This week and next, we present a series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.
The doorway of Seabury Tredwell’s house as it appeared in the 1930s (New York Public Library)
By the time she died in 1984, Helen Worden Erskine had racked up an eclectic but impressive set of interviews. The longtime New York World society writer spoke with Prince Charles of England and presidents Eisenhower and Truman, among other political and cultural luminaries. But she was perhaps most famous for her fascination with the opposite end of society: recluses.
In the late 1930s, Erskine wrote a series of sensationalistic articles about the Collyer brothers, two wealthy hoarders who had all of Harlem talking. Erskine and other reporters launched their careers writing about the sordid details of the brothers’ lives and death, including the nearly month-long search for one of their bodies in 1947, which was eventually discovered in their home beneath piles of junk.
When Therese Belivet, a salesgirl played by Rooney Mara, and Carol Aird, an elegant suburban housewife played by Cate Blanchett, lock eyes in a department store, their connection is electric, but the obstacles between them loom large. It’s the 1950s in New York City and homosexuality is not only taboo. It’s dangerous.
There are few useful maps that blur the lines between reality and fantasy as completely as a subway map. Curves are smoothed, the space between stations is adjusted and even geography itself is modified, all in the name of helping riders understand which train will take them where they need to go.
“It’s both form and function,” said Andrew Lynch, a New York City-based artist and cartographer. He’s part of a vibrant community of armchair urban planners who spend their spare time reinventing official transit maps. Their work, scattered across the blogosphere, is mostly functional but mixed with a healthy dose of creative license. Some maps add in entirely new subway lines where none exist in real life, citing ridership data that supports their presence. Others are unashamedly pop art, an abstract series of lines and circles representing routes and stations. The maps are making a big impact, though — both as art and as a source of ideas for actual improvements to transit systems. More →