Museum of the City of New York: A Century Preserving the City’s Rich History

by Nick David

Since it was first named in 1664, New York City has captured the imagination of the world. It is one of the most vibrant, cultured and fascinating cities on Earth and a great way to get to know it a little better is to spend an afternoon at the Museum of the City of New York.

This museum was founded in the early 1920s to document and preserve the history of its surroundings, and today, it offers a rich and thorough glimpse through the centuries of life in the Big Apple.

Museum of the City of New York

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Museum History
Founded in 1923, the goal of the Museum of the City of New York was to preserve the history of the great city. It began collecting and preserving many of the cornerstones of New York life, such as paintings, furniture, decorative arts and theater artifacts.

Originally, the collection was located in Gracie Mansion, which is now the official residence of New York’s mayor. In 1932, it moved into its current home on Fifth Avenue.

While there are many works of art in this museum, it is not an art museum. Its goal was to be a window on the past, and that is an excellent description of what it is today. There are nearly three-quarters of a million objects in the museum, each one helping to tell the story of New York.

Museum Collection
Among the most interesting artifacts in the museum are some of playwright Eugene O’Neill’s original manuscripts, hundreds of glass negatives from the works of noted photojournalist Jacob Riis and a suit worn by a New Yorker to George Washington’s Inaugural Ball.

Some of the museum’s permanent collections include interior designs from William Baumgarten & Co., who designed the Vanderbilt Mansion on Fifth Avenue, as well as some of the stunning rooms at the historic Plaza Hotel. They also include many of the stunning photographs of Mel Rosenthal and Edmund V. Gillon who both documented life in the teeming city, taking picture of everything from crumbling inner city neighborhoods to the beauty of New York’s architecture.

Special Exhibits
Aside from the permanent collection, the Museum of the City of New York also has special exhibitions all year long. These exhibitions cover many remarkable chapters in the New York story, focusing at times on a neighborhood such as Coney Island or Greenwich Village, or on a particular part of life, such as jewelry, graffiti, clothing or children’s toys.

The exhibitions change throughout the year, so be sure to check the museum’s website for information about current or upcoming shows.

Admission to all of the special exhibitions at the Museum of the City of New York is included in the general admission.

Visiting the Museum
This museum is located at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street right across the street from Central Park and the Conservatory Garden. It is easily accessible on New York’s public transit system.

There are discounts on general admission for seniors and for students, and children 12 and under are free. There is also a special price for families. The museum has a gift shop and a café and it is open seven days a week.

For visitors who want to make the most of their visit, there are free tours of the museum three afternoons a week, led by a museum docent. No reservations are required. There are also paid group tours available, led by museum curators and specialists. There are even behind-the-scene and after-hour tours which can be arranged through the museum’s information desk. These paid tours are for groups of up to ten people, and must be reserved in advance.

Children’s Museum of the Arts: Bringing Arts to Kids of All Ages

by Nick David

Located right in the heart of Manhattan, the Children’s Museum of the Arts is a real family highlight for any visitor to New York City. The museum is a non-profit arts facility that lets kids express their artistic side with great exhibitions and a variety of hands-on classes.

Children's Museum of the Arts

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Museum Location & Admissions
The Children’s Museum of the Arts is located in Manhattan, wedged between West Village and Tribeca. It sits at 103 Charlton Street, between Hudson and Greenwich Streets.   Admission is cheap, at $11 for everyone from one to 65. Babies and seniors are free, and Thursdays from 4pm to 6pm is pay-as-you-wish. There are discounts for educators and for military personnel and their families.

The museum has wonderful exhibits which change throughout the year. There is a calendar on the museum website where you can find current and upcoming exhibits. Previous art exhibits have included shows of children’s artwork from Sri Lanka, showcases of works from famous artists from around the world, and thematic exhibits about topics such as birds and self-portraits.

Get Your Hands Dirty
The Children’s Museum of the Arts offers classes for every age from ten months to fifteen years.

The WEE Arts Studio is for kids aged ten months to five years. Several mornings a week, there are WEE arts drop in sessions, with no registration required. The kids do need a parent or caregiver to stay with them for the session, which lasts just over an hour and is packed with music, art and stories.   If you feel like hanging around at the museum afterwards, general admission is half price.

For older kids, there are daily workshops in the Fine Arts Studio, where the whole family can paint a picture, draw anything or sculpt or sew their own masterpiece.

Where ever you create your masterpiece, the museum offers free bags so you can take your creations with you when you leave.

The Clay Bar, the Ball Pond & the Sound Booth
Three of the most popular exhibits at the museum are the Clay Bar, the Ball Pond and the Sound Booth.

The Clay Bar gives kids the chance to play with modelling clay. It’s so popular; you do need to sign up upon arrival at the museum. Sessions are 35 minutes each, and it can get quite busy on weekends, so don’t be late! Mondays and Wednesdays are the best days to visit the Clay Bar.

At the Ball Pond, your child can burn off some extra energy by bouncing around a large ball pit. Every hour is dedicated to a set age group, so you don’t have to worry your little ones may get hurt. The first 20 minutes of every hour is for two to four year olds, then the next 20 minutes are for five to seven years of age, and the last 20 minutes of the hour are for kids aged eight and over. Caregiver supervision is still required.

At the Sound Booth, your child can ask to record anything they like, perhaps a song or a speech. You can find your sound recording on the museum’s Soundcloud page so you can play it again and again!

Visitor Tips
The entire idea of the Children’s Museum of the Arts is to get your hands on art, so dress appropriately. There are smocks available for the kids, but it is a good idea for everyone in the family to wear clothes they don’t mind getting dirty.

There is a lounge where you can have a quick snack, and there is food for sale at the front desk. There is no full-service cafeteria on site, but there are plenty of places to eat nearby.

The Flatiron Building: One of New York’s Most Unique Landmarks

by Nick David

When it was first built in 1902, the Flatiron Building was one of a kind, and it remains so well over a hundred years after its construction.

The famous wedge-shaped skyscraper sits at the meeting points of Fifth Avenue, 23rd St. and Broadway. The sharp end faces north, pointing directly into Madison Square Park and up along Fifth Avenue.

It was not originally named the Flatiron Building, but because its shape so resembled the old-fashioned style of clothing irons back in the day, it was quickly nicknamed “The Flatiron Building”, which caught on and became the eventual name of both the building and of the district that surrounds it.

Flatiron Building

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Architecture of the Flatiron Building
The Flatiron was first called the Fuller Building, headquarters of the Fuller Company. It was designed by famous Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, who brought his classic Chicago style to its design.

The building itself stood only twenty stories tall, but at the time, that was one of the highest in the city. It was the first skyscraper built north of 14th Street; and it was considered one of the first skyscrapers in America. Built on a steel frame with a limestone and terracotta façade, it is a beautiful example of Beaux-Arts style, designed to look like a ship, sailing up Fifth Avenue. Today, it is one of the few surviving examples of this unique early 20th century design and construction.

At the time, the public was uncertain about its appeal. The engineering of the steel-framed building was highly praised, but reviews of its look were decidedly mixed. Yet it didn’t take long for the Flatiron Building to appear in numerous works of art and photography, eventually becoming the icon it is today.

What’s In the Flatiron Building?
When it first opened, the building was home to its owners, the Fuller Company, as well as to a number of publishers and small businesses. In the years since then, many companies have come and gone, and it is still a working office building. In fact, it is still home to several publishing companies.

As you might expect, many of the office inside have unusual shapes, and the offices at the “point” are considered the most important, both for their unique dimensions and for their spectacular and unparalleled views right up Fifth Avenue toward the Empire State Building.

There are number of other oddities about the building. The men’s and women’s bathrooms alternate floors, and to reach the top floor, you have to take a second elevator (because the 21st floor was added to the top three years after the original building was built.)

The Flatiron Building in Popular Culture
Today, the Flatiron Building appears in almost every movie, television show, work of art or photograph meant to symbolize New York. It has served as the headquarters for the Daily Bugle in Spider-Man and for Channel 6 News in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Both Marvel Comics and Dynamite Comics also use it for fictional HQs in a number of storylines.

Visiting the Flatiron Building
Since the Flatiron Building is a working office building, there really isn’t a way to get inside the building without an appointment with one of its tenants. You can visit the shops in the lobby, of course, however they are quite modern and don’t really give you a sense of the building’s unique style.

The best way to experience the landmark is by appreciating it for its exterior design. Head across the street to Madison Square Park for a public art exhibit or an outdoor concert in the summer and enjoy your view of this unique building from a beautiful urban oasis.