The Insider's Connection

The fate of the James Marion Sims Monument

How does a shifting social consciousness change a city’s landscape? Who is involved in deciding which stories a city tells? What constitutes a vital moment in a rapidly-changing city’s history? Over the course of 84 years, millions of people walking on the East Side of Cental Park nears 103rd Street expect to encounter a bronze…

Norfolk Building Transformation: Synagogue to Art Foundation

How do buildings reflect changing times? What saves an abandoned building from demolition in a rapidly-gentrifying city? Was it sacrilege or a saving grace to turn the oldest standing synagogue in New York City into an exclusive event space? The building at 172 Norfolk Street was built in 1849, commissioned by Jewish organization Anshe Chesed…

The Jar of Pickled Ears at the Hole In The Wall Saloon

What makes a bar a “hole in the wall”? What did 19th century pirates look for in a watering hole? What did a bar brawl feel like in 1870s New York? The Hole In The Wall saloon at 279 Water Street was built in 1794 and rose to notoriety by the mid-19th century. Between 1850s…

Brooklyn’s Abolitionists on Duffield Street

Can gentrification change–and even erase–history? What kinds of buildings mobilize a community to dispute a city’s attempts at eminent domain? What stories do New York’s streets tell, and who controls those stories? The Fugitive Slave Act had just passed when Harriet and Thomas Truesdell moved into 227 Duffield Street in 1850. This set of laws,…

Battle of the Cakes: the Brooklyn Blackout Cake

Dessert-lovers across the world recognize the Brooklyn Blackout Cake, its decadent chocolate layers symbolic of a specific moment in history. But how many people know the story of that moment, or of Catherine and George Ebinger’s family business?  The Ebingers opened the famous Ebinger’s Bakery, between 4th and 5th Avenues on 86th Street in Bay…

The Dakota: Fame and Survival in New York City

How does a building get famous? How do a building’s residents shape its history? What would the Upper West Side be like without The Dakota? Over the past 135 years, The Dakota building has maintained its complicated place in the spotlight. It was built on the Upper West Side when the area was farmland; scandalously…

Chelsea’s Limelight Building–the Church? the Nightclub? the Gym?

 The northeast corner of 6th Avenue and West 20th has looked nearly the same since 1844. The building’s facade, a striking asymmetrical church, was designed by Richard Upjohn when the neighborhood was home to Manhattan’s wealthiest families. Though its Gothic revival-style exterior has hardly changed in 175 years, the stories of this Chelsea corner reveal…

The Ever So Exclusive Gramercy Park: Samuel Ruggles

What gives an address a reputation? New Yorkers and tourists alike recognize the name Gramercy Park. 20th and 21st Streets between 3rd Avenue and Broadway are some of the most sought-after addresses in the world. The locked gates of Gramercy Park have been standing since 1844,…

New York’s Floating Sidewalk Subway Map

How does art become part of a city’s fabric? For a piece to be appreciated, does the original intention have to be clear? What happens when the context shifts but the piece remains the same? In 1985, SoHo would’ve been dark and run-down, home to artists’ lofts, workspaces, and vacant buildings lining streets that were…

The Secret Engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge: Emily Roebling

Who are the hidden women behind some of the iconic structures of New York? Who was the secret engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge? How many people–of the hundreds on the bridge at any moment on a summer afternoon–know the name Emily Warren Roebling? Every day, more than 150,000 commuters rely on the Brooklyn Bridge for…