As Cool As Ever Strumming

snowman red guitar

The Snowman with the Red Guitar — atBrooklyn Heights Promenade.

Brooklyn Poets

My wife and I were wondering what became of Strummin’ Joe: rhythm guitar troubadour, ingenious improviser, and all-around nice guy. When we last saw him, he was chicken scratching leisurely pass the last ice shelf on the left. Of course, we knew he was cool but had no idea how cool he really was (or is?).

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“Chill From His Rippling Rest”

brooklyn-bridgefog

Dawn seems to “chill from his rippling rest.” Few experiences are as ethereal as strolling across Brooklyn Bridge on a foggy morning. I did it a few times in my younger, more peripatetic days. While the view is opaque, the atmosphere is surreal; a sense of being suspended in time and space. But you inevitably reach the opposite shore and reality intercedes–unless you’re lucky enough to go on traversing in dreams.

Photo Source: Adam Scott

How many dawns, chill from his rippling rest The seagull‘s wings shall dip and pivot him, Shedding white rings of tumult, building high Over the chained bay waters Liberty– – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15444#sthash.mPSM5Ual.dpuf

How many dawns, chill from his rippling rest The seagull’s wings shall dip and pivot him, Shedding white rings of tumult, building high Over the chained bay waters Liberty– – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15444#sthash.mPSM5Ual.dpuf

How many dawns, chill from his rippling rest The seagull’s wings shall dip and pivot him, Shedding white rings of tumult, building high Over the chained bay waters Liberty– – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15444#sthash.mPSM5Ual.dpuf

How many dawns, chill from his rippling rest The seagull’s wings shall dip and pivot him, Shedding white rings of tumult, building high Over the chained bay waters Liberty– – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15444#sthash.mPSM5Ual.dpuf
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One More Ghost Station

CityIRT.kiosk

The IRT‘s original City Hall station was part of NYC‘s first major subway project and designed as a sort of ceremonial terminal. Construction began on 24 March 1900 in front of City Hall; the steps of the building leading to the station’s entrance. From this vantage point, NYC mayors could expound on the benefits of mass transit and, more or less, interact with the citizenry

The station was open to the public in October of 1904. Unlike most subway stations, it had a unique, sharply curved platform; a Guastavino tile arched ceiling in addition to the more basic (for the time) skylights and plaques honoring its construction.

Unfortunately, its location at this turning loop, at a time when more practically configured uptown and local trains were coming into service, rendered the station noisy and poorly situated. Improperly designed platforms, riddled with gaps, also made it unsafe. The station was closed at night, local trains by-passing it on their way to South Ferry; and even when it was open it was limited to an “entrance only” station. After a disappointing forty-one years of service, the station was finally closed in 1945.

CityIRT.book

In April 1995, efforts to reopen the City Hall station as part of the newly created NYC Transit Museum were introduced. The loop track was re-classed from “yard track” (or maintenance track) to “mainline,” which allowed the public to view the station without special permission. The commemorative plaques which had been moved to Brooklyn Bridge station in 1962 were reinstalled in their original positions in 1996. Everything fell through when the awaited funding never materialized and in 1998 the plans were canceled.

The City Hall station remains, an unseen yet ghostly presence frozen in time beneath Manhattan’s crowded streets and alongside its speeding trains: Out of sight in the onrush of progress and out of mind in the onrush of history.

CityIRT.1978platform

For more on this and other NYC Subway curiosities, Abandoned Stations (the source for this post and accompanying photos) is a great site for NYC’s vast collection of underground stories.

 

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“How Many Dawns, Chill From His Rippling Rest”

bklyn-bridge

On this day in 1870, construction on the Brooklyn Bridge began. When completed and opened in 1883, it was by far the largest structure in the New York City skyline. Three years later, that distinction would go to the Statue of Liberty in 1886. (dd) Photo: Library of CongressStatue of Liberty National Monument

Mayakovsky

 

Happy Birthday, Mayakovsky

If / the end of the world / befall— / and chaos / smash our planet / to bits, / and what remains / will be / this / bridge, rearing above the dust of destruction; / then, as huge ancient lizards / are rebuilt / from bones / finer than needles, / to tower in museums, / so, / from this bridge, / a geologist of the centuries / will succeed / in recreating / our contemporary world.

—(extract from) Vladimir Mayakovsky, “Brooklyn Bridge

Source: Brooklyn Poets

 

Projecting A Burgeoning City

A view from the Williamsburg Bridge shows congested traffic in Manhattan on January 29, 1923.

When he died in 1943, Eugene de Salignac was entirely forgotten. He was born in Boston in 1861, a descendant of French nobility, and, after a failed marriage, started working for the City of New York as the official photographer for the Department of Bridges; a position he would hold from 1906 to 1934.

In that time, he witnessed the rise of modern New York City and recorded it on film for the ages. At the time of his death, de Salignac left behind more than 100 volumes of prints, corresponding logbooks and plate-glass negatives; the bulk of which were either stored in municipal storerooms or used arbitrarily for various documentaries. However, de Salignac himself remained largely forgotten and remained largely uncredited for his work…for his recently acclaimed art.

De Salignac’s pictures have been reproduced in books, newspapers, posters and films, including Ken BurnsBrooklyn Bridge; though largely uncredited, his work helped shape New York’s image. “He was a great chronicler of the city, in the tradition of Jacob Riis, Lewis Hine, Stieglitz and Berenice Abbott,” says Mellins. “The fact that he was a city employee may have made it less likely that people would think of his work in an artistic context, but these images indicate that he really takes his place in the pantheon of great photographers of New York.”

This view of the Brooklyn Bridge, looking east, was taken on May 6, 1918.

Then in 1999, Michael Lorenzini, the senior photographer for the New York City Municipal Archives, was browsing through spools of microfilm when he noticed a shared, “distinct and sophisticated aesthetic” in many of the archival images which were also numbered. “It just kind of hit me: this is one guy; this is a great photographer,” Lorenzini says.  He searched through storeroom after storeroom, record after record, for anything that would identify the photographer behind the pictures. After mounting days and months comprised of grueling hours, Lorenzini finally discovered the municipal worker/photographer/artist he was looking for: De Salignac…for a century, one of the most forgotten of chroniclers.

Workers on the Williamsburg Bridge on March 20, 1918. The “W” was part of “WSS,” which stood for “War Savings Stamps.”

De Salignac’s time as a city worker coincided with New York’s transformation from a horse-and-buggy town into a modern-day metropolis, and his photographs of towering bridges, soaring buildings, trains, buses and boats chart the progress. “In this remarkable repository of his work, we really see the city becoming itself,” says Thomas Mellins, curator of special exhibitions at the Museum of the City of New York. “During this period, New York became a paradigm for 20th-century urbanism, and that has to do with monumentality, transportation systems, working out glitches, skyscrapers, with technology—all of the things that emerge in these photos.”

An ironworker at work in the William Street (Manhattan) subway on November 19, 1928.

De Salignac finally gained the attention and respect he deserved. In 2007, he was honored at the Museum of the City of New York with a special exhibition dedicated to his life and work. New York Rises: Photographs by Eugene de Salignac, is a companion book to the exhibition published by Aperture with essays be Lorenzini and photography scholar Kevin Moore.

Source: Smithsonian Magazine