The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Bloody Sixth Ward

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Oy gut to visits mit das Goyem again!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My friends at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral allowed me to photograph their 2016 Irish Language Mass, over in Lower Manhattan’s Bloody Sixth Ward on the corner of Mott and Prince, which occurred on Saturday the 12th of March. This isn’t the first time I’ve shot this event – check out “wildest speculations” and “luminous aether” for my earlier efforts.

One thing you’ll pick up on is that this year is that the House of Dagger John – St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral – looks a bit different. There is an enormous amount of construction going on within the building, as there’s a restoration project underway meant to prepare the Church for an upcoming historical anniversary and return her to the splendor of an earlier era.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is my habit, I got there early, way before any of the parishioners showed up. During the ceremony itself, my preferred spot to shoot from is alongside the organist, which is on a catwalk that sits what must be thirty or feet over the floor. The image above is from ground level, at the center of the aisle between the pews, looking straight at the altar.

I presume they’re called “pews,” and that the ceremonial center is called the “altar,” incidentally. I’m Jewish, so what do I know? If you’re Roman Catholic, and I’m calling out “something” as something it’s not, please offer corrections in the comments section below rather than getting offended.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the pipe organ, there is one, and it’s a magnificent thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The altar area at the front of the basilica has also enjoyed a bit of restoration. The carved wooden statues of the Saints (presumptively) or Apostles on the ornate screen have received quite a bit of artistic attention since my last visit here. The big oil painting that used to act as a centerpiece has been replaced by a model of the Cathedral which encloses the host.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Cruciform has also been cleaned and its paint restored, and has been relocated from its former position behind the carved altarpiece. It’s now suspended from the roof by thin wires.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This shot looks back towards the organ from the front of the Basilica, up on the altar itself. The stained glass which normally adorns the windows has been removed, and been sent off to an artisan glass shop for restoration. There’s a fabricated construction material that looked like Tyvek covering the windows, and you’ll notice there’s a scaffold set up in the lower left hand corner of the shot. Just about everywhere I looked, there was something going on, repairs wise.

I was informed that this Mass is the first time in many, many months that the Cathedral has been open to the public due to these construction and restoration efforts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Irish language mass got going, and it was in celebration of St. Patrick’s day. Naturally, it started with bagpipes, and most of the attendants whom I spoke with were indeed of Hibernian descent. There were a couple of important people who spoke, in Irish… can’t really tell you what they were saying as I’m not fluent in Gaelic. The ceremony itself went on, and the priests performed their devotions. Actually, the guy on the left is Pastor of this church and is a Monsignor.

As a note, I LOVE photographing this event, and am honored that I’m asked to attend and record it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Part of my awe, of course, is that this was the church of Archbishop John Hughes – who is my nominee for the most important but largely forgotten New Yorker of the 19th century.

Dagger John, as he was known in his time, is the founder of Calvary Cemetery along my beloved Newtown Creek in Queens, and he actually officiated the very first funeral that was held there. It was also because of Dagger John, and his creation of an entirely free Parochial School system for the children of the poor (including Protestants) that the Protestant elite of NYC created a Public School system which must NEVER mention a god or offer religious instruction.

If you don’t think about the Protestant/Catholic conflict when discussing 19th century NYC, you probably don’t know anything about the Bowery B’Hoys or the Bloody Sixth Ward. McGurk’s Suicide Parlor was a couple of blocks away from here, not far from McSorley’s and Cooper Union. A few blocks east, German and Ukrainian  Socialists conspired to oppose the bosses over on first, and just a few blocks further east was an area referred to as “The Jew Ghetto.” Lame Duck was the king of Doyers Street and its opium parlors to the south, and to the north west at Union Square – a political organization which called itself “Tamanend” was just beginning to flex its electoral muscles.

Back in the 1830’s and 40’s the Catholic Church was considered to be a threat by the old line Protestant “powers that be” and the Pope was referred to as (and was the de facto) King of Italy. NYC was boiling with racial tension in that era, with ethnic militias making war upon each other on the streets. A Nativist Mob once marched on this very church intending to burn it down, and were greeting by Irish gunmen manning the fences along Mott, Mulberry, and Prince Streets.

It’s hard to imagine, I know. Back then, the concept of race wasn’t just black and white, it included National origin. Back then, the Irish were considered a degenerate and primitive race, separate and lesser than the other pale skinned Europeans. Reading the NY Times archives from back then on the subject of Irish emigration, and the growing population of Catholics in the United States, can be a startling experience for modern eyes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Mass played out, and the two priests brought the host down for the congregants.

On a technical front, I was constantly swapping lenses throughout the ceremony, and rotated through my entire kit several times. The camera was set up on a tripod, with a remote shutter release cable installed. The “architectural” shots were narrow aperture and low ISO (to gather all the ornate details available within the hyperfocal distance available between f8 – f22 and “infinity”) and a shutter speed which floated around in the neighborhood of 2-6 seconds.

The shot above, if I recall correctly, was a high ISO (2,000, maybe) with the aperture set at f7.1 and the shutter open for 1/60th of a second. There were several exposure triangles which were quickly gleaned for usage on various types of shots, suffice to say, and that all of the “technical” sort of night shooting I’ve been doing is growing increasingly useful.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I wanted to get a bit “arty” in the shot above and blur the moving people a bit while leaving the Church and its ornamentation tack sharp. The aperture went down to f22 and then I lowered the ISO to 100 so as to cut down on as much light as possible from hitting the sensor, and then opened the shutter up for 30 seconds. Anything moving in the shot became ghostly and was blurred into a motion trail.

The arty part was to try and suggest the impermanent condition of the living in the context of a sacred space which has seen the fortunes of New York City rise and fall several times over, or something.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you click through to the flickr set these photos are a part of, (just click the image) there’s lots more of Old St. Patrick’s and the ceremony to check out in there. I hope that when the restoration is done I can get my camera back into the House of Dagger John.

Eyn loshn iz keynmol nisht genug!

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wildest speculations

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In today’s post – it’s the Goyem.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last year, I got to photograph the Irish Language Mass at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral on Mulberry street in Manhattan, as described in this post from march of 2013.

Opportunity to capture this year’s event presented itself, so I got on the train from raven tressed Astoria to the Shining City and headed over to the House of Dagger John.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This time around, your humble narrator decided to move the camera about a bit more, while still attempting to document the mass itself. As mentioned in the past, one is captivated by the pageantry of the Roman Catholic practice, despite having been raised in the Jewish tradition.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit of attention was paid to swapping around my lenses this time around, which runs counter to my normal practice of choosing an “omnivore” lens with which I handle an entire event. Normally, these days, I’m using my Sigma 18-35 or Canon 24-105 for most everything. I’ve got a Canon 70-300 which is somewhat unreliable, but it found its way onto the camera as well during this event.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The issue with the 70-300, a “consumer” level zoom lens, is that I find it to be a bit soft and prone to “back focusing” in the focus department. Its an intermittent thing, mind you. I’ll pop out three exposures and the one in the middle is sharp while the two surrounding it are soft. This sort of unreliability causes me to use it less and less, as photography is all about freezing a moment and there are no “do overs.” I’ve got my eye on a lens I want, but it’s going to take a LOT of summer walking tour revenue to pay for it.

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extended indefinitely

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Manny hatty keeps on forcing me to visit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For someone who actually loathes visiting Manhattan, preferring the ruinations of western Queens and devastations of northern Brooklyn to the Shining City, I do seem to be spending an awful lot of time there of late. Another recent series of events demanded that I visit the Bloody Sixth Ward and Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, so down the hole and into an electrically driven aluminum box of monkey meat did I go.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The visit to Old St. Patrick’s was all business, introducing a certain engenue to the Church’s resident historical hierophant. While on site, I snapped a few quick shots, all the while wishing that I had brought my tripod along with me. Unfortunately, the bulky tool is a bit of a carry, and unless I expressly know that I’m going to be utilizing the thing it gets left home. When I’m not on that rattling contraption that hurtles beneath the streets, I’m walking, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While doing some of that walking, on my way back to the underground monkey mover, this absolutely cliche “little italy” shot appeared before me. It looked so incredibly staged, couldn’t help but record it.

Note: A holiday schedule of single images will be presented here next week, although I’m going to be solidly ensconced in Queens as no one will have me. Time for a little break, and to mix things up a bit. You may have noticed that Maritime Sunday hasn’t splashed into port the last couple of weeks- which is mainly due to my inability to get out on the water during the cold months, precluding the gathering of fresh and or interesting content for the feature. It’ll return in the future, when I’m able to get out there again.

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Project Firebox 79

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An ongoing catalog of New York’s endangered Fireboxes.

– phot0 by Mitch Waxman

This sooty sentinel in scarlet sits at the edge of Manhattan’s Chinatown. An ancient example, does no one care for this scratched and weather beaten soldier of the realm?

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Want to see something cool? Summer 2013 Walking Tours-

Modern Corridor TODAY, Saturday, July 13, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Kill Van Kull Saturday, August 10, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills Saturday, August 17, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 13, 2013 at 1:42 am

Project Firebox 76

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An ongoing catalog of New York’s endangered Fireboxes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Where this Manhattan firebox is stationed was once the heart of a most wicked slum. In fact, its station was the Baxter Street side of an alley known as Bandits Roost. When Riis and the rest of the silk stocking swells got the place razed, and the Old Bailey and the House of Industry had court houses land on top of them, the Gangs of New York lost their old haunts here in the Bloody Sixth Ward. This crimson B’hoy came in with the officially sanctioned gangs- NYPD, the State Bulls, Bailiffs, and all the other badges, who dominate the spot to this day.

Want to see something cool? Summer 2013 Walking Tours-

The Insalubrious Valley Saturday, June 29, 2013

Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

Modern Corridor- Saturday, July 13, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 22, 2013 at 6:34 am

unending steps

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

By email, I was contacted by a personage who claimed that the long desired location of a certain interment at First Calvary Cemetery in Queens- the burial site of “he who must not be named“- was in his possession. Further, it was asserted that while anonymity and certain other odd conditions were required, the occluded information so long sought would be mine for the taking.

A meeting was hastily arranged at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral on Manhattan’s Mulberry street, and your humble narrator scuttled off to the Bloody Sixth Ward and the House of Dagger John.

What greeted me was not to my liking.

from saintpatrickscathedral.org

The recent elevation of New York as an Episcopal see with its own bishop inspired the increasing Catholic population to build the original Cathedral of New York under the name of Ireland’s patron saint, Saint Patrick. The site chosen belonged to the corporation of Saint Peter’s Church and was located on Mulberry Street in lower Manhattan. The cornerstone was laid in June 1809.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is habit and curse, an early arrival was attempted and achieved, and a hidden vantage point amongst the venerable pews was attained. The odd fellow who had contacted me described his aspect and appearance accurately, and recognition was instant when he strode confidently into the ancient church. He did not arrive alone, as he had implied in his missives, however.

The disturbing aspect of his companions, leathery creatures best described as men, and the hushed instructions he seemed to be offering them, brought me to a peak of nervous excitedness and a panic set in upon me. Stupidly, I had walked directly into a spiders web, lured in by forbidden fruit.

Had some sort of diabolical plot, hatched by those malign forces whose secretive occupations and desires and unguessed at existence has been inadvertently hinted at and offended by this- your Newtown Pentacle, been set in motion to snare and silence me?

from wikipedia

Until 1830, the Cathedral was the ending place of the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. After that, it ended on Ann Street at the Church of the Transfiguration, whose pastor, Father Varela, was Cuban, but was a fervent nationalist and the chaplin of the Hibernian Universal Benevolent Society. Eventually, the parade moved uptown to pass in front of the new St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

In 1836, the cathedral was the subject of an attempted sack after tensions between Irish Catholics and anti-Catholic Know-Nothing nativists led to a number of riots and other physical confrontations. The situation worsened when a brain-injured young woman wrote a book telling her “true” story – a Protestant girl who converted to Catholicism, and was then forced by nuns to have sex with priests, with the resulting children being baptized then killed horribly. Despite the book being debunked by a mildly anti-Catholic magazine editor, nativist anger at the story resulted in a decision to attack the cathedral. Loopholes were cut in the church’s outer walls, which had just recently been built, and the building was defended from the rioters with muskets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As previously described, vast physical inadequacy and cowardice are my hallmarks. The least of all men, my only recourse is flight, and I seem to have descended into some sort of fugue state.

I remember leaving the sepulchral darkness and unnatural cool of the old Cathedral, but from the moment that the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself shone upon me, it’s a total blank.

My next conscious memory is that of having arrived back at HQ in Astoria some hours later with blistered feet and chafed thighs, and an odd crusty residue around my eyes reminiscent of the dehydrated tears which adorn the occulum of a recently awakened sleeper.

During this multi hour episode, I seem to have been taking hundreds of pictures as I scuttled instinctually and inexorably homeward.

I’ve pieced my somnambulist route together from the shots on my camera card and for some reason, seemed to be subconsciously following an ancient street car route, the one that went to Calvary via Williamsburg as I later scried.

from bklyn-genealogy-info.com

In 1850 a line of two horse stages was running from Grand Street ferry past the Dutch Church on the Old Woodpoint Road out to Newtown. Grape arbors extended from Leonard Street to Humboldt Street.

Martin J. SUYDAM ran a stage from Peck Slip and Grand Street. Ferries through Grand Street and Metropolitan Avenue to Newtown.

The Grand Street and Newtown Railroad Co., was chartered in 1860. At the foot of the street was the office of the Houston Street Ferry Association and later of the Nassau Ferry Co. A long wooden stairway led from the ferry to the American Hotel, latter, #2 & 4, kept by Jackson HICKS.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Some sort of odd symmetry presents itself, of course, in this dreamt of photowalk. The vast numbers who lie within the emerald devastations of Laurel Hill made the same journey themselves, although most did not take the Williamsburg Bridge- rather a connecting ferry and streetcar line which would have joined some forgotten 19th century Manhattan pierage (near its own Grand Street) with the gentry of Brooklyn. Don’t forget, in the 19th century, Manhattan was a pestilential hell hole of factories and open sewers populated by a starving horde of refugees- Brooklyn was in it’s own golden age.

The Bridge didn’t come along until 1883 after all, and First Calvary was nearly full by then.

from “An East-Side Ramble” William Dean Howells Impressions and Experiences (New York: Harpers & Brothers, 1896) courtesy tenant.net

I suppose there are and have been worse conditions of life, but if I stopped short of savage life I found it hard to imagine them. I did not exaggerate to myself the squalor that I saw, and I do not exaggerate it to the reader. As I have said, I was so far from sentimentalizing it that I almost immediately reconciled myself to it, as far as its victims were concerned. Still, it was squalor of a kind which, it seemed to me, it could not be possible to outrival anywhere in the life one commonly calls civilized. It is true that the Indians who formerly inhabited this island were no more comfortably lodged in their wigwams of bark and skins than these poor New-Yorkers in their tenements. But the wild men pay no rent, and if they are crowded together upon terms that equally forbid decency and comfort in their shelter, they have the freedom of the forest and the prairie about them; they have the illimitable sky and the whole light of day and the four winds to breathe when they issue into the open air. The New York tenement dwellers, even when they leave their lairs, are still pent in their high-walled streets and inhale a thousand stenches of their own and others’ making. The street, except in snow and rain, is always better than their horrible houses, and it is doubtless because they pass so much of their time in the street that the death rate is so low among them. Perhaps their domiciles can be best likened for darkness and discomfort to the dugouts or sod huts of the settlers on the great plains. But these are only temporary shelters, while the tenement dwellers have no hope of better housing; they have neither the prospect of a happier fortune through their own energy as the settlers have, nor any chance from the humane efforts and teachings of missionaries, like the savages. With the tenement dwellers it is from generation to generation, if not for the individual, then for the class, since no one expects that there will not always be tenement dwellers in New York as long as our present economical conditions endure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As evidenced in the shot above, I seem to have proceeded south along Mulberry Street, past the high walls of the Old Cathedral which were erected by Dagger John and the Hibernians to protect the sanctuary from the violent attentions of Nativist rioters during those starry years when this neighborhood was known as “the bloody sixth ward”.

from History of the Second company of the Seventh regiment By Emmons Clark, courtesy google books

The Sixth Ward was noted for its disorderly character, and the frequent skirmishes which took place within its borders, with the consequent black eyes and bloody noses, gave it the well-known sobriquet,—”the Bloody Sixth.” On the first day of the election, in the spring of 1834, it was said that the anti-bank, Democratic, and Irish citizens of the Sixth Ward, had blockaded the polls and prevented the Whigs from voting. On the second day, the Whigs from other districts rallied in large numbers to the Sixth Ward, resolved to break the blockade and give their friends an opportunity to cast their ballots. The result was a series of engagements, in which both parties maintained their positions in the field until the polls closed for the day. A ship, mounted on wheels and adorned with Whig banners, was drawn through the ward, and used to convey voters to the polls, and this insulting invasion of the Democratic stronghold increased the excitement.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This grand walk carried me, in a seemingly dream like state, through the lower Manhattan neighborhoods known to Dagger John and his compatriots as either “Jewtown” or “the Ghetto”, over the Bridge, into Williamsburg, through Bushwick and then Maspeth in Brooklyn and Queens respectively, into Berlin and then Blissville in the Creeklands, and ultimately Calvary Cemetery itself. Over the next few days, and from the comfort and safety of a well fortified Newtown Pentacle HQ (which sports a cadre of Croatian Varangians dedicated to my health and well being, should these malign forces decide to visit… as well as other… more esoteric defenses) I’ll be presenting the fruits of this journey. As mentioned, I somehow kept shooting the whole way.

from wikipedia

Basil II’s distrust of the native Byzantine guardsmen, whose loyalties often shifted with fatal consequences, as well as the proven loyalty of the Varangians, led him to employ them as his personal bodyguards. This new force became known as the Varangian Guard (Greek: Τάγμα των Βαράγγων, Tágma tōn Varángōn). Over the years, new recruits from Sweden, Denmark, and Norway kept a predominantly Scandinavian cast to the organization until the late 11th century. So many Scandinavians left to enlist in the guard that a medieval Swedish law from Västergötland stated that no one could inherit while staying in “Greece”—the then Scandinavian term for the Byzantine Empire. In the eleventh century, there were also two other European courts that recruited Scandinavians: Kievan Rus’ c. 980–1060 and London 1018–1066 (the Þingalið). Steven Runciman, in The History of the Crusades, noted that by the time of the Emperor Alexios Komnenos, the Byzantine Varangian Guard was largely recruited from Anglo-Saxons and “others who had suffered at the hands of the Vikings and their cousins the Normans”. The Anglo-Saxons and other Germanic peoples shared with the Vikings a tradition of faithful (to death if necessary) oath-bound service, and after the Norman Conquest of England there were many fighting men who had lost their lands and former masters and looked for a living elsewhere.

Additionally, for those who might be interested in a FREE boat tour of Newtown Creek on City of Water Day – which is Saturday, July 16th- this web page bears monitoring.

Bowery Savings Bank 2010 and 1903

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Bowery Savings Bank in Manhattan during the summer of 2010.

– photo from “King’s views of New York City, A.D.1903” a public domain ebook courtesy Google Books

The Bowery Savings Bank in Manhattan in 1903.

Here’s a stitched panorama of the corner in 2010, just for the “longer” view. Click through to Flickr to see the gargantuan original.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 13, 2010 at 6:41 pm

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