Mirror for Gotham: New York as Seen by Contemporaries from Dutch Days to the Present

By Bayrd Still | Go to book overview

8. THE EMERGENCE OF THE MODERN CITY
(1870-1900)

THE GENERATION from 1870 to 1900 saw the advent of present-day New York. Physically the city was still scaled more to the nineteenth than to the twentieth century. Yet contemporary comment depicts a community whose basic features bore a close resemblance to those of the present day. Commentators of the early 1880's began to note the "upward tendency" of its architecture and the innovation of electricity which illumined Broadway, from Union Square to Thirty- fourth Street, with the "radiance of day." Its "Little Italies," its Negro Harlem, and its Hebrew quarter on the lower East Side--all identifiable by the later 1880's--gave it the ethnic pattern of La Guardia's New York; while the squalid congestion of its slums and the exploitation of its industrial workers, which now offended observers' eyes, represented extremes of crowded living and social indifference which succeeding generations were not to see surpassed and which, indeed, the twentieth-century city was in some measure to allay. 1

The census takers of 1870 listed 942,292 residents in New York City and close to a million and a half in the area which later (in 1898) was consolidated to form Greater New York. By 1900, the population of this wider area had more than doubled, to give the consolidated city a total of 3,437,202. The visitor of 1870 found Manhattan compactly built for more than five miles northward from the Battery point; but although streets were laid out beyond the number 150th, the city still had a "straggling, unfinished look" for some distance south of Central Park. Here and there, "between blocks of imposing houses" were groups of rough wooden huts occupied by Irish squatters with their poultry and pigs. On the east side, buildings straggled irregularly as far as Harlem; on the west, beyond Sixtieth Street, construction, even less continuous, ran, finally, into the "scattered suburban residences of Manhattanville

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Mirror for Gotham: New York as Seen by Contemporaries from Dutch Days to the Present
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • Illustrations xiii
  • Excerpts from Contemporary Descriptions xv
  • 1. When New York Was New Amsterdam 3
  • 2. New W York Under British Rule 15
  • 3. Resistance, Revolution, and Reconstruction (1765-1789) 37
  • 4. New York in the Early National Period 54
  • 6. a Bustling City (1845-1860) 125
  • 7. New York in the Sixties 167
  • 8. the Emergence of the Modern City (1870-1900) 205
  • 9. the Golden Generation (1900-1930) 257
  • 10. the Maturing Metropolis: World Capital 300
  • Notes 341
  • Bibliography 373
  • Index 401
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