Archive for the ‘SoHo’ category

Father Fagan Park in SoHo

August 7, 2008

I seem to be doing a lot of posts on squares and parks recently. I guess it comes from the lack of parades and my inveterate cheapness. Parks and squares are free to visit.

When I first spotted Father Fagan Park in SoHo, all I could think of was Fagin from Oliver Twist. That’s unfair to Father Fagan himself. He died in 1938 in a fire after saving two of his friends.

As parks go, this is one of the least “green” that I am aware of. It has some trees, but not many. I don’t think there’s a blade of grass on it. It’s all paved over.

The park is located at 6th Avenue and Prince Street, very close to the SoHo subway station. There’s a nice little bodega right there. I went in, but it was jammed so I left for less popular climes.

I’m so predictable in this next item: like virtually all NYC parks, it has lots of seating. Of course sitting next to busy 6th Avenue isn’t something I’d do to relax.


Lieutenant Petrosino Square

August 5, 2008

At the point that SoHo and Little Italy meet are some north-south streets (Lafayette St. and Cleveland Place) that join up. Nothing particularly special about that; but whenever streets like that join; there’s a square. And so there is.

It’s the Lieutenant Petrosino Square. And the place is undergoing an absolutely total renovation.

I encourage you to read the link to the square’s origin. I’ve always thought of it (the few times I did) as something named after a World War I or World War II local hero. Nice, but nothing particularly unknown to nearly any community in the country. But I was wrong.

The Lieutenant wasn’t a military man. He was a cop of very uncommon courage and determination. Hey, Teddy Roosevelt liked the guy and that says something about him.  (Teddy was the NYC Police Commissioner before becoming governor/vice president and president.)  Interestingly, Petrosino almost prevented the assasination of McKinley which led to Teddy becoming president.

He immigrated to the US as a boy and became a cop. Not just any cop, but a cop with a decided interest in investigating the Mafia (or Black Hand) both in the US and in Italy.  He served both as an undercover investigator and the head of the task force.

The Lieutenant went on to help imprison hundreds of criminals and, while performing his duties on assignment in Italy; was killed in the line of duty. 

The park is located just north of the old police headquarters and commemorates the life of the only NYC police office killed on duty outside the US.  It’s a tiny place and is rather intimate.  I don’t know when it will re-open, but I imagine it will be available for sitting, staring, and musing sometime late Fall.


116 Sullivan Street in SoHo

August 4, 2008

I always admit to being a sucker for historical plaques. Recently I was walking through SoHo and found myself on Sullivan Street. As I walked by the below house, I spotted a plaque and had to check it out.

It runs out that Sullivan Street is named after Revolutionary War General John Sullivan.  He’s also the source of the names of several counties in a couple of states.

I hadn’t heard of him before. The Wikipedia entry is rather amazing on this guy. He apparently was a tough guy and had as many enemies in the Continental Congress as he did on the British side of the conflict. He was continually blamed for a number of failures and the entry indicates that he took a lot of the flack that would have normally gone to George Washington, except that criticizing him would have risked failure in the war.

He was also tough on his own men and the enemy. There’s a town in NY called “Horseheads” that’s named for the slaughter of pack animals in Sullivan’s army that were pushed to their limit. Rather than leave them behind, he had them killed and their bleached skulls became the namesake of the town.

And he is remembered for a total war against the Iroquois who had sided with the British.

The plaque reads:  “116 Sullivan Street – Sullivan Street, named for the Revolutionary War general, John Sullivan, has three surviving Federal Style town houses.  This building was erected in 1832 on what was once part of the farm belong to Nicholas Bayard, Peter Stuyvesant’s brother-in-law.  It features an elaborate door surrounded with unusual sidelights that are divided by carved wood enframements which simulate cloth sash curtains drawn through a series of rings.  New York Lardmarks Preservation Foudation 1989”

After all that, the house and the plaque have nothing to do with John Sullivan.  Instead, the plaque notes that the historical item of note is the three surviving federal style buildings that are there.  Build in 1832, Sullivan had been long dead at that point.

But, to be honest, I like the story behind John Sullivan more than the details on the plaque.


Evolution Store in SoHo

August 2, 2008

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that I know of at least one more place to buy a good skull. That got me thinking that it’s been a while since I was down in SoHo (South of Houston Street, on the center-to-west side of Manhattan). So, I went.

And, yes you can still buy skulls and bones and whatnot.


Evolution is on Spring Street and it almost defies a simple analysis of what it contains. But that won’t stop me.

It’s kid heaven. Yeah, that’s the simple analysis.

More detail? Okay, it has skulls (human and animal) and bones (human and animal) and bugs and meteorites and weird seeds and more bugs and scorpions and scorpions embedded in candy and fossils and warthog skulls (they deserve their own mention) and weird rocks and metallic rocks and metallic fossils and all of that in a tiny little place maybe 40 feet deep and 15 feet wide. Wow. All of that in one horrid sentence. And I didn’t even mention the crowds that come to take a look.

When I went there today, I was the first one in; but not by much. I had thought it opened earlier (it opens at 11am) and there was a father and two kids already waiting to get in. The girl (maybe 7?) was outside the store with her face just plastered to the window looking in at the treasures. The boy (maybe 3) was a little more placid about a closed door. I moved on and came back just after 11am and the family had gone on and returned before me. The girl was basically just beside herself with excitement.

As the owner/manager came and unlocked the door; the father worked to get his son out of the stroller (it’s the one in the picture, but the skeleton came out after they had entered the store). I’m not sure of the family dynamics, but it looked like the girl’s excitement was a bit tempered by the fact that her dad wasn’t quite ready to go in with her and there was no way she was going to go in there without him. Hey, there’s a lot of dead things in there! Dad’s are needed for that; despite the excitement of it all.

But they did come in and that little girl then seemed to spend her time right up against the counter displays.

It’s kid heaven and she had arrived.