Tuesday, December 20, 2011
(Continued from November 23, 2011)
Every incoming New York City mayor takes the reins of a different beast than that of his predecessor. As state legislator and canal supporter Walter Bowne prepared to take over from William Paulding at the end of 1829 the city was in its usual state of flux. Street names were changing, usually piecemeal - part of Herring Street became Bleecker, part of Arden became Morton, part of Reason Street (named for Thomas Paine's ”The Age of Reason”) became Barrow.
Structures were springing up on streets old and new. On the north side of the new Washington Square, construction began on architect Martin Thompson's row of Greek Revival townhouses. Thompson, by the way, along with Ithiel Town and Andrew J. Davis, all with offices in the Merchants Exchange building, constituted the entire architectural profession in the city. Over on Macdougal Street, between West 3rd and 4th streets, a row of townhouses in the older Federal style was being built for a real estate investor, a man in his early seventies who'd had few other careers before this - vice-president of the United States for one - man named Aaron Burr. It was a healthy market. Buildings on the better, older streets brought good prices. A two-story house and lot at 17 Broadway, sold for $19,000. The Bowling Green Post Office sits on the site in our own time. But, begin looking over on nearby Hanover Square today and you could find a 625 square foot two-room apartment for a mere $299,000. Plus a $900 per month maintenance fee. Adaptive reuse is not a new concept in our own time. Over near City Hall, the New Gaol building, built in 1755, was converted in 1829 into a hall of records.
All the changes were not architectural and geographical. Among the new institutions springing up were two banks - the National Bank in the City of New York, and the Seamen's Bank for Savings in the City of New York (they didn't believe in short, punchy names back then). The New York City Temperance Society was founded as was the Workingmen's Party of New York. The latter would only last two years, replaced two years later by the General Trades Union, a confederation of the city's smaller labor organizations, which by 1836 would conduct nearly 40 work stoppages. Fire was always a major concern in this city with only a primitive water system. Since 1816 firefighters had been exempted from military and jury duty after serving in their departments for ten years. 1829 saw the required term lowered to seven years; in 1847 it would be reduced to five.
Two newspapers were founded to help New Yorkers keep track of all these changes. Mordecai M Noah, who we met in 1827 founding the Niagara frontier Jewish state of Ararat, was here now, and founded the Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer, which would later merge with the New York World. He signed on editor James Gordon Bennett. Senior, that is. Junior would make an even bigger name for himself here, in the business later on. The Morning Herald and the Evening Journal also joined the city's media mix. (Make that medium mix).
Many foreign sections of the city's papers probably carried the recent news of a fellow countryman of James Stuart's by the name of William Hare and his friend William Burke. We'll check out their connection with 1829 New York next time.
© 2005 David Minor / Eagles Byte