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Archive for August 15th, 2012

long narrative

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Today’s shots are from “da Bronx”, captured last year while following the estimable Kevin Walsh of Forgotten-NY fame around. Mr. Walsh was busy planning a walking tour of the area, and his companion at arms- Richard Melnick of the Greater Astoria Historical Society, was along as well. While they were debating the finer points of Bronx history and an overall narrative structure for the excursion, I made myself busy photographing the various sights.

To wit- the Van Cortlandt House museum.


The Van Cortlandt family were prominent members of New York’s mercantile class and its social and business milieus. The business of trade connected the Van Cortlandt’s with mercantile families in the West Indies, European ports, and other American port cities. Additionally, their Dutch heritage linked them with many wealthy and powerful New York families. Marriages forged strong ties between the Van Cortlandt’s and the Schuyler, Phillipse, Jay, DePeyster, and White families of New York.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Knickerbocracy, a 19th century term used to describe the land and slave owning class of Dutch who stuck around after the English arrived and took over, is what the Van Cortlandts were a part of. No small amount of ennui was felt by the English and later the Anglo Americans towards the Dutch, who largely took off for northern and western New York State as the city began to grow.

Like Tolkien’s elves, they headed for the forests and quiet wooded sections of the country- gradually diminishing in prominence and social importance during their diaspora.

The English looked down upon them, describing them as superstitious and degenerate.

also from

After 140 years of occupancy by the Van Cortlandt family and their slaves, in 1889 the property was sold to the City of New York and made a public parkland. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1967 and became a National Historic Landmark in 1976. The house has been operated as a public museum since 1897.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Nearby the historic structure is a statue of a Civil War General, and one of the the founders of the National Guard- General Josiah Porter. Reports by those who knew him in life described the statue as bearing an uncannily accurate likeness to the actual fellow, and accolades were awarded to the sculptor for his skillful rendering.


This sculpture of General Josiah Porter (1830–1894) was created by William Clark Noble (1858–1938) and dedicated in 1902. It was commissioned at a cost of $20,000, and was a gift to the City of New York by the National Guard Association of New York State.

Porter is reputed to have been the first Harvard College graduate to enlist in the Union Army during the Civil War. He was made a first lieutenant in the Massachusetts Volunteers in 1861, and promoted to captain that same year. In 1865, he commanded the 22nd Regiment of the National Guard of New York (who would sponsor the statue), and in 1867, received the rank of major. Porter’s distinguished service led him to be promoted to colonel in 1869, and then to major general and adjutant general in 1886.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

General Porter met an undignified and messy end, dying in Manhattan on an elevated train line while on his way home from a party. The headline at the New York Times described the General as dying of “apoplexy”.

An archaic term, apoplexy is described by the redoubtable Wikipedia as “From the late 14th to the late 19th century, the word “apoplexy” was also used to describe any sudden death that began with a sudden loss of consciousness, especially one in which the victim died within a matter of seconds after losing consciousness. The word “apoplexy” may have been used to describe the symptom of sudden loss of consciousness immediately preceding death and not a verified disease process. Sudden cardiac deaths, ruptured cerebral aneurysms, certain ruptured aortic aneurysms, and even heart attacks may have been described as apoplexy in the past.”


“The train moved on, and I was left alone with the General, who was left lying on the platform near the edge. I asked the ticket chopper to help me carry the General to the waiting room. The man refused. He said something about the helpless officer ‘having a load.” which I indignantly denied. I explained that he had suddenly been taken sick. I tried to carry the General into the waiting room myself, but found that I could not do so. I then went inside the waiting room, where the ticket chopper had gone, and where the ticket agent was. I again asked help, but neither of the men would do anything. The result was that I was compelled to leave the sufferer stretched upon the platform in the cold night air while I went in search of a cab.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 15, 2012 at 1:14 am

Posted in Bronx, Photowalks, Pickman

Tagged with ,

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