Category Archives: New York City Images

Pictures of Old New York (and maybe some new New York) from postcards, books (Valentine Manuals) and from just hanging around.

Chasing Rainbows

I had the good fortune of being able to walk through Central Park this morning, on the way from 59th Street back to our apartment. No sooner had I entered the park than I was intrigued to see this very localized shower in front of me.


Of course, it wasn’t an actual rain shower. It was a sprinkler watering the grass. But, real shower or not, when you combine it with sunshine, you get a rainbow! So, I went around to the other side of the sprinkler, with the sun was at my back, and, lo and behold, there she was,  changing by the second with the sweep of the sprinkler, flitting in and out of view, but a rainbow all the same.


One of my friends among the tree faces enjoyed it as much as I did.


Anyway, I walked on. The early morning light was very beautiful, casting shadows and giving the grass and leaves a deep, dark green.


And making more rainbows along the pathway past the Hecksher playing fields.


I kept walking north. The Dairy looked particularly nice this morning among the trees, almost like a country church, with a modest steeple, my favorite.


The elms along the mall stood out crisp and clear.


As always, a few were dancing.


Not to be outdone, the flowers were showing off at Bethesda Fountain as well.


Everything seemed special.


I figured it was time I started for home. How many rainbows can one person handle in a day?



Valentine’s Manuals of the Corporation of the City of New York

David T. Valentine was born in East Chester,  Westchester County, New York, on September 15, 1801. He came to New York City at the age of 16 years and, like many of us, never left. From 1830 until 1868, a period of over thirty-seven years, he was Deputy Clerk and Clerk of the Corporation of the City of New York. Most importantly, perhaps, beginning in 1841-42  until he was forced to retire in 1868, he was responsible for the issuance of what initially  was called “The Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York,” and which, as time passed, became known to lovers of New York City history as “Valentine’s Manuals.”

As clerk, he had access to the records of the city that had been maintained (sometimes haphazardly) since the time that New York was a Dutch metropolis. The first Valentine’s manual had a folding map of New York City in 1841.  The second contained a fold-out view of the new Croton Dam and another showing the shore line of the city from the time it was called Nieuw Amsterdam.

NY Scene 1

[Copyright Kenneth Hicks, added colors only, 2014]

Over the course of his 37 years working for the City and producing the manual, over 800 illustrations and maps were published as well as random documents snatched from the archives such as, for example, the proceedings of courts from the earliest times.

Many of the illustrations were intended to preserve the views of the land and the buildings that were even then quickly disappearing, to the dismay of many.

Bwy 17th 1823

[Copyright Kenneth Hicks, added colors only, 2014]

Needless today, we owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Valentine and to all of those who helped him put together these volumes.

I have scanned certain of the lithographs from copies of the Valentine’s Manuals in my possession and have added color to some. I will publish more in the future on this site.




The Cloisters

The Cloisters is a part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but it is located on the north end of Manhattan between Inwood and Washington Heights. From its terrace, you can see the Hudson and the George Washington Bridge.

GW bridge

The Cloisters advertises itself as a museum of medieval art, architecture and gardens. It is that. First of all, it is designed to resemble a monastery or castle.


The museum incorporates three entire cloisters from monasteries that were located in various parts of Europe, as well as original stone for parts of its walls.

WindowIn the various individual cloisters, you can see the same sculptures worked into the tops of the pillars that the monks saw. Portrayals of hell, for one thing, were common themes. Flames, chains and gleeful demons abound.

Hell 2Hell 3

Stained glass windows are also worked into the design. This one has survived from the 12th Century.

Stained glass 3Some of the stained glass pieces are displayed as you might display a painting, and with good reason. The one following is meant to show the Israelites gathering manna in the wilderness.

Stained glass 2This is another particularly nice one.

Stained glass 4In every cloister, a garden is planted in medieval style, with plants that might have been seen in those gardens.


I am guessing the monks would have enjoyed the butterflies also,

FullSizeRenderThey certainly had a sense of humor; witness this drooling monster, used as a fountain.

Drooling Monster

The Cloisters is also home to the Unicorn Tapestries. They are beautiful, but certainly not joyous.

Unicorn 2

Most museums are quiet places. This one is especially a place for peaceful contemplation of art and life and religion. it is difficult to come away without encountering something that makes one think.

thomasThe piece of art above is a carving that represents the death of Mary, the mother of Christ. You will notice that there are ten men attending her, and you would be right if you guessed they were disciples of Jesus. Who was missing, other than Judas, who had hung himself long before this event? Thomas was not able to make it. But here is the interesting part, at least to me. When he was told by the others that Mary had risen into heaven (the Assumption), he doubted their story. In other words, the same fellow who didn’t believe that Christ rose from the dead until he could touch the wounds himself also doubted that Mary was lifted into heaven. Once a doubter, always a doubter, is the moral of that story, I guess.  And by the way, according to legend, the belt on Mary’s robe fell to earth, convincing Thomas that she had indeed been lifted up. Do you think his face turned red?


A Walk to Randall’s Island

Distant Bridge copy


This is a view to the east from our terrace. When we first moved here in 1976, it was a much more expansive view, but, New York being what it is, a host of new huge buildings have gone up along Third Avenue and so we are miraculously left with this view of a little slice of the river and of two bridges in the distance.  Those bridges are the RFK Bridge (once known as the Triboro Bridge, an uninspired name if ever there were one, but descriptive) and the old Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge, over which the trains from Penn Station travel on their way to New England.

I have decided that it would be a fun idea to walk across the RFK (Triboro) Bridge (no, I wasn’t on any drug except coffee at the time).  And the first leg was to find out how exactly one gets from the RFK Bridge to Manhattan.  Getting on in Queens was easy to find on the internet.  Getting off on Randall’s Island was not so simple.  So, I asked my son, Zach, who trained for the Marathon by running back and forth to Randall’s Island Park (among other far-flung places), to come with me and show me how such a walk might work.

So we set out on a beautiful day (of which we have had many this summer).  We walked over to the FDR drive at 96th Street and took the path along East River.  In the distance we could see the footbridge that would carry us across. Doesn’t it look graceful?


And this is a view on the footbridge itself.

Footbridge 2Since we live in New York, most bridges have been fitted with fencing that makes it more difficult for “people” to throw things off at other people passing below.  I know, I know … it’s hard to believe that “people” do such things.  It is maddeningly astoundingly mindblowingly (maybe not a word, but you get the idea) STUPID.  And this is the view we are left with on the footbridge itself:

Safety firstI guess it’s cute that some sweet couple pledged their love forever by leaving a lock on the fences.  Awwwwww …

Moving on, this is what greets you on the other side of the footbridge.   I was very glad that there was no reason to put a fence around it.


This is a picture of the Triboro (sorry, RFK) Bridge up a little closer.  Do you think it is the beautiful blue sky, or the clouds, or the water that makes even this most practical of bridges something to admire?

Triboro RFKAnd here is the Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge.  If I had been paying a little attention, I would have gotten a picture of a train coming over that bridge.  But I was too busy enjoying the sun and the blue sky and the clouds.  You will have to imagine it!

Railroad Bridge  Then we got a surprise and something of a puzzle.  Beneath the uprights of the Triboro Bridge (there I go again), there was a 8 or 10 foot high stump of a tree that had been (guessing) fifty to sixty years old when it was cut.  All of the bark had been worn off and an amazing tree face was left.Randalls Island


Here is the puzzle.  The Bridge was opened to the public by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1936.  If it had been cut off at that time, I doubt that even a stump would still be left.  Therefore, it seem more likely that it began to grow sometime after the bridge was first opened and continued to grow in this unlikely spot until someone realized that it might be doing damage to the bridge itself.  So, is it a face that is smiling at the thought that it lasted so long, or a face that is sad considering what it might have become?  Your choice.

Then I got the big surprise.  Zach led me to a path that I never knew existed, past wetlands habitat and lined with beautiful flowers.  Butterflies were on the flowers. And, although this is a terrible photograph (it just would not sit still) I was able to identify it as a spicebush swallowtail.  Nice!

Spicebush Swallowtail   So here are some photographs of the path that we walked.  The first is looking across the East River toward Harlem.walk 1

This  one shows how the path winds through the trees.  The shade was very inviting on that hot summer day.

Walk 2

Purple flowers.  Who does not like purple flowers?  Are they lavender?  I don’t know.

walk 3

More flowers of many types.  Bees and butterflies were plentiful.

walk 5All in all, it was a beautiful day, and as we passed back over the footbridge, I barely thought once about “people” who throw things off bridges.  Although I did curse the fence.

A Walk Across High Bridge from Manhattan to the Bronx

On July 4th, Alice, Zach and I took a trip up to Highbridge Park in Washington Heights, on the upper end of Manhattan, and walked across High Bridge.  I had driven under it many times, wondered about it, marveled at it, and read about it, and when it was reopened in June of this year after being closed for over forty years, I was determined to walk across it.  (More on why it was closed later).  Oh yes, click on pictures to enlarge them!

The bridge1The High Bridge, so named because it really is very tall, was originally built to bring water from the Croton Reservoir across the Harlem River and into Manhattan.  It was designed to resemble a Roman aqueduct and no doubt caused feelings of great pride in the New Yorkers of the time.  It was beautiful.

highbridge-rev2Above is a picture from the Bronx side of what High Bridge looked like when it was first built.  In 1928, four spans on your left were replaced by a single steel arch in order to make the Harlem River easier to navigate.

This is a picture of New Yorkers enjoying themselves walking across the span back in the the 19th Century, when this was a favorite excursion.

Highbridge1869rev-323x380This is a picture of some visitors yesterday.

Alice and meO tempora, o mores!

But yes, that would be me and Alice.  And here is Zach and Alice.

Alice and ZachAnd here is a view of the entire bridge, looking from the Bronx side to Manhattan.

The Bridge2You will remember that the bridge was closed for over forty years.  I will show you a picture and ask you to try to figure out why it was closed.

North and fenceNo, the answer is not because that is the ugliest view in America!  Although looking at the Cross Bronx Expressway, the Deegan Expressway, and the railroad tracks is not easy on the eyes.  The reason is illustrated by the fence that was put up to stop “people” from throwing things over the side onto cars, trains, and boats that passed beneath.  I know, I know.  Why the…. Never mind.  Deep breath.

We left the bridge and walked through HighBridge Park on the way home.  The Park at one time had a huge Reservoir.  It now has a nice size swimming pool.  It also has trails on which one can forget that there are people in the world who throw things off bridges.

ThistelThere are also mulberry trees where we stopped and ate a few, as we do every year, at least once a summer, just to prove we know they really are edible and will not kill us!  The park also has beautiful rocks, although (and Alice says I am being paranoid) one rock definitely gave me a Bronx cheer.

Bronx cheerThis rose was not in the park, but was so beautiful, it had to be part of the remembrance of the day.

RoseAnd, since it was a walk on July 4th, it would not be right to leave out one of the nicest sights of all.

Flag and cloudsHappy fourth of July!


Father’s Day Walk

Last Sunday was a great day for many reasons.  For one, the sky was full of fluffy beautiful clouds against a clear blue sky.  And and there were plenty of cloud faces!  Some were a little wild.

Cloud face 2Some were more of the contemplative type.  Daydreaming?  Head in the clouds?  Did I really type that?

Cloud face 1And because it was Father’s Day, Alice took me on a walk in Central Park — a tradition with us.

We started out along the reservoir and checked out the wild flowers.  One of these days, I intend to do a little book about them.

Wild 1But first, I have to learn all of their names!

Wild 2And let’s not forget the interesting looking plants that are not strictly speaking wild flowers.  They deserve a book too.

CormorantBut I will leave to others with telephoto lenses the task of creating a book on the birds of the Reservoir.  Although I do know that is a cormorant.

MonarchAnd this is a monarch butterfly.

We kept walking, but my daughter walks very quickly and I soon used the ruse of buying her an ice cream to find a shaded cool quiet spot to rest.

Cool Quiet SpotNot very much later (according to my aching legs), we arrived at the Shakespeare Garden, which is one of our very most favorite spots in the Park.  Aside from the little plaques with the quotes from the various plays, and the winding paths, and the sundial, there are the flowers.

Pink lilies …

Lilys And yellow something-or-others …

yellow flowersRed whatchmacallits…

Pink flowersAnd little bitty orange ones …

Tiny flowersThey are planted in such a way that new colors and flowers seem to pop up wherever you look.

Group flowersBest of all, perhaps, the tree faces were keeping a sharp look-out for people who might want to pick a flower.

tree face 3Don’t even think about it.

Tree face 2

We started back and the old man had to take another rest.  But, cheer up, the clouds were still above.  And Alice spotted a horse cavorting across that beautiful blue sky.

Horse cloudI hope everyone enjoyed their day as much as we did.



A Walk in June Through Central Park

Brendan and I took a walk on Sunday.  We started at the Pulitzer Fountain in the Grand Army Plaza at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue on the southeastern corner of Central Park. The centerpiece of the fountain is the statue of Pomona, the Roman Goddess of fruit trees, gardens and orchards.  (There was no Greek equivalent goddess with such a specific bailiwick).   It is fitting that Pomona presides over New York’s great garden.  She carries a basket of fruit.Pomona            We entered the Park and walked by the Pond, which was very still yesterday morning. The reflection you see is of the two-towered building that replaced the old New York Coliseum. No one misses the old Coliseum, but lots of people miss the sunlight that is now blocked by this humongous structure. The original construction plan was amended to provide for two towers to assuage the critics who prefer sun to shadow in Central Park, especially in the winter. Gee, thanks!

Over the Pond

We went by Gapstow Bridge and who can resist a photo.  Stone, ivy, water.  And all those movies!

Gapstow bridge           We skirted the Sheep’s Meadow where New Yorkers were spreading out and enjoying the sunshine.  Then we followed Poet’s Walk and the Mall to Bethesda Fountain, and along the way we saw a bride and groom having their pictures taken through soap bubbles! Excellent idea. A heart!  That has to be a good sign. Happiness to you both!


There was a crowd at the Bethesda Fountain with another wonderful sculpture, The Angel of the Waters.  This is a reference to the Gospel of John in which he describes a pool in Jerusalem (near the Sheep Market, no less) that an angel stirred periodically.  The first into the pool after the angel did his (or her) work was healed.   A man who complained to Jesus that he was not fast enough to be first into the pool, was told to take up his bed and walk.  He did.  The fountain and the statue are meant to celebrate the creation of the Croton water system that brought fresh water to the City in 1842, allowing the city to free itself of the water borne diseases that had ravaged it periodically up to that time.  God helps those who help themselves.

Bethesda FountainThe Bow Bridge is being renovated so we took the long route around the lake and noticed a little plaque set into the ground on the path from the Bethesda Fountain up to the 72nd Street transverse road.  It dates from 1947, shortly after World War II, and commemorates the major sea battles of that war.  I wish it were larger.

Naval battlesOn to Strawberry Fields and the Imagine Mosaic, which was created by an artist from Naples, Italy.  As crowed as it gets there, people generally do not walk over it.  Sitting for a photograph is another thing.

ImagineMoving north again, we passed the lake along its west side.

Lake and rockAnd waved to the boaters, who were busy taking selfies, of course.  And finished our walk by passing by the Great Lawn where New Yorkers were enjoying the sun and the grass.  Lots of spots still available.  Prime real estate.

Great lawn Sun

Nice day!

Happy Spring!

Spring is finally here!  The ground is starting to warm up.  The rock faces, who have been sleeping away the winter are awakening. Some seem a little grumpy.

Rock FaceBut most people seem to be enjoying themselves, pouring into the park for various purposes, nearly oblivious to the beauty exploding around them.

English ElmThe dancing ladies who enlivened my trips to the Park during the winter snows have put on their very best finery and are dancing more gracefully than ever.

Dancing treesLike Orpheus, they can make the rocks smile…

Rock face 2And even laugh.

Rock face 3The magnolias and cherry trees compete with each other, it seems, and compete as well with the new buds of other trees, each of which has its own pastel to add.

Three treesWillow treeBow BridgeAltogether a very nice beginning.  Happy Spring!


New York Skyline

When we visit Cape Cod, we are able to see the sky almost entirely unobstructed by buildings and trees and I try to take pictures that convey the feeling of standing in the presence of such enormity. (Click on any picture to increase the size).

Sunset Sometimes I get lucky and a shape appears that suggests a story or simply seems a sign to those who care to look.

Thor HammersSometimes, we find an enormous picture inside a small stone.

30 Peaceful SunsetNew York City gives us a different perspective, since we always have the sky but the presence of buildings is inescapable.  But that is not always a bad thing.

west 1Sometimes they seem to be made for each other.

Northeast ContrastsAnd at other times, no matter how big the building and its intrusion, the sky wins, overwhelming the scene and reminding us  how very little we are.

Sunrise 12 27 14Touche sky, nature, God…

Another Winter Walk in the Snow

I’ve always enjoyed the snow.  It lifts my mood.

When I was a kid this may have been because it meant a day off from school or the chance to earn a few dollars shoveling sidewalks.  But, I also enjoyed long walks with the snow falling in the woods behind my house.  I still do. The difference now is that Central Park is my back yard.  And so I went out this past week while a gentle snow was falling.

English ElmThis is the English Elm that has graced us with its presence at the entrance to the Reservoir at 90th Street, just off Fifth Avenue.  It is one of my favorite trees, especially in winter and most especially when snow coats its branches.

Reservoir 4I am always surprised when the park is empty.  But I’m happy as well since I enjoy the solitude.  It is so very quiet!

Reservoir 3The snow is like a great fog that causes distant objects to disappear.  The ordinary path is transformed. Sight, sound, touch, taste — all the senses are affected.

Reservoir 1Layers of black and shades of gray (not that Gray!) and white are mesmerizing.  The mind drifts to favorite memories and to plans for the future!  The beauty of it invigorates.

Resevoir 2Of course, I can’t keep it all to myself!  People I pass seem friendlier in the snow, as if they know they share a secret.  Pssst.  Pass it on!