Archive for the ‘New York’ tag
Port Chester is a small coastal town(1) just on the New York side of the NY-CT border. It was founded by settlers from nearby Greenwich, Connecticut in 1660.
As we walk through the town and discover its history together, I’d like to share with you some photographs I took. At the top of this post, that’s a sign advertising Fresh Meat from a grocery store on Main Street. Mmm, delicious! Here’s “Enchanted Home” (side view), on Highland Street, the car is registered in Florida:
The original settlers bought the land from the Mohegan Indians. A short while later, the Mohegans found themselves landless and eventually lost their tribal status.(2) In 1994, after decades of petitioning, the Mohegans gained federal recognition and now have a reservation in east-central Connecticut. In 2003, the Mohegans became the first Native American tribe to purchase a professional sports team, the WNBA team Connecticut Sun.(3)
Here’s the view through a window of a hardware store on North Main Street:
In 1683, the town of Sawpit (as Port Chester was originally known) was given to the New York Colony. Connecticut was not pleased and they contested this for over a hundred years.
On June 30th, 1974, Peter J. Leonard broke into a bowling alley where he probably burglarized(4) some cigarette machines. Before he left, he set fire to the place in order to cover up his tracks. The fire spread to Gulliver’s, the nightclub next door. Twenty-four people died. One of the survivors was Eric Carr(5) who later went on to join KISS as drummer. Carr died on the same day as Freddie Mercury, November 24th, 1991.
This is Los Chuzos de Juancho, a Columbian Restaurant on South Main. The store on the second floor offers “Facial Waxing”:
Today, Port Chester is famous for its restaurants.
1) Legally speaking it’s a village within the Town of Rye. The Town of Rye consists of the Villages of Rye Brook and Port Chester as well as a chunk of Mamaroneck. Rye itself is not part of the Town of Rye, instead it is an independent City. Although only a part of the Town of Rye, Port Chester has a population of 29,000 which is almost double the City of Rye’s 16,000. I’m not going to pretend to understand why this is so.
2) I’m not sure how this works exactly. Mental note to dig deeper into this.
3) Previously known as Orlando Miracle they were based down in Florida. A big change in climate, then.
4) Or burgled, if you’re from the UK. I’ll never get used to the verb “burglarize.” It has one too many vowels for a word so urgent.
5) Real name: Paul Caravello.
I’m guessing—and this is only a guess—that this is one of the earlier Mail Pouch Tobacco signs. When the Bloch Brothers Tobacco Company started making chewing tobacco in the late nineteenth century, they advertised primarily on the sides of buildings. It was only later they became famous for their advertisements on the sides of barns.
This one, on the corner of Leonard and E Main in Beacon, NY, is also distinctive because it doesn’t contain the standard Mail Pouch slogan: “Treat Yourself to the Best”. Instead, in the lower left it says
This is the first time I’ve seen smoking tobacco advertised on the same sign as Mail Pouch Chewing Tobacco. There’s a first time for everything.
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, New York City is full of little surprises. It is scattered with remnants of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs. I wasn’t expecting, for instance, to find a lonely antique column just off the pathway, trees growing around it.
Back when I was working on my PhD, one of my favourite Greek philosophers was Nicomachus. Born in Gerasa in what’s now Jordan, he’s a key source for later Platonic thought. I hadn’t given him a thought in years, but seeing the sign saying this column was originally from Gerasa, brought it all back. Sitting in that darkening library, a few pages into Nicomachus’ Introduction to Arithmetic looking up yet another word in The Great Scott. Whenever I puzzled my way through one more of his crazy theories, a new light bulb flickered on inside me.
Nicomachus died circa AD 120, right at the time this column was built as part of the Temple of Artemis.
In 1964, the King of Jordan pulled the column from the ruins of Gerasa and gave it to New York City. It stood in front of the Jordanian Pavilion—the rather magnificent Jordanian Pavilion—at the World’s Fair.
Now it stands alone, undiscovered and in the wrong place.
I miss my friend, Nicomachus.
This is one in a series of linked posts on the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs. Follow this link to see the others.
The Unisphere, centrepiece of the 1964-65 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, in New York City. The Unisphere, world’s largest globe, made of stainless steel, weighing 700,000lbs, 120ft in diameter, dedicated to “man’s aspirations toward Peace through mutual understanding”, ushering in The Space Age.
While the Space Age came and went, the Unisphere is still there in Queens, a rare survivor of the 1964 New York World’s Fair.
I miss the sea whenever I’m far from it, so I planned my big road trip this summer around bodies of water. I started by driving to here (Lake Erie from Evangola State Park, NY on a very rainy day. I was the only one in the park):
And then driving hundreds of circuitous miles to here (the Atlantic Ocean from Acadia National Park, ME):
On my wanderings I saw Niagara Falls:
A ruined building on Fishkill Creek in Beacon, NY:
Lake Ontario from Olcott, NY:
Lake Champlain (on the New York-Vermont Border with Quebec in the background):
A swimming pool in Swanton, Vermont on a stormy day (note: this is not a natural body of water):
Lake Memphremagog from Vermont, looking up at Quebec:
As you can tell, I hardly saw any sun. Which is a shame as I love the sun and the heat. The only bright day was when I visited Acadia National Park, ME:
I even saw a man in a hat. Or rather, I just saw his hat (there’s no water in this photo, FYI):
But it was back to heavy rain a little while later for my last view of the sea. Portland, ME:
I get physical pangs of guilt when I walk into a graveyard, camera in hand. It feels like I’m disturbing the dead. But when I heard of the Civil War era African American Cemetery in Rye, New York—right on my doorstep—I knew I had to go anyway. It’s a hugely significant graveyard: an important part of local history both because of its African American and Civil War links.
Although it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s not an easy cemetery to find. I knew it was adjacent to Rye’s Greenwood Union Cemetery (founded 1837), but it took me wandering through almost all of that gigantic cemetery to find the one acre African-American one. It seems to be a separate cemetery, marked off by a rough stone wall. There are no signposts, except right outside it. The entrance is a long, muddy path. I expect after rain that it’s almost impassible.
It’s so sad to walk through this cemetery; many of the gravestones are in a terrible shape. I know the Town of Rye has a restoration project underway, but it’s a couple of years since their website has been updated and I couldn’t see any signs of restoration in progress.
Many of the plots have subsided, gravestones jut out at odd angles. The alphabetic marker stones, letting you know what surnames are buried where are often missing, poking out of the earth in strange ways or lying on top of the ground. Only one or two are still in place.
It’s hard to find out much about the history of the cemetery except that it was donated by Underhill Halsted and his wife Elizabeth to
be forever after kept and used for the purposes of a cemetery or burial place for the colored inhabitants of the said Town of Rye and its vicinity free and clear of any charge therefore
It was used in this way—as a segregated graveyard—for over 100 years until 1964. 1964, the same year the Civil Rights Act was passed, outlawing racial segregation.
Many graves are so weathered, I couldn’t read them. At least two of them had always been blank, anonymous.
Large areas of the graveyard were never used. Nettie Peterson sits lonely in the middle of the plot. It’s hard to even see her gravestone among the fallen Autumn leaves,
The grave of Sarah C Smith is heartbreaking. A little sculpture of a dog yaps at the base of her gravestone. She died in 1840, aged four.
Incidentally, Sarah C Smith’s grave represents a conundrum. Everything I’ve read said the Halsted’s gave the land for use as a cemetery in 1860, but Sarah died in 1840. Was she reburied here? I read and reread the date—it definitely says 1840.
Another one that’s tough to look at simply says “Baby, 1870″.
But the moment that hit hardest—and I’m not sure why—was when I found, in a corner of the cemetery, the grave of Endless Hudson.
Over here you’re right next to the on-ramp for the I-95. The din of cars is unceasing. There is no peace here. The land in this corner is slightly lower, but I don’t think it’s subsidence. Endless sits slightly apart from the others.
Endless Hudson was born in 1913, fought in World War II and died in 1950. Despite looking around online, that’s more or less all I know about him. Endless Hudson, one of the most wonderful, evocative names I’ve ever heard. I wish I knew more about him.
This cemetery can’t be left in this condition. It’s too important historically and too important for the families of those interred here to let it continue to fall into ruin like this.
The Town of Rye Civil War Era African American Historical Cemetery
Address: Simplest way I can tell you to get there is this: go to Greenwood Union Cemetery (215 North Street, Rye, NY 10580) and then follow the directions on this map to get to the African American Cemetery.
At the very edge of the USA, right by the Rainbow Bridge which connects the Niagara Falls in New York with the Niagara Falls in Ontario there is an ice cream parlour in the shape of a sundae.
It’s a surviving building from the old Twistee Treat franchise which was founded in 1983. Identical ice cream sundae-shaped buildings sprung up across the USA and Canada. When the chain went bankrupt, ownership of the buildings went to the franchisees. Some even kept the name Twistee Treat (which should be interesting as a new Twistee Treat franchise seems to have started up.) It turns out that there’s quite a few original Twistee Treat buildings still in use.
Pretty obviously, this one changed its name. “Twist o’ the Mist” (a conglomeration of Twistee Treat and Maid of the Mist), doesn’t make a whole lot of sense once you think about it. But it sells ice cream, so who cares?