Tag Archives: historic

Central Park – Bethesda Terrace and Fountain

Bethesda Terrace and Fountain are lavishly detailed works of art, from the herringbone brickwork pavement to the English Minton encaustic ceiling tiles in the arcade under the terrace, to the sculpted fountain inspired by the Biblical account of the miraculous pool of Bethesda.

This is a perfect place to start your Central Park photo collection – The Lake to the north, Conservatory Water to the northeast, and The Mall to the south are all highly photogenic.

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General Grant National Memorial (Grant’s Tomb)

Why not President Grant National Memorial? A National Park Service ranger explains that Ulysses’ record as General was more impressive than his record as President. General Grant National Memorial it is.

Either way, the memorial is probably better known as Grant’s Tomb. It is the largest mausoleum in the Western Hemisphere, and is said to be copied from the original Mausoleus’ tomb.

The memorial was financed by donations, not by the government, though the National Park Service now maintains the monument. There’s a small National Park Service visitor center well-hidden across the southbound lanes of Riverside Drive and down a flight of stairs.

“The Rolling Bench,” a series of 17 mosaic-covered concrete benches, was installed around the monument in 1974. Personally, I think the benches are an atrocious, grotesque defacement of the monument; bureaucratic vandalism. But that’s just my opinion, and what do I know?

P.S. – “Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?” Well, technically, no one. The General and his wife Julia are entombed (above ground), not buried (below ground).

General Grant National Memorial Vital Statistics
  • Location: Riverside Drive at W 122nd Street
  • Year completed: 1897
  • Architect: John H. Duncan
  • Style: Roman Revival
  • New York City Landmark: 1975
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1966
General Grant National Memorial Suggested Reading

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Union Square

Union Square is ever-changing, though many surrounding buildings have stayed the same.

At one time known for political rallies and the annual May Day rally, the park was overrun by druggies in the ’70s. Union Square has since been cleaned up – figuratively and literally – with new fences, new landscaping and new pavement from East 14th Street to East 17th Street. The peddlers are still out in force, though their products are now veggies, art and souvenirs instead of drugs.

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Gramercy Park and Vicinity

Gramercy Park is a private park between E20th and E21st Streets, ending Irving Place and beginning Lexington Avenue. The park is restricted to tenants of the surrounding buildings; a high fence and locked gates keep it that way.

Much of the surrounding area is part of the Gramercy Park Historic District. The park itself is closed to the public, so this gallery is devoted to the beautiful architecture.

Enjoy! And visit!

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The Battery / Battery Park

When you step out of the subway or off the ferry at the Battery, you step right into history – four centuries’ worth. This is where Nieuw Amsterdam was founded in 1625.

Much of the current Battery Park didn’t exist then – when built (1811), Castle Clinton was an islet several hundred feet off the tip of Manhattan; over the years, landfill extended the shoreline west, south and east.

Castle Clinton never fired a shot in anger: New York harbor fortifications were so formidable that the British in 1812 chose easier targets – like Washington, D.C. Architecturally, the fort is interesting because (like Castle Williams on Governors Island) it is round, not star-shaped (like Fort Jay, also on Governors Island, or Fort Wood – the base of the Statue of Liberty). Currently Castle Clinton has a small visitor center/book store and ticket sales for Statue of Liberty tours.

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South Street Seaport

While there are many preserved and rehabilitated buildings from the 1800s, the South Street Seaport neighborhood has been turned into a tourist mall, where shopping and fast food have drowned out the museum aspects of the district. Time will tell whether the museum’s new ownership – the Museum of the City of New York – will make a difference. But if you get away from waterfront mall, you will find interesting architecture from the days when sailing ships regularly docked along the East River in lower Manhattan.

NOTE: These photos were taken before Superstorm Sandy. Much of the waterfront was damaged, and the Pier 17 complex is now history.

The seafood restaurants could once boast the freshest fish in New York City – they were next door to the Fulton Fish Market. But with the fish market relocated to the Bronx, that distinction has been lost.

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Washington Square and Vicinity

Washington Square, the heart of Greenwich Village, is also the heart of New York University (NYU) – a sprawling campus that contributes more than its share of interesting architecture.

Besides being the southeast anchor of the Greenwich Village Historic District, the park is just two blocks west of the NoHo Historic District. Keep your camera handy!

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Manhattan Civic Center

Lower Manhattan is a complex area, architecturally: some blocks fall within four overlapping districts, and individual buildings on a block might be classed Tribeca or Civic Center based on their use, as well as their location or architectural style.

This is an area packed with landmarks: The first skyscraper (Woolworth Building), only pre-Revolutionary War building (St. Paul’s Chapel), African Burial Ground, City Hall, Tweed Courthouse…

These photos were taken with the HDR technique; more photos (and captions) to come.

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Times Square and Vicinity

Crossroads of the world, heart of the city that never sleeps – the only place where there are crowds on a cold Sunday afternoon. And the only place where bright lights are part of the zoning regulations: You have to have a big electric display on your facade.

Bit by bit, the stately old-guard stone and terra cotta buildings of the early 1900s are being replaced by glass and steel towers, some with bizarre shapes and colors. The building that pretty much started it all – One Times Square, the one-time headquarters of The New York Times – is still there, but hardly in its 1905 form. Allied Chemical covered it in white marble in 1964, and it has since become a 25-story electric signboard. The Paramount Building also survives, along with some theater buildings between Seventh and Eighth Avenues and Bush Tower between Broadway and Sixth Avenue (Avenue of the Americas). Up and down the uptown side streets (43rd – 47th) are plenty of landmark-quality buildings, though – and not just theaters.

You’ll find several distinctive old clubs in the area, and the art deco treasure McGraw-Hill Building and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. You’re also just a hop, skip and a jump from Bryant Park and the main branch of the New York Public Library.

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