By Nina E. Harkrader
Upper and middle-class New Yorkers quickly grew alarmed by the number of young, single women living in cities apart from their families — alone, unprotected, and unsupervised. The practical question of finding decent accommodation for single working women thus also became a moral one of preserving the purity, dignity, and femininity of future wives and mothers. These tensions between the increasing numbers of working women and societal expectations would continue for decades. As a result, during the period from about 1860 to 1930, urban housing for single working women — its location, design, and even its furnishings — became central to the struggle for women to be accepted as independent citizens.
In the late nineteenth century, municipal officials and boosters of a regionally-scaled New York City endeavored to reshape the material nature of the cityscape. Debates about the physical nature of the urban fringe demonstrate how the city’s coastal edge was both an ecological system and a cultural and political landscape. The harbor environment included both sides of the high-tide line — riparian land and lands underwater. Developers looked to control the material characteristics of the coast through infrastructure. Landscape architects, engineers, and street commissioners approached the urban edge as a laboratory for regional planning. These city builders focused on regional environmental boundaries in contradistinction to laissez-faire urbanization and development that overlooked the conditions of environment and topography. Parks, channelized rivers, and street systems expanded the urban fabric into rural hinterlands.
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.
By Kim Dramer
On March 25, 1911, fire swept through the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Trapped by locked doors and only a single flimsy fire escape, 146 workers, mostly young Jewish and Italian immigrants, perished in the conflagration itself or jumped from windows to escape the flames and died from the fall. The Triangle Fire was the most fatal workplace tragedy in New York City history until 9/11. Today, New Yorkers walk by three small plaques marking the spot of the tragedy, many unaware of the events that unfolded at the spot more than a century ago. 
This article will examine three current efforts by New York women memorializing the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire workers. Significantly, many of these women are the descendants of immigrants who plied the needle trades in search of the American dream. While the dreams of the young immigrant women who perished in the Triangle fire put an end to their quest, their legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of New Yorkers.
By Sandra Roff and Sarah Rappo
By Matthew Guariglia
As the rest of the world continues to ruminate on the 100-year anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, New Yorkers also must grapple with the lasting impact the “Great War” had on their city. In the years leading up to, during, and following the United States’ 1917 entrance into the war, “preparedness” became the watchword that signaled New York’s increasing awareness of its connection to the world and the conflicts happening beyond the harbor. From food rationing to drafting soldiers, preparedness and all it involved included a full-scale reorganization of American society, including the New York City Police Department.
Although for many New Yorkers, interactions with the police remained unchanged, the NYPD’s transition from the hulking 19th century bruisers of Gangs of New York to modern police officers was cemented by how preparedness and militarization effected the way NYPD officers acted, looked, and understood their jobs.
From 1915 through 1917, “preparedness” became a central tenet of Police Commissioner Arthur Woods’ department, whether it be for “fire, flood, cyclone, tidal wave, earthquake, or even foreign invasion.” Of course, preparing a police force for a foreign invasion also meant remaking it as a military force to be reckoned with.
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.
"The New York Curb Market… Which has No Organization Whatever”: The Enclosure of New York’s Last Outdoor Stock Market, 1900-1921
By Ann Daly
Visitors to the New York Curb Market, located on the Broad Street sidewalk, also called “the gorge,” found themselves overwhelmed by the noise and frenzy. Hundreds of men on the street “writhed, leaped, swayed.” In New York’s last outdoor stock market, where orders were communicated by yelling or signaling out a window and anyone with lungs could trade, financial journalist Edwin C. Hill claimed in 1920, “some of those whirling dervishes down the street could borrow a million on their moral credit; for others the jail beckons.”
By Alexander Wood
The reign of Beaux-Arts architecture reshaped the landscape of the city at the turn of the century with grand public buildings that projected a new found sense of national power. The architects who embraced this style emphasized classicism, monumentality, and embellishment in their work, and were skilled at adapting historical precedents for modern building types. Following this mission to create civic symbols, Cass Gilbert conceived the custom house as a gateway to the nation. From its triumphal arched entry, and honorific statuary, to the heraldic imagery on its facade, it was expressly designed to evoke a passageway into a walled city. The allusion to a gate reflected a desire to proclaim the identity of the nation to the world, but it also suggested a point of controlled access through a border. It thus offered a suggestive precedent for the headquarters of the most important district of the federal customs service, which served as the guardian of the nation’s chief port of entry.
Copyright © 2017 SUNY Press. Excerpted from Beauty in the City: The Ashcan School with the author's permission. All rights reserved.
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