Earlier this month, the Friends of the Princeton Public Library hosted a wonderful bus tour to "Old New York," exploring the architecture and culture of the complex city written about in the classic novels of Edith Wharton and Henry James. For anyone who would like to continue (or begin!) their journey of discovering the history of this most beloved and fascinating metropolis, here are a couple of recommendations to get you started:
The Bowery Boys: New York City History Podcast
This free podcast, hosted by NYC transplants Greg Young and Tom Meyers, was featured on NPR earlier this year and is excellent for those who want to learn about the quirkiness of the city's past. The recordings are not what one might expect when you combine potentially dry history with amateur equipment and non-native New Yorkers. But The Bowery Boys have done their research, and it has paid off. The talks are fast-paced, eye-opening, funny, slightly odd, unexpected, and jam-packed slices of Big Apple history, covering everything from landmarks, neighborhoods, and people to city planning, transportation, and memorable moments.
Hear about a time over a century ago when New York City was one of America's brewing capitols. Learn about the origins of the preeminent high-end department store, Saks Fifth Avenue. Find out which city landmarks and neighborhoods are truly haunted. You can even listen to (and take) a walking tour of the new High Line.
Since launching five years ago, the Boys have received more than 5 million downloads and 100,000 visitors to their blog. Running about 45 minutes to an hour, with a new recording posted about once a month, individual podcasts can be played via your browser or downloaded into iTunes.
New-York Historical Society
For those interested in a more traditional but equally entertaining approach to historic New York, the New-York Historical Society is a perfect choice. Predating the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYHS was founded in 1804 and is New York City's first museum. It is known for its rigorously researched, diverse exhibitions and its focus on the political, cultural, and social history of New York.
In addition to the museum, NYHS also contains the Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture, which covets a display of over 40,000 NYC artifacts dating back to the 18th century. One of the most breathtaking special collections features a portion of the 132 Tiffany lamps and three walls donated to NYHS in 1984 by Dr. Egon Neustadt, an Austrian immigrant who purchased his first lamp in 1935 from an antique shop in the Village.
Visitors will be equally impressed by the museum's library holdings, which contain thousands of print, graphic, and manuscript items of New York and American history. Any reader of Edith Wharton, so detailed in her descriptions of the food of the times, would be excited to learn that among these print collections are dining menus, "approximately 10,000 examples from honoree dinners, associational banquets, historical anniversaries, holidays, hotels, restaurants, ships, trains and planes."
Make a reservation for our Museum Pass to the New-York Historical Society and enjoy complimentary admission for two adults and four children on this journey back in time.
(Brooklyn Bridge image source; The Bowery Boys image source; Tiffany Lamp image source)
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