William Hooker, surveyor and engraver

William Hooker was a surveyor and engraver. He mapped early 1800s NY. He published maps of New York City in 1824. In 1827 he published the Pocket Plan of 1827, map of Brooklyn. His map was the first to have the AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church on High Street, established in 1818, the oldest African American church in Brooklyn. His map highlighted points of interest in Brooklyn, including not only the Places of Worship like AME, but libraries, schools, markets, banks, insurance companies, lodges, gardens, and hotels. Mr. Hooker’s published maps of Manhattan (then just known as New York City)  still… Read More

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William Leggett, writer, Evening Post

William Leggett (April 30, 1801 – May 29, 1839) was an American poet, fiction writer, and journalist. He was a New Yorker who attended Georgetown and then entered the military. His time in the military didn’t agree with him and he was court martialed for “dueling on duty”. Upon leaving the navy, he returned to New York City in 1826 and began writing. Leggett became a theater critic at the New York Mirror and assistant editor of the short-lived Merchants’ Telegraph. In November 1828, he founded the Critic, a literary journal that lasted only a few months. In the summer of 1829, however, William Cullen Bryant… Read More

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Gustav A. Mayer, oreo cookie inventor

Gustav A. Mayer was a New York businessman, confectioner and inventor who is credited with the Oreo cookie and the sugar wafer. Mr. Mayer learned the confectioner’s trade in his native Germany before coming to the United States at age 19 in the late 1850s. The Nabisco plant he worked from is the current home of the Chelsea Market, which was recently purchased by Google. Mr. Mayer designed decorative cookie molds, allowing for cookies to be uniform and decorative. This technique was also used to create Christmas tree ornaments. He lived in a beautiful Italianite home in Staten Island which  may… Read More

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David Hess, owner of smallest private property in NYC

David Hess was a landlord who owned The Vorhiss, a 5 story apartment building at Christopher Street and Seventh Avenue in the early 1900s. In 1910, the city was widening Seventh Avenue and putting in the 1 and 9 subway lines and a subway station at that corner. The city used eminent domain to seize the property. Upon examination, the Hess family discovered that the city survey had missed a small corner of the plot and they set up a notice of possession. The plaque is an isosceles triangle, with a 25 1⁄2-inch (65 cm) base and 27 1⁄2-inch (70 cm) legs (sides). The city asked the… Read More

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Alex Elowitz and Stan Fox, Coney Island business men

Alex Elowitz began working as a change boy in a Coney Island arcade when he was 12 years old. He went to the army and upon returning opened the Playland Arcade in Coney Island with his brother, Stan Fox in 1949. The first Playland Arcade was on 20th Street and the Boardwalk in the Washington Baths building. Playlands at 15th Street and the Boardwalk and 12th Street and the Boardwalk (where Nathan’s is now) followed. They opened 4 and the last was demolished in 2012 after being abandoned for about 30 years. Alex and Stan bought the business from the surviving Katz… Read More

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Alfred M. Butts, inventor of Scrabble

Alfred M. Butts,  as a jobless architect in the Depression invented the enduringly popular board game Scrabble. Although its sales eventually approached 100 million sets, Scrabble languished for nearly two decades, rejected by major game manufacturers as unmarketable. Mr. Butts was a fan of chess, crosswords and jigsaw puzzles. Working in his fifth floor walk-up in Jackson Heights, Queens, he designed the new game to be based on knowledge, strategy and chance. He lined the original playing board into small squares and cut the 100 lettered wooden tiles by hand. First players of the game included his wife and family friends. Mrs.… Read More

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John Eberson, theater designer and owner

John Adolph Emil Eberson (1875–1954) was a European born American architect best known for the development and promotion of movie palace designs. He was born in Austria-Hungary and studied electrical engineering at The University of Vienna. In 1901, he traveled to the United States through NYC, but ended up in St. Louis. He started as an engineer with a small company, but eventually joined with Johnson Realty and Construction Company, a theatre architecture and construction company. Eberson and Johnson traveled around the eastern part of America, promoting opera houses in small towns. Once the town was persuaded to build an opera house, Eberson would… Read More

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