Sunday, April 13, 2014

Genin's Bridge Over Broadway

This lovely engraving from 1852 shows the proposed bridge over Broadway at Fulton Street, that a hatter named J.N. Genin wanted to build. This was so that customers could cross from St. Paul's Chapel to his store in comfort, above the dust and dirt of the street.

John Nicholas Genin (1819-1878) was probably the best known hatter in New York in the mid nineteenth century. Genin was chiefly known for his hats, but Genin's Bazaar, located at 513 Broadway (between Broome and Spring Streets), in the St. Nicholas Hotel, sold not only hats but clothing for men, women and children. In the late 1850s he added a hat emporium, also at the St. Nicholas, at 214 Broadway.

Also known as Genin the Hatter, his fame spread beyond New York City in the fall of 1850, when Jenny Lind came to America and gave her famous concert at Castle Garden. Several New York business men bid at auction for the privilege of buying the very first ticket.  John Genin won with a bid of $225. This was reported in papers "throughout the United States" and people asked "Who is Genin, the Hatter?" According to the New York Mercury (as quoted in the Geneva [NY] Gazette), "Every man involuntarily examined his hat, to see if it was made by Genin; and an Iowa editor declared that one of his neighbors discovered the name Genin in his old hat, and immediately announced it...in front of the Post Office." The man then sold his Genin hat at auction for the princely sum of $14.

1855 portrait of John N. Genin [eBay and NYPL]
In October 1851 the Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer reported that J.N. Genin had petitioned the City for

permission to construct an oriental, single arch bridge over Broadway, from St. Paul's Church to opposite his store, at his own expense for the accomodation of pedestrians: dimensions 16 feet from lower part of the bridge to the ground, width of bridge 5 feet 6 inches, do [ditto] of stairs 3 feet 9 inches.

The petition was approved and the bridge built. Genin's bridge was completed by early 1852. The Morning Courier noted in February 1852, that it was very useful on a wet winter day:

Yesterday, the pavement that fronts the block in which GENIN'S store is situated was as clean as if it had been newly scoured, while the rest of the street - thanks to the proverbial neglect of the Street Commissioners - was encrusted with half-crisped mud to the depth of several inches. We pay some $200,000 a year for public street-cleaning, and yet the only passible portion of Broadway, during the late muddy weather, was "Genin's bridge."

Unfortunately in 1859 business setbacks forced Genin to close the hat store; the bazaar closed soon after that. The trouble was the high rents charged by "Broadway landlords...an unscrupulous and unconscionable set of harpies." The Troy Daily Whig noted that Genin's rent at the St. Nicholas for the two stores was "not a cent less than $18,600 per annum" - an incredible amount in the 1850s, especially in the aftermath of the 1857 economic panic.

Museum of the City of New York
The image on the right is the "Broadway Bridge" from 1870, which spanned Broadway between St. Paul's Chapel and Quinlan's Hat Store. I suspect that this is the Loew's Bridge or Fulton Street Bridge built in 1866-67, which replaced the original early 1850s Genin's Bridge. Now the Trinity Bridge is there, and you can read more about both bridges here at Forgotten New York.

There's plenty more that we could talk about - other pedestrian bridges in New York, the poem written by Mary Tucker in the 1860s about Loew's Bridge (at the Wired New York link there's a good discussion of this). But instead, I'd like to end with a hat. One of Genin's hats, that is. I was delighted to see that the Metropolitan Museum of Art has one of his hats in the Costume Institute (jolly Mr. Genin would be pleased, too).  And what a magnificent thing it is - a jaunt, cafĂ© au lait colored stovepipe hat with attitude to spare. At the link you can see an image of the hat label, too -  probably very similar to the one the Iowa gentleman showed to all his friends in front of the local Post Office back when Jenny Lind sang at Castle Garden in 1850.

Image of 1852 bridge from Museum of the City of New York; Genin's Bazaar ad from The Jewish Messenger, ca 1857, at Fulton History (which is also the source of the other newspapers).


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Bartholomew's Fall

Nos. 4-10 Grove St., NYC (Berenice Abbott photo, NYPL Digital Gallery)
My great great uncle Bartholomew Carey was born in New York City in 1873 to Irish immigrant parents. Unlike my Hicks ancestors, he led a quiet life and didn't get into the newspapers much. Only once, as far as I know - and it was because he had had a terrible work accident in the winter of 1905.*

In 1905 he was 32 years old, single, and living at 10 1/2 Grove Street in the West Village (see above right for a view from 1936). He was working in Washington Heights all the way at the other end of Manhattan, in street construction or repair. I'm not sure which, as the article in the New York Herald is rather vague. Bartholomew was pushing a wheelbarrow full of dirt across a 50 foot deep pit or shaft in the road, over which was laid a board. He fell off the board and into the pit but "the other laborers paid no attention to the accident."

Amsterdam Ave. and 153rd St, NYPL Digital Gallery
Someone must have paid attention, though, because soon afterwards, an ambulance arrived. But according to the herald the other workers didn't know why it had come, and it "went back empty." Poor Bartholomew was stuck in the pit until that night, when his groans were heard by a policeman from the nearby station on "West 153rd Street." I think that they mean what was the 32nd Precinct House at Amsterdam and 152nd Street, which is now a New York City Landmark.

With the help of a ladder attached to a 50 foot long rope, and several other policemen, Bartholomew was lifted out of the pit and taken to the Washington Heights Hospital (which was at 179th St. and Broadway) with "serious" injuries. There's no follow up article - this wasn't, of course, considered a major news story - but I know that he did survive. Two years after the accident, in August 1907, Bartholomew married my great grandfather's sister Anna.** Bartholomew and Anna were still alive in 1940, in which year the census lists them as living on East 89th Street in Manhattan.

Old 32nd Precinct House (Wikipedia)
Source: "Searches Deep Pit for Injured Man," New York Herald, Dec. 2, 1905, p. 6.

*There are 2 Bartholomew Careys in the 1900 census for NYC - my great great uncle and an elderly man age 78, who was not likely to have been the laborer in 1905. So I'm going on the premise that the poor fellow who fell into that pit was my great great uncle. There is a 1905 NY State census which, of course, is the only census in which Bartholomew eludes me. He shows right up in all the others, federal and state, from 1880-1940, always in Manhattan, always a laborer, always born in the 1875-7 range, and married to my Aunt Anna after 1910). When I do track him down in the 1905, I'll edit this post.

** Anna was 7 years his senior and was born in northern Germany on her parents' estate in Bad Kleinen, Mecklenburg. Her family lost the estate sometime in the 1870s, when they moved to Hamburg. My great grandfather Friedrich arrived in New York on New Year's Day 1886, at the age of 17, and found work in a lumber yard. Anna and her mother joined my great grandfather in New York in 1894, where they supported themselves by taking in laundry.