info 05.15.13

Tribeca Pentimento

pentimento n. An underlying image in a painting, as an earlier painting, part of a painting, or original draft, that shows through, usually when the top layer of paint has become transparent with age.

St. John's Park was considered, from the 1820s-1840s, an "Eden," as one newspaper described it. Elegant Federal-style houses surrounded the enclosed park (similar to Gramercy Park), and the centerpiece was St. John's Chapel. What was an Eden is now the entrance to the Holland Tunnel.

Gone, too, is the house of Mme. Restell, the well-known, mid-19th-century abortionist, which stood at Greenwich and Chambers (she later moved up to 5th and 52nd). Luc Sante, author of Low Life: The Lures and Snares of Old New York, told us that for her "infallible French female pills and celebrated Preventive Powders for married ladies, whose health forbids a too rapid increase of family," Mme. Restell charged $500-$1000, astronomical for the time. Mr. Sante notes that ultimately she was "hounded to her death by Anthony Comstock, a self-appointed moral censor of the times." After being released from the Tombs (the first of a series of jails with this nickname, given because its design was based on an ancient Egyptian mausoleum), she slit her throat while in her bathtub.

Standing at Warren Street, looking from West Broadway to Broadway, you can see a largely intact 19th century commercial streetscape. Same deal walking up Broadway, looking west on Reade Street, and if you continue up to White Street.

The first department store in America was at 280 Broadway and Chambers. It was opened in 1846 by A.T. Stewart and had no sign (no need: everyone knew what it was). Subsequently, it became the site of the Sun building, named for the newspaper it housed.

2 White Street is the small house on the corner of White and West Broadway, a survivor from 1809. It's one of the oldest residential houses in Manhattan. A short history of it is here.

If you've ever wondered about the second story bridge on Staple Street, it connected the old House of Relief (part of NY Hospital) with the ambulance garage.

On Harrison Street, the Harrison Houses, built between 1796 and 1828, were saved from destruction in the '60s. Most of the houses were relocated to their current site from Washington Street.

Just some of the layers under the triangle below the canal.

The West Fifties

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