Researching for a new novel, I’ve been reading the tomb mentioned above. It’s a photographic documentary of a mere thousand of New York City’s significant buildings. I’m not quite sure what I’m writing yet. But my protaganist is an engineer, obsessed with skyscrapers and historical buildings of New York. And I couldn’t be more pleased about that. I’ve come to realize that my fiction covers territory that I care to learn more about: deafness and then Buddhism and Tibet. Skyscrpaers, how NYC was built, and the making of modern cities are subjects I very much want to research and know. I’ve started One Thousand New York Buildings in Lower Manhattan, where I work, where my grandmother lived for 60 years, my mother for 28, myself for a handful. I’ve walked around Lower Manhattan from Chambers Street to the Lower East Side, from City Hall to South Street Seaport since I was born, and very frequently from when I was 23 and returned to New York, until my grandmother died seven years later, and now for the past 6 years or so, since my office returned here. I’ve crossed Catherine’s Slip hundreds of times, approaching or leaving Knickerbocker Village- where my mother was raised, where my Grandma lived. One Thousand New York Buildings made me aware that the handful of streets named – Slip, were short canals, or slips, built into the island’s shoreline so ships could pull into berths and sell their goods from on board. All of NYC’s slips have hence been filled in with landfill, but the names remain. I had of course always pictured the silk slip of a beautiful woman named Catherine.
And I am now aware that George Washington stomped all over Lower Manhattan. In Fraunces’ Tavern at 54 Pearl Street, George Washington bid farewell to his British troops in the second floor dining room in 1783. One can still eat there today. And Federal Hall National Memorial at 28 Wall Street marks the spot where George Washington actually took his oath of office on the balcony of what was the former City Hall. Twenty-five years later the building was torn down and sold for scrap, precisely $425 of scrap.
As I read, I’m planning my walking tour lunches, to take some time to stop and gaze at these buildings which I’ve been stomping by for quite some time now.