Friday, April 4, 2014

The Pan Am Building: The Monster of Park Avenue

When it comes to "most hated" buildings in New York City, very few have come close to matching the notoriety of the formerly named "Pan Am" Building (now called the "Met Life" building), the dingy grey behemoth that overlooks Park Avenue.

Image: Ed Yourdon (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (],
via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Dover's "New York Then and Now" vs Thunder Bay's version

Right now, there's a bit of confusion when it comes to the "New York Then and Now" book series, because there are two different versions in print-- the original "New York Then and Now" by Dover and the pale imitation put out by Thunder Bay.

If you've seen the Thunder Bay version, you may be tempted to get that because it has the more recently updated photographs (as opposed to the Dover edition, with the most recent images dating back to the mid-1970s). But as someone who owns both versions, I highly recommend choosing the Dover edition instead, if not for the following reasons:

Friday, February 15, 2013

Book Review: New York's Pennsylvania Stations

When it comes to books about old Penn Station in NYC, the one that's often cited as the definitive source on the subject is Lorraine B. Diehl's The Late, Great Pennsylvania Station, a wonderful look at the rise and fall of the monumental structure that once stood on the site of the current Madison Square Garden.

Unfortunately, Diehl's book has been out of print for many years. However, lovers of the station need not worry, as there's another well written book on the subject.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Book Review: New York State of Mind

Right now, there's a lot of nostalgia towards 1970s New York, an era that many New Yorkers feel was when the city was at its most authentic, even though it was going through one of the roughest periods in its history. For those of you also finding yourselves reminiscing about the "good old days", one book you may want to check out is New York State of Mind, a collection of black and white images taken by Martha Cooper when she was working for the New York Post.

A llama shows up in 1970s New York.
From the book, New York State of Mind 

Monday, January 28, 2013

NYC's Progress Frenzy: Demolition in the 1960s

The 1960s are often seen as a decade of great progress-- and rightly so. This was the era in which there was a greater enlightened awareness regarding social awareness, be it about Civil Rights, women's rights, abortion, and so many other issues that up until then most Americans turned a blind eye to.

Unfortunately, one area that the 1960s was slow to progress in was preservation. Nowhere was this truer than in New York City. Starting as early as 1961, it seemed as if developers were hell-bent on destroying every local institution, beloved landmark, and distinctive neighborhood they could get their hands on. Year after year, an important structure was torn down; year after year a bland, non-descript modernist glass box went up that had none of the charm, romanticism, or craftsmanship of what came before.

Monday, January 14, 2013

When NYC Was European

Every year, scores of Americans visit Europe, partly for the ambience, cuisine, history, and culture, but partly for the architecture. This is because London, Paris, Rome and so many other overseas cities are filled with what we consider an exclusively "European" style of architecture:

Opera Garnier opera house, Paris.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The irony is that what Americans admire so much may indeed have originated in Europe, but was in major abundance in their own cities before the public became obsessed with the notion of progress at the expense of preservation. In other words, had their ancestors had a little more respect for preserving notable buildings, their cities today would look little different from the European cities that they deem oh, so romantic and elegant because of the architecture.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Marilyn Monroe in 1950s New York

I was recently surfing the web to look for vintage images of New York City, when I stumbled across these, which I've never seen before (but I'm sure Marilyn Monroe afficianados have)-- interesting black and white photographs of Marilyn Monroe taken in The Big Apple at the height of her fame.