A few months ago, or maybe half a year ago now, I came across a Tumblr blog called “Architecture of Doom“. As it’s name suggests, the blog is home to images of terribly uninspiring and depressing architecture. The effect is elevated by the clean, minimalist white blog theme that seems almost cheery by comparison.
Every time I walk past this set of four buildings in Upper Manhattan, I think of that blog:
These buildings literally straddle I-95.
That’s a highway, running below them. Is it an odd feeling, I wonder, knowing that every day thousands of vehicles roll beneath your feet, under your apartment? What would happen if there were an earthquake? Though I suppose if there were an earthquake in New York City it wouldnt’ matter if there were a highway under most of these buildings or not. They would almost all collapse anyway.
There’s something terribly depressing about this facade. It radiates poverty, depression, and despair. Whether that is true of the people that live there or not, I don’t know.
I walked past these buildings on Tuesday because I was going to the library on 179th Street. I discovered that there’s an app called Overdrive Media Console for iOS that makes checking out digital copies of the New York Public Library’s collection a snap. I hadn’t used my library card since I got it 3 years ago, so it had been canceled. Maybe they thought I was dead?
There’s a building on 4th Street in Lower Manhattan that is a museum. It doesn’t really look like a museum. Not when you’re standing there in front of it and mentally comparing it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Guggenheim, but it was well worth the time I spent inside looking around. It takes about an hour and a half or two hours to look at everything. Maybe a bit longer if you want to just hang out and soak up the atmosphere. It’s not pricey either. 10 bucks for adults, 5 bucks if you have a student ID.
The building was built in the early 1800s and the furnishings and personal effects in the home were the property of the original owner, who bought the place in 1835. There have been a few modifications, like the addition of a fire escape for safety, bars on a few windows for security, and the removal of the outdoor latrine for sanitary purposes. Part of the garden was paved over with additional marble paving stones. Two indoor toilets were added for museum visitors. But, most everything else is authentic, like the cooking implements, clothing, hats, wash basins, and furniture. There’s even a pail of coal in the kitchen that one can pick up to experience the carrying load of a household servant or slave.
It’s a cool place and I’m looking forward to going again with my wife. I went by myself on a weekday afternoon. We’re particularly interested in attending one of the summer evening lectures in the outdoor private garden.
Before this month I’d never heard of Historic Richmond Town on Staten Island. The place isn’t heavily advertised and the carpenter in the recreated shop there told us that he wasn’t surprised, because a lot of people that live there in Staten Island have never heard of the place either. You almost wouldn’t know it was there if you rode by on the bus or in in a car. Maybe that says more about the quality of buildings on Staten Island in general than it does about the site, though, that it’s hard to tell buildings that are almost 300 years old apart from the rest of what Staten Island has to offer.
Getting to Richmond Town from Upper Manhattan was a little bit of a struggle. The A train kept stopping in the tunnel and then went local below 59th Street. I know they’ve been doing some construction on the tunnels during the week, at night, but it would be nice if the city could keep the trains running on time when they’re not doing work on the tracks, otherwise what’s the point of the new construction schedule the city pushed? The ferry ride was nice, at least. I always enjoy the views of the city from the boat. The bus ride from the ferry to the town was about 25 minutes, which isn’t too bad.
When we got to Richmond Town we were afraid it was closed because the place was so quiet and empty. I guessed that it was because this is Memorial Day weekend and most people probably stayed home to relax or went out of town for barbecues. When we got to the ticket counter in the gift shop, the clerk there said that Memorial Day weekend is usually really quiet and cited the same reasons I suggested. I didn’t really care that the place was empty of people. Getting away from the crowds in New York City, seeing some trees, grass, fresh air and open spaces was just fine with me.
The fact that most of the buildings were closed was a problem, though. No one there was in costume. When we went on the 3:30 tour, our guide used a set of keys to open up each building we went into and had to take time to open the shutters so there would be light inside. She kept mentioning that the buildings saw regular, period-style use during the week. I wonder who has time to go out there during the week? I’m going to have to do some research and make some phone calls to find out if we can go back on another weekend and see the place completely up and running.
That being said, the tour was really good and our guide knew quite a bit about the houses she was showing us. She was also ready to answer random questions about the facilities and other buildings we were walking by. I was not disappointed at all. It was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Here are some of my favorite photos from the place:
My wife took these photos this morning. She said it was ok for me to try to take credit for them. 😉
I’ve seen a lot of people saying they think Twitter’s stock is overpriced, but didn’t a lot of people say the same thing about Facebook? I was under the impression that turned out ok. Maybe the difference is that Twitter hasn’t found a very effective monetization method, yet. But, I think they’ll do ok. I wasn’t really keeping up with this until my wife sent me these photos. Now I wish I’d planned ahead and jumped on the bandwagon early. Maybe next time around.
I’d like to take some time later to write a long post about my experiences over the past week in Lower Manhattan in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, but I want to mention something I saw today that made me realize that some things in New York City never change.
When I was on my way home, I saw an older man pushing shopping cart down the street. He stopped by the trash can, peered in, and then reached into a box in his cart. He pulled out a book, looked around as if he were making sure no one was watching him, and then ripped the front and back cover off the book and tossed it in the trash can. He then reached into his box and pulled out another book. At this point, he saw me watching him and turned away from me and hid clutched the book to his chest. He looked over his shoulder at me and then ripped the covers off the book. He tossed the remains of the book into the trash can along with the first one and then hurriedly crossed the street, where he peered briefly into the trash can on the corner before moving on, presumably to find more suitable trash cans to receive his defaced books.
I had stopped to watch this guy, so I’d missed the light to cross in the direction I was going. When I did cross over to the other corner, I found a man in dirty, rumpled clothing singing to a pile of dirty clothes in a shopping cart.
Last week, Lower Manhattan was very dark and the streets were relatively deserted. Thinking about it now, I don’t remember seeing anyone … weird… out there. Not weird by NYC standards anyway. But now, the power is back and the crazies are out again. Some things just don’t change.