General slocum east village walking tour


Jim Kalafus

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Slocum victim Bertha Zahn.
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Jim Kalafus

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Family members wait for admission to the morgue at East 26th street on the afternoon following the fire.
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My great grandmother, when she spoke of the Slocum over 70 years later, spoke more of the uncontrolled public outpouring of grief in the first few days after the fire than she did of the fire itself. Those who lived in Little Germany were taught, from birth it seemed, to keep emotions in check and behind closed doors, and so the sight of so many adults breaking down in public left a life long impression.
 

Jim Kalafus

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While family members waited, tugs and other harbor craft brought the remains of nearly 500 passengers recovered that first day back to Manhattan from North Brother Island. They also brought back a handful of the 350 survivors, many injured but ambulatory.
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Later that day, a special express train for Slocum survivors was run from the Bronx to the elevated station at East Eighth Street. Relatives of those missing were dismayed by how few disembarked. "There must be another train....."
 

Jim Kalafus

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Throughout the evening of June 15, and even on into the 16th, there were a handful of reunions as stragglers belatedly found their way back to the Lower East Side and those too injured to be moved were located by friends or family in the hospital. In nearly 3/4 of the cases, however, the reunion would be a grim one.
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In this detail from a well known photo taken on June 15th, a box top, a man's doughboy-style hat, a Slocum life preserver, one of the ladders Superintendant White's nurses used in their rescue effort, and several victims lie in a forlorn mix at the base of a steep embankment at North Brother.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Such scenes played out hundreds of times throughout June, as bodies continued to be recovered from the river, and some of the more seriously injured in the fire succumbed.
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This photo shows a hastily assembled pile of coffins, awaiting the arrival of victims from North Brother Island.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Ansel Store: #103 East 4th Street. Eugene Ansel was the man who learned of the death of his father in Germany on the morning of June 15th, and then lost his wife and children aboard the Slocum the same day. In both cases the news was brought to him at his store (I believe that he was a pork butcher) which was located at the center of this photo.
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Mr. Ansel's story appears earlier on this thread.
 

Jim Kalafus

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And so concludes the tour for now. I depart for Texas tomorrow morning, will be back in March, and will not be able to post photos until then.
Will return to NYC and then ET at some point in mid month, with more Slocum sites, more crime scenes, and more lurid insights into pre-1950 NYC and my own psyche.

All three Slocum tours culminated at my NYC "At Home" address, and so too will this one. Ciao!

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BTW- anyone who wants to come on the next one is perfectly welcome to do so.
 

Senan Molony

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Hi Jim,

Expect the boating tragedy of 21 lives lost in New York this week recalls for you, as it did for me, the loss of the General Slocum.

I do not understand why this wallet is called Eastland\General Slocum when they have nothing to do with each other.

There are a few of us in Ireland with special affection for the Slocum story, not alone because of the Irish involved, but because of its connection with James Joyce's Ulysses.

Condolences to New York on the lives lost in the Ethan Allen.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Hello, Senan: Yes, I saw parallels with both the General Slocum and the Eastland in the recent Ethan Allen disaster. Sadly, the story has already started to slip from the newspapers here in NY.

>There are a few of us in Ireland with special affection for the Slocum story, not alone because of the Irish involved,

The next-to-final survivor had an Irish link (maiden surname Gallagher) and there were several Irish crew members aboard. The investigating committee was, in the Slocum case, amazingly thorough and managed to produce one of the few government reports that is actually fun to read. Literally every aspect of the disaster was covered by a chart, graph, or list, so somewhere I have the names and addresses of the whole Irish contingent aboard - one of the lists breaks the survivors and victims down by nationality.

>I do not understand why this wallet is called Eastland\General Slocum when they have nothing to do with each other

Other than that they were excursion boats, and sported white hulls with buff funnels, the link escapes me as well.

Last 'morbid and not Titanic related' Slocum walking tour we did was less than productive. Brought along a list of 'new' 1904 addresses to photograph, and in every case the building had been demolished. In the case of the home of Henry Kohler- he of the 29 lost family members- the house had been cleared so recently that one could still see the 'scar' it left on the structure next door. I am hoping that the next will be a bit more upbeat.
 

Senan Molony

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From June 16, 1904, which happens to be Bloomsday.

Crap scan, but the headline is 478 Corpses.

I would like to do that tour with you one day, Jim. You have total command of the story.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Sure thing, if you are ever in NYC.

>but the headline is 478 Corpses

I dont know if you are aware of the unusual effort made to assemble a correct death list for the Slocum, but the powers-that-be went as far as a door to door canvass of the Lower East Side enquiring about each of the 1050 or so names on the death list. As it turned out, only 950 or so of the victims could be confirmed through death certificates or confirmation by friends, family or the church records. So, either 75 people (the final 'official' toll being 1021) vanished leaving no trace whatsover in any public record or personal memory, or the roll of the lost was actually somewhat less than believed.

One of the additional morbid details of the government report is a two column list of the unidentified dead, with column (A) being the corpse and column (B) being the missing passenger the Coroner's Office thought most closely matched what was left of the body. Each of the unknown was buried in a separate, numbered, plot so that someone working from the list could easily exhume their missing relative or friend should the missing piece of evidence needed to identify them surface. Working from the list, IDs were made well into 1905.
 
May 27, 2007
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Jim-?
Went looking for the Roraima thread and I got side tracked into you walking tour on the General Slocum. Senan was right when he declared that you have a command of the story. Found out the Auwater's part of my mothers family who are of German extraction lived in little Germany or were a part of the German immigrant scene in New York after arriving in America in the 1850's form southern Germany. Though I believe they had moved out west to Missouri in the 1870's. Fancy that. They were Lutherans as well. I wonder if they ever attended Saint Mark Lutheran Church. I doubt it but you never know.

Jim who is the Black Dahlia?
 

Jim Kalafus

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Ah yes. I fondly remember this thread. This was my first attempt at writing since 1990. Rough, in places, but it got the ball rolling again.

"Who Is The Black Dahlia?" was a made for TV film starring Luci Arnaz. Why I chose to advertise it on my signature is now forgotten.
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The Black Dahlia was Beth Short, an aspiring actress from Medford Massachussetts, who ran afoul of maniac in Los Angeles back in 1946 or 1947. Check out www.bethshort.com if you have a strong stomach. Hers was the ULTIMATE blame-the-victim murder until fairly recently. One author described her as a whore who would not be missed, and the general tone of articles and books 1947-ca 1990, was 'she got what she deserved.' Artist Mary Pacios knew Beth when she, Mary, was a child, and remembered her as a very glamorous cool-older-sister figure and a nice person. Mary noticed something odd- when people who actually knew Beth spoke of her, they would say things like "I can't help it- I LIKED her!" apologetically. 50 years of negative press had permanently reduced her to a lower level than the man who killed her. Since Mary's effort at "rehab"-ing her friend's reputation nearly everything written has been far more respectful and balanced.
 
May 27, 2007
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George On Beth Short(The Black Dahlia)-

I know a lot about her from high school. Of course they said she was a bad girl. Bad things don't happen to good girls. Or so they say. A bunch baloney.

Interesting info here Jim in that none of the police investigating the Dahlia murder could ever find a man who had slept with her or would admit it. Supposedly Miss. Short had a under developed V----a that would make s-x-al intercourse very painful.

Went to the site and I agree with you Jim. Don't look at the morgue shots if you have a weak stomach. The pictures though gruesome(horrible) do scream out one clue. Brutality and Hatred- who ever killed Beth Short hated her or what she represented to the killer or just women in general (which means there might be other victims out there).
 

Jim Kalafus

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WHERE "THE UNSINKABLE MRS BROWN" SANK: Ungodly heat and humidity lays over Manhattan like a blanket. There is an air quality advisory out andf, far far worse, the Rolling Stones 1973 single "Heartbreaker" has been lodged in my head for two straight days:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mEY7D2GIKQ
making it seem as though I have background music from a Caucasoid version of Shaft accompanying me wherever I go...

I opt to walk the six miles from East 73rd Street to Battery Park, despite the heat and the urge to strut oddly in time to music only I can hear, visiting Titanic and crime related sites as I go.

First stop is the Barbizon Hotel, at Lexington and East 63rd. This 1927 structure, originally meant to house respectable women both transient and long term, is where Mrs. Brown died in the early 1930s.
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I have no idea in which room or suite Mrs. Brown lived, and I syuspect that the condo board has NOT included "Titanic Survivor Died Here" in their public relations kit, with instructions on how to locate the death room. I suspect that if her finances held, she probably had an upper floor corner room with view towards Central Park. Just a hunch.

Lexington Avenue is the point of demarkation between where you CAN afford to live in Manhattan, and where you probably cant. As such, it is a mix of elegance, like the Barbizon, functionality, like the 1950s brick-box apartment house across E 63rd, and former brownstones ( once residences of the not-rich-enough-to-afford-Park-Madison-or Fifth breed of well to do) now converted to mixed residential and commercial use.

Prosperity has come to Lex, and one can look downtown from E 63rd and see the seeds of doom in the progression of massive structures eradicating the funky low-rise quality of the street as they march thru the mid fifties ...
 

Jim Kalafus

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One block north, and two and a half blocks to the east, is the sole survivor of the Astor mansion complex Caroline Astor deemed necessary to keep her weird offspring under her thumb. A combination of trees and badly parked trucks makes it impossible to photograph the rather staid Caroline Astor Williams mansion at #3 East 64th, which has been India House since 1952. It is a more restrained structure than the now-demolished mansion shared by Caroline Astor, John Jacob Astor, Ava Astor and, of course, Ava's lover who fathered her child, which stood at Fifth and E. 65th. THE Mrs. Astor's parlor from the mansion still exists, in Sarasota, Florida.

Most of the mansions of upper Fifth Avenue were demolished between the 'teens and the 1970s, in favor of apartment houses. Perhaps 150-200 survive on the cross streets between Fifth and Park, two blocks to the east, demonstrating just how many fortunes were acquired during the late 19th century.

My favorite of these was once the home of a man I admire, New York World publisher Joseph Pulitzer. The World was a rather feisty, reform minded paper, and stylistically hovered in the undefined zone between tabloid and traditional. Its General Slocum coverage was the best of all the city newspapers, and much of the material I used early in this thread originated there.

Pulitzer's 1900 residence, at 11 East 73rd Street, survived the demolition boom which saw most of the large houses removed even from the side streets (confiscatory taxes) by conversion to luxury apartments in the 1930s. An effort was undertaken/is ongoing to restore as much of the original grandeur to the interiors as possible.
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Trees and a badly placed truck make it impossible to photograph the mansion in full.
 

Jim Kalafus

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I think that what I find appealing about the Pulitzer house is that it closely replicates the now-demolished 1856 AT Stewart department store, which once stood at Broadway between E 9th and E 10th. It pretty much does in stone what the old store did in cast-iron.

A walk a block down Fifth, and turn on to East 72nd street. East 72nd has a pristine but bland row of 1890s townhouses along its south side. Construction work was underway at the far end and I suspect that a non-landmarked survivor has bit the dust in favor of Luxury Condo Deluxe. On the north side of the street stands this group of three survivors. Most people assume that this is a single mansion, of assymetric design, but it is actually two houses built to function as a pleasant unit. The Oliver Gould mansion, on the left, and the Jessie Sloane mansion, on the right, date from 1898 and 1894 respectively. Construction work made it hard to photograph them well.
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The 1936 apartment building on the right, at the corner of Madison Avenue, replaced the monster-of-a-residence built by Charles and Lewis Comfort Tiffany. It housed various members of the Tiffany clan, plus studios. It SHOULD have survived....

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Funny thing about these houses is that, between them they share EVERY stylistic detail (except for the tower) of the detested Clarke mansion, which was so derided by critics and public alike that it single handedly drew the curtain down on tacky Newport style architecture in Manhattan:
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On the one hand it grates on me that the innovative Tiffany house and studio (with valuable corner address) was jackhammered into oblivion and its fragments dumped far at sea, while the derivative architecture next door survived. But, on the other hand, the complex is now genuinely historic, and so I GUESS it can stay...

...but, still...

*sigh*
 

Jim Kalafus

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Diagonally across Madison Avenue from the Tiffany site is this house, with an oddball history that makes me fond of it.

Briefly, Gertrude Rhinelander Waldo, old money, built this home in 1895. She occupied it, briefly, found it not to her liking, and moved back to the family manse. The residence stood, maintained but unoccupied, until it was converted for use as an antiques shop catering to a very exclusive clientele. Ralph Lauren did an excellent job restoring/converting it as his flagship outlet.

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