Regular Article

Let Us Now Praise Famous Plaques

I have an embarrassing confession to make: I fucking love plaques.

IMG_0592I know, for many people, that would be the nerdiest statement they ever made. For me, it doesn’t even crack the Top 100.

IMG_0612But I can’t help it. If I’m walking through the city and spot a plaque, I have to stop and check it out.

IMG_0567For the casual trivia buff, there’s something inherently democratic about them. “You don’t need a Ph.D. in History to learn something new,” they say. “All you need to do is keep your eyes peeled.”

IMG_0614Take this innocuous stretch of 13th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues.

IMG_0552There are no monuments, museums, or memorials on this block, but it’s still bursting with history.  Here’s a plaque on the corner of 3rd and 13th commemorating a pear tree planted by the last Director-General of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam.

IMG_0553After the British took the colony at the southern tip of Manhattan in 1664, Peter Stuyvesant retired to his farm, or bouwerij, and planted a pear tree at this corner which for over two centuries until a vehicular collision finally toppled it in 1867.  You can find a cross-section of the tree at the New-York Historical Society.

Now how about this tawdry tenement at 208 East 13th Street?

IMG_0556Not much to look at, but at various points, a famed anarchist…

IMG_0554…and the First Lady of Mexico took up residence on this spot.

IMG_0555Walk a little further, and you’ll come across this 1890s brick charmer next to Momofuku Milk Bar.

IMG_0557Not only is there a plaque, but the names of the original residents – sculptors Karl Bitter and Giuseppe Moretti – are embossed on the lintel.

IMG_0558Just think – that’s one block. If you’re on the lookout for plaques, you’ll find history all around New York.

Some plaques are older.

IMG_0613Some are more modern.

IMG_0568Some celebrate generals and statesmen.

IMG_0591Others celebrate great writers and philosophers.

IMG_0617Still others celebrate…landscape gardeners?

IMG_0609And some celebrate local heroes who quietly work to improve our neighborhoods.

IMG_0610Of course, sometimes that picture is a little inaccurate.

17-Commerce-Street-9 (0-00-00-00)If you’ve ready my Commerce Street Block Party, you’ll know that “Cherry Lane” is the result of a bad pun, not a preponderance of cherry trees.

And of course, some assholes have figured out…

IMG_0616…you can just buy plaques.

Categories: Regular Article

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