Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes, architect, writer

Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes (1867 – 1944) was an architect and pioneer in social housing who co-authored the 1901 New York tenement house law. His most important contribution to NYC may have been his  The Iconography of Manhattan Island, a six volume compilation he worked on for over 20 years and published between 1915 and 1928. It became one of the most important research resources about the early development of the city. He was educated at St. Paul’s School, Concord, and Berkeley School in New York City before graduating from Harvard in 1891. He later took post graduate courses at Columbia University and then in Italy and at… Read More

Read more

Wilhelm Christian Weitling, writer, tailor, inventor

Wilhelm Christian Weitling (1808 – 1871) was a tailor, inventor, and radical political activist. He immigrated from Germany and invented attachments for commercial sewing machines like devices for double-stitching and the button holes. Prior to his inventions, these had been done by hand and kept many families afloat with piece work by the women and children of poor areas in NYC. Weitling was raised in dire poverty, while his mother made a meager living as a maid and cook. His father, who never married his mother, was killed in war before Wilhelm turned 5.  His education was limited to elementary school and any… Read More

Read more

Ned Buntline, author, instigator

Edward Zane Carroll Judson Sr. (1821 or 1823– 1886), known as E. Z. C. Judson and by his pseudonym Ned Buntline, was an American publisher, journalist, writer, and publicist. He was born and died in the Western Catskill area of Upstate New York, but his time in the city was filled with adventure. He ran away from home and served as a cabin boy and ended up on board a Navy vessel. He rescued the crew of a boat that had been run down by a Fulton Ferry in the East River and received a commission,  because of his bravery, as a midshipman in the Navy from  the president in 1838, and… Read More

Read more

Charles Austin Beard, Historian

Charles Austin Beard (1874 – 1948) was born in Indiana, expelled from Quaker school, finally graduated from High School and eventually ran the area newspaper with his brothers. He attended DePauw University, running the newspaper there and graduating in 1898. He continued his studies at Oxford in 1899 and returned to the US with his wife in 1902 where he studied at Columbia University. He received his doctorate in history in 1904 and immediately joined the faculty as a lecturer.  In order to provide his students with reading materials that were hard to acquire, he compiled a large collection of essays and excerpts… Read More

Read more

William Dunlap, Artist, manager of Park Theater

William Dunlap (1766 – 1839) was a pioneer of American theater. He was a producer, playwright, and actor, as well as a historian. He was an artistic painter and managed two of New York City’s earliest and most prominent theaters, the John Street Theatre (from 1796–98) and the Park Theatre (from 1798–1805). In 1783, he produced a portrait of George Washington, now owned by the United States Senate. He studied in Europe for a few years, but returned to New York in 1787 and worked exclusively in the theater for 18 years, returning to painting only when economically necessary. He produced more than sixty plays, most adaptations or translations… Read More

Read more

Guido Bruno, Bruno’s Garrett

Guido Bruno (1884–1942) was a well-known Greenwich Village character, and small press publisher and editor, sometimes called ‘the Barnum of Bohemia’. He emigrated to the United States from Prague as a second cabin class passenger under the name Kurt Kisch in December 1906. He was based at his “Garret on Washington Square” where for an admission fee tourists could observe “genuine Bohemian” artists at work. He staged “bohemian” working environments with painters, writers and models” and charged admission for the expectant visitors. He produced a series of little magazine publications from there and sold them to the tourists and others. From July 1915 to December 1916, Bruno’s Weekly published poems, short stories,… Read More

Read more

Christopher Gray, author and architecture critic

Christopher Gray (1951-2017), an architectural detective and social historian whose Streetscapes column in The New York Times brought to light all of the architectural wonders of New York City. The column ran from 1987 to 2016 in the Real Estate section on Sunday in the NY Times and many readers made it their first stop on Sunday morning. The  columns “were narratives of creation, abandonment and restoration that lovingly highlighted quirky design and backstairs gossip from decades past.” (NY Times) Mr. Gray also founded the Office for Metropolitan History in 1975. The office could be hired to do research on a building including… Read More

Read more