Monday, September 20, 2010

Ancient history

Continuing from my previous post on Athens, NY, here are a couple of my favorite discoveries from the house where I stayed.

First off, what could possibly be the original bathroom:
Ancient latrine

The house was built some time in the 1700s and seems not to have been updated much since then. These toilets are in a large stone shed in the back of the house. Imagine you and a couple of buddies sharing a special moment here on a dark and freezing winter night.

Of course, I had to look down the hole.
Ancient toilet

But, that's a close as I dared least, without a flashlight.

Up to the attic!

Every old house has to have a creepy mysterious attic room and this one did not disappoint.  The stairs to the attic were located (of course) in the shower of the upstairs bathroom.  That meant there was no earthly way I could take a shower in there without fear of the ghost of Norman Bates leaping out at me from the other side of the curtain. 
In the attic...

Anyway, the attic room had two dormer windows looking straight out over the Hudson River.  I could imagine the amazing unobstructed view the house must have had when it was built.  The roof was completely uninsulated - I could even see the sky through gaps in the boards.  This is why, I assume, the walls and ceiling were covered in paper.

Some of it was old wallpaper with a faded floral and striped pattern that looked like the 1930s:
Attic wallpaper

The real treasure, though, was the newspaper.  Whole sections of it were tacked to the walls with big rusty staples.  Upon closer inspection, I saw some of the papers were extremely old, like this page of the Catskill Recorder, which is dated March 22, 1872:
Catskill Recorder

This page is from the Kingston Journal Weekly Freeman and, according to other pages on the wall, the date is likely 1885.  Most of the pages contained ads for pills and tonics to cure various maladies.  I like the sound of "King's Evil" which can apparently be treated with Ayer's Sarsaparilla.
King's Evil

How could these newspapers possibly survive 138 years in a damp and drafty attic?  By the time the 1885 Kingston paper was published, the Catskill Recorder was already 13 years old - a long time to hang on to a newspaper.  Could these have been stashed upstairs by a hoarder?  Was it common to leave newspapers lying around for so long?  Why use them to paper the walls?  Some of the pages were sideways and the job did not seem to have been done neatly, so how did this come to be?  The decorative wallpaper looked much more recent, so why would someone wallpaper a room without removing the old newspaper....or were the ancient newspapers put up after the wallpaper?

Questions, questions, questions.

More photos of this house and other upstate NY towns can bee seen here.


I took a short trip up the Hudson to Athens, NY this last weekend to move some friends into a house.  The town is beautiful...and old.  People settled there in the late 1600s and its history can be felt around every corner.

I especially enjoyed the beautiful architecture of the houses and the little alleys that ran between the streets.  This was a typical scene:  old barn, peeling paint, leafy trees and a cat.  Cats everywhere.
Guardian of the barn

While I was there, we enjoyed some especially moody skies:
Storm over Athens

The brooding clouds cast long shadows, enhancing the beautiful decay.
For rent

This house in particular resembled a cheery birthday cake in the daylight, but took on a more sinister look as the sun set.
Athens house

One of the rooms in the house where I stayed:

The stairs, while brightly lit in the day, seemed more spooky as night fell.
They go up...

And, in the heart of the night, I was terrified to go to the bathroom...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Remembering the Cheyenne

Yesterday, I wrote about the Moondance Diner, which led me to fondly remember The Cheyenne.  This was another iconic NYC steel-framed railcar diner that made newspaper headlines when it closed in 2008.  Much was written about it at the time, so there's no need to re-open old wounds now, but like the Moondance, the Cheyenne is (we hope) getting a second chance at life.  Thanks to preservationist Michael Perlman, the Cheyenne avoided the scrapyard and instead relocated to Birmingham, Alabama, where (as of today) it is still awaiting its grand re-opening.

Anyway, I used to live in the area and loved nothing more than spending a couple of quiet hours on a Sunday having lunch in a booth by the window, watching the traffic on 9th Avenue and activity at the Farley Post Office building across the street.  Cabbies liked to hang out in here, too, so there was almost always a line of taxis parked outside and drivers at the counter chatting about their fares.

The Cheyenne was gorgeous at night.

By day, its streamlined curves, stripes, glass blocks and neon brought a touch of elegance to W 33rd Street.
Get off my lawn!

The interior western-themed decor was offset by classic 1940s elements like this round mirror behind the counter.
Behind the counter

Although known for its buffalo burgers, I liked the eggs (and bacon!).  I made it a tradition every Easter to have a ham and cheese omelet in here.
Sunday lunch

After seeing the Moondance and Cheyenne picked up by flatbed trucks and driven away to other states, I had hopes that more preservation work like this would become popular. To date, I don't know of any other diner (or business) that has had this treatment. When the Cheyenne was sold, the plan was to build a 9-story luxury condo in its place. To date, that has not happened and the lot is still empty.

In this time of over-development, it's hard to imagine places like the Cheyenne existing in the city again.  Where there used to be many unique, hole-in-the wall, family-owned neighborhood hangouts where one could go and be met with familiar faces and friendly greetings, there are now generic, anonymous and forgettable chains or, as in this case, nothing.  I hope the Moondance and Cheyenne continue to live on in their new cities and that the people in those places love them as much as I do.  It seems New York is no longer able to care for its own children, so we must send the ones we love off to foster care...if that's the only other option other than total destruction, I'm all for it.

For more history and photos of the Cheyenne can be found at Forgotten New York.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Remembering the Moondance

I feel most at home in a diner.  From the flashy chrome and vinyl decor to the greasy eggs, bacon and burgers, the whole atmosphere makes me feel warm, cozy and relaxed.  I used to spend nearly every weekend in at least one, but sadly, almost all the classic diners have vanished from NYC.

One of the most popular was the Moondance Diner down at the corner of 6th Ave and Grand Streets.  Originally called the Holland Tunnel Diner, it was built in the 1930s and managed to last until 2007 when the coveted corner lot was sold to developers.

I loved the traditional travel-trailer steel structure and row of stools along the counter.  Oddly, the Moondance did not have booths, but regular tables and chairs along the windows.

Moondance Diner

The glittering sign made it famous and the crescent moon, which revolved in the wind, was illuminated at night.
Moondance & Rat Poison

Eat!  But, note the rat poison sign on the door...this photo was taken after the diner closed.
Do not eat...

The back side, obviously not as pretty as the front.  Before it became this messy, I believe this area was used for parking.
Back side of the Moondance

This was the Moondance in my eyes...
The Moondance of my dreams

A typical meal for me:  omelet, home-fries, wheat toast and a diet Coke.  Where's the bacon??!

Just when it seemed the Moondance would be tossed out along with the rest of the city's 20th century 'trash', along came its knight in shining armor, diner preservationist Michael Perlman.  This article from the Observer
 explains his effortst to save, not only the Moondance, but also the Cheyenne (a post on that diner is forthcoming).  Thanks to Perlman, the Moondance got a second chance at life, getting packed up on a flatbed truck one night and driven all the way to Wyoming.
So long, Moondance

Still, it was sad to see the iconic sign come down.
Dismantling the Moondance

A huge ugly cement high-rise has taken the diner's place on this corner, blocking out my view of the rising sun.  So, I prefer to remember the location this way...
Blue Moondance

If you happen to be in or around La Barge, Wyoming, you can visit the Moondance and try out some of their cowboy coffee.  The new owners have also documented the process of moving the diner and seem to take pride in its New York history and cultural significance.

For info on several other NYC diners that have disappeared, check out Forgotten New York's classic diner page.


Why I love Amor Bakery at 224 Avenue B...



Who can resist the polar bear rug?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Shameless self-promotion

I've added a link on the upper right of this site to a page where you can see things I currently have for sale.  I actually have many more prints, wood blocks, cards, etc. that are not yet listed, so if you're interested in something in particular, just shoot me an email.  I can also do custom orders.

And, now back to our regular programming...

Friday, September 10, 2010

It's been a long week...

For me, anyway. Oh, what to do...what to do...

Allen & Delancey


Drink up, sailor!

Fine Liquors

The Morning After I

Have a good weekend, everyone!


Howl! Festival 2010 starts today in Tompkins Square Park and events will run throughout the month of September.  For more info, check out

Mural by Chico on E 6th St

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Bond Street Beauty

I've been thinking about Bond Street lately, mostly because the eastern-most block between Bowery and Lafayette seemed to change overnight.  It was always one of those relatively well-preserved blocks I liked to walk through in the morning because the rising sun shone straight down the street, creating long shadows in the cobblestones and on the sidewalk.

Bond St in the Morning II

Workers were usually active at this hour, reminding me that this was once a semi-industrial neighborhood.  These storefronts lent themselves well to some good street art.

Judith & Katsu

A. Charles Baby

The transition from gritty side-street to luxury condo block seemed to swoop in like a sudden storm.  All at once, both sides of the street were under construction and tenements/garages made way for modern glass and steel creations.

Bond Street in the morning

This sudden change made me really appreciate the beauty of #7 Bond, between Lafayette and Broadway.  It has one of the most beautiful facades and roof lines in the city.  It's so attractive, I know I've photographed it many times.  Yet, somehow, I cannot find a single image of it in my archives.  The best I can do is this recent shot taken from the intersection of Lafayette and Great Jones:

Great Jones & Lafayette

In it, you can see the bluish-gray and white cake-like building topped with a water tower.  Curious about its history, I found this 1926 photo of the same intersection:

Image: NYPL

#7 was built in 1904, so that must be it to the right of the little building with the dormers.  Unfortunately, I could not find any other old photos that show it clearly.

Does anyone know the history of this building?  I've been unable to find out much at all, except for a little bit of background here. With such an amazing facade and mansard roof, I would think this building had a special origin or purpose.  A factory?  Warehouse?  Mansion?  Business?

It's a bit of a mystery, so if anyone has any details, please share!

UPDATE:  I was finally able to get a decent shot of that lovely roofline.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Morning commute

Another sweltering day, the only hope of relief coming from a hurricane by the end of the week?  I have no idea what you're talking about...

Buried til spring

Christmas Tree shopping

Still white...