Sunday, October 23, 2011
(Continued from September 23, 2011)
Manhattan's Park Theatre was well-positioned in the autumn of 1829. One rival had been burnt out in April, another had closed recently due to poor box office receipts. But there was a young theatrical impresario in town, an Irish import, whose showplace would rival and, finally outshine and outlast the Park.
Very little seems to be known of William Niblo's background. His 1878 obituary in the New York Times just adds to the confusion: The subhead lists his age as 80; the text as 89. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle agrees with the later figure, so it seems Niblo was born in the late 1780s, probably arriving in New York sometime in the mid-to-late 90s. He apprenticed himself to David King, the keeper of a coffee house at 43 Pine Street (today's Trump Building) and settled in to learn the dinning trade. When King died Niblo, who had become his son-in-law by then, took over the business, changing the name to the Bank Coffee House, a name designed to appeal to the denizens of the surrounding financial district, including the two-year-old Merchants Exchange just down the street. The first Delmonico's would have come along at the same time, but there was enough feedbag trade to go around and Niblo prospered.
Billy, as he has been referred to, enjoyed being the genial host. His obit described him as jovial and kind-hearted with native shrewdness and wit. Whenever he came up with an extra-special culinary treat he would hold a private reception just for his regulars, which added to the cachet of the establishment and draw in new clientele. Not content to rest on his laurels (or bay leaves, or what-have-you) he looked for opportunities to expand. A few years previous to 1829, he leased some land further up Broadway at Prince Street, the area that would someday become SoHo, and set out to convert the building on the site into a combination restaurant and public concert garden. In the years following the American Revolution it had been an indoor arena for circus-style entertainment called The Stadium. Later it was used for drilling militia officers during the War of 1812 and, most recently, was the pleasure grounds known as Columbian Garden. Niblo had built a stage into one end of the main room and replaced the corridor walls with glass doors. Eventually the site would also sport a theater - the Sans Souci - that could seat 3,000, a saloon and, eventually a hotel. Open spaces between buildings were covered with canvas tents, creating a circus atmosphere along Broadway, as gaily-colored flags at the peaks flapped in the breezes.
This year, 1829, Niblo unveiled his once-again renamed Niblo's Garden and Theatre to the public on May 18th for a preview look. A month-and-a-half later, on a rainy Independence Day, the official opening, Niblo pulled out all the stops, topping himself with an unprecedented display of gaslight, the first such inside a theater. One attendee reported, "a patriotic display of gas lights which flaunted the name of "Niblo" far and wide and immortalized it in stage as well as gas history. An admiring public gasped from a respectful distance, watching the red, white and blue shadows cast by the rows of gas jets spelling the proprietor's name." William Niblo would be a theatrical force to be reckoned with for many years to come. And who knows - perhaps he was an inspiration for a young man who was running a fruit and confectionery store for his grandfather Phineas Taylor in Bethel, Connecticut.
© 2005 David Minor / Eagles Byte
Thursday, October 20, 2011
A Colonel Romer arrives in Iroquois country, and is instructed to view the “burning spring” near Bristol. ** The approximate date Don Manuel Gonzales moves from Ulster County’s Rochester with his family and settles in Mamakating Hollow, in the future Sullivan County.
The approximate date the first English settlers arrive in the area. Abraham Yates builds a house on Union Street about this time, on the site of the former Jan Roeleffson's house, destroyed during the 1690 massacre.
The Massachusetts General Court and New York State banish Roman Catholic priests. New York mandates hanging for any priests entering the colony to influence the Indians.
The 5,000-acre Walter’s Patent, in Westchester County, is granted to Robert Walters.
Scarsdale Manor is granted to Caleb Heathcote.
Robert Livingston writes to the Board of Trade in London, praising the Iroquois Nations for their friendly relations with the colony.
New York State adopts a policy of neutrality toward the Canadian French. ** Johannis Hardenbergh petitions New York’s governor for grants of small tracts of lands in the Catskills. ** Wealthy miller Frederick Philipse dies, leaving his Yonkers home and property to his grandson Frederick. ** Royal governor Richard Coote, Earl of Bellomont, dies suddenly. ** The Five Nations’ treaty with the French in Canada and renewal of the Coveant Chain with the English in Albany, preserves the tribes’ independence - The Grand Settlement.
The first court sessions for Orange County are held at Tappantown (in today’s Rockland County town of Orangetown.)
East and West Jersey are united as a royal province by Queen Anne, under the governor of New York.
Edward Hyde, Viscount Cornbury, a cousin of Queen Anne, begins serving as royal governor in New York, replacing the late Lord Bellomont.
Westchester County landowner Frederick Philipse dies in New York City at the age of 76.
Frederick Philipse’s will is probated; he left his son Adolph the portion of Philipsburgh Manor north of Dobbs Ferry, including the town of Mount Pleasant.
New York French Church minister the Reverend Peter Peiret petitions Lord Cornbury to resume a salary previously received from the city due to the smallness of his congregation, for his living expenses. Cornbury agrees to a £20 per year pension until Peiret’s death.
Jesuit missionary Julien Garnier returns from Canada to live for a while with the Seneca again. ** Johannis Hardenbergh petitions the governor for permission to purchase 250 acres of land northwest of Kingston from the local tribes. The tracts, called Sakewanneekcock and Pog Kanecook by the Indians, will become part of the Town of Woodstock. ** ** A short road is built at the portage or Great Carrying Place, between Wood Creek and the Mohawk River.
Former Jesuit missionary to the Seneca Julien Garnier dies in Québec at the age of 87.
The Wawayanda Patent, in New York’s Orange County, is awarded to Chief Justice Dr.
John Bridges and others.
The Rhinebeck Patent, in Dutchess County, is granted to Henry Beekman.
The Ulster County town of Rochester, named for the Earl of Rochester, is incorporated by patent. ** Beekman’s Patent, in New York’s Dutchess County, is granted to Henry Beekman.
New York acting colonial governor James De Lancey is born in New York City, to
merchant Etienne (later Stephen) De Lancey (Delancey) and Anne Van Cortlandt De
Legislation calls for the establishment of a road between New York City and the Connecticut line to the east (later the Boston Post Road). ** The proprietors at the eastern end of Long Island reaffirm the residence and planting rights of the Montauk Indians.
The Westchester County town of Bedford has its 1697 rights confirmed by the colonial government.
Queen Anne’s patent of confirmation is awarded to patroon Killian van Rennssalaer, son of Jeremiah.
The Minisink Patent, in Sullivan and Orange counties, is granted to Matthew Ling and others.
© 2011 Eagles Byte / David Minor
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Sunday, October 9, 2011
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