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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David Bates Douglass, landscape architect, Green-Wood cemetery

David Bates Douglass (March 21, 1790 – October 21, 1849) was a civil and military engineer, who worked on a broad set of projects throughout his career. He was an instructor/professor at The US Military Academy, Kenyon and Hobart Colleges. Born in New Jersey, he graduated from Yale University, fought in the War of 1812, consulted on the Erie Canal’s western end, and designed the  Montville inclined plane on the Morris Canal across the Northern area of New Jersey. Most New Yorkers enjoy Mr. Douglass’ work at the Green-Wood Cemetery. The sprawling, natural landscape and one of the highest points in Brooklyn (200… Read More

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Owen F. Dolen, educator, advocate

In 1925, Owen F. Dolen (c.1864-1925) was asked to speak at a ceremony in this park, then known as Westchester Square. The occasion was the unveiling of a new monument to the neighborhood soldiers who died in World War I (1914-1918).  Dolen was a well-respected educator and life-long member of the Bronx Westchester Park community, and had spearheaded the campaign to place the memorial at the square. He gave a rousing twenty-five minute speech, bowed to the crowd, sat down, and died of a heart attack just minutes later. On April 30, 1926, the Board of Aldermen (now the City… Read More

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Oliver E. Allen, historian, writer, editor, Tribeca preservationist

Oliver E. Allen, historian, writer and editor for Life magazine and later editor at Time-Life Books, authored more than a dozen books, including two histories of New York City: “New York, New York”  and “The Tiger,” a history of Tammany Hall. In Tribeca, where he moved to a Hudson Street loft overlooking Duane Park with his wife Deborah in 1982, Allen was best known for his Tribeca Trib column, “Old Tribeca,” and for his volunteer contributions to the community as co-founder of Friends of Duane Park. He also was part of a small group whose work led to the designation… Read More

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Mark di Suervo, artist, Socrates Sculpture Park

Marco Polo “Mark” di Suvero (born September 18, 1933) is an abstract expressionist sculptor and 2010 National Medal of Arts recipient. He was born in China, but his family moved to the United States at the beginning of World War II. He went to San Francisco City College and the University of California Santa Barbara, where he studied art and learned sculpture making after leaving his philosophy major behind. He eventually graduated from UC Berkley which a degree in philosophy, but concentrated on sculpture. After graduating from college, di Suvero moved to New York City in 1957 to pursue a sculpting art career. He worked part-time in construction and began… Read More

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Bob Diamond, NY rail historian

Bob Diamond had been studying the New York subway system for decades. In 1980 (when he was 19), he came across the oldest subway tunnel in the system under Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. Bob and his friends had petitioned to have a manhole opened so they could search for the rumored tunnel. By luck, Bob hit a patch of wall that fell through and allowed with some digging for them to find  a relic kept intact since its last usage in 1861. The arched, brick ceiling was 17 feet high and its walls were decked intricately by stones. The tunnel was… Read More

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