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Posts in Gilded Age
Distant Islands: The Japanese American Community in New York City

Distant Islands: The Japanese American Community in New York City

Reviewed by Olga Souudi

Daniel H. Inouye’s Distant Islands is a richly detailed, extensive account of the lives of Japanese living in New York City between 1876 and the 1930s. Little scholarly work on the lives of Japanese in New York, and on the East Coast in general, exists, either historical or contemporary, and Inouye’s book is a valuable contribution to this underexplored field.

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Suzanne Hinman's The Grandest Madison Square Garden: Art, Scandal, & Architecture in Gilded Age New York

Suzanne Hinman's The Grandest Madison Square Garden: Art, Scandal, & Architecture in Gilded Age New York

Reviewed by Paul Ranogajec

Madison Square Garden was among the premier places to see and be seen in New York City at the turn of the twentieth century. As Suzanne Hinman amply documents in her new book, this palace of popular entertainment was truly a modern wonder of architecture and spectacle. Like the old Penn Station (another McKim, Mead and White building that sadly no longer graces the city’s streets) the Garden helped define the aesthetic and social landscapes of New York in the years around 1900.

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New York Recentered: Building the Metropolis from the Shore

New York Recentered: Building the Metropolis from the Shore

By Kara Murphy Schlichting

In 1865 New York City park commissioner Andrew Haswell Green came to the conclusion that the city had outgrown Manhattan Island. In a report for the Board of Commissioners of Central Park, Green argued that the city’s future should include its mainland environs of Westchester County north of the Harlem River. He articulated a river-spanning future for New York. Green reasoned that lower Westchester was “so intimately connected with and dependent upon the City of New York, that unity of plan for improvements on both sides” of the Harlem was “essential.”

Reprinted with permission from New York Recentered: Building the Metropolis from the Shore, by Kara Murphy Schlichting, published by the University of Chicago Press. © 2019 by the University of Chicago Press. All rights reserved.

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The Metropolitan Section: City Life, Delivered

The Metropolitan Section: City Life, Delivered

By Julia Guarneri

“I thought I knew every nook and angle of this village, but it seems your staff are ferreting out new and interesting bits every week.” In 1919, subscriber Charles Romm sent this letter to the New York Tribune, praising the paper’s new “In Our Town” section. The Tribune — like the World, the Times, the American, and many of the city’s other daily papers — ​had begun printing a special local section on Sundays. These metropolitan sections, as they were often called, did not print local news, exactly. They were not the places to look for accident reports or the latest in city politics. Instead, metropolitan sections gave readers glimpses of the everyday city. They brought the sights, accents, and clamor of the city into readers’ laps, to be enjoyed from a living room couch or a lunch counter. Newspapers’ metropolitan sections packaged up city life for quick, enjoyable consumption.

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Erica Wagner's Chief Engineer: Washington Roebling, The Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge

Erica Wagner's Chief Engineer: Washington Roebling, The Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge

Reviewed by Richard Howe

The name Roebling is so closely bound up with the Brooklyn Bridge that it’s probably worth saying at the outset of this review that Erica Wagner’s Chief Engineer: Washington Roebling: The Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge(Bloomsbury, 2017) really is a biography of the man and not — as might be said of David McCullough’s classic The Great Bridge (Simon & Schuster, 1972) — a biography of the bridge. The eldest son of the bridge’s designer and promoter, John A. Roebling, Washington Roebling was born on May 26, 1837, in Saxonburg, Pennsylvania, and died shortly past his eighty-ninth birthday, on July 21, 1926, in Trenton, New Jersey. He served as chief engineer for the construction of what was then known as the East River Bridge for nearly fourteen years, from shortly after his father’s death on July 22, 1869, until he resigned the position not long after the bridge was opened to the public on May 24, 1883 (his assistant C. C. Martin was appointed in his place on July 9, 1883). Washington Roebling was thirty-two when he was appointed chief engineer for the Brooklyn Bridge; he lived another forty-three years after leaving that post. Though it was his position with the bridge project that secured him a place in the history of New York, seventy-five of his eighty-nine years were not spent on the great bridge, and it is perhaps the greatest merit of Erica Wagner’s book that it would be a fascinating and moving read even if its subject had never been chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge. I would almost go so far as to say that it might have been an even more fascinating and moving read had he not been.

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The Gould Memorial Library: A Forgotten Stanford White Gem in the Bronx

The Gould Memorial Library: A Forgotten Stanford White Gem in the Bronx

By Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis

The Gould Memorial Library in the Bronx may be the most famous building in New York City that you’ve never heard of. It recently made an appearance in The Greatest Showman, the 2018 Hugh Jackman musical about the life of P. T. Barnum, as the setting for a glorious party, but unless you know what you’re looking at, you’d think it was an elaborate Hollywood stage set—not a library.

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The Earliest Sculptures in Central Park

The Earliest Sculptures in Central Park

By Dianne Durante

In Olmsted and Vaux’s Greensward Plan, the only sculpture was one atop the fountain at the center of Bethesda Terrace. The commission for the sculpture was given in 1863 to Emma Stebbins (1815-1882), an American-born sculptor working in Rome who happened to be the sister of a member of the Board of Commissioners of Central Park.

This post is an excerpt from the author's new book, Central Park: The Early Years.

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