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February 16, 2006

In That Old Hotel

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There is something fascinatingly weird about walking through "preserved ruins." They are often a mixture of old and new�the 19th century wall protected by 21st century plexiglass, the old wooden staircase shielded by a brand new velvet rope. Touring the old through the new always leaves me a bit melancholy; I find myself wishing that the structure could be left untouched, while the other half of me understands the need to protect vulnerable areas while creating a space for the public to learn.

The "Torchlight Tour" of Schermerhorn Row warehouses and the Fulton Ferry Hotel elicited similar thoughts. The South Street Seaport has woven new with old, retaining the brick face of the Row as well as several upper building floors and mixing the areas with a new museum entryway, escalator, and several exhibit spaces.

It is a neat experience�with flashlights in tow and without ever going outside, you are taken through the tangled maze of buildings and rooms. Most are tiny and cramped with little light, and as you walk through them the low ceilings, dusty wood beams and peeling layers of wallpaper help transport you back into the 19th century. After the tour, one of the staff members recalled walking through Schermerhorn Row pre-restoration and getting lost in the labyrinth hallways and stairs.

I hope that one day, before they complete the full restoration, someone will take me through the buildings alone. Last night I had an incredible urge just to stand in one of the tiny hotel rooms and absorb the silence of the night. That is hard to do when surrounded by a tour group but the yearning stayed with me through this morning. I think that I even dreamt of an abandoned storehouse or, at the very least, shafts of light filtering through an arched window, falling softly on the warped floors of an empty room.

Additional Note: 19th century graffiti also rocked house.

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Posted by callalillie at February 16, 2006 7:14 AM | City Life , History


Do you know about Dark Passage? It's a woman from NYC that goes with a small team of photographers to different ruins around the country (mental hospitals, unused subway tunnels, etc.).

Posted by: Kris at February 16, 2006 12:04 PM

Indeed, I know of Julia Solis' work, particularly the stuff they did with the Northampton State Hospital, back in my college days :)

Posted by: corie at February 16, 2006 12:06 PM

Why am I not surprised? ;)

Posted by: Kris at February 16, 2006 12:21 PM

I'll bet you've been asked this before, but, have you ever read Time and Again by Jack Finney? It's about an artist who goes back in time to 1880's NYC. It's heavy on ambiance and architectural detail, and it's not great literature, but is very entertaining and well-written for what it is. It made me wish I lived in New York and had the opportunity to investigate all its little nooks and crannies
the way you do. I think you would enjoy it.

Posted by: Sara at February 18, 2006 6:45 PM

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