( Originally Published 1921 )
In 1869 the craze was for velocipedes—the fore runner of the bicycle. All over town there were academies and rinks for teaching and practicing the art of riding. Between Grace Church and Tenth Street there was a f our-story building—afterward occupied by the Vienna Bakery—the top floor of which was used as a Velocipede Riding Academy, patronized by hundreds of young people who crowded it nightly and in the daytime too. Fancy riding was a feature in the rinks and also on the stage in variety shows.
The velocipede was a very crude affair compared with the modern bicycle. At first it was made with an iron band around the wheels and the saddle was perfectly rigid. Riding in the open was therefore practiced only by those who had the strength and daring to endure its strenuousness. The idea of riding fifty or sixty miles and coming home refreshed and still vigorous was out of the question, but on the smooth floors of the Riding Academies the sport went fast and furious and perhaps as many miles were covered within their walls in the same time as were accomplished later by the bicycle with its air cushion tires and its ballbearing apparatus.
On Fifth Avenue between Forty-fifth and Forty-sixth Streets, where the Windsor Hotel afterward stood, there was an ice-skating rink in the winter time. The lots were below street grade and we went down steps to the pond. This was in the early seventies. The building on Third Avenue used later for the American Institute Fairs was also a skating-rink, one of the largest and best patronized in the city.
The Cocktail Route
As the days of prohibition approach, perhaps some Old New Yorkers will be interested to recall the "Cocktail Route" up Broadway as it was navigated forty or more years ago. The first "lighthouse" was Theodore Stew art's on John Street—the like of which never existed elsewhere; the next tack was laid to the Astor House bar, then came Stewart's "uptown place" in Warren Street—the first place of its kind which had a circular bar where the inside as well as the outside was exposed to view. The next "lighthouse" was Dowd's, near Leonard Street. From there the course was laid to Ball's near Howard Street. Here the navigator could indulge himself to his heart's content in excellent fish cakes. Ball's was the first place to offer these delicacies as an appetizer. The next leg of the course was to the New York Hotel at Waverly Place, a fine old hostelry with an excellent bar, and then to the Morton House at the corner of Fourteenth Street. The next was a long stretch to the Hoffman House and thence to Phil. Milligan's at Thirty-first Street where the friends parted and took their several ways home in a more or less happy frame of mind. The man of affairs of the present day does not know anything of the zig-zag route his predecessors took to his home when business closed. The fastest and straightest line from office to home is the vogue now, and the "Cocktail Route" has gone the way of many another old New York custom.
Some of the older artists will remember Martinelli's in Third Avenue which was frequented by artists forty years or more ago. This was before he opened his restaurant in one of the old mansions on the north side of Union Square near the Everett House. His place was in a cellar in Third Avenue fitted up to appeal to the Bohemian taste of his patrons. It was very comfortable and inexpensive and was patronized by members of the National Academy of Design. There was a long table in the room and the seat at the head of the table was reserved at all times for the President of the Academy. When Martinelli moved to the more pretentious quarters in Union Square the artistic charm passed and his patrons from the Academy disappeared.
The St. Nicholas Hotel
This was the finest hotel in New York in the seventies. Its proprietor had been a cook on a North River sloop and he considered this fact a certificate of excellence. He was very proud of his cuisine and it was said of him that he would rather show his kitchen to visitors than the spacious and handsome parlors.
Voting in 1868
As an illustration of how they did things at the polls in these days it was not considered an unusual thing to see a body of purchased or coerced voters marched to the polls. On election day, at the time of which I speak, the owners of the large refineries in the eighth ward, nearly all of whom were prominent in the religious life of the community, formed their employees in line, placed the ballots in their hands, marched them off to the polls and saw them deposit the ballots in the ballot-box.
Passing of the Old Volunteer Fire Department
When the Volunteer Fire Department was disbanded the formal farewell to the "machine" was made by runping it out of the house, turning it around and running it back "tongue in." "Harry Howard Hose laid" in Christopher Street and it was here the above solemn farewell ceremony was witnessed.
Thackeray and the Bowery Boy
When visiting New York, Thackeray expressed a wish to meet a Bowery Boy. A friend took him to the Bowery and suggested that he get into conversation with one of the boys. Approaching one, Thackeray made an effort to begin a conversation by saying, "I want to go to the Bowery. The answer came swiftly back, "Well, sonny, you can go."
The Gap Between New York and Harlem
The change from the old New York to the newer city took place when the elevated roads were opened. Previously there had been a great gap between New York and Harlem. When people found that they could go to One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street in less time than it took to go to Forty-second Street by stage or horse-car they flocked to the new districts by hundreds of thousands and "Old New York" as we knew it then fast disappeared in the great modern city of today.
Greenwich Village Proper
The application of the term Greenwich Village by the scribes of the present day to territory east of Sixth Avenue is absolutely wrong. Greenwich Village was west of Sixth Avenue and southwest of Greenwich Avenue. My mother as a girl lived in the neighborhood of Jane Street, and when going to visit an aunt who lived on McDougal Street walked through open fields.
Washington Parade Ground
Washington Square was Washington Parade Ground prior to the time when it was cut through for teams and Lawrence Street widened and called South Fifth Avenue. The drills of the Seventh Regiment took place in the wide space on the outer edge of the Parade Ground. It was to provide a better drill ground that Tompkins Square was opened.
Longacre Square in Its Infancy
In the spring of 1862 my family moved to one of the newly completed brownstone houses on the east side of Seventh Avenue, between Forty-sixth and Forty-seventh streets. At that time there were no houses except squatters' shanties between Forty-eighth Street and Central Park.
My father kept his driving-horses at the livery stable opposite the site of the present Hotel Astor, which was then occupied by a row of houses that had been put up by the Astor family. Our usual drive in the afternoon was up through Central Park to 110th Street and Fifth Avenue, where Harlem Lane began, and thence out to Bloomington and King's Bridge. My father owned some lots on West 129th Street which were occupied by gardeners. The rental he received was his winter's supply of celery.
Carmansville to New York in 1867
In 1867 my brother lived at Carmansville. In going to and from his business he took the steamer "Tiger Lily" between Carmansville and 129th Street and East River, and from there the famous boats "Sylvan Dell," "Sylvan Stream," "Sylvan Grove" and "Sylvan Glen" to Peck Slip.
Frolics of the Old Fire Department
I remember the final parade of the old Volunteer Fir' Department. Every Engine Company, Hook and Lad-der and Hose had its own particular pet—we would say mascot now. One had a live bald eagle called "Uncle Abe." Hook and Ladder No. 8 had a black bear. In parading the apparatus was drawn by hand, the tow rope being extended from curb to curb by the front rank of men, and the men on the ends would "swipe" the hand-kerchiefs of the ladies and tie them on to the rope, so that by the time they reached the place of dismissal the rope was hung full of them.
When Bill Poole was shot his last words were, "I (lie an American Citizen," and the American Wards—the eighth, ninth and fifteenth—suspended all business. On the Sunday afternoon he was buried the Sunday schools were almost entirely empty of pupils.
Chop Houses in the '60's
There was an English Chop House known as "The Studio" just above Dr. Muhlenberg's church that was so very English that I do not remember having seen an American paper or magazine there at any time. On Fourth Avenue near 20th Street there was a similar place but not quite so exclusive. Quiet controlled the Chop Houses of those days, so very different from the noise and bustle of the Chop Houses of to-day. And where are the good old Oyster Houses that used to be plentiful? What turtle soup we used to get at Fulton Market!
Pat Gilmore and His Band
Pat Gilmore was at the apex of his fame when he played at Brighton Beach. He was very proud of his band, and it was a big one. There were 100 pieces in it. There was only one other band to compare with it, and that was Col. Jim Fisk's Ninth Regiment Band, which also had 100 pieces. Grafula the famous leader of the Seventh Regiment Band would not have more than 48 pieces. He said that he could make more music or more noise with 48 pieces than Gilmore could with 100. Gil-more travelled all over the country giving concerts. He carried 100 uniforms with him, many of which were filled by local talent of the places where he played.