Monday, December 29, 2014

Castle Clinton + Native American Museum + Washington's Pew

Since this month's posts are all south of Manhattan's Canal Street, I thought to leave the southern tip of the island for last, as there is the greatest number of things to do there.
It all begins with Castle Clinton, which is located in Battery Park.

The "castle" was built in 1808, just a few hundred yards from where Fort Amsterdam stood, almost 200 years before it. Constructed during the run up to the War of 1812, Castle Clinton was then known as the West Battery, as it was the sister camp to Castle Williams (then known as the East Battery). The fort's name was changed in 1815 to honor the then-mayor, DeWitt Clinton.

The army stopped using the area in 1821, and the Castle was opened to the public in 1824 as a garden. Since, the building has been a beer hall, and exhibition room, a public theater, even an aquarium, but it is currently a national monument, and the departure point when visiting the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island.

On the north side of Castle Clinton, and still in Battery Park, is City Pier A, which was built in 1886 for the New York City Department of Docks and Harbor Police. Just in front of the pier's building, and a little out in the water, is the American Merchant Mariners' Memorial.

This bronze sculpture was designed by Marisol Escobar, and was installed in 1991 for the sailors lives lost in the sinking of the SS Muskogee by an Axis U-boat.
After seeing this sight, turn around to face The Sphere, and its eternal flame.

Originally, this 7.5 meter (25'), metal sculpture by German artist Fritz Koenig was displayed in Austin J. Tobin Plaza, between the World Trade Center towers. Seeing it was damaged in the 2001 September 11th attacks, the monument was moved to Battery Park six months later, and, on September 11, 2002, an eternal flame was ignited in honor of all the lives lost on that day.
Also in the immediate area is the war memorial, designed by Welsh artist Mac Adams in 1991, for military personnel who served in the Korean Conflict (1950–1953)... well as other interesting public works of art.

Right across the street from Battery Park is the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Customs House, which currently houses the NYC branch of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian.

The building was in construction from 1902 through 1907, and was begun by the federal government so as to collect the duty tax for the port of New York. While it is a beautiful building, in and out, they exhibit pieces of ancient Native American art - representing more than 12,000 years of history, and 1,200 indigenous cultures. Plus, it is all free to visit!

When leaving the building, head north out the front door, and up Broadway. After passing Arturo Di Modica's Charging Bull (aka the Wall Street Bull), between Fulton Street and Vesey Street, one will find themselves at St. Paul's Chapel. Not only is St. Paul's the oldest church in Manhattan (completed in 1766), it also holds George Washington's church pew, from the years he worshiped there.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Wall St Bomb Aftermath + Titanic Memorial

Continuing my trek in Manhattan's downtown area, I found myself in the Financial District, and came upon 23 Wall Street.

On September 16, 1920, only a minute after noon, a horse-drawn wagon carrying iron scraps blew up in front of the headquarters of the J.P. Morgan Bank. The blast killed 30 people, and injured another 140. The marks left by the bomb can still be seen on the architecture, with the largest being the size of a grapefruit.

Though investigated for three years, no one was ever prosecuted for the infamous event.

The topic may seem a little morbid, but even the city has a 3x4' placard, complete with photos of the incident, just outside the building.
After this spot, I walked east to Pearl Street, and headed north to see the South Street Seaport Museum's Titanic Memorial; a 60' (18 m) lighthouse, which was built, at the request of socialite, philanthropist, and activist, Margaret Brown, and dedicated to the lives lost in the 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic.

The lighthouse was originally built on, and stood atop, the roof of the old Seamen's Church Institute, on the corner of South Street, and Coenties Slip, in 1913. From its construction, up until 1968, the globe at the top of the lighthouse would descend the pole, at noon, everyday. The mechanism was controlled by telegraph from the Naval Observatory in Washington D.C.

In the summer of 1968, the Church Institute moved, and donated the lighthouse to the South Street Seaport, who had it installed where it is now in 1976.
After seeing this landmark, head over one block to 40 Fulton Street, and see a plaque dedicated to the first underground central station, built by Thomas Edison.

From this area, the station ran power to thousands starting in 1882, until it was dismantled (as other newer stations made it obsolete) in 1917. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Barthman Sidewalk Clock

In downtown Manhattan, on the east (northeast) corner of Maiden Lane and Broadway is an antique clock installed into the sidewalk.

This clock is actually a replacement from 1940, but the original was created by William Barthman, who opened Barthman Jewelers on the same corner in 1884.
He had the idea to place a clock at the spot in 1896, as a simple form of advertising, and had it instituted in 1899.
In 1928, the Maiden Lane Historical Society (which was established in 1911, but is no longer around) pronounced the spot as a landmark...

...though the building has now seen better days.

By 1930, the clock's maintenance man, and co-designer, Frank Homm, passed away, and left no instructions for its care. It had ceased to function, and was even covered by cardboard for almost a decade, before the jewelry store decided to replace it in 1939.
I walked the area a bit more, as there was plenty to take photos, and write, of, but I'll leave the info and pics for my next post, and just finish off with a decent image I took minutes later.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Hook & Ladder 8 (aka Ghostbusters' HQ)

On the corner of Varick and N Moore Street (located at the address: 14 North Moore Street) is a sci-fi nerd's hot spot, but many pass by it without a second glance.

While the interior shots of the Hollywood blockbuster Ghostbusters were filmed in Los Angeles' Fire Station No. 23, the exterior is of FDNY Hook & Ladder 8 Firehouse, in southern Manhattan's TriBeCa neighborhood.

Around Halloween, they hang the logo out front, so if that's what you're looking for, be sure to time your visit.

The spot is still a fully functioning firehouse, so, if sirens go off, please make way for the folks who may be out to save lives.

A lot of cool things were once in this neighborhood, but much of it is gone.
Fluxus artist Joe Jones had a music store on N Moore, with drone music machines displayed in the windows. He also held music shows in the space, where John Lennon and Yoko Ono once played.
The same spot also became the art studio of no wavers Joseph Nechvatal, and Jon Hassell, later video artist Bill Viola. It is now Walkers Restaurant.
I'm certain the area has a lot of great clubs and eateries, but as for "odd spots" (besides the previously-posted-of Mmuseumm), I'm stumped, and will be heading further south for my next post.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Roosevelt Island

A while ago, I took a ride on the F train to Roosevelt Island (originally called Hog Island), which is between Manhattan and Queens on the East River, to see the old small pox clinic, and a few other landmarks, as well as to just get a sense of the very different feel of the island - compared to the rest of NYC.
Built in 1909, the Queensboro Bridge passes over the island, but has no access to it.

A smallpox hospital, simply called The Smallpox Hospital, opened in 1856 (by James Renwick, Jr), and closed a hundred years later.

After walking through the FDR Four Freedoms Park, which is within Southpoint Park, I headed to the north side of the island to see the Blackwell Island Light, a 50-foot (15 m) Gothic-style lighthouse, which was constructed in 1872.

Then, it was a visit to Octagon Garden, the Chapel of the Good Shepard (built in 1889) and Octagon Park (which is where the New York City Lunatic Asylum, built in 1839, once stood).
After finding a few other interesting nooks…

…I floated off on the air-tram, probably never to return.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Statue of Lenin

On the rooftop of a high rise, with the ominous name of Red Square (and located at 250 E Houston Street) in NYC’s Lower East Side, is quite an odd sight, even for those accustomed to the political swing of this place.
The monument is an 18’ statue of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, also known to his comrades as Lenin.

It is one of 23 found around the globe in non-Communist countries, and only one of four in the US (others include Las Vegas, Seattle and Atlantic City).

The artists was Yuri Gerasimov, who constructed eight statues in the 1980s, but when Communism fell they sat around hidden in his yard. In the early 1990s, the artist began to give them away, as well as sell them.
The developers of the property thought, since the building was red brick, and squared, they would call it: Red Square. They also, playing on fears in which many believe the area to be a breeding ground for Socialism, purchased the statue in 1994, and added it to the building, as well as New York City’s illustriously bizarre history.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Treasures of the MTA

Yesterday was the 110th anniversary of New York City's subway system.
To celebrate, America's largest transportation network, NYC's Metropolitan Transportation Authority ran old out-of-service train cars from Times Square to the 96th Street station on the 2/3 line.
The MTA ran Low-Voltage Trains, which date from 1915 to 1925, and were in service until 1969, as well as the "Train of Many Colors", which were built in the late 60s and were in service until the mid-80s.

I only caught the Low-Voltage train, as I had to head into work immediately after, but it was a wonderful sight, as well as experience.

The advertisements are of the age, and they even get the employees in proper dress.

Visit the link provided in brackets [MTA] to catch other events they run. While the page is mostly filled with track info, or construction updates, you may sometimes find a gem like this.

I rode one car from 1914 on the trip north, and then one from 1924 when I headed back down.

Happy anniversary, MTA!

Monday, October 20, 2014


In 1966, Fluxus artist George Maciunas bought 16 Greene Street (and later 80 Wooster Street) in the SoHo District of Manhattan, then called "Hell's Hundred Acres".
The lofts were renovated into living / art spaces to be shared at $1 per square foot, and the collective was soon dubbed "The Fluxhouse Cooperative".

Artists of note that had once lived in Fluxhouse include Martha Moses, Bob Wiegand, and Jonas Mekas (who was supposed to open a cinema on the first floor, but never did).

Maciunas had intended to, both, stop Robert Moses' plan to build the Lower Manhattan Expressway, which succeeded, as well as create what he called "Fluxcity" (a small city full of artists), which did not, because in 1975 George was accosted by loan sharks who broke his ribs and blinded him in one eye, ceasing his attempts to buy more property.
In 1992, The New York Times bestowed George Maciunas with the title "the Godfather of SoHo".

Though this is a post about a Fluxus artist, if you are still looking for something to do in the SoHo area (besides high priced shopping), head a few blocks over to check out Walter De Maria's 1977 art installation, Earth Room. Located at Dia Art Foundation on 141 Wooster Street, the work is 197 cubic meters of moist soil, in 335 square meters of floor space, which weighs in at 127,000 kilos.
Though De Maria, had previously set up this installation in Munich, and Darmstadt, Germany, the only one that remains is the SoHo piece.
Also in the area is Walter De Maria's lesser-known work, The Broken Kilometer, from 1979, at 393 West Broadway, and also run by Dia Art Foundation, which is one kilometer of solid brass rods, broken up into five parallel rows of 100 rods each.
Normally, you'd see a picture I've taken of either room below, but I respected the Foundation's "no photo" policy.

Monday, October 6, 2014


Tucked into an unused elevator shaft, in the Tribeca neighborhood of lower Manhattan, is the world's smallest museum, with the not-so-simple name of Mmuseumm.

Their mission statement reads that they are "dedicated to the exploration of the proof of our existence" and "a modern natural history museum - devoted to the curation and exhibition of contemporary artifacts that illustrate the complexities of the modern world."
I couldn't agree more.
Though their exhibitions change every season (they are currently in their 3rd), there are quite a few permanent curiosities, such as their infamous showcasing of the shoe thrown at George W. Bush at a Baghdad press conference, by Iraqi Broadcast journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi.

Though I'll try not to give too much away, they also have the Natural History of Death, using dirt and water, collected by Ken Brecher...

...wierd products from around the world, many handmade oddities, and even a collection of Down Syndrome Dolls.

Found between White St and Franklin St (and east to west by Lafayette and Broadway, respectively), this tiny place is a must see for the curious, and hard-to-fascinate, alike.
They also even hold events there every so often, such as a three night party for the 25th anniversary of David Byrne's Luaka Bop Records, this past week.

While Mmuseumm is sponsored, they are a non-profit organization, so please give generously when you visit (perhaps 50¢ for every time your jaw drops).
Lastly, do keep in mind that they are open only on weekends.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Governors Island (Part Five)

If you are thinking of visiting the island, the month of September is probably the best time to skim on over.
Every weekend in September (for the past seven years), the island has held the Governors Island Art Fair, organized by 4heads.
Here are a few of the artist's work I admired from the last two years. Click on the images for larger view, or the name of the artist to visit their website.

The 2014 Art Fair

Daniel Baltzer and Mike Glass (with live gerbils)

Thomas Nousias (no website)

Jackie Mock (one of my favorites)

A few other artists I enjoyed this year, but did not photograph were Laurent Fort (who works with reflective light), Aldo Caredda (whose fingerprint work is rather small), the rain forest installation by Chaney Trotter, and Aaron Taylor Kuffner (the piece had as much to do with sound as it did with sight).

The 2013 Art Fair

As usual, I had a great time on the island, and took pictures of much more besides art.