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New York Bound Books is pleased to announce that Silver Connections Volume II by Philip Ashforth Coppola is now back in print in a limited edition!

448 pages, 8 1/2 x 11
includes appendices, bibliography, & index
Limited Edition, 100 copies

To order email

Read a recent article about Philip Ashforth Coppola by David Dunlap in The New York Times here.

myrtle avenueSilver Connections, Volume II

by Philip Ashforth Coppola

About two months after Volume I, first version text, was released, in August, 1984,  I hauled myself to the New York Public Library Map Room, and settled in for several Saturdays on end, perusing, of all things, old un-scrolled blueprint maps from about 75 years ago.  As a casual writer, I can’t think of anything more dry – unless maybe financial tables – than scrutinizing old blueprints of street maps.  But as a researcher, those old blues were solid gold to my mind and pen.   They were exactitudinally and painstakingly drawn up by Delos F. Wilcox, Chief of the Bureau of Franchise of the New York State Public Service Commission for the First District.   They just don’t make bureaucracy like that any more, let me tell you the truth; civil servants who seriously believed in their title and task.  Delos F. Wilcox, Esq. & Chief, took just one of Brooklyn’s historic horse or street or trolley car companies per map, and traced its route, plus annotated the map with its franchise dates(s) and history and news of its mergers, acquisitions, &/or eventual takeover.  Between 1908-to-1910 he chronicled no less than 66 street transit companies of old Brooklyn, plus their subsidiaries, in this way.  He even wrote up the story of the Brooklyn Bridge transit tracks (which helped with Chapter XVIII, further down the tracks).  Mr. Wilcox’s labors on the evolution of Brooklyn City’s streetcar mazes formed the basis for the first chapter of my look at the BRT empire in Volume II.

Vol II, Drwng. 43By the early 1980’s I’d figured out that the street cars predated the elevated lines, and that the els predated the subways.   So I had a pretty good handle on how the book should proceed.  After the streetcars came the elevated companies; those friendly neighborhood Brooklyn elevated lines which were almost a part of the family.  There seemed to be a cultural affinity toward Brooklyn’s system different from Manhattan’s: the Manhattan els were for New York City, the U.S.A. (even foreigners from New Jersey), and visitors from afar; Brooklyn’s els were a Brooklyn institution, its pride and bane, a part of the fabled Brooklyn transit system, whose trolleys helped name a baseball team, and whose 8 elevated lines (I’m including the Franklin Ave. and the Canarsie inclines) took its passengers to all corners of the wonderful Borough – a good place to visit, a great place to live!
sw stairwayTo my mind, fate or luck is sometimes a matter of timing.  When I examined the Brooklyn system in the mid-1980’s, I toured the Broadway El when its neighborhood was, in the words of today’s observers, a bombed-out war zone.  Never mind, though; I visited all the stations and described the buildings along the way as I saw them, without condemnation, and I hope I wrote it up so that my readers get that “you are right there, now” (frozen in late-’80’s time, as it is) experience.  The same stretch now, some 30 years later, is probably changed, many buildings razed and replaced, and a different kind of zone; kinder, I hope. I also had the chance to examine the Franklin Avenue Incline/Shuttle as it had existed since, let’s say, at least 1905, when the last remnant of the 1888 Fulton Street El still stood at the crossroads, with a Fulton Street El station house perched on its north side, and with those inimitable 1888 stairways with their totally un-20th Century porch ends leading up to the structure.  The porches are gone, the house and structures are gone now, and the Franklin line has been reduced to one track; the Dean Street station is abandoned. With the renovation work of 1999-year 2000, the Franklin Avenue shuttle is still serving its public, but it is not the same as it had been for 90+ years before.  But you can find the original Franklin Avenue Shuttle in my book.  It’s just a matter of timing that I caught it before it was changed.   My luck has helped me elsewhere, besides.

sw stairsTo my knowledge, limited as it may be, there has not been a chronicle of the Brooklyn transit like this Volume II prior to its release in 1990. Within its pages there are the aforementioned horse cars, trolleys, and elevated lines, and the characters (figuratively and literally) who made it all happen.  The lines examined are the Broadway El, the Myrtle Avenue remnant, the Franklin Avenue Incline, and the Canarsie line from Broadway Junction.  These are all the existing transit lines prior to the BRT’s entry into the subway game. I planned my history to stop just short of Brooklyn’s subway system.  Besides the evolutionary history, the last chapter recounts the diminution of the Brooklyn elevated system; listing each segment of the lines as they disappeared, chronologically, plus the forces which did the demolition work.  The coming, and passing, of the Brooklyn Bridge’s transit amenities is also revealed.  Some people don’t know that the bridge ever actually had trains running across it.   And, as extras, the Williamsburg Bridge’s structural woes, at that time, are examined, and a visit to the mythical Atlantic Avenue Tunnel is recounted.

All this is in Volume II: text and maps and illustrated views of Brooklyn’s transit system that we are no longer able to see and experience.


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In this month’s issue of NEW New York Books, we venture beyond the printed page to include a podcast and a website, as well as a good ol’ printed and bound book. Writing about New York comes in all shapes, sizes, and media these days, as these three gems will prove.


strangers in the westStrangers in the West: The Syrian Colony of New York City, 1880-1900

By Linda K. Jacobs
paperback, 496 page
Kalimah Press


Strangers in the West: The Syrian Colony of New York City, 1880-1900 tells the never-before-told story of the first Arab immigrants who came to New York from Greater Syria and settled in tenements on the lower west side of Manhattan, founding an Arabic-speaking enclave just south of the future site of the World Trade Center. It began as a family history project for Linda K. Jacobs, the book’s author, as all four of her grandparents were part of the community, and soon evolved into the first ethnography of this early Arab community. It was a community of peddlers and merchants, midwives and doctors, priests and journalists, belly dancers and impresarios, and between 1880 and 1900 these immigrants built a thriving colony that soon became the cultural and economic center of the Syrian diaspora in America. This is their story.

Linda L. Layne, Hale Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, author of Home and Homeland, says of Strangers in the West:

At a time when the issue of immigration is once again a national concern, Jacobs’ fascinating account of this first generation Arab-American community is a welcome reminder of the challenges immigrants face and the wealth of benefits they bring to American society. Engagingly written, this work of historical demography is a superb resource.

Click here for more information or to purchase this book.



chintzcoverThe Chintz Age: Tales of Love and Loss for a New New York

by Ed Hamilton
paperback, 287 pages
Červená Barva Press

In seven stories and a novella, Ed Hamilton takes on this clash of cultures between the old and the new, as his characters are forced to confront their own obsolescence in the face of a rapidly surging capitalist juggernaut. Ranging over the whole panorama of New York neighborhoods—from the East Village to Hell’s Kitchen, and from the Bowery to Washington Heights—Hamilton weaves a spellbinding web of urban mythology. Punks, hippies, beatniks, squatters, junkies, derelicts, and anarchists—the entire pantheon of urban demigods—gambol through a grungy subterranean Elysium of dive bars, cheap diners, flophouses, and shooting galleries, searching for meaning and a place to make their stand.

logo2New Netherland Praatjes Podcast

If you visit the iTunes Store, you will see that there is a podcast about anything and everything you have ever wanted to know. There is something for everyone, and this includes old New York enthusiasts.

From the New York History blog:

The New Netherland Institute is now producing a new podcast hosted by best-selling author Russell Shorto. ‘New Netherland Praatjes’ (Dutch for ‘chat’) is a series of chats with historians, archaeologists, and other experts on New Netherland and the world of the 17th-century Dutch.

The latest episode features historian Susanah Romney, whose book New Netherland Connections: Intimate Networks and Atlantic Ties in Seventeenth-Century America won the 2014 Annual Hendricks Award. Romney’s work challenges the assumption that state actors and trading companies were predominantly responsible for the perpetuation of New World colonies.

Subscribe to this series of podcasts via iTunes .

Also available on the New Netherland Institute’s website is the audio of the fifteen presentations at their latest conference, “The Dutch in American Across the Centuries: Connections and Comparisons.” The conference was jointly sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Dutch-American Studies (AADAS).

From the site: “By 1700, the block was part of the large Bayard farm. The farm stretched from what is now Chinatown to the southern part of Greenwich Village, around 200 acres.” (Thomas Howell, ‘Greenwhich Village painting,’ 1768. Via Greene Street Project)

From the site: “By 1700, the block was part of the large Bayard farm. The farm stretched from what is now Chinatown to the southern part of Greenwich Village, around 200 acres.” (Thomas Howell, ‘Greenwhich Village painting,’ 1768. Via Greene Street Project)

Greene Street: A Long History of a Short Block

What can one block, a span of less than 500 feet of a New York City street, tell you? If you look closely enough, you can see 400 years of economic development. In a new website entitled, “Greene Street Project: A Long History of a Short Block,” (, William Easterly and Laura Freschi of NYU and Stephen Pennings of the World Bank have created an interactive timeline covering 400 years that charts the economic evolution of one NYC block, Greene Street between Houston and Prince, that reflects the broader evolution of the entire SoHo area from rural farmland to high-end retail hub, thus placing current day SoHo in the context of New York City’s history.

From Laura Bliss at CityLab:

Led by William Easterly, Co-Director of the DRI and an economics scholar, the Greene Street Project is an interactive tour of the historic development of this single block in SoHo.

Most development economists tend to focus on macro-level units such as cities, or even more commonly, nations. But Easterly believes that such broad assessments belie the more chaotic realities that shape economies at the hyper-local scale.

“There’s a ‘Great Man’ view of history: that great successes happen because some wonderful, wise leaders intended them to happen,” Easterly says. “But looking at development at the micro level allows us the ‘common man’ view: that there were unintended consequences from lots of surprises on this block, and individuals taking advantage of them.”



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Barbara Cohen, a dealer in New York books, at her apartment in Manhattan. “‘The Iconography of Manhattan Island’ is considered the single most important work on New York by many historians,” Ms. Cohen said. Credit Ángel Franco/The New York Times


In 1915, ISAAC NEWTON PHELPS STOKES(1867-1944) published the first volume of his six-volume The Iconography of Manhattan Island. This year 2015 marks the centenary of this unparalleled reference work that encompasses New York City’s history, architecture, maps, and prints.

In a recent New York Times article, “A Visual Banquet of Manhattan Has Its Own Compelling Past,” David Dunlap celebrates this occasion by by featuring none other than our own fearless leader, Barbara Cohen:

“ ‘The Iconography of Manhattan Island’ is considered the single most important work on New York by many historians,” said Barbara Cohen, who is among the more important contemporary dealers in New York books. She brought the centenary to my attention. (Read the full article here.)

The Iconography of Manhattan Island, I.N. Phelps Stokes' monumental six volume history of New York

The Iconography of Manhattan Island, I.N. Phelps Stokes’ monumental six volume history of New York

Barbara, a huge fan of Stokes, has written about Stokes’ work on this site in the past. Read What is the Stokes Iconography? and Stokes, Wharton, and Love Fiercely, a post about Stokes and the Gilded Age as reflected in Jean Zimmerman’s book, Love, Fiercely: A Gilded Age Romance.

With six volumes spanning several centuries, the folio-sized Stokes Iconography is the definitive collection of images related to New York City. Complied from original sources and based on the public and private collections of I.N. Phelps Stokes, it includes reproductions of important maps, plans, and documents, dating from the city’s earliest history.

The six volumes were published between 1925 and 1928 with meticulous care. It includes an exhaustive bibliography and a massive index, itself an impressive reference. It was originally issued in two editions, the first on Holland handmade paper with a choice of two bindings, vellum and bluecloth. The second was a limited edition issue (42 copies) on Japan vellum with extra color plates signed by the engraver and designers.

The first volume took six years of research and covers three centuries: the Period of Discovery (1524-1609), the Dutch Period (1609-1664), the English Period (1664-1763), the Revolutionary Period (1763-1783), the Period of Adjustment and Reconstruction: New York as the State and Federal Capital (1783-1811). Volume II has the earliest cartography of New York, with maps dating from 1500. Volume III continues the historical narrative, beginning from The War of 1812 and the Period of Invention, Prosperity, and Progress (1812-1841), the Period of Industrial and Educational Development (1842-1860), The Civil War and the subsequent Period of Political and Social Development (1861-1876), and finally the Modern City and Island (1876-1909). Volumes IV and V are a chronology of the periods outlined and include reproductions of handwritten and printed accounts of events in Manhattan. The final volume includes more maps and an addendum.

This monumental work can be viewed in its entirety online through the Columbia University Libraries site. Take a few moments to familiarize yourself (or revisit, if you are a student of Newyorkiana) with the Iconography and celebrate its 100 years with us. Cheers!

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imagesIt’s that time of year again! When the New York Society Library begins taking submissions for their New York City Book Awards. Quility books that focus on New York City are published every month, and these awards are a great way of acknowledging the best of the countless New York stories out there.

Here’s a list of last year’s awardees, in case you missed any of them:

imgresAward for Natural History
Gotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York by Ted Steinberg (Simon & Schuster)

Award for Biography/Memoir
J.D. Salinger: The Escape Artist by Thomas Beller (New Harvest)

Award for Fiction
Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish (Tyrant Books)

The Hornblower Award for a First Book
Taming Manhattan: Environmental Battles in the Antebellum City by Catherine McNeur (Harvard University Press)

For a full list of past winners, click here.


The New York City Book Awards

The New York Society Library’s New York City Book Awards, established in 1995, honor books of literary quality or historical importance that, in the opinion of the selection committee, evoke the spirit or enhance appreciation of New York City. The city must play an essential role beyond that of the setting. A worthy book, whether academic, literary, or popular, must be well written and engaging. It should shed some new or unusual light on New York City.

The Hornblower Award

As part of the Book Awards, the Library also presents the Hornblower Award. Established in 2011, this award is given to an excellent New York City-related book by a first-time author.


The Library welcomes submissions of qualifying books from publishers and authors. Submissions are now welcome for books published between January 1 and December 31, 2015. Click here for submission guidelines and entry form. Winners will be announced in March 2016.

NYSL buildingHistory

For a century and a half, until the New York Public Library system was founded in 1895, the New York Society Library was known simply as the “City Library.” The New York Society, a civic group, opened the library in the old City Hall on Wall Street in 1754. The first library of its kind, the group felt that New York City needed a subscription library that anyone could join and offered a wide range of books.

For over 250 years, the New York Society Library has made books available to all in New York City. After moving to several locations in downtown Manhattan, the Library moved to its current home at 53 East 79th Street in 1937.

Over the years, the library has been visited by the likes of George Washington, Washington Irving, James Fennimore Cooper, Henry David Thoreau, John James Audubon, Willa Cather, Herman Melville, W.H. Auden, Clarence Day, Lillian Hellman, Barbara Tuchman, David Halberstam, Wendy Wasserstein, Shirley Hazzard, P.G. Wodehouse, Mary McCarthy, Truman Capote, and thousands of others.


The New York Society Library relies on the support of members and friends to sustain its collection, adult and children’s programs, exhibitions, and extraordinary personal service. Please donate today by clicking here.




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Dual contracts coverSilver Connections

by Phillip Ashforth Coppola
Four Oceans Press, 2015

168 pp, illustrated throughout, bibliography


To place an order, place email



In 1978, Phil Copp intended to spend a month working on an article about the art in New York City subway stations that he hoped to sell to a magazine. Today, thirty-four years later, Copp has probably not spent a day during which he did not work on this “article,” now a multi-volume collection of books, some self-published in limited edition and some in manuscript form.

We are pleased to announce that Copp has now completed the first volume of his Portfolio Series, entitled DUAL CONTRACTS PORTFOLIO:IRT PELHAM BAY LINE. His first professionally printed book, this handsome 8×10 volume with full-color cover is 168 pages with numerous illustrations and a bibliography. When the series is completed, each portfolio of the series will detail one line of the subway system.

To celebrate the first portfolio’s publication, we are posting Copp’s recent essay about his journeys through the NYC subway (and elevated) system and his plans for the future.


Phil Copp (image: Jeremiah's Vanishing New York)
Phil Copp (image: Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York)

A Brief History of Silver Connections

by Phil Copp


I began my study of New York City subway station interiors in 1978 – at first out of curiosity, to find those tile pictures I’d heard of long ago, and to learn their stories. But soon I realized that the MTA, at that time, pursued a policy of resurfacing stations with big bland tiles. Any station which had become inconveniently old, dingy, or pocked, with gaps in its tiles or mosaics, stood in line for an MTA make-over. Two timely examples were Bowling Green (1905) and the IRT’s Cortlandt Street (1917) station, both heedlessly impersonalized in the mid/late 1970’s. Bowling Green got a new red wall, as an “experiment” to see how an old station could be completely modernized from the ground up. Cortland Street got walls of beige bricks – perhaps to give it a sleek finish in the style of the World Trade Center, upstairs. As I dug deeper into my study, I heard of the Brooklyn Bridge (1904) side platforms, not seen since the early 1960’s, and the IRT’s 14th Street/Union Square (1904) side platforms, sealed up, maybe, in 1910—neither of these the MTA’s doing, but still part of the system’s pervasive loss. And I saw whole routes gone under: the BMT’s Broadway (Manhattan) line, and their Fourth Avenue (Brooklyn) line. These were both given the big tile treatment in the 1970’s, also. The Authority seemed dismissive of the irreplaceable mosaic intricacies, artistry, and craftsmanship inherited from prior transit authorities of an earlier era, in a different New York City. With the possibility of unending losses like this, the light study I first envisioned developed into a serious journey through the whole system.

Illustration from Dual Contracts: IRT Pelham Bay Line
Illustration from Dual Contracts portfolio: IRT Pelham Bay Line

But the MTA has had a change of heart and mind since the mid-1980’s. Now they essentially preserve their heritage and, in some exalted cases, have found an artisan who can replicate 90-year-old mosaic patterns, to repair gaps where necessary. But still, there are anomalies: 23rd & Lex. (1904), re-done; N. 3rd Ave & 149th St, Bronx (1905), re-done; and 137th & B’wy (1904), re-done, although two 1922 name panels there are retained. All of them were re-imaged in the mid/late 1980’s. And now the 42nd St. (1904) shuttle platforms have been obscured and thoroughly commercialized in this Century.

Since the end of World War II, there have been five complete stations abandoned, in one year or another, plus there are bits and pieces and areas of stations sealed from the public, and others begun but not finished and buried, so that the transit system, besides the travelways obviously active to all commuters, is a maze of mystery and lost spaces beyond and besides. There’s a lot of New York – this unique niche of New York – and New York history being lost to the ravages of time. My purpose for creating this record is focused on two goals: to preserve the design formats and ceramic icons, in text and drawing, of all of the NYC subway stations as they originally appeared when first opened to the public, and to give credit to those who created the formatted designs for those stations – as well as the manufacturers who fashioned those plaques and mosaics from the architects’ plans.

That second goal has enlarged the project’s scope to include the persons inseparable from the construction of the system: contractors, engineers, city or state authorities, and the financier of the IRT only, as far as I am aware. I got caught up in the history of the construction because, learning more as my research progressed, the whole story fascinates me – and I believe those players ought to be recognized. Besides, the construction and the design are interrelated, and the story of one leads into the other. And so, for Volumes I, II, III, and IV, my primary message delivers the oldest stations in word and picture, and my secondary focus, in company with the first, spotlights the architects, engineer/architects, and craftspeople. I wouldn’t be too far wrong to say that they have all (excepting Mr. Belmont and his equine legacy) been lost to the passage of time and events.

Illustration from Dual Contracts Portfolio: IRT Pelham Bay Line
Illustration from Dual Contracts Portfolio: IRT Pelham Bay Line

By my count, there are 496 stations in the system – not counting the “new” lines: Parsons Boulevard, Archer Avenue, and the 63rd Street tunnel link. That 496-station system evolved, in stages, over the years spanning 1900 to the early 1940’s; anything after that I consider “new” (even 70+ years later). So far, through the four volumes I’ve finished, I have covered transit developments in the New York City region from 1900 to 1908. Since 1978, these past 36 years have been rather crowded, and I have only 8 years of events to show for them.

Along the way a host of generous people have given me encouragement, help, and answers. Through the good graces of a few booksellers of recent memory, the interested public have become ready patrons. It’s good that recognition has been minimal, though, because, through my solo efforts alone, I can produce only a limited number of copies per volume.

Since I have published, I’ve been interviewed now and then by a variety of media. They’ve mostly been New York-based news reporters, but there have been a few others; interviewers from England, Japan, Mexico, and Thailand. Even the MTA Arts for Transit chief contacted me, at one time, for verification of the American Encaustic Tiling Co. And a few college students have tapped me for some input as well.

Filmmaker Jeremy Workman documented my project over a number of years, beginning in the year 2000; his 30-minute film, “One Track Mind,” debuted at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival. We’ve had subsequent showings and Q & A’s at a variety of locations since. The Museum of Modern Art bought a copy of the film for their archives a few years back. And I think PBS shows the movie at odd hours of the day – like at 2 or 3 in the AM, for the insomniac transit crowd.

39 drawing

Illustration from Dual Contracts portfolio: IRT Pelham Bay Line

I’ve come upon this study as an outsider. I grew up in New Jersey, with no particular fascination with transit – though I did play around the railroad tracks behind the A & P with my best friend Danny, to the alarm of our parents (and the DL&W engineer whose train I outran across his track one afternoon). In my school days, I much more favored tromping around in the woods and meadows of the South Mountain Reservation, than sojourning through urban spaces across the river. Before 1978, the most NYC history I knew was from Washington Irving’s Knickerbocker’s History – and that’s not exactly historic at all. When I hit the Library in 1978, I had absolutely no idea which came first – the elevated trains or the subway system.

One of the advantages of being on this project for so long is that I’ve known stations and interiors that are now either changed, or demolished. I’ve written about them (the Franklin Avenue Shuttle, ca. 1987, for instance), or I have notes and photos on them (the Centre Street Loop, ca. 2003, and the Stillwell Avenue Terminal, ca. 2001, and both BMT and IRT Cortlandt Street stations), so I can write them up in future chapters. Likewise, I’ve been fortunate to know one or two key persons in this drama who have since left the scene. But their stories are not lost with them. Even some sources of information I’ve relied on are no longer available. But what I garnered is preserved in my notebooks and lodged in my file cabinets.

One of the disadvantages of not living in New York, though, is that I’ve still missed a lot, because the system is continually evolving, in one way or another, in one borough or another, along one line this month and another route the next. Though I used to get in to see the sights and hammer away at the primary source books nearly every weekend, when I began this study, that’s barely the case now. But we’re trying to change that.

Proceeds from Silver Connections do not pay the bills. I labor on my study in evenings or on weekends, funding my project as I go. Though good, sympathetic people have helped me produce the four volumes of my study, I am essentially a one-man band. The passing times have reshuffled my crew, such as it may have been, and I’ve not produced anything since 1999, except for the few copies of Volumes I and II, scraped together from old & new printed pages, two years ago, and the recent Volume I – Revised text, last year.

Volumes from Copp's SILVER CONNECTIONS (image: Jeremiah's Vanishing New York)

Volumes from Copp’s SILVER CONNECTIONS (image: Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York)

There is a Volume V, begun about a decade ago, which I had to put aside as I revised Volume I. Volume V proceeds along the lines of its predecessors, and delivers (will deliver as presently planned) not only the full descriptions and images of the stations of the Centre Street Loop, the Steinway line from 42nd Street to Hunters Point Avenue, and the BRT’s Fourth Avenue subway, but also their construction history, the deliberations of the Public Service Commissioners, the fortunes of its Chief Engineers (up to 1914), and a roster of the contractors and the engineers involved. In short, the standard, researched approach which makes Volumes I through IV so voluminous.

That takes years of devotion and energy, but time moves right along for all of us, and I’m no longer 29, and my steadiness of hand and sharpness of eyesight are not what they used to be. With this condition in mind, it is very much time for a new way to complete this research. And so my efforts from here on will depart from the format of the fat volumes that chronicled the years 1900 through 1908 (and up to 1914, if all goes well).

And so I’ve embarked on a new approach to this record of the NYC transit system. I have begun my Portfolio series. Each Portfolio will detail one line of the subway system. I figure I can cover one route, within the bounds of one borough in a year’s span, as things stand now. It looks like there are 31 lines, by my count, so I’ll have to do better than that. I will start with the Dual Contract routes, of course, because they were the next era of construction after the intermediate tunneling work succeeding Contracts 1 and 2. But I won’t be following a strict chronology. If I did that, I would consider all four railroads to Coney Island (Brighton Beach, Culver, West End, and Sea Beach) in my first Portfolio. But I haven’t; I’ve started further north. Along the way, Staten Island will be remembered, of course. So will the Newark City Subway. Considering a timely finish to this record, the IND lines will be more of a breeze to get through – as they are just white-tiled walls with a colored stripe. Perhaps I could sail through a whole borough or two of them in one year. There is a lost code to their color sequence, by the way, but I think that has been cracked since 1957. We’ll have to look at that in due time. As it is, I already examined both the 8th and the 6th Avenue stations in Manhattan at the very beginning of my project, before I realized that they weren’t the earliest lines on the subway map.


What this Portfolio series means, though, is that I am not researching the personalities or the manufacturers or the detailed construction of these transit lines. There will be just a minimal gloss of historic background, which is not much history. And so I won’t tell you what Commissioner Eustis said to Mayor Gaynor, nor the joke which contractor Sam Rosoff played on the bank president. Nor, regrettably, much about the three – or four? – architect/engineers who designed the Dual Contracts and the IND station formats (but I have their stories). I won’t be saying much about the artisans and tile companies, either. Nor what happened with the four main subway pioneers, profiled in Volume I, after October 1904. All these sidelights are sidelined, thrown into limbo for now, under the present exigencies, because all those details are research, and they comprise the secondary focus of this study.

My primary goal is to record station layouts and their décor, as I see them on my field trips, before more is lost. This is what I have to do, because this is what I set out to do. Days do not stop running by, but maybe I can still hit my 2030 target for completing this study after all.

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This is a project that goes a bit beyond the realm of New York Books, yet it involves New York, and books, and Newyorkiana, history, ephemera, and all those things that we bibliophiles cherish.  As some of you may know, I also write a blog called The SoHo Memory Project, and today I am kickstarting a fundraising campaign through Kickstarter, an online crowdfunding platform for creative projects.

I plan to design and build a portable historical society that can navigate the bustling urban environment of today’s SoHo while showing a glimpse of its past.

Using unconventional media such as Viewmaster viewers and a smell station, I will chronicle the evolution of SoHo from rural farmland to high-end retail hub, charting its cycles of development and thus placing current day SoHo in the context of New York City’s history.

soho rep then ss
When I was growing up in SoHo, I remember walking down desolate streets. There were no stores or restaurants, but I felt safe because everyone who lived here knew each other. I learned how to ride a bike in my house. And I also often slept in my coat because we didn’t have heat after 5 pm.

When people think of SoHo today, they think of high-end shopping and expensive lofts. Nobody thinks of it as a tight-knit community where children roamed free and people actually knew and liked their neighbors. That was the SoHo of my childhood. That was the SoHo out of which ideas such as the adaptive reuse of buildings and loft living were born, ideas that influence how we live today.

SoHo currently has no neighborhood society dedicated to preserving its history, and I think it deserves one!



unnamedWorking in partnership with The Uni Project, a nonprofit dedicated to creating pop-up learning experiences across the city, I hope that this exhibition will be just the first step in finding a permanent home for The SoHo Memory Project.

My long-term plan is for The SoHo Memory Project to have a physical space where people can come to learn more about our neighborhood. But before I can apply for grants to sustain my project for the long-term, I need to produce something tangible that I can bring to funders to demonstrate my knowledge and commitment.

Help me create a pop-up historical society by donating today. And tell your friends, and ask them to tell their friends. If we preserve SoHo’s past, present generations will understand our neighborhood’s rich history, and this understanding will inform how we all shape its future.


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Weegee - Naked City (1945)We have some great news to report today, and a great story to go along with it. Beginning today, New York Bound Books will be featuring posters from Georgetown Book Shop founder and once­New Yorker Andy Moursund (see his full NYC collection), who left West 110th Street when a 2-bedroom apartment was $40.00 a month, but still remains a Manhattanite at heart.

Although Andy no longer has his Washington-area shop, he still sells his poster reproductions featuring sports, books, propaganda, as well as a huge collection of, er, “unusual” items. We have created a gallery of his New York­-related posters that can be purchased through this website.

A 2004 Washington Post article describes his political posters:

Andy Moursund, owner of Georgetown Book Shop in Bethesda, has a massive collective of political posters spanning the political and cultural climate of the past two centuries. (photo: Washington Post)

Andy Moursund, owner of Georgetown Book Shop in Bethesda, has a massive collective of political posters spanning the political and cultural climate of the past two centuries. (photo: Washington Post)

Taken together, Moursund’s bizarre posters constitute an alternative American history, an unofficial Museum of Stuff That’s Way Too Weird for the Smithsonian. …Moursund has an odd sense of humor — “it’s kind of a black humor,” says his wife — and it’s reflected in his choice of mages for the posters. They’re all a tad off­kilter. This is kitsch with a twist. One poster is an ad for a 1934Fourth of July picnic — but it’s a picnic sponsored by the Communist Party. Another poster is an ad for a 1939“Pro­-American Rally” in Madison Square Garden — but it’s sponsored by American Nazis. “Onward Christian Soldiers,” says one poster —but the name of that beloved old hymn is written atop a photo of a 1925 Ku Klux Klan march in Washington.

Andy’s collection is indeed broad and wacky. It also contains numerous New York­-related posters that would be of interest not only to New Yorkers, but to anyone interested in New York. We are very pleased to include his New York collection on our site. To view the full NYC collection and for information on how to place an order, please visit our “NYC Posters” gallery or by clicking on the tab above. Below are a few examples of what awaits!


1934 Columbia vs Stanford (Rose Bowl)

1934 Columbia vs Stanford (Rose Bowl)


Abbott - Greenwich Village Today and Yesterday (1949)

Abbott – Greenwich Village Today and Yesterday (1949)


1923 Yankees vs Red Sox Opening Day program

1923 Yankees vs Red Sox Opening Day program

Father Coughlin's Social Justice  - Do Communists Control  Ne

Father Coughlin’s Social Justice – Do Communists Control New York

1930 Notre Dame vs NY Giants (Unemployment Relief Benefit   at

1930 Notre Dame vs NY Giants (Unemployment Relief Benefit)





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101 objectsA History of New York in 101 Objects
By Sam Roberts
336 pages, Simon and Schuster


From the New-York Historical Society website:

 Can one object define New York City? Can 101? New York Times urban affairs correspondent Sam Roberts has assembled a kaleidoscopic array of possibilities in a new book, A History of New York in 101 Objects. Featuring objects from the New-York Historical Society collection, this exhibition assembles some of Roberts’s choices, which together constitute a unique history of New York.  By turns provocative, iconic, and ironic, and winnowed from hundreds of possibilities, his selections share the criteria of having played some transformative role in the city’s history.

tokenFrom the New York Observer:

The history of New York City has always been nuanced, its narrative hidden in everything from ticket stubs to water tanks. Now, Sam Roberts, the urban affairs correspondent at the New York Times and a Brooklynite at heart, has taken on the ambitious task of excavating the meaning within some of NYC’s most noteworthy artifacts in his new book, A History of New York in 101 Objects.

“It’s sort of an inanimate Humans of New York. It is a subjective, labor-of-love collection of objects that epitomize the transformation of New York over four centuries into the city that we know and love today,” Mr. Roberts said.

“It is not the history of New York,” he added. “It’s not even a history of New York. It’s really my history of New York through 101 objects.”

Within his compilation, Mr. Roberts left no room for nostalgia or ephemerality. Instead, he chose “things that would be more quirky. Things that would be more conversation pieces. Things that would make people think of history in a new light.” For him, it doesn’t matter if something’s trending at the moment. The real objects that define New York are those that will endure for decades to centuries.


knishKnish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food
By Laura Silver
300 pages, Brandeis University Press


From the Daily News:

Brooklyn ‘knish lady’ Laura Silver writes the definitive book about Eastern European potato staple from its roots in Poland to Brighton Beach, the knish is a part of American Jewry. And the city is experiencing a bit of a knishaissance.

She gained from loss.

When Mrs. Stahl’s knish shop closed in Brighton Beach in 2005, most New Yorkers shrugged and moved on at the departure of yet another neighborhood institution.

But Brooklynite Laura Silver took action, researching the seminal Eastern European staple, teasing out family stories, and even connecting with Mrs. Stahl’s descendents for “Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food,” a new book that is nothing short of a biography of the Polish potato-filled pastry.


new york modNew York: A Mod Portrait of the City
Written by Zdenek Mahler, Illustrated by Vladimir
128 pages, Universe



Exactly half a century old, this timeless illustrated classic artfully captures the “Mad Men” era of New York City for readers of all ages. The unique essence of New York City is poetically celebrated in Vladimir Fuka’s brilliant, colorful illustrations and collages and Zdenek Mahler’s playful accompanying narrative. The book takes readers on a charming journey of discovery through the magnificent metropolis’s architectural landmarks, cultural hot spots, and neighborhoods, from uptown to downtown, from Wall Street to Coney Island, and the Guggenheim Museum to Yankee Stadium. Interesting historical fun facts about the city and its inhabitants are combined with descriptions of the reality of everyday New York.


nyc 3DNew-York Historical Society New York City in 3D
In The Gilded Age: A Book Plus Stereoscopic Viewer and 50 3D Photos from the Turn of the Century


By Esther Crain and the New-York Historical Society
160 pages (paper), Black Dog & Leventhal

From the publisher:

This smart, upscale, and unique package contains 50 rarely seen stereoscopic images – including spectacular 3D views of bygone architectural marvels, as well as once-in-a-lifetime events such as the construction of the Statue of Liberty – and a paperback book that brings history to life.

Be transported to New York during the Gilded Age and experience daily life in one of the world’s most vibrant cities through mesmerizing, contemporary 3D photography and exciting tales of the time.

Black Dog & Leventhal has partnered with the New-York Historical Society to present New York in the Gilded Age as it’s never been viewed before. This innovative package includes a sturdy metal stereoscopic viewer and 50 stereoscopic photographs of turn-of-the-century New York. The package also includes a 128-page paperback that provides a brief history of the stereograph craze and an overview of the city’s evolution during that time.

rebel soulsRebel Souls: Walt Whitman and America’s First Bohemians
By Justin Martin
368 pages, Da Capo Press

From The Boston Globe:

In the late 1850s Walt Whitman was living at home with his mother in Brooklyn, scraping by on journalism, not poetry. A compulsive rambler, Whitman found his way to a dark little spot on Broadway and Bleecker called Pfaff’s. Here, he found another family of sorts in the company of writers, wits, actors, and artists. Beer (and banter) flowed freely. It wasn’t quite Cheers, but there, everyone knew the struggling poet’s name.

Whitman now is a central figure in the American canon, but his Pfaff’s pals are all but forgotten. In “Rebel Souls,” biographer Justin Martin brings them wonderfully to life in his enjoyable romp through the milieu. Whitman is the emotional core of the book — Martin’s passages on Whitman’s romantic travails and his experiences tending to wounded soldiers during the Civil War are unforgettably moving. But the other members of the Pfaff’s coterie almost steal the show.









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The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter (photo: Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times)

The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter at NYPL (photo: Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times)

If you haven’t yet seen “The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter” at the New York Public Library (Stephen A. Schartzman Building), you MUST MUST MUST.  This visually stunning and stunningly informative exhibition, curated by children’s book historian, author, and critic Leonard S. Marcus, presents familiar favorites as well as little known landmarks in children’s book history:

The ABC of It draws from collections across the Library to present literature for children and teens against a sweeping backdrop of history, the arts, popular culture, and technological change.  The books and related objects on view reveal hidden contexts and connections, inviting second looks and fresh discoveries.  They suggest that books for young people have stories to tell us about ourselves—and are rarely as simple as they seem. (The ABC of It Exhibition Program, page 3)

If you have children, they will love the colorful displays and will be delighted to pull books off the shelves to read or share.  But the exhibition should also be viewed solo, so that one can linger over the rare first editions of classics and read excerpts from old favorites.

Toward the end of the exhibit, there is a section devoted to books about New York City.  There are myriad books about our “storied city,” many favorites, and many of which I had never read or even seen (though perhaps you have!).  Here is a selection of titles I discovered that I thought were worth a closer look (all text is quoted directly from exhibition panels):


the blockThe Block

Langston Hughes; Romare Bearden, illustrator
New York: Viking, 1995


This volume’s powerful illustrations of Harlem neighborhood life are segments of a 1971 six-panel collage by Romare Bearden, and were paired for this book with poems by the artist’s contemporary Langston Hughes.  Hughes, like Bearden, was a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance.  Although the poet did not compose these lyrics with young readers in mind, accessibility and unadorned truth telling were always high on his aesthetic agenda, and from his very first appearance in print, in the April 1921 issue of The Brownies’ Book magazine, Hughes considered writing for the younger generation a priority.




Ludwig Bemelmans
New York: Simon and Schuster, 1950

Ironically named Mr. Sunshine is the Scrooge—like New York landlord who, in this rascally tale by the creator of Madeline, meets his match in a flamboyant music teacher-tenant.  Ludwig Bemelmans, an Austrian-born illustrator and man about town, lived on Gramercy Park for years as well as at the Carlyle hotel, where the café-bar he decorated with murals still bears his name.  Here, the peripatetic artist, drawing in his manic, rapid-fire style, gives us his impressions of a raft of the city’s iconic landmarks, from the Faltiron Building and City Hall to the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty.





 pet metPet of the Met

Don and Lydia Freeman
New York: Viking, 1953


Following World War II, Don Freeman was ready for a change and returned to his native California with his wife and collaborator, Lydia.  As new parents, the Freemans began making picture books.  In Pet of the Met, the couple introduced readers to Maestro Petrini, a musical mouse in residence at the gilded old Metropolitan Opera House.  In this charming story, the maestro, who ordinarily works as the prompter’s trusted page-turner, enjoys a rare onstage moment during a performance of The Magic Flute as his adoring mouse family looks on from the balcony.



all of a kind family

All-of-a-Kind Family

Sydney Taylor; Helen John, illustrator
Chicago: Wilcox and Follett, 1951

A sort of Loew East Side Little Women, this episodic novel set in the year 1912 dramatizes the daily routines and holiday observances of a first-generation Jewish American family with five daughters.  Taylor based er first novel and its four sequels on memories of growing up in lower Manhattan and the Bronx. She modeled Sarah, the middle child, on herself.







next stop gran centralNext Stop, Grand Central

Maira Kalman
New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1999


In 1998, Maira Kalman, a New Yorker cover artist and deadpan chronicler of the everyday, agreed to paint a series of temporary murals to conceal a major renovation project being planned for Grand Central Terminal.  Kalman began her research by simply “watching people go about their business”—commuters rushing to and fro and the usually unseen personnel who make the bustling rail hub function.  Based on the murals, Kalman’s picture book has taken its place as a classic depiction of the city’s kinetic energy and organized chaos.




William Low
New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1997


New Yorkers often assume that Chinatown has always occupied a prominent place in the city’s downtown landscape.  But Chinatown did not become a thriving ethnic enclave until the 1960s, when a new federal policy opened the door to greater numbers of Asian immigrant.  William Low, a Bronx-born first generation Chinese American artist, here celebrates the vibrant street life and durable traditions of the New York neighborhood that has become synonymous with Chinese food and culture.

Here’s a roundup of NEW(ish) New York books:


whitmanilluminated_crawfordWhitman Illuminated: Song of Myself
By Walt Whitman, Illustrated by Allen Crawford
Tin House Books
256 pages


From Tin House:

Walt Whitman’s iconic collection of poems, Leaves of Grass, has earned a reputation as a sacred American text. Whitman himself made such comparisons, going so far as to use biblical verse as a model for his own. So it’s only appropriate that artist and illustrator Allen Crawford has chosen to illuminate—like medieval monks with their own holy scriptures—Whitman’s masterpiece and the core of his poetic vision, “Song of Myself.” Crawford has turned the original sixty-page poem from Whitman’s 1855 edition into a sprawling 234-page work of art. The handwritten text and illustrations intermingle in a way that’s both surprising and wholly in tune with the spirit of the poem—they’re exuberant, rough, and wild. Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself is a sensational reading experience, an artifact in its own right, and a masterful tribute to the Good Gray Poet.


illustration from WHITMAN ILLUMINATED


j10060The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City
by William B. Helmreich
Princeton University Press
480 pages

From the publisher:

As a kid growing up in Manhattan, William Helmreich played a game with his father they called “Last Stop.” They would pick a subway line and ride it to its final destination, and explore the neighborhood there. Decades later, Helmreich teaches university courses about New York, and his love for exploring the city is as strong as ever.

Putting his feet to the test, he decided that the only way to truly understand New York was to walk virtually every block of all five boroughs–an astonishing 6,000 miles. His epic journey lasted four years and took him to every corner of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Helmreich spoke with hundreds of New Yorkers from every part of the globe and from every walk of life, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former mayors Rudolph Giuliani, David Dinkins, and Edward Koch. Their stories and his are the subject of this captivating and highly original book.

We meet the Guyanese immigrant who grows beautiful flowers outside his modest Queens residence in order to always remember the homeland he left behind, the Brooklyn-raised grandchild of Italian immigrants who illuminates a window of his brownstone with the family’s old neon grocery-store sign, and many, many others. Helmreich draws on firsthand insights to examine essential aspects of urban social life such as ethnicity, gentrification, and the use of space. He finds that to be a New Yorker is to struggle to understand the place and to make a life that is as highly local as it is dynamically cosmopolitan.  Truly unforgettable, The New York Nobody Knows will forever change how you view the world’s greatest city.


9781580054942Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York
Edited by Sari Botton
Seal Press
288 pages
$16.00 (paper)

From Powell’s:

Goodbye to All That is a collection of essays about loving and leaving the magical city of New York. Inspired by Joan Didions well-loved essay by the same name, this anthology features the experiences of 28 women for whom the magic of the city has worn off—whether because of loneliness after many friends marry, have kids, and head to the suburbs; jadedness about their careers; or difficulty finding true love in a place where everyone is always looking to trade up to a better mate, a better job, a better apartment.

With contributions from authors such as Cheryl Strayed, Ann Hood, Dani Shapiro, and Emma Straub, this collection is relatable to anyone who arrived with stars in their eyes, hoping to make it. Each essay reveals the authors own unique relationship with New York City, and together they encompass the complicated emotions all New Yorkers have about leaving.


9781623650209Unhooking the Moon
By Gregory Hughes
335 pages


From Kirkus Reviews:

Astonished to hear that their father had a drug-dealing brother in New York, newly orphaned Bob and his live-wire little sister, Marie Claire (aka Rat), hitchhike to the city from Winnipeg. For lack of a better plan, they wander Manhattan and the Bronx asking passersby if they know him. This strategy leads to encounters with a host of colorful city types, notably a pair of softhearted con men and a lonely rising rap star, plus plenty of terrific street theater and nights spent sleeping in, alternately, Central Park and a hyperluxurious apartment. And ultimately the children’s search is successful! Their information about Uncle Jerome is even (more or less) accurate, as he turns out to be the CEO of a huge pharmaceutical company. Though many of Hughes’ characters will sink emotional hooks into readers, Rat takes and earns center stage by glibly charming the pants off every adult, showing a winning mix of quick wits and vulnerability, and taking wild flights of imagination—her explanation of the (subtle) differences between a Windigo and a pedophile being a particular highlight. So appealing are they that when one of them suffers a tremendous blow, readers will feel it as intensely as the other characters. The dizzying highs intensify but also ameliorate that devastating low. Middle grade; ages 9 to 12.


9780763656966Tap Tap Boom Boom
by Elizabeth Bluemle, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Candlewick Press
32 pages

From Publisher’s Weekly:

In toe-tapping, jazz-chant verse, author, bookseller, and PW blogger Bluemle (How Do You Wokka-Wokka?) writes about the way a sudden thunderstorm “makes friends/ of strangers.” At the story’s start, two boys in a playground gaze through iron railings at a girl in a yellow dress hurrying to keep up with her father. On an ordinary day she’d disappear into the crowd, but when the rain starts pelting down, the boys, the girl and her father, and half a dozen others dash for the subway station: “Feet wetter?/ You’d better/ go down/ underground,/ where the water/can’t getcha./ You betcha.” Over photographic images of subway fixtures, Karas (The Apple Orchard Riddle) draws people chatting, sharing pizza, and shrinking away as their dogs shake themselves off, balancing the force of the storm with the warmth of city-dwellers sharing an unexpected break in their day. Bluemle’s story unfolds on a scale just right for preschoolers, with plenty of hullaballoo, subtle attention to the senses, and an affirmation of the way misfortune can lead to small miracles. Ages 3–7.

Illustration from TAP TAP BOOM BOOM

Illustration from TAP TAP BOOM BOOM





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