The Commercialization of Earth Day

A piece I wrote for Earth Day (it’s the 42nd today) after visiting the Earth Day Fair at Grand Central Station and reflecting on the day; at my other blog, the B-girl Guide:

The Commercialization of Earth Day: “Saving” The Environment; What We Can Do About It

Spotlight: Meet Allegra, C.O. Bigelow’s, Famous Greenwich Village Apothecary, Cat

C.O. Bigelow, Sixth Avenue

Allegra, the Bigelow cat

Passing by C.O. Bigelow on Sixth Avenue off 8th Street yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice a black & white cat in the window. Curious to know more, I spoke with Bigelow owner Ian Ginsberg today for some background on the cat and learned of the store’s extensive history.

What we know as C.O. Bigelow was originally founded in 1838 by Dr. Galen Hunter as the Village Apothecary Shop, and, according to Mr. Ginsberg, it was a “big gathering place,” as apothecaries were at that time. The original location was next door where LifeThyme now stands. In 1880, the business was purchased by Clarence Otis Bigelow who changed the name and, in 1902, Mr. Bigelow had the building built which bears his name. The store has resided there ever since.

It was a tradition for the business to pass from employer to employee. However, in the ’30’s, the store was somewhat “rundown” so, in 1939, Ian Ginsberg’s grandfather bought it. Ian Ginsberg himself has been around the store “all his life.” The philosophy under his care has been to “remain independent” and not to attempt competing with chain stores like Duane Reade (down the block) but to make the business “something we can own,” playing on its history and independent status. So, you will walk in the store and you will still find a pharmacy as well as Bigelow’s own products alongside unique lines like Jane Iredale and Dr. Hauschka, among many others, and the people who work there are able to tell you about them.

As for Allegra the cat, she is about four years old and came to the store after previous cat Rex, who was well known to customers and had many fans, died. However, Mr. Bigelow, the cat who preceded Rex, was perhaps more famous – warranting his own New York Times obituary! Ian Ginsberg admitted, “We’ve always had cats although I personally am not a big fan [of them]. More people come to see the cat than to see me.”

Allegra, like all the Bigelow cats is a “rescue cat” and her presence is often behind-the-scenes. (more…)

Spotlight: Neighborhood Blog – The SoHo Memory Project

A new blog has popped up in SoHo! Only in existence since January 1st, 2011, the blog focuses on growing up in SoHo in the ’70’s and includes lots of great photos and insight into SoHo’s history as well as present day.

FOOD cooperative restaurant at Prince & Wooster, 1970's

Tiffany & Co., 550 Broadway at Prince, 1850

Check out The Soho Memory Project:

Every person has his or her own 1970’s SoHo, and it is very different from the SoHo of today. For me, it was a wonderful place to grow up and explore and make friends. In a way, my 1970’s SoHo resembled a description of your average American neighborhood, where people know their neighbors and all the children play together. But on the other hand, I did learn how to ride a bike in my house! Anyone visiting SoHo today could not even fathom such as place existing in lower Manhattan. And because this aspect of SoHo has not been well documented thus far, I would like to build this collection of recollections over the coming months and years before our ephemeral memories fade and disappear forever.

Photo of Tiffany & Co.: Curbed via Flickr

More on Tombstone Discovery At Washington Square Park Which Could Date Back to 18th Century — Update: Confirmed!

Update 2:13 p.m! Confirmed by NYC Parks Department.

From Cristina DeLuca from NYC Parks Department Press Office:

Yes, I can confirm. Archaeologists and engineers are on the scene to make a preliminary report and nothing further is known at this time.

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More information on the tombstone that may have been was uncovered on Friday, October 23rd at Washington Square Park during construction recently begun for WSP Redesign: Phase II.

Matt Kovary grew up in Greenwich Village, works nearby and passes by the location every day. He contacted WSP Blog on Friday after walking by the Park that afternoon when he noticed that there was a large hole dug about 6 feet below the surface in the fenced-off construction area, right at the perimeter of the chain-link fence on the southern edge at Washington Square South and Sullivan Street.

According to Mr. Kovary, there were two people inside the fence, a man and a woman, poring over and dusting off what appeared to be a tombstone which he believed had been recovered from the hole. They were taking pictures of it, and, when he asked whether it was indeed a tombstone, the woman would only state that it was “sandstone,” admitting she was not authorized to talk about it.

Mr. Kovary said that the artifact looked like “a tombstone, not unlike those you’d see at Trinity Church – but in much better condition.” He wondered if it could have been “related to the original land owner” and questioned whether this came from a “family cemetery” from 200 years ago or more.

Although skeletons and human bones from the Park’s time period as a “potter’s field” (1797-1825) have been discovered as recently as last year (see WSP blog entry “The Skeletons of Washington Square Park” – it’s believed more than 20,000 bodies are buried under the park), there seems to be less information about – and discovery related toprivate cemetery usage before the area was a New York City park.

In Emily Kies Folpe’s book “It Happened on Washington Square,” she writes:

From time to time, some of these old bones have resurfaced. …

More evidence was uncovered in 1890, when workmen digging the foundation for the Arch came upon headstones with German inscriptions dating to 1803, thought to be from a private German graveyard at the north side of the field.

Now confirmed – as first reported here October 23rd! – the discovery of a tombstone at Washington Square Park during Phase II construction. More to come.

Washington Square Park 1936 – With No Fences, Unaligned Fountain, etc.

Washington Square Park: April 1936. No Fences… very sparsely landscaped but very inviting. This shot is facing North. Fountain is to the left (unaligned) in the location it had been since 1871 in the center – the east-west axis – of the Park (until redesign this year by Bloomberg Administration).

(It does feel a bit like a University campus tho’, doesn’t it?)

The tree in the foreground is apparently no longer there and was made into a totem pole. Is that still there?

Photo: Berenice Abbot

Updated Note: I have a few more posts to post before going on blog break … they’re forthcoming.