the de-
fenses were poor and few. Clinton issued a stirring
address to the people, asking their help to complete
the unfinished fortifications. Four days later three
thousand persons were at work; and even the news-
papers suspended publication, so that their men might
help. Among the enthusiastic volunteers were —
"'Plumbers, founders, dyers, tinners, tanners, shavers,
Sweeps, clerks and criers, jewelers, engravers,
Clothiers, drapers, players, cartmen, hatters, nailers,
Gaugers, scalers, weighers, carpenters, and sailors.'



Digitized by



Google



A LANDMARK HISTORY OF NEW YORK 177

" In short, every one who could handle a pick or
a spade, or carry earth on a shingle, did so. Such
was New York's display of patriotic spirit, and every




Map of McGowan's Pass and Forts Fish and Clinton. Copied from
a chart of 1814.



Digitized by



Google



178 A LANDMARK HISTORY OF NEW YORK

lad who was able to shoulder a musket offered his
services. The Narrows and Hell Gate were pro-
tected, and all the hills on the island bristled with
earthworks and cannon.

" There are some interesting landmarks of this
period in Central Park and just beyond it, which I
now purpose showing you," said the professor.

We were always ready for an excursion, and
eagerly accompanied our guide to the site of McGow-
an's Pass, which we remembered as an important fea-
ture of Revolutionary days.

" This vicinity was particularly well fortified,"
began the professor. " As the map shows you, there
was a fort on either side of the pass, the two being
connected by a line of breastworks. " Would you
like to see the site of one of these works — Fort
Clinton?"

There was an immediate assent.

The professor, acting on his suggestion, led the
way to the little pond just above the Fifth Avenue
entrance at One Hundred and Fifth Street and
pointed to a hill opposite, from the top of which rose
a flagstaff.

" It doesn't look very warlike," remarked Emily,
impressed by the calm beauty of the scene.

" Let us climb to the top," suggested the pro-
fessor by way of reply.

We did so, and were surprised to find near the
flagstaff several old cannons, the appearance of which
was sufficiently indicative of war to satisfy all of us.

We now made our way to the old Blockhouse,
situated near One Hundred and Tenth Street, and



Digitized by



Google



a

S

a



^

"o



3



8



Digitized by



Google



180 A LANDMARK HISTORY OF NEW YORK

were forcibly reminded of its excellent position by
the steep ascent to its lofty perch. This was one of
several, the professor explained, that guarded the
roads during the War of 1812 from Hell Gate on the
east to the heights near the spot where Grant's Tomb
is located on the west.

" On the Fourth of July last," continued the pro-
fessor, " I came up here before daybreak to see the
ceremony of raising the flag. I arrived at four
o'clock, and ten minutes later heard the inspiring
music of fifes and drums. Then through the en-
trance at One Hundred and Tenth Street came the
Washington Continental Guard and some detach-
ments of the naval militia. At 4.33 the moment of
sunrise, the flag was run up, and the drum corps
played i Yankee Doodle.' It was a simple but a
touching act; the freshness of morning was about us,
the Stars and Stripes floated beautifully in the air of
freedom; I stood upon historic ground and felt the
true feeling of patriotism.

" The Guard soon marched off to another Block-
house, which we shall visit next," said the professor,
leading the way down. At One Hundred and Twenty-
third Street, near Amsterdam Avenue, we paused,
and saw firmly fixed on a prominent base of rocks the
second Blockhouse. It had a decidedly warlike look,
and but little stretch of the imagination was required
to fancy the presence of cannons and soldiers.

" In addition to the forts and blockhouses there
were strong gates that were used as barriers. One
blocked McGowan's Pass, and the other helped to pro-
tect Manhattanville.



Digitized by



Google



Site of Fort Clinton in Central Park, between One Hundred and Sixth
and One Hundred and Seventh Streets, near Fifth Avenue. Pho-
tographed 1900.



Digitized by



Google



182 A LANDMARK HISTORY OF NEW YORK

" A little to the northwest, situated on a mass of
rocks was Fort Laight, named in honor of Lieutenant-
Colonel E. W. Laight, of the city militia. A few
years ago the remains of this fort were still visible,
near the south side of One Hundred and Twenty-fifth
Street, one hundred and twenty yards east of Elev-
enth Avenue.

" Enough of war, however," remarked the pro-
fessor, " and of warlike memorials. Let us turn our
attention once more to the achievements of peace.
Clinton's wise administration, as I have indicated, had
contributed much to the prosperity of the city, but he
was destined to render it a greater service than any
already to his credit. To cut a canal through New
York State and thus to unite the Great Lakes and
the Hudson was his dream and his ambition. In
1800 Buffalo was a village and Kochester a mere
clearing with a single log cabin. The great fertile
regions in that section, now rich with wheat, were
almost bare, because it cost too much to transport the
grain to Albany. At last, in 1810, after a great deal
of work, the Legislature was induced to appoint a
committee of investigation. Gouverneur Morris,
one of New York's worthy sons, and De Witt
Clinton, untiring and never satisfied that he had
done enough, were on this committee. Later on,
Kobert Fulton was also appointed.

"The plan contemplated a canal four hundred
and forty miles in length, and an expenditure of six
million dollars. Clinton saw clearly what an enor-
mous benefit the city would derive, but his political
enemies, who referred to his project as ' The Big



Digitized by



Google



Blockhouse, One Hundred and Twenty-third Street, east of
Amsterdam Avenue. Photographed 1900.



Digitized by



Google



184 A LANDMARK HISTORY OF NEW YORK

Ditch/ hampered him at every step, and in 1824,
after he had worked for fourteen years, succeeded in
having him removed from the committee."

" What a shame! " exclaimed Emily.

" Ay, but they hurt themselves more than they
hurt him. When the people heard what had been
done, indignation meetings were held, and when elec-
tion time came they gave him that big majority for
governor that I have already mentioned.

"But to return to the canal. On October 26,
1825, everything was ready to let the waters of Lake
Erie into the channel that had been dug. A great
celebration had been planned. There being no tele-
graph in those days, cannons had been placed all
along the route to give notice of the great event. At
ten o'clock the first gun was fired; at eleven o'clock
the Albany signal rang out; all the way down the
Hudson the flashes told the story, and at 11.21 New
York heard the glad tidings. In the meantime four
canal boats, carrying a distinguished company,
started from Buffalo. Everywhere along the route
crowds were gathered to welcome the proud little
fleet; it seemed, in fact, as if the people of the whole
State had turned out to rejoice. At Albany there
was a congratulatory address, a public dinner, and
a grand illumination in the evening. On November
5th the canal boats reached New York. Then a
great procession of all sorts of vessels, covered with
flags and banners, formed, moved down the bay and
out beyond Sandy Hook, salutes greeting it from the
forts.

"Here Governor Clinton, whose tall, well-pro-



Digitized by



Google



I









Digitized by



Google



186 A LANDMARK HISTORY OF NEW YORK

portioned figure always commanded attention,
stepped forward, lifted on high a keg of water
brought from Lake Erie, and poured the contents
into the ocean, thus mingling the two waters. In
the meantime a celebration no less impressive was
taking place on land. A procession four and a half
miles long paraded with banners and music through
the principal streets. In the evening fireworks and
illuminations followed, and the whole city wore an
air of festivity.

" It is well-nigh impossible to measure the bene-
fits of the Erie Canal; it turned a wilderness into a
vast fertile area, and brought into New York the
produce of these new fields. Without doubt it con-
tributed more than any previous achievement to in-
crease the commercial interests of the city.

" From an ode written for the Canal Celebration
I have copied the following verse that thrills with the
spirit of the time :

"°Tis done! Tis done! The mighty chain
Which joins bright Erie to the Main,
For ages shall perpetuate
The glory of our native State! '

" While New York was thus progressing in one
direction, it was still backward in many ways. Its
sanitary conditions were very bad, and it suffered
from fearful epidemics. Smallpox, cholera, and yel-
low fever in turn played awful havoc among its in-
habitants. The year 1822 marked a climax and be-
came known as 'the year of the yellow fever.'
Everybody who could, rushed out of town. A pro-



Digitized by



Google



A LANDMARK HISTORY OF NEW YORK 187

cession of carts and carriages moved up Broadway to
Greenwich village, which was known to be a health-
ful spot. At Liberty Street a high board fence was
stretched across the island as a quarantine measure.
Meanwhile, Greenwich suddenly developed into a
town. Houses were put up as if by magic; banks,
newspapers, and wholesale firms sprouted overnight.
Bank Street, so named because the banks selected
that row, is a reminder of the yellow-fever year.
Thus Greenwich began to grow; it grew, further-
more, in its own peculiar way, and when in later
years it came in contact with the upward-moving
city, its streets, having followed a direction of their
own, could not be made to harmonize with those of
the town, which explains why West Fourth and West
Tenth Streets, instead of running parallel, deliber-
ately cross each other, to the utter confusion of peo-
ple who are not well acquainted with old Greenwich
ways.

" Gradually greater attention was paid to sani-
tary measures; foreign vessels were inspected on
their arrival; but twenty years passed ere a system of
running water was introduced, and not until 1866
was the Board of Health established.

" In 1825 a new wonder surprised the town. The
house at No. 7 Cherry Street was lighted by gas. In
it lived the President of the New York Gas Com-
pany, a recently organized corporation. About this
time pipes were laid in Broadway from Canal Street
to the Battery, and New York for the first time in
its history beheld a well-lighted street. Gradually
other streets were thus favored, though for years the



Digitized by



Google



*



■a






li



I






Digitized by



Google



A LANDMARK HISTORY OF NEW YORK 189

town presented a checkered appearance, one block
being dimly lighted with ancient oil lamps and an-
other brilliantly illuminated from the works of the
new gas company.

" On December 16, 1835, a terrible fire suddenly
broke out in the neighborhood of Pearl and Wall
Streets and wrought awful havoc. It was intensely
cold; the little water that could be obtained quickly
froze, and the flames spread without check. For three
days the conflagration continued, and was only
stopped by blowing up a number of buildings with
gunpowder. Six hundred and fifty houses were de-
stroyed and twenty million dollars' worth of property
consumed. The Dutch Church in Garden Street and
a Marble Exchange in Wall Street, containing a
statue of Hamilton, were among the ruined struc-
tures.

" A poet of that time thus gave expression to his
sad thoughts on viewing the ravages of the flames:

" ' Alas ! that pillar'd pile ! how, as I gazed
Upon the blacken'd shafts, did I recall
The sculptured marble there, whose brow was raised
So like a god's, within that shadowy hall !
Immortal Hamilton! — though crumpled deep
In the red chaos of that billowy night,
It needs no chisel's memory to keep
Thy spirit's nobler outline vast and bright!
No time — no element can mar the fame,
Gathered, like fadeless sunlight, round thy spotless name ! '

" In Pearl Street, almost opposite the William
Bradford tablet, there is a gray limestone memorial,
consisting of a female figure, beneath which appears
the following inscription:



Digitized by



Google



190 A LANDMARK HISTORY' OF NEW <?OK&r



, DESTROYED 1835 . '

IN THE. CONFLAGRATION- 16, 17 DECKER.

650 BUILDINGS CONTAINING MERCHANDISE

WERE CONSUMED IN ONE NIGHT.

LOSS 20,000,000 OP DOLLARS."

.REBUILT' 1836. . ' , jv

AGAIN DESTROYED BY FIRE 1853.



" The lack' of water on this occasion was one of
the chief causes that led to the construction of the
Oroton Aqueduct. Its starting point was forty
miles from the City Hall, and it involved the tunnel-
ing of solid rocks, the crossing of valleys by embank-
ments,- and of brooks by culverts. At the Harlem
River it 'necessitated the building of High Bridge^
fourteen hundred and fifty feet long and one hundred
and fourteen feet above high water. It also required
the erection of two reservoirs: one south of Eighty-
gixth Street, called the Receiving Reservoir ;- the
other (now being torn down to make room for our
.great Public Library), at Forty-second Street and
Fifth Avenue, used as a' distributing basin. Since
then the big reservoir, , extending from Eighty-sixth
Street to Mnety-sixth Street, designated as the Re-
taining Reservoir, has been added to the system. It
covers one hundred and nine acres, and has a capacity
of one thousand million gallons.

" The year 1842 saw the completion of the great
undertaking, and in October the city, always ready
to celebrate, organized a monster demonstration. A
procession, including representatives of all the vari-
ous trades, with floats and banners, marched through



Digitized by



Google



tJSIASTIC CROWD AFTER HER BAPTISM OF CHAMPAGNE. MISS HELEN DESHLER, WHl
WHITE HAT. TO HER LEFT IS PRESIDENT M'KINLEY, WAVING
IP NAMED FOR HIS NATIVE STATE.



Digitized by



Google



STAGES ON BROADWAY IN 183I. SCENE IN FRONT OF s|

; 1



Digitized by



Google



Digitized by



Google



Digitized by



Google



A LANDMARK HISTORY OF NEW YORK 191

the streets and was reviewed by the governor, mem-
bers of Congress, and mayors of neighboring cities.
City Hall Park was the center of interest, for here
an ingeniously constructed fountain had been built,
the main jet throwing a column of water sixty feet
into the air, while, by shifting a plate, the spouting
waters could be made to assume seven different
shapes.

" The people of to-day can hardly picture the
city without its Croton, nor do we realize that our
light touch taps a stream whose pure and wholesome
source is forty miles away. The rejoicing when this
blessing was bestowed upon New York is well de-
scribed by the poet George P. Morris, whose words
Fll read you :

" * Water leaps as if delighted,

While the conquered foes retire;
Pale Contagion flees affrighted

With the baffled demon Fire.
Water shouts a glad hosanna,

Bubbles up the earth to bless;
Cheers it like the precious manna

In the barren wilderness.

"'Round the aqueducts of story,

As the mists of Lethe throng;
Croton's waves, in all their glory,

Troop in melody along.
Ever sparkling, bright and single,

Will this rock-ribbed spring appear,
When posterity shall mingle

Like the gathered waters here.'

" A memento of the old style of water supply is
still in existence in the shape of a solitary hand pump
at the corner of Trinity Place and Cedar Street."
14



Digitized by



Google



CHAPTER X

" The newspapers of the first half of the century
were very different from those of to-day. They
were serious sheets intended for business offices, were
expensive, and were delivered by special messengers.
As a rule, none but merchants subscribed for them.
The man who first thought of a bright, newsy, cheap
paper is almost unknown. He was Horatio D. Shep-
pard, and, strange to say, was not a journalist. He
was a student of medicine, who used to pass through
Chatham Street, where all sorts of things were sold
for a few cents. He noticed that the cheapest arti-
cle sold most readily; nobody seemed to mind spend-
ing a cent. Suddenly the thought of a one-cent
newspaper came to his mind — to be sold by boys just
as peanuts and candy were sold.

" Sheppard had but little money, and conse-
quently sought to interest the printers of the town
in his plan. They laughed at it, as people had
laughed at Fulton when he spoke of a steamboat.
To sell newspapers like cakes and candy seemed a
ridiculous proposition.

" There was one young printer, however, who lis-
tened to Sheppard. This was Horace Greeley. He
was born in New Hampshire in 1811, came to New
192



Digitized by



Google



A LANDMARK HISTORY OF NEW YORK 193

York when he was twenty, excited ridicule by his
homespun clothes and his peculiar appearance, but
soon convinced people that he knew what he was
about. Greeley had a friend named Story; the two
formed a partnership in 1832, and agreed to publish
Sheppard's paper, but they insisted that the price
must be two cents. On January 1, 1833, The Morn-
ing Post was issued amid a terrible snowstorm.
There were few people in the streets, while the news-
boys were soon chilled and were glad to run home.
The Post lived just two weeks and three days, and
then appeared no more.

" Still, the effort was not in vain. Nine months
later The New York Sun was established as a one-
cent paper, while Horace Greeley owed his start in
business to Sheppard and his idea. In 1834 Greeley
formed a new partnership and planned a weekly
paper called The New-Yorker. About this time
James Gordon Bennett, then a newspaper writer,
came to Greeley, showed him a fifty-dollar bill and
some smaller notes, and invited him to join in the
project of establishing a paper to be called The New
York Herald. Greeley declined, being too much
taken up with his own idea.

" The first number of The Herald, price one cent,
appeared in May, 1835. The office was in a cellar in
Wall Street. The office furniture consisted of a
chair and a plank placed across two barrels. Here
Bennett wrote editorials and attended to customers.
He worked sixteen or seventeen hours a day. From
five to eight in the morning he wrote short, crisp edi-
torials that attracted and amused his readers; dur-



Digitized by



Google



194 A LANDMARK HISTORY OF NEW YORK

ing the regular morning business hours he wrote ad-
vertisements, sold papers, and prepared material for
the printers; about one o'clock he sallied forth and
picked up Wall Street paragraphs; from four to six
he was back at his office; while in the evening he vis-
ited a theater, a ball, a concert, or a public meeting,
and gathered news and gossip. Thus The Herald
began its career.

" In 1841 Greeley, assisted by Henry J. Raymond,
launched The Tribune. The first edition consisted
of five thousand copies, and with difficulty were the
papers distributed. A rival journal sought to kill the
new enterprise by sending men to fight the little fel-
lows who were trying to sell the new journal. Gree-
ley published the whole story, and the circulation
began to grow at an astonishing pace. At the end
of seven weeks its edition was eleven thousand, which
was the utmost a press of that day could print. The
country boy, who a few years before was so poor and
so wretched-looking that no one wanted to hire him,
was now the most prominent editor in New York.

" It has been said of Greeley that he was able to
produce more good editorials per year than any other
editor of his time. Raymond, just fresh from col-
lege, was a born journalist, and was able to do an
astonishing amount of excellent work. In 1851 he
founded The New York Times. Some time later
Charles A. Dana joined Greeley's staff. His bril-
liant services subsequently as editor of The New
York Sun have everywhere been acknowledged.
Bayard Taylor and Margaret Fuller also contributed
to the columns of The Tribune, and helped to make



Digitized by



Google



A LANDMARK HISTORY OP NEW YORK 195

it a great power and a fine newspaper. Thus, this
little band of gifted and intensely hard-working
journalists laid the founda-
tion of the cheap press —
cheap in price, but wonder-
ful in every other way.

" Of course, at first,
news, such as we understand
the term, was impossible to
get, but in the year 1844
the introduction of the tele-
graph system by Samuel F.
B. Morse changed the whole
situation. Morse, like Ful- / q

ton, devoted his early years (\ ^ ^ztA*

to art, and then became in-
terested in science. In 1832, during a trip across
the ocean from Europe, he met a gentleman who
explained to him certain experiments that had been
conducted in Paris with the electro-magnet. The
marvelous speed of the electric fluid along a wire
suggested to Morse's inventive brain the idea of thus
overcoming space, and on his return to New York
he at once began experimenting in his studio.

" It took him five years to invent and perfect an
alphabet of dots and dashes, and an instrument that
would properly record them. At last, however, the
little key obeyed the touch perfectly, and clicked its
messages as clearly as the human voice. Then Morse
showed his device to the public, but, as usual, the
ignorant laughed and would not believe. In 1843 a
bill was introduced into Congress appropriating a



Digitized by



Google



196 A LANDMARK HISTORY OF NEW YORK

sum of money to establish an experimental line be-
tween Washington and Baltimore. The last day of

the session arrived, one
hundred and twenty bills
were still ahead of it, and
Morse, after waiting un-
til a late hour, went away
discouraged. But the
next morning came a sur-
prise. News was brought
to him by Miss Ellsworth,
daughter of the Commis-
;? .— sioner of Patents, that

jt ^^yyt/yy / ?. 7n<rr4^ the bill had been passed.

In May, 1844, the line
was completed, a message prepared by Miss Ellsworth
was successfully forwarded, and the world was in
possession of a new marvel.

" Morse's residence was in New York. At ISTo. 5
West Twenty-second Street you will find a tablet
that tells this story:



IN THIS HOUSE

S. F. B. MORSE

LIVED FOR MANY YEARS

AND DIED.



"In 1853 a World's Fair was opened in New
York in a magnificent structure of glass and iron,
called the Crystal Palace, located out in the country
near Forty-second Street and Fifth Avenue. It was
completely destroyed by fire in 1858.



Digitized by



Google



<



s



Digitized by



Google



Digitized by



Google



A LANDMARK HISTORY OF NEW YORK 197

"In 1856 our beautiful Central Park was laid
out. The committee that took charge of this im-
portant undertaking consisted of the Mayor, the
Commissioner of Streets, Washington Irving, the
author; George Bancroft, the historian; and Wil-
liam Cullen Bryant, the poet and author. The de-
sign was the handiwork of Calvert Vaux and Fred-
erick Law Olmstead, who originated the science of
landscape architecture, which became recognized
throughout the country. The success of their plan
lay in the fact that they preserved all that was beau-
tiful in Nature instead of trying to create artificial
results.

"In 1856 the first statue of modern New York
was erected — namely, that of Washington in Union
Square; and about the same time a monument was
placed near Madison Square to honor the memory of
General Worth, of this State, who had distinguished
himself in the Mexican War.

" In 1857 two of New York's best-known citizens,
Cyrus W. Field and Peter Cooper, conceived the idea


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13 14 15 16

Online LibraryAlbert UlmannA landmark history of New York: also the origin of street names and a ... → online text (page 10 of 16)