The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for June 19th, 2012

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in the recent posting “Obscure World“, the location of Conrad Wissel’s notorious “Dead Animal and Night Soil Wharf” has been finally nailed down and confirmed by contmeporaneous maps and photographs. A lot of people ask me where I find my information about the oft occluded history of the Newtown Creek, and are surprised when informed about my methodology.

Basically, it all boils down to this- I’ll notice something hidden in plain sight while wandering around, take photos of it, and start researching when back at HQ. There’s a whole list of mysteries in my “to do” pile, and often the answer to what they were is presented while searching for something else entirely. It’s how the whole “missing Lamp Post of the Queensboro bridge thing” got started. Accordingly, whenever accusations of pursuing some political agenda are leveled at this- your Newtown Pentacle- great amusement ensues.

The utterly forgotten headquarters of the General Electric Vehicle Company of Long Island City, which had been staring me in the face for years, revealed itself in this manner. Easy to miss the third largest factory building in Queens, I guess, even if its painted with bright yellow and green stripes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As detailed in the posting “uncommented masonry“, one was merely poking around for some information about the “Blissville Banshee“.

A supernatural phenomena, the Banshee was reported on in 1884 by the NY Times (she was described as red haired, blue eyed, and screaming “Oh Ho” like … well… a banshee), and was an obvious jab at the largely Irish and Catholic population of Blissville by Manhattan’s patrician “Nativists”. Racial or ethnic prejudice is commonly encountered in journalism of that era, and quite unsurprising to those familiar with reportage of the period. In the 1880’s, “politically correct” meant not shooting someone on sight.

What emerged about the structure above, however, was that in 1915- a quarter of the 40,000 or so trucks then plying the streets of New York City were electric (and participated in a rail based battery exchange program). Most of them were manufactured in Long Island City within the building pictured above, by the General Electric Vehicle Company.

This is my favorite sort of posting, a product of serendipity and pure discovery.

Which brings me to the Tammany men, and why there very well might be a horse buried in Calvary Cemetery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Abbot” from January of 2010, described a chance sighting of a curious obelisk in Queens’s Calvary Cemetery.

By the time that I was done with this post, I had found the young J.J. Scannell and Richard Croker sitting out a sentence in Manhattan’s “Tombs”. Quite a propitious meeting- in retrospect, one with far reaching consequence.

These two men would rise to the top of Tammany Hall one day, preside over the consolidation of the City of Greater New York from the shadowed world of the “smoke filled room”, and grow filthy rich on a buttery diet of political corruption.

Think Boss Tweed was something? In that case, you’ve never heard of Scannell and Croker.

All this because I enjoy strolling through Calvary in the afternoon while the Dropkick Murphys are playing on my headphones.

incidentally, something recently discovered (see how it works?) were these portraits of Mr.’s Scannell and Croker- found in Moses King’s “Notable New Yorkers of 1896-1899, courtesy google books

– photo by Mitch Waxman

from some point in space“, another 2010 posting, showcases a shot of Dutch Kills acquired before a press conference which highly placed members of the Newtown Creek Alliance had asked me to represent them at (literally no one else from Queens was available).

My statement was prepared, thankfully, as I was standing next to and was introduced by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. Stage fright and hallucination inducing nervousness ruled my mood during the lead up.

To alleviate the anxiety while waiting for the event to begin… and as I happened to be standing in a south facing room within the Degnon Terminal’s former Loose Wiles building… which overlooks the waters of the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek- a window was soon roughly thrown open and I shot the image above.

As it happens, while attempting to research a group of heretical Quakers operating in the area just before the Revolutionary War, I came across the following image in another one of those “old and out of copyright” municipal journals which have found their way onto the web.

– Photo from 1921’s ”The Newtown Creek industrial district of New York City By Merchants’ Association of New York. Industrial Bureau”, courtesy google books

Cool, huh?

An August 2011 post, called the “the dark moor“, reversed the point of view and showed the view from infinite Brooklyn into Queens from atop the digester eggs of the Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant.

Click for details on Mitch Waxman’s
Upcoming walking and boat tours of Newtown Creek, and Staten Island’s Kill Van Kull

June 23rd, 2012- Atlas Obscura Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills walk (this Saturday)

for June 23rd tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

June 30th, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Kill Van Kull walk

for June 30th tickets, click here for the Working Harbor Committee ticketing page

July 8th, 2012- Atlas Obscura Walking Tour- The Insalubrious Valley

for July 8th tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

July 22nd, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Newtown Creek Boat Tour

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