Impassioned Vintage

“Perhaps my best years are gone. When there was a chance of happiness. But I wouldn’t want them back. Not with the fire in me now. No, I wouldn’t want them back.”
Samuel Beckett, Krapp’s Last Tape & Embers

Our Humble Mouse


Over 44 years ago, our merry world of computerized pointing and clicking began. On 9 December 1968, while America rocked towards peace and rolled toward revolution (when this antediluvian blogger was in his first year of high school), a different and even more profound bit of radicalism was being displayed at a San Francisco auditorium. Douglas Engelbart and his team of engineers were exhibiting his invention; a little device, never seen before, that would usher in the modern world of computers: The Mouse.

In its first public unveiling, Engelbart demonstrated the mouse, along with a host of other innovations, to an audience of 1,000 computer professionals. Requiring over six years of research and the work of twenty engineers, the demonstration alone was a huge accomplishment.

Of course, this pioneering mouse was primitive by today’s standards; nowadays, we usually take the most extraordinary software and hardware for granted…the mouse has become as basic as a pen. Rather than a ball, Engelbart’s mouse contained two large, perpendicularly-arranged discs; locations of the x/y axis were controlled by the discs’ movements. The original mouse was large and unwieldy, but Engelbert envisioned that the user, while holding it, would work a one-handed keyboard and not a QWERTY-styled keyboard.

Years would pass before the mouse caught the public attention with the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984. Engelbart’s patent had expired by this time and he never received a penny for the invention that helped give birth to our computerized world.

Yahoo! Tech

Our Grandparents’ Hidden Object Game


Things found in the main building of the former immigration station complex of Ellis Island.

Source: hope « emilene miossi.

The pleasure gardens of Lower Manhattan

Ephemeral New York

Pleasure gardens: The term sounds dreamy and enchanting.

And for 18th and 19th century city residents, these gardens definitely were: recreational spaces open day and night that featured landscaped grounds, lights, music, theater, fountains, and grottos.

Kind of a cross between a botanical garden, country club, and the Playboy mansion, pleasure gardens offered a coed social scene plus the latest fancy refreshments—the alcoholic kind as well as the new craze: ice cream.

New York Vauxhall Gardens, opened in 1767 on Greenwich Street by the Hudson River, was one of the first. Vauxhall eventually relocated between Broadway and the Bowery (practically the countryside at the time) in 1805.

Exclusive Niblo’s Garden (at left) soon became hugely popular, taking over an older pleasure garden at Broadway and Prince Street in 1825 and expanding it with a theater and open-air saloon.

Contoit’s Garden, close to Niblo’s on Broadway, was an elegant rival. And…

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Revitalizing Towards the Clouds


“The downtown financial district appears to be taking on new life after lagging behind the Midtown sector for several years in new construction and leasing activity.” (NY TIMES)  This was the optimistic forecast on October 23, 1949  when Dun & Bradstreet (a credit agency) finalized plans for their new headquarters at 99 Church Street.  Located between Barclay Street and Park Place, right behind the Woolworth Building, it was the largest office building built in Downtown Manhattan since the Great Depression.

Whereas Lower Manhattan is one of the oldest and most historic neighborhoods in New York City, its historic significance is intermingled with an awkward modernity and lingering decrepitude that confounds its bustling if uncertain  commerce.  A confusing sprawl of narrow, cobblestone lanes, intersecting with wider streets such as Broadway, are congested with pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

Buildings that are already old look even older within a jumbled, overburdened  atmosphere of haphazard and sporadic modernization. Since the 1940s, an ongoing and callous effort to revitalize Lower Manhattan, which would culminate with the construction of the World Trade Center, is proceeding ever more forcibly since its destruction…unfortunately, with the same callousness.

Larry Silverstein, real estate tycoon and former WTC leaseholder who gave new meaning to the words “pull it,” is in the process of constructing a new building over the old building at 99 Church Street to make way for a 80-story hotel and apartment tower. At 912 feet high, it will be the tallest residential building in the city.

The Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group, the building’s sales division, is billing the new project as something that will  “unquestionably advance the revitalization efforts of downtown.”  Now that luxurious living space is apparently replacing the need for office space in noted commercial areas of town such as Lower Manhattan, “revitalization” could be taking on an entirely new meaning.

Until recently, all of the city’s super-tall buildings have been office buildings. New Yorkers have never really lived all that high up in the air. The fabled penthouses of Park Avenue or Central Park West were ever only 300 or 400 feet high. By the standards of history and of many other places, that’s pretty high up. But by the standards of Manhattan skyscrapers, a handful of which rise more than 1,000 feet, it’s not much.  NY Sun

Sadly, the Woolworth Building (already hemmed-in by other lofty revitalization), once known as  the “Cathedral of Commerce” with its icy Gothic pinnacle soaring toward the heavens, will be further overshadowed by Silverstein’s 80-story towering luxuriousness.

I remain somewhat confused that so much apparent luxury is rising in NYC, while its commerce diminishes and leaves behind only its history as an attraction for sightseers.

But as David Dunlap writes, “The Republic Aviation Corporation [one of 99 Church Street’s original tenants] boasted to prospective employees in 1951 that the building was ‘completely air-conditioned’ — something of a novelty at the time.  Presumably, the new 99 Church Street will be able to make the same claim.”

Source: NY Times


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A Simple Sign of Wonder

xmas cross wonder wheel

The illuminated cross atop Deno’s Wonder Wheel is a 67-year holiday tradition started by the Garms family to mark the end of World War II and the troops return home. The new LED cross, which was made by DJ Vourderis, is on the wheel from Thanksgiving thru Jan 6. May your holidays be merry and bright!!  Source: Coney Island History Project


Architects May Come, Architects May Go

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Our new exhibition “A Long-Awaited Tribute: Frank Lloyd Wright‘s Usonian House and Pavilion” opens this Friday.

Film clips from Wright Pavilion Construction, 1953. Films on the construction of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. A0005. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Archives, New York.