EVERYDAY X-RAY: BULL’S HEAD VILLAGE
EVERYDAY X-RAY: BULL’S HEAD VILLAGE
This litany of events is connected to the viewing of a video I made which is housed here: https://vimeo.com/100545063
Events referenced in no particular order
- The blocks of 24th Street between Second and Lexington avenues, were, in the early 1800s, part of Bull’s Head Village, a cacophony of stockyards, cattle markets and coal yards, then, in the mid- to late 19th century, home to a thriving horse auction market and sundry connected businesses: taverns, an inn, blacksmiths, saddle shops. Imagine raised voices competing to be heard amidst the whinnies and neighs of horses and humans bidding, boasting and brawling. As time passed, Fiss, Doerr and Carroll’s block-long equine monopoly made way for the newfangled automobile, and garages replaced stables. Later Baruch College would destroy the entire block to build its Vertical Campus, in 2001. But before all that, John Watts purchased a tract of land, in 1747, running from modern day 21st-30th streets and the East River to Park Avenue South and called it Rose Hill Farm. Horatio Gates, Revolutionary War hero, bought it in 1790.
- Over 1,000 horses who served with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War were shipped to the East Side pier in 1898 to be sold at auction on 24th Street. Just before midnight on September 19, thirty-three of them were spooked near Third Avenue and 24th by the sound of the overhead train and stampeded, running east on 24th to Second Avenue, then all the way uptown to the Harlem River, where they would have gone in if not for a fence at the newly constructed Harlem Bridge near the police precinct at 126th Street.
- RCA had their main recording studios at 155 East 24th Street in a building formerly occupied by Fiss, Doerr and Carroll. On July 2, 1956, the day after being embarrassed on the Steve Allen Show by being forced to sing to a basset hound, Elvis recorded “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel” here. Elvis spoke to the postal workers across the street while on a break.
- Elvis’s band hung out at Klube’s Tavern at 158 East 23rd while Elvis was working and they were not needed. Klube’s, now The Globe, was once the St. Blaize Hotel and Restaurant — a brothel at the turn of the last century, and then, a speakeasy during Prohibition. The tile ﬂoor remains and a line on the ﬂoor in black tile marks the spot where the secret room began.
- Also recording at RCA, among others: Illinois Jacquet, on December 19, 1947, with a tune called “Rifﬁn’ at 24th Street”; Sidney Bechet, on April 14, 1941, with an early example of overdubbing on “The Sheik of Araby” (“I started by playing The Sheik on piano, and played the drums while listening to the piano. I meant to play all the rhythm instruments, but got all mixed up and grabbed my soprano, then the bass, then the tenor saxophone, and ﬁnally ﬁnished up with the clarinet”); and, Dave Lambert, formerly of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, with his new vocal group in an audition ﬁlmed for posterity by a young D. A. Pennebaker. Lambert died several months later, struck by a truck while helping a motorist change a tire on the Connecticut Turnpike.
- The Rolling Stones dressed in drag for a photo shoot for the back cover of “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadows?” in late 1966 at 124 East 24th Street.
- On September 13, 1969, composer Charles Amirkhanian recorded a text-sound composition at the George Washington Hotel using reverb and other electronic processing.
- The Third Avenue El dominated the vista of the avenue from 1878-1955, when it was dismantled, constituting “a menace to health, comfort, and peaceable home life.” It wasn’t great for real estate interests either. The long-promised Second Avenue subway line has yet to materialize. Some of the scrap from the El was used to build the third tube of the Lincoln Tunnel.
- In 2013, during the unfortunate yearly event known as SantaCon, several drunk Santas and a stray elf or two brawled near Joe Jr.’s restaurant at Third Avenue and 16th Street.
- From 1876-1882, the arm and torch of the Statue of Liberty were on display in the northwest corner of Madison Square Park, in an attempt spearheaded by Joseph Pulitzer to raise funds from the public for the construction of a pedestal for the statue. Ultimately the crowd sourcing was successful, with many of the contributions coming from ordinary citizens in amounts of pennies, nickels and dimes.
- On October 17, 1966, the New York Fire Department lost twelve men in a ﬁre at Worth Drugs, near the corner of 23rd and Broadway. This would stand as the largest one-day casualty toll for the FDNY until September 11, 2001. Surviving ﬁreﬁghter Joe D’Albert speaks here of the day’s events.
- A Thomas Edison ﬁlm company production, “What Happened on Twenty-Third Street” was ﬁlmed by Edwin S. Porter on August 12, 1901. Porter went on to ﬁlm and edit “The Great Train Robbery” in 1903, using groundbreaking techniques of dissolves and cross editing — showing action happening in different places at the same time. In 1903 the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, founded by an ex-Edison inventor, William Dickson, ﬁlmed “At the Foot of the Flatiron.” Both ﬁlms demonstrated the capricious winds caused in part by the Flatiron Building that some say gave us the phrase “23 Skidoo,” allegedly a phrase cops would use to scatter men waiting at the intersection to see the swirls blow women’s skirts up.
- The 1936 May Day parade caused a stir in the weeks prior to the march, with a barrage of news articles chronicling fears that the different factions of “Reds” were all to join forces — Norman Thomas’s Socialists, the Lovestone Communists, the regular Communist Party and several unnamed splinter groups. As it happened, the seven-hour labor parade was “the quietest in years” despite Hitler’s unsolicited endorsement. There were 40,000 marchers, 5,000 of whom were school children.
- The 8th Annual Dance Parade was held on Saturday, May 17, on Broadway below 23rd with 10,000 dancers comprising 142 dance groups and 77 different styles.
- In 1976 Manhattan Cable Access worker Paul Doughtery used equipment from his job to make a movie, “White Collar Funk.” This part was shot between Lexington and Park on 23rd Street in 1975.
- Scott Joplin’s publisher, John Stark, had an office at 127 East 23rd Street. It is likely that “Maple Leaf Rag” was played by Joplin in Stark’s offices there, now the site of the Gramercy Theatre.
Third Avenue El:
Sounds of the 20s:
“Audition at RCA” by D. A. Pennebaker: https://vimeo.com/2681835
“Have You Seen Your Mother…” shoot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4QtUUp8mfc
Tape Word Work by Charles Amirkhanian: https://archive.org/details/CA_1969_09_13
White Collar Funk by Paul Doughtery: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvwZEX769oQ
“What Happened On Twenty-Third Street”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrCd4aoCg64
“At the Foot of the Flatiron”: https://archive.org/details/CEPriceAtTheFootOfTheFlatiron1903
Noise Measure: http://vectorsdev.usc.edu/NYCsound/777b.html
Worth Drugs Fire: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agEYg2n2JsQ
Walk Through New York City in 1968: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0gutWTUJV4