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New York - The Greatest American City
( Originally Published 1936 )
For some years I have considered doing a 'So You're Going to New York,' but couldn't quite see what success might be hoped for such a book of mine when there is Will Irwin's splendid book, `Highlights of Manhattan,' with E. H. Suydam's etchings. This was first published in 1927, and thoroughly revised ten years later. And, also in 1937, there appeared `New York, City of Cities,' by Hulbert Footner, which makes the reader feel that he is being `shown New York' by someone who is very familiar with all classes of its citizens, all phases of its life, from Wall Street to Harlem, and from Chinatown to Park Avenue.
As I write, there comes from the press the Federal Writers' Project book, `New York Panorama,' which is to be followed, before my book gets on the press, by a `New York Guide.' The first volume is a mine of information, but little likely to be much read by the majority of visitors.
Rider's `New York City,' on the Baedeker plan, was issued in 1924; and there have been many changes since then. Mr. Rider is, however, too much occupied elsewhere to undertake the heavy task of a revised edition. But even as it stands it is invaluable. I can pick up my much-marked copy at any time, open it at random, and read it with keen interest and great profit.
For detailed information on the southernmost part of Manhattan Island, there is Rodman Gilder's 'The Battery,' with its captivating illustrations from old prints.
There are many other books about New York, nearly all of which have their points of excellence. In 1936 Miss Eva T. McAdoo, the very efficient head of the `About the City' Bureau at the Waldorf-Astoria, published `How Do You Like New York?' which is based on her wide experience in acquainting strangers with the great resources of New York.
So there seemed small need for a `So You're Going to New York.' But when I undertook, after many years of hesitation, to write a `So You're Going to Travel in the U.S.,' and to give Americans and their guests a partial survey, in one volume, of what our country offers to the traveler, and to direct readers to such fuller information as they may desire, New York could not be left out of the picture. And before the comprehensive volume could be finished New York was on the eve of welcoming so many visitors that it seemed there might be a place for a small book about it, easy to carry and easy to follow. So, here are the New York chapters of `So You're Going to Travel in the U.S.' Eventually they will form the opening of that book. But it may be that even after the bigger book is finished, there will be those who'll find it convenient to have a small volume on New York alone.
After making and remaking plans for dealing with sight-seeing in New York, it seems to me that the stereotyped, `rubber-neck bus' division of the city into Uptown and Down-town is the only feasible one. I had thought to break away from it, and so began the book in another fashion; but discarded it, and proceeded to use 42d Street as the dividing line. South of 42d Street lies most of Historic New York; Financial New York; the picturesque Foreign Quarters. North of 42d Street lies the great Luxury Section, of elegant shops, hotels, restaurants, mansions, costly apartments, museums, etc.
Much of what the average visitor does Uptown, he can do `on his own.' He is unlikely to feel the need for more guidance than the museums and other places of interest will supply him, except for a comprehensive drive to Grant's Tomb, the Universities, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the Cloisters, and so forth. What he needs there are suggestions as to what there is to see; so he may make his choice.
There is no lack of organized sight-seeing in New York. The Gray Line, for instance, which operates practically all over America, even in Alaska, has daily tours of several sorts — but only between June and September. They give you Upper New York in 1M hours, Lower New York in the same time, or both in 3 hours. This means, of course, that you drive up and back, or down and back, and are told what points of interest you are passing; and you pay $2.00 for each tour or $3.00 for the `grand tour.' What they call their Knickerbocker Tour lasts all day, includes luncheon on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building and entrance to many places, and gives a steamer ride to Bedloe Island and the Statue of Liberty; this tour costs $7.50. They have also night tours to Chinatown, Harlem, and Broadway cabarets. Two hours for $2.00, 3 1/2 hours for $3.00; both including admissions. Of their West Point tour we shall speak later. Your hotel will book you on any of these tours.
The Royal Blue Line has quite similar tours; their all-day tour costs $5 exclusive of luncheon.
The American Express Company arranges sight-seeing tours of New York and vicinity; as do other travel agencies. The American Express Company provides a 4-hour tour with private automobile, chauffeur, and guide for $21 if one person takes it alone, but the price comes down to $5.20 each if five persons go. Their night tour is the same price. Their all-day tour is $41.50 for one, but only $11.65 each if there are five.
If you have time for only a very superficial glimpse, one or more of. these tours will serve you very well.
If you have time and inclination for more, there are several things you can do. I shall try to help you all I can. If you want super-service in seeing New York with escort call New York Courier Service, 30 Rockefeller Center ('phone Circle 7-2917) and tell them what you'd like to see. Mrs. John E. Jennings, who organized and operates this bureau, has brought to it an exceptional equipment and experience. Her courier-guides are college-bred; each of them is very well-informed on New York in general and one or two phases of it in particular. They are delightful to be with. You may have one of them with a fine limousine and chauffeur, or you may have a courier alone and use cheaper transportation. Women desiring an escort for the evening may have one from this Service, and be assured of a reliable and entertaining gentleman.
Mrs. Jennings charges from $4 to $6 per hour for car and uniformed chauffeur; $4 for a car seating three persons besides the courier and chauffeur. The courier is $7.50 for three hours. So there is $19.50 for three hours — or $6 plus per person in a group of three.
New York residents may send their guests to Mrs. Jennings to be delightfully `shown around.' And anybody may appeal to her research department for accurate information about anything in New York or vicinity. Hers is a `real institution.' There may be others of similar sort, but I don't know them. Mrs. Jennings's service I have used for myself and for other people, and I know its worth. She has evening tours, special service for children, and many other things.
I was born in New York; and while I have not actually had my home there since I was a child, I am there five or six times every year and have a multitude of interests there. So I have a native's feeling for it, kept strong for many years by my mother who was the very quintessence of old New York. And I have also the feeling of the visitor who plunges into that maelstrom for a week or for a fortnight, on business and on pleasure bent.
Without knowing you, I cannot guess what phases of New York may make the strongest and most immediate appeal to you.
Nearly everyone has a certain amount of interest in what we may call Fashionable New York: where people live and lunch and tea and dine and dance who are usually described as `Society' and chattered about in sundry magazine and syndicated news letters; where they buy their frocks and furs and jewels and luxurious house-furnishings, their costly automobiles.
Many are interested in Financial New York, typified by Wall Street and vicinity.
Everyone is interested in New York as an amusement center and as a shopping center. Everyone is interested in `places to eat.'
Other phases of New York which appeal to considerable numbers of its visitors are: its Foreign Colonies; its Artistic Treasures; its Educational Life — universities, museums, etc.; its wealth of offerings in music; and (lastly, I am afraid) its History.
New York does not enshrine memories. `Here today and gone tomorrow' seems to be her watchword. The Show must go on.
There are, however, a few who cherish memorials of other days and try to make their fellow-townsmen, their visitors, conscious that New York has had a fascinating past which it is good to remember. But I am bound to admit that they are a minority so small its existence is unsuspected by millions who live in New York and millions who visit there.
Few cities in the world have had such magnificent gifts made to them by prosperous citizens, to the end that all who care to — whether resident or wayfarer — may live more abundantly. But nothing is easier than for resident or stranger to think of New York as a city of greed and glitter, whose motto should be: `Devil take the hindmost.'
Everything that is gentle and gracious and of the spirit gets so easily `overlaid' in New York by the froth of life that we must be slow to blame those who, seeing only the bright lights, the pageantry, conclude that it is a city wholly dedicated to the pursuit of wealth and show and pleasure.
If you want to comprehend what a wealth of experience, what breadth of sympathy and depth of feeling New York can provide a man who knows her variously and intimately, read — I pray you — Will Irwin's beautiful book, `Highlights of Manhattan.' I don't know what other book on any other city there is to compare it to. It gives so `rounded' a picture; and not just of things seen with the camera eye, but of things seen in tender retrospect and with ripe-sweet understanding. I wish that Mr. John D. Rockefeller, or someone else of immense benevolence, would put a copy of it in every hotel room in New York. In fact, there are few residents in New York who would not be better citizens if they would read it.
Your first wish, after settling yourself in New York for a. brief or not-so-brief stay, may be to get out among the gay shops, onto the thronged streets; somewhere between 34th Street and 57th Street, on Fifth Avenue for the big luxury shops; on Madison Avenue and somewhat on Park Avenue for the little luxury shops; on 6th Avenue close to 34th Street for
the less expensive big stores. Or you may like to go down to Wanamaker's at 9th Street and Broadway, where you may buy luxuries up to almost any price, and necessities for what you can afford to pay.
You may prefer to do your first sight-seeing at Rockefeller Center, or at the Metropolitan Museum, or elsewhere Uptown. If so, see the chapter on New York above 42d Street. (And, if you care for history, I'd suggest beginning with the Museum of the City of New York, at Fifth Avenue and 104th Street. Closed on Tuesdays.)
When you feel like seeing Downtown New York, you can take a Subway to the Battery for five cents, and wander about, following such directions as I give you. Or you can go on a sight-seeing bus. Or you can take an automobile and courier from Mrs. Jennings, or a courier without the car.
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