Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Reading List #2

Welcome to my weekly roundup of the some of the more interesting discoveries I’ve made as I wander the digital highways and byways of the Internet.

(Left) Blog of The Week: Daytonian in Manhattan

Tom Miller, the writer behind this site describes himself as "A transplanted Buckeye.” Tom moved to New York in 1979 and immediately fell in love with it.

“I've never stopped being a tourist, [and] never stopped finding the charm and uniqueness of this city," he says.

Tom has turned his love for New York City and his continuing search for its “…charm and uniqueness” into one of the best online collections of information about hundreds of New York’s unique buildings and architecture. What I particularly love about the site is that for the most part, instead of writing about the tallest and most famous of New York’s buildings, Tom has focussed on hundreds of smaller structures the guide books overlook. In fact, these are buildings that millions of New Yorkers and visitors walk past every day and never give a second thought to – assuming they gave a thought to them in the first place.

While the Daytonian in Manhattan site design could do with a makeover, there is no question that the content is factual, well researched, and fascinating. There is enough content on this site to fill two guide books and I have suggested as much to Tom in an email. At the very least, a little reworking of the content would make an excellent eBook or two, and could even be rejigged into very handy iPhone and iPad applications.

The site would be greatly enhanced if Tom could put together some walking tours utilising his blog posts. At the very least, better label of blog entries would make searching across the site for buildings in say, Greenwich Village much easier, since this seems a bit hit and miss at the moment.

Despite these caveats, Daytonian in Manhattan is a site I return to often. Check it out for yourself…


Three years ago, a narrow pine door, edged in bright blue paint and covered with some 242 signatures, resurfaced in a storage space of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. The door turned out to be from a popular Greenwich Village bookstore that once operated at 4 Christopher Street. The door was removed by the manager when the shop closed in 1925 and bought by the Ransom Center in 1960, after a dealer spotted an ad in the Saturday Review asking, “Want a door?”

What is so special about this door? It seems that the bookstore was a popular hangout for some of the most famous writers, artists, poets, dancers and actors of the early 1900s. Furthermore, it became somewhat of a tradition for many of these creative figures to scratch their names into the door panels. Among the 242 signatures on the door are the names of Theodore Dreiser and John Dos Passos;  also there is Emily Strunsky, a childhood friend of George Gershwin. Emily is credited with giving Gershwin a copy of DuBose Heyward’s novel “Porgy,” which of course Gershwin later turned into Porgy and Bess.

There are still many signatures on the door for which little or nothing is known about the signers – and this is where you, dear reader, come in. Thanks to the Internet, you may be able to identify one or more of the signatures or signers, and thereby help to fill in the blanks with regard to many of Greenwich Village’s most famous denizens.

Jennifer Schuessler is an editor at the Book Review, and wrote this article for the New York Times. Visit the University of Texas web site and check out the signatures, bios, and play detective.

Note: New York Times articles are eventually only available by subscription. As of this posting, the article referred to above can still be viewed online.

Photo: © Paul Taggart for The New York Times

Just in case anyone reading this has a spare $2.25 million lying around, this home at 110 Longfellow Road in Staten Island's, Todt Hill is up for grabs. The home was used in the movie "The Godfather."

Thanks to the New York Times for this tip…


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