Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Canal over Canal

Google 2007 is as deliciously smeary as the 1980s tax photos, managing to make the year look positively retro.  And the short ride along Hamilton that year takes you through a variety of weather conditions. As you continue north from here the clouds descend and a few feet later you're in dense fog.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Wonderful under the Gowanus


This one's fun. Brandon Liu and Jeremy Lechtzin have created a map-based view of 1980's New York, using Department of Finance tax photographs.  If, like me, you've spent lots of time exploring these photographs at the Municipal Archives website - a somewhat cumbersome process - you'll enjoy this new, quicker means of exploring streets block-by-block.  Some buildings are missing from the archives, so you may not find everything you're looking for, but you get a general sense of a particular block by the images represented next to each other in sequence.

The 80's tax photographs are notorious for their low-resolution. They offer the viewer a blurry sense of the decade, both muddy & garish in its sullen browns and yellows.  It's often hard to make out the lettering on store signs, and the faces of the people are impossible to read.   This can be frustrating, but I kind of like it too.  The views we get are like our own memories of the past - incomplete, with some of the details just beyond our reach.  We can never get back to the real thing, but the mood lingers sweetly.

Here's a familiar stretch of Fifth.  Scroll right & you'll see more storefronts.  What's still there, what do you remember, and what's a foreign world entirely?

I'll stick check back at the Municipal Archives if I want to look at addresses individually, and (slightly) enlarge particular images.  But 80s.NYC is a real winner, a wonderful way to walk the old city.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Barge Canal

The New York State Barge Canal was built as an improvement to the Erie, Champlain, Ontario, Cayuga and Seneca canals. Authorized in 1903, it was completed in 1918.  By the 1980s commercial shipping on the canal had declined, the result of the increased use of pipeline, rail, and bulk truck-carrying facilities. Today the group of canals is known as the New York State Canal System, and is used mostly for recreational boating.  It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2017.

There's a local connection here. The Gowanus Bay Terminal, of which the giant Grain Elevator Terminal, still standing today, was a part, was built to serve the needs of the State Barge Canal system by reviving grain & other freight traffic lost to the railroad system.  It was completed in 1922, and almost immediately proved to be a costly failure.

Library of Congress - date & photographer unknown

Pioneering photographer and sociologist Lewis Hine recorded the living conditions of immigrant laborers working on the Barge Canal.  The photographs below (NYPL Digital Collections) were taken in 1910 and 1912.

Hard Hat

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Ship Canal

Quite possibly an acquired taste for many U.S. viewers, but I love this sort of thing. This is a 1985 Granada TV documentary on the Manchester Ship Canal. By the time the film was made, the canal was long past its working heyday of the 1950s and '60s, when Manchester was one of the biggest ports in the nation. Any notions of decline and layoffs seemed a "mythical threat" when business boomed, but just like in the States, the rise of containers meant layoffs for workers, and in Manchester, bigger ships meant less and less traffic on the canal's upper reaches. And industry decamped overseas.  By the 80's, many of the mills and other factories in the area were closing, and small craft like working barges had almost disappeared.  The Port of Manchester closed in 1982, but more recently the newer, neighboring Port Salford, also on the canal, has developed expansion plans, and hopes to re-invigorate canal traffic.

The film is rich in the recollections of workers, many of whom represent the last generation of boatmen and dockers working the canal.  A couple of men describe the traffic of waste - "it might be shit to you, but it's bread-and-butter to me" - and despite the nature of the cargo, talk of Chocolate Boats kept remarkably clean.  Over pints in the social, retirees assert Mancunian pride, comparing their own hard work to the "come-easy, go-easy" ways of the Liverpudlians. They also recall a time when workers were known not by their given names but by their nicknames: Jukebox Joe, Hell's Bells, Overcoat Billy & Barm Cake Arthur. One inseparable pair, never one seen without the other, was Love & Marriage.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Gowanus Canal Area

Here's a breakdown of the Brooklyn votes for Council President in the 1951 election. Some of those Assembly District area names/descriptions look a little different.  Sunset Park is not in the picture, nor, of course, the newer Greenwood Heights.  This leaves us with an old (1951 at least ) Park Slope/South Brooklyn/Gowanus Canal area border question.  We'll leave that one well alone today.


"Brooklyn Photographs" at BRIC Arts 
Brooklyn Photographs brings together the work of 11 photographers who have turned their lens on the Brooklyn experience from the late 1960s to the present.  Each of these photographers will present a body of work on a specific theme – childhood in Williamsburg in the 1960s, Halloween in the 1970s, or Bushwick street life in the 1980s, to name a few.  More recent work from the last decade will explore such subjects as the rapidly gentrifying post-industrial landscape, Brooklyn artists, and the microcosm of street life visible near BRIC’s facility at the intersection of Fulton and Flatbush...
Photographers include: Yolanda Andrade, Stefanie Apple, Nelson Bakerman, Leigh Davis, Max Kozloff, George Malave, Meryl Meisler, Patrick D. Pagnano, Sergio Purtell, Larry Racioppo, and Russell Frederick .

See Inside ‘Proof,’ the Brooklyn Museum’s Latest Fall Exhibition (Brooklyn Museum)
In almost entirely black-and-white, comprising works by Francisco Goya, Sergei Eisenstein, and Robert Longo, The Brooklyn Museum’s exhibition “Proof” connects four centuries worth of historical tumult.

Interference Archive is moving, building, and growing--and we really need your support to make our new, long-term home a reality. (crowdrise)

Apple of My Eye: The Urban Vision of Elaine Norman (City Lore)
“Simply strolling down any New York street can be a visual adventure and an endless opportunity for discovery,” she writes. “The City has an extraordinary capacity to blend past and present, high-brow and low, traditional and modern.” This vibrant, eclectic and constantly evolving architectural and cultural kaleidoscope has always been Elaine Norman’s passion and source of inspiration.”These days, I love using my iPhone because it gives me the freedom to capture the city in a new way. And my ‘darkroom’ is now an app on that phone, where I occasionally ‘develop’ pictures while riding the bus.”
The work on exhibit here – photography, photo-collage and more – spans over thirty-five years. Elaine has collaborated with City Lore since our first year – 1986.

Joe Brainard in 1961-63 by Ron Padgett (joebrainard.org)
By late December, thanks to Ted, he began sharing an apartment on East 9th Street with the poet Tony Towle. There, with more space, Joe quickly created a startling number of assemblages,
haunting, hallucinatory, and beautiful. One of them was built on a toy piano—it had only eight keys—painted baby blue, from which rose a gloved wrist holding an ice cream cone a snake was ascending, along with toy figurines of two Vikings, one of them climbing the wrist, which he gave (or sold for very little) to Frank O’Hara. 

The Oscar Wilde Temple Opens Within The Church of the Village in Greenwich Village (Untapped Cities)
This month, The Russell Chapel within The Church of the Village has been transformed into a space honoring one of the earliest forebears in the struggle for gay liberation. The installation, entitled The Oscar Wilde Temple, is the creation of noted artists David McDermott and Peter McGough, and includes painting, sculpture, and site specific elements, recalling a time of “provocative sensuousness of the Aesthetic Movement Wilde championed.”

Frederick Wiseman’s “Ex Libris” - The latest work from the great documentary filmmaker examines the New York Public Library as it reconfigures itself for the digital age. (New Yorker)

These photos of goalposts from around the UK are beautiful (BBC)
Michael Kirkham, 39, a former roofer and photographer, has spent the last couple of years travelling around the UK, taking photos of goalposts.
All of the goalposts he photographed are different, but they evoke a strong feeling from childhood. They also tell a story about the change of Britain's urban areas.

Developers are closing in on Dalston’s local communities - Save Gillett Square (Huck)
“It’s like Coronation Street here,” says Moses. He’s been playing dominos on the site since it was a car park. “The only difference is, it’s unscripted.” Discussing the possibility of development, he tells me, “When they see something good, they just want to drop a stink bomb in it.”
Moses and many others were playing dominoes here long before the car park was transformed into what it is today. In those days, the only company they had was a police station that kept an eye on them from the other side of the lot. When the square was built around them, they stayed, and have been there ever since.

William Morris In The East End (Spitalfields Life)
Ultimately disappointed that the production of his own designs had catered only to the rich, Morris dedicated himself increasingly to politics and in 1884 he became editor of The Commonweal, newspaper of the Socialist League, using the coach house at Kelsmcott House in Hammersmith as its headquarters.
As an activist, Morris spoke at the funeral of Alfred Linnell, who was killed by police during a free speech rally in Trafalgar Sq in 1887, on behalf of the Match Girls’ Strike in 1888 and in the Dock Strike of 1889. His final appearance in the East End was on Mile End Waste on 1st November 1890, on which occasion he spoke at a protest against the brutal treatment of Jewish people in Russia.
When William Morris died of tuberculosis in 1896, his doctor said, ‘he died a victim to his enthusiasm for spreading the principles of Socialism.’ 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Miss Gowanus

Checking on the records of that immortal day in June when the "Lavender Lake" was first purged of its noisome waters, I learned that an impressive ceremony took place.  

White carnations were strewn on the waters of the canal by a little girl named Jennie Haviland. 

She was crowned "Miss Gowanus." 
                                                                               Brooklyn Eagle, 25th September, 1950

At Green-Wood

Monday, September 11, 2017

Fishing for Firearms

Another favorite, and this one, like a couple of earlier Canal Month posts, shows a canal scene right by today's Amazon Whole Foods.

From the Brooklyn Eagle, January, 1946:

Nine men at bridge railing looking down on debris on frozen water of Gowanus Canal; bare trees, telephone wires, and truck in background; retaining walls and patch of weedy vegetation in foreground. Inscription: "Bridge over Gowanus Canal at 3rd Ave., btwn 3rd & 4th Sts. from which two youths today caught sight of four guns (two revolvers and two automatics) and 200 rounds of ammunition on the canal ice."

Mustang on Third

Sunday, September 10, 2017

December 2013

We've been busy, and a bit distracted, so here's a quick Canal Month entry - a pic from 2013.  File under Lost Views. I wasn't a huge fan of the Harvest Dome, but really, this is a pretty cool landscape