Tagged: Scouting New York

This Week

A weekly round-up of my favorite preservation related stories from around the web and in the newsClick on the title of each story to jump through to the original article/blog post.

Sorry for the radio silence on Brick + Mortar this week! I’ve started a couple of new exciting projects and getting them off of the ground has been taking up a lot of my time. I’m hoping to get back to a regular schedule next week. Thanks for your patience and, as always, thanks for reading!

Want to Take a Trip to 1940s New York? Step into Mishkin’s Drugs – Scouting New York


Mishkin’s Drugs in New York City is a time capsule. Image via Scouting New York

“When people think of New York’s classic pharmacies, the Kiehl’s stores, founded in 1851, are usually the first to come to mind. But what I love about Mishkin is that it’s managed to survive without feeling like a museum piece, or worse, a historical gem repurposed with hollow modern flare and minus the wear and tear of decades that is its soul. In other words, take this scene: an old wooden ladder on wheels. A stooped-over hulk of a radiator. A rusting stamp machine. A dirty white-tiled floor. This shouldn’t exist in the 21st century, save for some nostalgic store recreation.”

WWII Lard Washes Ashore – BBC


A woman examines the WWII era lard that washed up on the beach this week. Image via LiveScience

“Staff at St Cyrus nature reserve said four large, barrel-shaped pieces of lard have appeared on the shore. The fat is believed to have escaped from the wreck of a merchant vessel that was bombed in WW II. Scottish Natural Heritage said the lard was still a brilliant white and smelled ‘good enough to have a fry up with.'” – This has to be one of the weirdest things I’ve ever heard!

New Frescoes Found at Colosseum – AP

Colosseum Graffiti

An ancient graffiti, in background red, covered by tourist’s graffiti, is seen inside a gallery of Rome’s Colosseum. (Gregorio Borgia/Associated Press)

“A long-delayed restoration of the Colosseum’s only intact internal passageway has yielded ancient traces of red, black, green and blue frescoes — as well as graffiti and drawings of phallic symbols — indicating that the arena where gladiators fought was far more colorful than previously thought.”

Dr. T.T. Wendell – The Kentucky Historical Society’s blog History Burgoo


Dr. T. T. Wendell. Image via the Kentucky Historical Society

“Born in 1877, the son of former slaves, Dr. Wendell hailed from Nashville, Tennessee. Within the same city as his birth, he received both his medical and pharmaceutical degrees from Meharry Medical College. Soon after receiving his degrees, he and his wife, Mary Alice, along with their two children, relocated to Lexington where he set up an office. This move marked the beginning of a long, successful career, as well as a new chapter in Lexington’s African-American Community.”

Three Months by Car – Preservation and Place

Dorothy Guyott

Maria’s grandmother, Dorothy. Image via Three Months by Car

Maria from Preservation and Place has begun a new project, Three Months by Car.   The blog chronicles the journey of her grandmother and two friends  who embarked on a three month long road trip in 1929.  The girls, all in their early twenties, traveled 12,353 miles  cross country.  “They autocamped, stayed in hotels, and occasionally stayed with relatives. Taking $450, they returned home to Bridgeport, CT with 47 cents.”  To learn more about these amazing women and the journey they took, check out Three Months by Car!


This Week

A weekly round-up of my favorite preservation related stories from around the web and in the news.

Diana Vreeland

Vreeland in her NYC apartment. Image via Apartment Therapy.

In preservation, we often focus on the exterior of the building and the architectural details of the interior.  However, the furnishings and wallpapers and other decorations are important points as well.  The history of interior design in the US is pretty fascinating and is filled with quotable women with BIG personalities.  Diana Vreeland is one of those women.  Her long running career influenced American design and left us with such bon mots as “Pink is the Navy Blue of India!”

To the Vomitory!

Check out those vomitories! #BBN Image via Lexington Center

For the last several weeks, Preservation in Mississippi has been writing an “architectural word of the week” series that has been entertaining and informative. Today, one of the words is vomitory – click through to read the definition of this mighty gross sounding word. MissPres makes the point that it is a great word for football season, but being from Kentucky I have to point out it is a great word for basketball season. The vomitories in Rupp Arena were full of fans just last night!

Raising the Dead in DC

19th-century skeletons uncovered in the 3300 block of Q Street. Image via Preservation Nation

In large cities, it is not uncommon to find that a park or development is built atop the site of a former cemetery.  In DC, four 19th century burials were found near a former cemetery that is now Volta Park off of Avenue Q during construction work.  Check out the story for more information about how DC grew up around and over its cemeteries!  Or check out Scouting New York for info about the smallest graveyard in Manhattan, all that remains of a once MUCH larger cemetery.

Preservation Prodigy II

Linley in front of his Indiana home. Image via PreservationNation

I didn’t think that Preservation Nation could top their story last week about sixth-grader/preservationist Nate Michalak until this week when they profiled 12 year old preservationist Daniel Linley. For his sixth grade science project, Linley proved that the ca. 1920 windows in his home in Elkhart, In are more energy efficient than new windows.  Yeah science!  With Linley and Michalak already rising stars, I’d say the future of preservation is very bright indeed.

This Week

A weekly round-up of my favorite preservation related stories from around the web and in the news.

New York, You’ve Changed

North by Northwest title shot. Image via Scouting New York

In case you missed my gush of excitement yesterday, Scouting New York is my new favorite website.  Written by film location scout, Nick Carr, the site chronicles his exploration of the city in search of the perfect place to film a scene.  His quest often takes him to historic parts of the city and he’s always discovering interesting nooks and crannies (historic or not).  In this post, he compares screen shots from Alfred Hitchcock’s film North by Northwest with the actual New York locations where they were filmed as they appear today.  We can see what has changed and what hasn’t since 1957 and what is real and what is a set created for the film. The blend of side by side comparison and film trivia makes for a super fun read!   While you are at it, don’t miss Part II!

Menokin Glass House

Rendering of Menokin glass and steel structure. Image via Preservation Frame of Mind

Built in 1769, Menokin, the former home of Frances Lightfoot Lee and his wife, Rebecca Tayloe, is currently a ruin.  Since 1995, the Menokin Foundation has painstakingly worked towards its rescue. Luckily, the house was well-documented by HABS in the 1940s, so the Foundation has a great source to work from. They have cataloged and organized and planned and now that have an incredibly innovative plan.

How many times have you visited an historic site only to discover mid-tour that most of what you are seeing is a recreation? Pretty disappointing, right?  The Menokin Foundation agrees. Rather than reconstruct the building, they plan to build a glass and steel structure tied to the existing frame work that will mimic the original massing, form, and detail of the building.  “With this glass concept, there is complete transparency regarding what’s new and what’s historic. The glass is intended to be a demonstration of the original fabric’s absence, a separate artifact in its own right.” Check out Preservation Frame of Mind’s post for more information about the plan for Menokin’s future, as well as its current state.

Tomb of Mayan Queen Discovered

Carved alabaster vessel helped to identify the Mayan queen’s tomb. Image via the Global Heritage Fund

“Not far from Mirador, in the Petén region of northern Guatemala, lies a pre-Columbian Maya archaeological site called El Perú-Waka’.  Some 1,600 years ago, El Perú-Waka’ was a powerful city with tens of thousands of residents, ideally situated for trading along the San Pedro River.  Recently, it became the site of one of this year’s most exciting archaeological discoveries:  the tomb of Lady K’abel, considered the greatest ruler of the Late Classic period.”   – The Global Heritage Fund

Rooftop Camping for Preservation

Athenaeum in Indianapolis. Image via Historic Indianapolis

Preservationists are always working hard to raise money and awareness for their projects. This week the director of the Athenaeum Foundation camped out on the historic clubhouse’s roof to raise funds for its preservation.  She did so in honor of the 20th anniversary of former director, David Wilkie’s 60 day rooftop camp-out that also raised funds for one of Indianapolis’ oldest clubhouses still used for its original purpose.  Other events on the rooftop, including sunrise yoga, a film screening and a concert, were also planned and open to the public. Visit Historic Indianapolis‘ website for more information on this unique fundraiser and public awareness event.

From the Highline to the LowLine and Now an Urban Mushroom Farm!

Proposed Mushroom Farm beneath Oxford Street, London. Image via Architizer

A few weeks ago, I told ya’ll about a proposal to adaptively reuse a former underground New York trolley terminal as an underground urban park in the same vein as the use of the former railroad tracks for the popular Highline project. This week, London announced the results of its own competition to create a Highline-type space.  And the winner is an underground mushroom farm that will reuse abandoned tunnels under Oxford Street.  You couldn’t even make this stuff up!  Head over to Architizer for more details (like the planned mushroom restaurant!).

Coal Miner’s Daughter

Lorretta Lynn’s birthplace. Image via Backroad Vagabond

When Lorretta Lynn sang, “Well, I was born a coal miner’s daughter/In a cabin on a hill in Butcher Hollow,” this is the house she was crooning about. Deep in the hills of Johnson County, Lynn’s brother now curates the family home and offers tours from Webb’s Country Store for just $5.  Recently, the Backroad Vagabond made the trek to far Eastern Kentucky to check out the holler.  Read all about her adventure and the small coal mining community here.

Tour of Places with Art

Hollingworth’s painting Elevator, Tower Building ca 1935. Image via the Mississippi Museum of Art

History, historic places and art are often intertwined. Yesterday, the Mississippi Museum of Art explored this concept by offering a tour of the places Mississippi artist, William Hollingsworth, painted in the 1930-1940s in and around Jackson, Mississippi.  How cool is that?! I can imagine this concept being used for so many other artists in communities worldwide! It could even make a great fundraiser.  Thank you Preservation in Mississippi for spreading the word about this creative tour!

Last Dirt Road(s) in Manhattan

Speaking of the last commercial stable in downtown Lexington and alleys, check out the last dirt roads in Manhattan!

Sylvan Court. Image via Scouting New York

Broadway Alley is a 265 feet long 13-foot-wide dirt road that was laid out sometime between 1827 and 1832 and Sylvan Court is a tiny alley in Harlem – both are unpaved. As such, they are probably the last two dirt roads in Manhattan!

I became aware of these interesting holdovers when I chanced upon Scouting New York written by film location scout, Nick Carr.  If you love New York, quirky architecture and/or historical places jump on over to his site  – I may or may not have spent the better part of a day over there tootling around in his archive. I think I might be (definitely am) a little obsessed now – not to mention I’m jonesing for a trip to the city!  Carr probably has the coolest job ever. And whether he’s aware or not (though I think he probably is, judging by his familiarity with the NY landmark system), he’s a preservationist. When the Gothamist asked him in December of 2008 what he would change about New York, he said this:

I would put more of an emphasis on preservation in the outer boroughs. There’s a ton of amazing buildings and homes in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island that are dilapidated or being torn down and replaced by hideously boring condominiums, and I think people 20 or 30 years from now will look back in horror at what was lost.

Right on, Chris!  Anyway, I digress. Back to Manhattan’s last remaining dirt roads…

Broadway Alley via Google Maps

Broadway Alley

There is a lot of information available about Broadway Alley. The New York Times has done no less than four stories about it during its history.  The Alley runs from E 26th Street to E 27th street about halfway between Lexington and 3rd Avenues.  It first appears on maps as Broadway Alley in 1860. In its earliest incarnation, it  ran behind a blacking (for stoves, boots, shoes, etc) manufacturer. Then around 1850, buildings (probably residences) were constructed along the west side of the alley.

Broadway Alley Garage Doors.  The etched 8 indicates this buildings is #8 Broadway Alley.  Image via Scouting New York

It appears that for most of its history, the alley was home to a largely poor and black population.  In 1879, the New York Times reported (warning – this excerpt is disturbingly racist/classist):

Broadway-alley — if the reader has never been so unfortunate as to pick his way through it – is . . . a dirty causeway just to the west of [Third] avenue, and at the rear of one of its gigantic rows of tenement houses. On the one hand are stables with ragged stable boys lying in the sun and enjoying more odors at a breath than Colerige found in Cologne. On the other is a broken and blistered and dingy and half-windowless row of tenement houses with dusky African faces grinning from every pane, African babies, with curly heads, lying in the gutter, and African matrons sitting on the flagstones talking the latest gossip.

Cast iron Type G wall lamp, probably from the 1910s. Image via Forgotten New York

In 1995, the Times reported none of the buildings surrounding the alley opened into it any longer; however, in a 2005 article it appears that at least two homes had entrances into the alley and at least one still had a Broadway Alley postal address.  Today, the alley is exclusively used for (free!) parking. Two chain link gates help control the flow of people through the alley.
Even though I’m not an archeologist, my fingers are itching for a shovel! Can you imagine what might be unearthed? Horse shoes, glass bottles, tools…

Evidence that the alley was probably paved with Belgian block at one time. Image via Scouting New York

Sylvan Court

Sylvan Court is off of 121st Street between Lexington and 3rd Avenues  in Harlem, and as its name suggests, it is not a through street/alley.  It is also partially paved (as you can see in the photo at the top of this post) so it might not actually constitute a “dirt road, ” but it is too neat not to include in this post.

Sylvan Court/Mews Townhouses. Image via Scouting New York

The dirt track lies behind a small metal fence and leads back to a paved courtyard surrounded by ca. 1899 red brick Italianate townhouses.   The townhouses range from 976 square feet to 1620 square feet.  Several have been renovated, and  #4 is currently on the market (though I’m not a fan of the interior renovation, I’m happy that the buildings are being cared for).  According to Wikipedia (hence, take this with a grain of salt – I couldn’t find any info to back this up), Sylvan Court is the remainder of Harlem’s Old Eastern Post Road, which connected NYC and Boston.

Sylvan Court Entrance via Google Maps

 Sylvan Court is sometimes also called Sylvan Mews.   Mews is a term used to describe a row of stables/carriage houses, often with second story living  quarters, built around a court or along a street behind large city houses.  The word can also refer to groups of garages or to a narrow passage or confined space.  To me, these townhouses do not look like they were ever stables or carriage houses,  since they are two story structures on raised basements.  Therefore, they are probably referred to as “mews” based on the latter definition.  My other guess would be that these townhouses replaced stables that formerly sat on the site.  The need for stables and carriage houses in cities diminished greatly in the early 20th century. The Sylvan Court townhouses were constructed around 1899 right on the cusp of the transition away from horse powered transportation.  Either could explain why Sylvan Court is not landmarked, though four other NYC mews are.

So how is it possible that there are any unpaved roads in New York City?  Both Broadway Alley and Sylvan Court are privately owned and therefore beyond the scope of the DOT.