The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for April 9th, 2018

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Visiting one of the seats of empire, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long have my eyes wished to look upon this place, found in Lower Manhattan at Bowling Green nearby Battery Park, and literally across the street from that charging bull statue which is meant to represent capitalism. You can put up all the bronze monuments you want to capitalism that you’d like to, but nobody – and I mean nobody – can hold a candle to what “the man” built at 26 Broadway nearby “de Waalstraat.” This was the center of the American Imperium, ultimately. If you want to answer the question Americans were asking directly after the attacks of Septmber 11th, 2001 – “Why do they hate us?” – you can start weaving the answer to them right here at 26 Broadway.

As a note, a long time before this 31 story office building’s opening in 1928, 26 Broadway was Alexander Hamilton’s home address.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like the entity which inhabited it, the building is an agglutination which solidified and agglutinated over time and was built by many hands.

The original building at 26 Broadway was ten stories tall and went up in 1885. It was expanded in 1895, and then again in 1921 (that construction took 7 years, finishing in 1928) which resulted in its current form. The original structure is contained somewhere within the 1928 version, which was the tallest building in Lower Manhattan when it was finished. 26 Broadway is crowned by a pyramid shaped structure that was once illuminated, meant to act as a beacon for ships entering New York Harbor, and said pyramid was modeled after the Mausoleum of Maussollos in the City of Halicarnassus – part of the 4th century b.c. Achaemenid Empire in modern day Turkey. “Maussollos” is where modernity derives the word mausoleum from, incidentally.

The master of the early modern world had moved his organization here to Bowling Green back in 1885, from Cleveland.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

We live in an era defined by the fact that he once walked amongst us. We live in an era during which the corporate leader is exalted as a princeps, and ruthless business tactics are celebrated. This was not so when he was born in 1839. In his lifetime, he was viewed as the epitome of American villainy. He is the model for Mr. Burns from the Simpsons cartoon, Mr. Potter from Frank Capra’s “it’s a wonderful life,” and Lex Luthor from the Superman mythos. His empire made him the richest person in recorded history, wealthier than all the kings and queens of England, the Pharoahs of Egypt, and all the Caesars of Rome – put together. Only Augustus Caesar enjoyed personal wealth and power that began to approach his. His instrument – “the organization” as he called it  – controlled better than 90% of American petroleum production, and 26 Broadway was his headquarters.

This is the former home and HQ of the Standard Oil Company, and it’s master was John D. Rockefeller.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One normally eschews visiting this section of Manhattan unless it’s absolutely necessary. A meeting I was invited to was being held “nearby Bowling Green,” as I was told. Once I consented to attend, and was then told the address where the gathering would be occurring, a broad smile broke out across my normally sullen and sunken countenance.

Esso, as Standard Oil’s New Jersey arm became known in the early 20th century – it’s Exxon now – was headquartered here until 1946. Greenpoint’s Mobil, the New York operation, was similarly managed out of the Standard Oil Building at 26 Broadway until 1956.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The views from 26 Broadway are exactly what one would expect in terms of being spectacular.

The crowded warrens of the lesser corporate towers fill the streets abundantly, and humanity is fairly removed from the equation, reduced to the status of crawling insects from this perpective. You see a few survivors of the Beaux Arts era from up here – the old Customs House (modern day Museum of the American Indian) pictured in the previous shot, the Cunard building, Castle Clinton over in Battery Park. The most important building in this area, saving the actual Stock Exchange – in terms of American History – is the Standard Oil building.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In his lifetime, John D. Rockefeller was reviled. He was, personally, the “one percent.” A culture which celebrated the self made man nevertheless saw this self made man as a monster, despite his best efforts to demonstrate his humanity and Christian virtues. In his later life, seeking to salvage the family name from infamy, Rockefeller and his sons began a career of philanthropy which familial descendants continue to this day. Standard Oil was notoriously ruthless in the continental territories of the United States, but it’s when you look overseas that the true scope and infamy of their ambitions become clear. The company’s agents, operating in the smoking ruins of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War, began troublesome relationships with the Sheiks and Mullahs of the Arabian Penninsula (along with British Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell) whose consequences continue to bedevil the American Imperium to this day.

Why hit the World Trade Center? It was the personal project of John D. Rockefeller’s grandson David. Memory is held long in the near east, and revenge is a dish best served cold.

Upcoming Tours and Events

April 14 – Exploring Long Island City – with NY Adventure Club.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail?
Tickets and more details here.

April 15- Newtown Creekathon – with Newtown Creek Alliance.

That grueling 13 and change mile death march through the bowels of New York City known as the “Newtown Creekathon” will be held on that day, and I’ll be leading the charge as we hit every little corner and section of the waterway. This will be quite an undertaking, last year half the crowd tagged out before we hit the half way point. Have you got what it takes the walk the enitre Newtown Creek?
Click here to reserve a spot on the Creekathon.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 9, 2018 at 11:00 am

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