The General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen of the City of New York

[The General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen of the City of New York], as their website helpfully informs us, [was founded in 1785 by the skilled craftsmen of the City. Today, this 233-year old organization continues to serve and improve the quality of life of the people of the City of New York through its educational, philanthropic and cultural programs including its tuition-free Mechanics Institute, The General Society Library, and its nearly two-century-old Lecture Series]

How many times have I walked past it, I can’t say for sure. What I do know for certain is, had it not been for the Open House New York Weekend (OHNY), I would still walk past it without ever suspecting the treasures that lay inside this Renaissance-style building, initially constructed in 1890 as a private school for boys.

I would never have suspected that walking through its unassuming door I would enter into the second oldest library in the City (the oldest is the New York Society Library on the Upper East Side).

I would never have learned of the Society’s role in tuition-free education, with programmes that continue to this day.

I would never have laid eyes on every steampunk lover’s dream, the John M. Mossman Lock Collection which consists of more than 370 locks, keys and tools, dating from 4000 B.C. to the early 20th-century.

I would never have walked up to the 6th floor where the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art (ICAA) was welcoming visitors to its Cast Hall which houses their collection of rare plaster casts, commissioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the 1880’s-90’s.

But, thanks to OHNY, I am now privy to some of the City’s ”best kept secrets” – and only too happy to share them with you. Hope you enjoy this virtual discovery tour.

In this series we will revisit three – out of the dozens of – buildings and sites that opened their doors during OHNY weekend, on October 14 & 15th, 2017:

The General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen of the City of New York
The Consulate General of France & Albertine
The Eldridge Street Synagogue

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Open House New York weekend takes place every year in October.
Next series coming up:  October 19-20, 2019. 

Spotted: The ‘real’ Daily Planet

We were on our way back from a lunch break when my co-worker, who had been in the City much longer than I, pulled me aside:

”Wait, have you seen this?” ”C’mon, you’ll love it!”

In, he dragged me, through a revolving door and before I knew it I was facing a giant revolving globe amidst a stunning art deco interior with just a touch of brass, as if Jules Verne had walked by and left his mark, and I could hardly contain my excitement. For the lobby we had walked into belongs to The Daily News Building, the iconic skyscraper built in 1929–1930 to become the headquarters of the New York Daily News paper, up until the mid 1990s. But it gets better: this, as I discovered by looking at the photographs on the wall, was the very building that served as the offices of the ”Daily Planet”, the newspaper where none other than Clark Kent and Lois Lane, played by Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder, worked as reporters in the 1978 Superman and its 1980 sequel.

I am still in awe!

Today the New York Daily News has moved on but the building is still home to its broadcast subsidiary WPIX.

The News Building was designed by architects Raymond Hood and John Mead Howells, in the Art Deco style. Other Art Deco designs by the same architects include: the American Radiator Building, Rockefeller Center (Hood) and McGraw-Hill Building (Hood).

The News Building
42nd St., between 2nd & 3rd Avenues

June 22nd, 2017

A bookstore with a steampunk feel

The reason Barnes & Noble in Inner Harbor looks particularly interesting, is that it is built inside a former power plant with part of its interior intact. The store offers a cafe, views over the harbour from the second level, a small aquarium, an audiovisual section, gifts and, of course, loads and loads of books – all displayed around some of the power plant’s original features. And although it is part of a larger complex of shops and restaurants, it takes a bookstore with a distinct steampunk feel to produce such a winning combination.  

April 26th, 2017