Little ole New York and where we came from

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Looking north along Riverside Drive from 115th Street. Photo: JH.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021. Mild, mostly cloudy day yesterday in New York. Temps were in the low 70s midday and mid-60s at night. The air is a little cooler but it’s comfortably warm.

The Morning. When I was a kid getting up in the morning and going downstairs for breakfast, my mother would have the radio on: Bob Steele, WTIC in Hartford. It was that way all over America and in other places in the world. It usually had a personality for a broadcaster. Bob Steele sounded like the nice guy, a good neighbor next door, sense of humor, kind and practical. The 20th century American ideal.


Bob Steele. Courtesy of Connecticut Historical Society.

Then, as a young man, out of college and in New York, I read the morning papers, usually the Mirror and the Trib or the Times. Not to mention the afternoon papers — the Journal-American and occasionally the Post and the Telegram. Yes, all of them, as much as possible time-wise. As I got older — 30s — it became the Times and the Post  in the morning, and TV for the latest news. Habits for curiosity.

Now, all these years later with the debut of the internet, it’s the web. I check certain websites (a variety related to current events and especially the financials). No TV, no papers — although I subscribe to some — but the great variety of journalists and subject so current to our times is all there on the web.

And one of my favorites that I check out at the beginning of the day (and news reading) is anything but news. Maybe you know it. It’s called Ephemeral New York and it publishes five days a week. It’s about New York as it is, but more as it was, going down through time, as it grew (and grows). It’s history before your eyes. It fascinates, intrigues, surprises, amazes and gives you a positive sense about the land you are living in and living on. What we are capable of in the good sense of progression.


Riverside Drive and 111th Street, pre-1890. New-York Historical Society.

One day this week the posting was about the history of Riverside Drive, and how it developed back when it was all mainly empty, hilly, native land with few if any inhabitants. The photos that accompany the copy (or vice versa) are so fascinating, even wondrous, because it was just mainly empty land on the highest level of the island Manhattan which was first occupied by the very poor.

Sharing the link with JH that morning because he loves the West Side and has lived close to Riverside Drive and really liked the area. He suggested he go photograph some of those desolate looking spots to show what they look like today, more than a century after.

So in the afternoon he and I drove over there for live look at the history of New York and little ole Manhattan. The grandness of that area with its grand accompanying foliage and its luxury apartment buildings and old mansions that were early 20th century real estate development is stately and impressive. A witness to what’s possible.


Looking east across 111th and Riverside, today.
Looking west towards Riverside Park from 111th Street.
Looking north along Riverside Drive from 111th Street.
Looking east towards 111th and Riverside Drive.

Riverside Drive and 115th Street, 1897. New-York Historical Society
Riverside Drive and 115th Street, after 1890. MCNY X2012.61.22.13

Riverside Drive and 115th Street, today.
Looking east across Riverside Drive and 115th Street.
Looking south along Riverside Drive and 115th Street.

Riverside Park across the avenue.

Living in the East 80s and 90s we forget, or may never know about other parts of this great city. Riverside Drive in the 100s is impressive with its residentials – like a slice of Paris, as JH remarked when he was photographing it.

For this New Yorker, finding a beautiful part of the city unbeknownst to me, the ride was a pleasure. But then on leaving the area, heading east on 112th and Riverside, up ahead directly in front of us, massive (JH said its interior is large enough to hold the Statue of Liberty inside) is again, looking like history — even aged with history — The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.


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