The History of New York State
Book II, Chapter IV
Part VI

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam

 

With the advance of population there was a natural movement also in the organizations and institutions that served the population. The churches steadily moved northward with the movement of the population, and it was noted that the churches that had the name of catering to the well-to-do transferred their operations as the center of fashion became transferred so that certain poorer districts, once the home of the elect, came in time to be left almost without any churches at all. The increase and movement of population presented new and difficult problems to the Board of Education. The public school by this date had already passed the hundred mark in the number of their buildings, but n schools had to be provided as the population overflowed into districts which has before that time been either rocky wastes or meadow or arable land. Libraries and reading rooms had also to be increased in number. But what was happening in the religious and educational field was happening in every field of activity that had relation to the increase of the population and wealth of the city. the opening of the new Produce Exchange on Bowling Green in 884, rearing a high campanile above the surrounding buildings, was a testimony to the growth of trade in the metropolis and emerged as one of the forerunners of the period then dawning when vast cathedrals of commerce were to arise and make clear to the world that business also had its ideal side and that the homes in which it was transacted and the mould in which its currents ran need not be plain and unadorned, but merited also to be permitted to draw from the treasury of art in response to the human instinct for combining beauty even with the work that earned the daily bread.

The Last Decade of the Century--So the eighties were ushered out and the last decade of a fateful century dawned. That decade was also to be memorable and was to bring home to the consciousness of the people, among other things, that America had already lived in the European consciousness for almost four centuries and that it had ties that bound it even though tenuously to the age of the Renaissance. Meanwhile the material improvements that were designed to contribute to the health and welfare of the city's population were being continually added to. In the middle of 1890 the new aqueduct, carrying a new supply of water from the Croton River to New York, was first put into use. When the old system had first been opened in 1842 it was believe that the water supply then set loose would serve for generations to come. But the miraculous growth of the city had upset all calculations, and after a generation had passed the inadequacy of the old system became year by year more apparent. So it came about that in 1883 the Legislature authorized the construction of a new conduit issuing 350 feet above the Croton Dam, passing under the Harlem River. It was in the form of a horseshoe 15 feet high and 23 feet wide, and able to discharge 318,000,000 gallons every 24 hours. It was completed in June, 1891, and it was then estimated that its cost had totaled over $25,000,000. A year later another dam on the Croton was contracted for to add 21 square miles to the drainage area, and to afford storage for 30,000,000,000 gallons. Then, in 1893, work was begun on the construction of a new storage reservoir above the Harlem river, with a capacity of 1,500,000,000 gallons. It was then realized that the water supply would have to be continually added to in proportion to the march of population. In 1891 it was fund that the population of the city was approaching the 2,000,000 figure. The State Census in 1892 had estimated the population at 1,800,891, representing an increase of very much more the 1,000,000 since 1860. #17

It was then seen that it would be hard to exaggerate the scale on which the services that catered to a population so huge would have to be planned, for the city was throwing its antennae over an area larger then some European kingdoms, while in that area there were compact regions of a density without an equal anywhere else on earth. It was out of this complication that there arose that characteristic feature of new York that has made it unique almost among the cities of the world, investing it with a contour so salient that the old city has disappeared in the midst of it. There are other cities which have emulated the skyscrapers of New York and in that manner endeavored to invest themselves with something of the stupendous grandeur and solidity of aspect of which New York is the prime exemplar. But imitation is never anything like the real thing. The effects which the skyscrapers of New York produce on the observer were not the primary objects which the builders had in mind. These towering buildings grew out of the requirements involved in the configuration of the island, the density of population, and the restriction of space. Superficial expansion was impossible and there was nothing for it but to find a way of building upwards rather then laterally. The idea was not so much sought for as forced upon the architects of the city. They had to find ways of building one story safety on another into the very clouds and they had to make it possible to achieve these things. The giant steel frame was put up to support the structure and year after year was made more powerful, more resistant, and lofty. The express elevator was gradually perfected till it ran as swiftly and securely upward and downward as the electric train sped along its track. Thus the great problem of down town New York was solved. Office buildings grew up into the air until it appeared that there was not limit to their ascent. At first the buildings were but sparsely decorated. The achievement of lifting a dozen or twenty stores into the air and making them secure against the hurricanes that swept up from the harbor was regarded as achievement enough, without the superimposition of any work of art. But as time went on a direct striving after beauty was sought for, and thus a genre of architecture was evolved, peculiarly American in character , and a distinct and remarkable a step forward as the contribution of the medieval Gothic builders. It had been claimed that Chicago was the real originator of the improvements in manufacturing steel that made the skyscraper possible and the scene of the first experiments in the steel frame building, but whether that is the case or not, the fact has to be acknowledged that New York is the city par excellence where the idea has been made use of to the full extent and where the masterpieces of architecture are grouped in display as truly as Florence and Rome remain the Mecca of Italian Art. #18

With the growth in the fortunes of the wealthy, the tides of immigration year by year entering to do the hard work and pushing the older generations to a high level in the social strata, the disposition became more pronounced not to let the business of making a living and a superfluity to take up the whole of one's time, but to spend a certain measure in wholesome relaxation or in recreation and diversion of one kind and another. The theatres had always been popular, but at this time they began steadily to increase in number and in the quality of their productions. Madison Square Garden was also opened and added greatly to the gaiety of the city. At the period of its erection it was a building almost without an equal in any other city. it stood on the site that had been occupied by the terminal station of the Harlem and New Haven railroads and by Barnum's Hippodrome. It enclosed the area of an entire block with walls of light brick, adorned with terra cotta trimmings with a roof of glass and iron, and with tiers and galleries of seats surrounding the interior area. It became a prime rendezvous for circus exhibitions, wild west shows, horse shows, and great assemblages of every sort. The people also at this time, with the improvement in transportation, showed a disposition in summer to make the most of their proximity to the sea. Excursion boats made frequent journeys to Coney island and other seaside places. In the middle of the century Coney island had been merely a stretch of sand, where here and there were gathered rude groups of bathing houses, and a great expanse of marsh land in the rear. It was only in the late seventies that the habit of the population had grown in the direction of seeking relaxation on the Atlantic shore to an extent that made feasible the erection of buildings catering to the public entertainment.

One of the first notable building was a hotel of 660 feet long and four stories high standing as background to a beach that had been laid our in a sort of park, and with a music pavilion, where a band of many pieces played under the direction of Mr. P. S. Gilmore. At this time Coney Island was the resort of a class of people less boisterous and rowdy than the crowds of youthful roysterers to whom it became later a Mecca. Railroad lines were also laid down connecting Manhattan Beach with the city and the journey to and fro became very much easier. A larger hotel was built here; and there was added a theatre or concert hall. Then the whole Atlantic coast line began to be developed for the provision of summer seaside resorts and the work in that direction was also carried to the coasts of the South both on Long Island and on the mainland. New York thus became a highly developed summer resort, the center of numerous lines that radiated south, east, and west to places by the sea that were every year improving and the use of which was adding greatly to the health and good spirits not merely of the population that lived habitually within it, but also of the numerous visitors from all over the country to whom it was becoming the Mecca of dreams. The development of the railway lines between the city and these seaside resorts made it easy for the office worker to run down in the evening after the close of his work and take a dip in the ocean or amuse himself by the variety of entertainments furnished by theatre and side show, hotel and open air band, and the habit became a daily one to many New Yorkers. Coney island continued its popularity as the center of attraction for those who wanted entertainment of the roystering kind, but quieter resorts were not far away and places like Brighton Beach and other places more to the east and facing the Atlantic grew also into favorite resorts.

The Columbian Exposition--As the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America by Columbus approached plans were canvassed for celebrating it in a fitting manner. The idea that took precedence was that of marking the event by an Industrial Exhibition, or World's Fair, of which the citizens of New York had always had some experience. The celebration was intended to express the sentiment of the entire American people and to seek their cooperation. It was felt that New York as the metropolis of the country, perhaps of the continent, was a fitting scene for festivities which were to renew the gratitude of all the populations for the unveiling of the vast land that had become home of so many European peoples. Philadelphia, as the former capital of the country, and the seat of the early continental congresses, and particularly as the home of the Congress that issued the Declaration of Independence was naturally yielded the foremost place in the celebration of 1876. But it was felt that in the later celebration, alike from motives of sentiment and convenience, New York as the fitting theatre. But the feeling in the West showed itself to be of a different mind. There was a claim that Chicago was the logical place for the national exposition, from its situation as a more central point in the Union, and the utmost pressure was brought to bear on Congress to induce that body to giver the preference to the Western metropolis. So congress voted as the West wanted and Chicago became the theatre of the World's Fair. New York, however, proclaimed October 12 a legal holiday and the celebration was begun in the different churches on October 8, where discourses on the great achievement of the Genoese navigator were delivered. The city was profusely decorated in honor of the commemoration. A triumphal arch of trellis work, entwined with evergreens, was erected on fifth Avenue, and on that part of the avenue from Thirty-fourth to Twenty-third streets numerous standards were erected, bearing banners that flaunted the arms of the Spanish sovereigns who had commissioned Columbus. Ribbons crossing the street from standard to standard flew multicolored flags and lanterns. On the avenues near the entrance to Central Park there was a marmoreal arch 160 feet high and 120 feet wide and decorated with reliefs, representing episodes in the life of Columbus. Two days before the twelfth the festivities began with a school parade, in which 25,000 children took part. On that day that followed there was a naval parade in the North River, in which Untied States war vessels took the lead, and French, Italian, and Spanish war vessels followed, the American vessels later forming a channel through which the foreign vessels passed upward and then returned. In the evening the Catholic societies of the city carried out a fine parade along the avenue. On October 12, the anniversary of the day on which Columbus landed, the festivities reached their height. Business was suspended by the act of the State authorities, and 50,000 persons joined in a grand parade, of which the line of march was from the Battery to Fifty-ninth Street. It was on this day that was unveiled the interesting statue of Columbus, at the head of a high column, that has since stood in Columbus Circle, at the junction of Eighth Avenue, Broadway and Fifty-ninth Street, and the southwest corner to Central Park. At night the city was illuminated in all the central public places and there was another parade, in which numerous torches were carried, when fifty floats, representing historic groups and scenes, passed along under the eyes of cheering crowds.

Though deprived of the honor of being the theatre of the National Columbia Exposition, New York did all that could be done to cooperate in making the affair a success in common with the whole country. Part of the preliminary program was a grand naval display at New York, in which the leading navies of the world were invited to take part. It was arranged that the combined fleets should assemble in Hampton Roads, Virginia, where a squadron of American ships waited to welcome them. As a theatre for a display of that character New York had an unrivaled advantage in her great harbor, and there was no competitor to dispute with her at least the role in that part of the exposition. Already in the early spring of 1893 three Spanish caravels made their appearance in the harbor and gave New Yorkers some idea of the sort of ships in which Columbus and his associates had sailed, for they had been built with the purpose of reproducing the "Santa Maria," the "Pinta," and the "Nina," as closely as they were able. They had been put together in Spain and their journey across the Atlantic had been in the tow of an American cruiser. On the day of the arrival of the untied fleets from Hampton Roads the three caravels were towed up the North River and anchored in mid-stream opposite Ninety-second street. On the following day, April 26, the war vessels also passed to their anchoring ground up the North River.

The procession was imposing and impressive beyond all language to describe. Up between the Narrows, past the Staten Island shore, between Castle William and the Statue of Liberty, past the Battery and between the Manhattan and Jersey banks of the noble Hudson, they steamed in the most stately and steady manner, the huge machines obeying the impulse of their engines and the guidance of their rudders as if they were things of life, keeping distances like files of trained soldiers, without a break or an error. On the west side the in was headed by the United States cruiser "Philadelphia," followed by other of the "White Squadron," the "Newark," the "Atlantic," the "San Francisco." The "Bancroft," the "Bennington," the "Baltimore,' the "Chicago," the "Yorktown," the "Charleston," the "Vesuvius," and the "Concord.". These were followed by the "Nuevo Julio," Argentine Republic; the "Van Speyck," Netherland; the "Kaiserin Augusta," and "Seeadler," Germany; the line closing with the United States monitor, the "Miantonomah." Accurately opposite each ship of this line moved the vessels on the eastern side of the river, hundreds of feet away, led by the "Blake," "Australia," "Magicienne," and "Tartar," Great Britain; the "Dimitri Donstoi," "General Admiral," and "Rynda," Russia; the "Arethuse," "Hussard," and "Jean Bart," France; the "Etna," and the "Giovanni Banson," Italy; the "Infanta Isabelle," "Reims Regenta," and "Nueva Espana" Spain; the "Aguidiban," the "Tiradadentes," and the "Republica," Brazil. Places for anchorages had been carefully marked for each, and as they reached the ground every vessel remained stationary like a sentinel on guard. #19

On the following day, Thursday, April 27, 1893, president Cleveland reviewed he assembled fleets by passing between the two lines in the Untied States dispatch boat, the "Dolphin," At a small distance above the two leading vessels, opposite Eighty-eighth Street, the "Dolphin," came to anchor, whereupon the admirals and captains proceeded from their several vessels to board the presidential boat and pay their respect to the head of the Nation. On the day following the soldiers and marines from the various ships formed parade. Landing at Forty-second Street they marched down Broadway. governor Flower, escorted by Troop A, led the way, being immediately followed by United States Marines, and then by those from the visiting vessels, the officers riding in carriages, the number inline being about 20,000. A diner was given in the evening to the officers of the visiting fleets by the Chamber of Commerce and the entire festivities were wound up happily on all sides.

Business and Panic--Beneath the celebrations, however, there was a feeling of anxiety, for in 1893 New York had been visited by a panic not unlike that that had occurred at intervals of a decade or so previously. Various causes were assigned as the provocation that brought it about. By some it was directly traced to the suspension of the free coinage of silver by the government of British India. Others attributed it to the accession of a Democratic President. Whatever the cause, there was no mistaking the effects. There was a grave slump in industrial stocks. Several banks went down, mines were closed, and factories either dismissed their employees and suspended work, or were reduced to half time. The panic was described as being as bas as any that had up to that time fallen on the country, but as in the case of the panics, the nation pulled through and in a month or two things began to right themselves and confidence was restored.

But there were evidences of life and movement in the world of business, nevertheless, for it was in this year also that the American line of transatlantic steamships were established and large ships were again seen on the ocean carrying the United States flag. The age of the clipper ship had long gone by and following the Civil War the United States Flag had gradually disappeared on the transatlantic lines of travel. The coming of the "Great Western: had marked an epoch, for it signalized the predominance of European vessels in ocean trade and the diminution in number of United States vessels. As vessels had multiplied in the harbor of New York it had long been noted that foreign flags had multiplied also and that the Stars and Stripes were seldom seen. In 1893, however, by a special act of Congress, two foreign built steamships of the Inman line, the "City of New York," and the "City of Paris," were admitted to American registry and authorized to fly the United States Flag. The Inman line had, indeed, passed into the possession of American capital, and as early as 1886 an appeal had been made to Congress that the two steamers then building might be registered as American ships. It was not until May, however, that the measure which permitted this was passed, the condition being that the vessels admitted should attain a speed of twenty knots and hour, and that over ninety per cent of the ownership should be American. These two ships were the only ones that fulfilled these requirements at that time and so they were selected for transference on Washington's Birthday in 1893. The "City of New York" was anchored off the Battery, cheek by jowl with a United States cruiser, the "Chicago,' ready to give the salute. The President had been invited to act as celebrant in the ceremony of raising the flag and had expressed his readiness to be present on the auspicious occasion. Bourke Cochrane, the originator of the bill, delivered an eloquent speech, and in response the President predicted that the event would signalize the restoration to the United States merchant marine of the work of carrying its proper share of the world's commerce upon the seas. The prediction seemed a sound one, for not long after the new American line was reinforced by two sister ships, built this time not in England, but in the Cramp yard at Philadelphia, the "St. Paul," and the "St. Louis." it was not fulfilled, however, for the carrying trade of the world remained in the main in foreign hands and America from various causes has found it difficult to win that what would appear to be her proportionate share, or to win for herself again her former position a almost the leading maritime Nation.

Immigration Questions--Meanwhile the tide of immigration mounted, but it began to become clear to the nation that the unrestricted admission of anybody who felt an inclination to enter the country was proving bad policy. It was seen that there were too many incapable people entering the country and that foreign countries did not scruple to send here her blind, and her halt, and such other undesirables as they might be glad to get rid of. In course of time, there fore, the mind of the country found expression in Congress, and, in 1882, an act was passed forbidding convicts, lunatics, idiots, and paupers from entering the United States. The measure provided that the steamship companies conveying immigrants of that kind were to be obliged to carry them back at their own cost. The law was only partially enforced, for there were difficulties to be surmounted, but at least a closer surveillance was made very year, and at last Europe began to understand that Americans were getting more particular as to the types to be welcomed in their country. Meanwhile, people of hardy and well tried stock continued to enrich the country. To the end of the sixth decade of the century the Irish largely predominated, embracing, indeed, almost three -fifths of the people entering the country in the previous decades of the century. Then the Germans increased their numbers, each successive wave of population pushing the previous contribution a level or so higher in the social scale. Following the Germans began the immigration from southern and eastern Europe, and these people, markedly distinct from the earlier settlers of the country, though associated with its discovery and peopling in overwhelming proportion the southern half of the continent, raised the question of immigration in an acute form, and presented problems which have not been solved yet. These people have in large part formed distinct colonies in the city, so that New York is familiar with its "Little Italy," its "Little Hungary,' settlements where these colonists continued to speak their own language and to continue the customs with which they were familiar in their native lands.

It is a point worth noting that the various native colonies in the city have their counterparts in the manner in which the various divisions of trade and interest are apt to segregate themselves indifferent localities and thoroughfares. Thus there has long been a tendency among goldsmiths and silversmiths and jewelers to congregate in the vicinity of Maiden Lane and John Street. the region west of Broadway to West Broadway, from Worth Street to Canal Street, has long been associated with the dry goods wholesale trade. The wholesale grocery trade was also at this time, and is largely today, in the vicinity of West Broadway. The leather trade has from a remote period found its home in the Swamp south of Brooklyn Bridge and behind newspaper row. The wholesale drug houses were usually to be found along William Street. there has also always been apparent a tendency among the different nationalities to associate themselves with different lines of business, according to those businesses were conducted in the old country. The delicatessen stores thus are largely German, the pawn shops here, as in other countries, are largely run by Jews, who also generally monopolized the cloth trade. The barbers became predominately Italian as soon as the Italian immigration became important. The older American names gradually became less prominent in retail trade of all kinds, the pressure of foreign names over shadowing them and sending the older element to lines of business and to professions less conspicuous to the public eye.

Death of Grant--In 1885 occurred the death of General Grant, who, after retiring from the Presidency, and making a tour of the world, had made his home in New York. His end was a lingering one. He had suffered a bad business reverse at the time of the opening of the new Produce Exchange, on Bowling Green in 1884, when that auspicious event was attended with news of the failure of the bank of Ferdinand Ward, who had induced Grant to become his partner, inducing the ex-President to lend him $150,000, nearly all the money he had, just before the crash came. This was bad enough; and reflections of the mutability of earthly glory came to the people when they heard not long after that he had been seized by a malignant disease from which he could not recover. He fought a good fight until July 23, when the end came, and a sigh of relief went up from the Nation. His funeral occurred on August 8, when his body was placed on the side of the Hudson River at a high point on riverside Drive. For a number of days the body had lain instate in the rotunda of the city hall, where reverent crowds passed in front of it. The U. S. Grant Post of the Grand Army was given charge of the remains, and comrades of that post bore the coffin from the rotunda to the catafalque that was to convey it to its resting place, drawn by twenty-four horses heavily draped in black. General Hancock marched at the head of the funeral cortege, the first division being composed of United States troops and sailors. From the city hall to Thirty-fifth Street the soldiers and civilians who were to take part in the procession stood at appointee places waiting for their turn to fall into line, and when the line was complete it was found that it took five hours to pass a given point. The crowds were enormous. The catafalque passed Madison Square about one o'clock, but it was well after four before it reached the point on riverside Drive where the illustrious remains were to be interred. In the group that watched the lowering into the brick structure prepared for the purpose stood President Cleveland and the members of his cabinet, ex-President Hayes, ex-President Arthur, and numerous officials and other prominent men. When the religious services were over an artilleryman sounded a tattoo and the coffin, incased in a heavier outside casket, was borne into the vault. The multitudes who crowded the streets during the time of the funeral surpassed anything on a similar occasion in the city's history, and the visitors carried into the city during those days were estimated at nearly half a million.

Needless to say, the unpretentious vault which enclosed Grant's remains, was hardly of character to satisfy the feeling of the innumerable admirers of the general throughout the Nation, and active measures were soon under way for the erection of the magnificent mausoleum which afterward adorned the elevation overlooking the Hudson. The estimated cost was half a million dollars, and the design was of a character hardly surpassed by any other in the world,. The corner -stone was laid on April 27, the anniversary of the general's birthday, in 1892, and on April 27, 1897, it was formally dedicated and Grant's remains transferred from the brick vault to this great marble tomb. The mausoleum enclosed an area of 100 square feet at its base. The front, facing southward, has a portico, supported by six fluted columns. Above the structure rises a circular dome, surrounded by columns forming a colonnade and supporting an outer gallery, 135 feet above the ground. Within the ceiling is finished in the style of the pantheon at Rome. The interior rises in the center to the ceiling of the dome, and light is permitted to penetrate abundantly to the circular crypt beneath the level of the main floor, everything in the interior being finished in smooth white marble. The body is placed in a black granite sarcophagus. The location itself is ideal.

The transference of the body of Grant to t the new mausoleum was accompanied by public ceremonies in which the highest officials of the Nation took part. Mr. McKinley made a brief speech, in which he dwelt on the simple virtues of the man who public achievements had brought him world-wide renown; and referring to the union of the Blue and Gray in the honors of the hour. He ended: "Let us not forget the glorious distinction with which the metropolis, among the fair sisterhood of American cities, has honored his life and memory. With all that riches and sculpture can do to render the edifice worthy of the man, upon New York as a perpetual record of his illustrious deeds, in the certainly that as time passes around it will assembly, with gratitude and reverence and veneration, men of all climes, races and nationalities."

The address of President McKinley was followed by a funeral oration from Gen. Horace Porter, who had taken a leading part in raising the money for the mausoleum and presiding over its erection. He dwelt on the character of Grant, his foresight, his generosity, his readiness to forgive, his statesmanship, the affection that his kindly personally inspired.

In May, 1895, William L. Strong became Mayor, after a bitter political contest, in which the findings of the Lexow investigation were used for all they were worth by the opponents of the Democratic organization. He appointed as president of the police commission Theodore Roosevelt, who had been Republican candidate for mayor in 1886, and who was at that time a member of the United States Civil Service commission. Col. George E. Waring he appointed commissioner of street cleaning.

The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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