Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Little Taste Of History (21)

Topic: New York City's Institutions Pre: 1915 #1

The General Theological Seminary

Some time about the year 1750 Captain Clarke, a veteran of the provincial army, who had seen considerable service in the French war, built a country house, two or three miles north of the city, to which he gave the name of Chelsea. He gave it this name because he said it was to be the retreat of an old soldier in the evening of his days.

It has been thought that the name of Greenwich was given to the neighboring estate by Admiral Warren for a corresponding sentimental reason, but Mr. Janvier, in that very entertaining book, "In Old New York," shows that the name of Greenwich was in use long before the admiral's advent. Captain Clarke, unfortunately, was not destined long to enjoy the house he had built. During his last illness, the house caught fire and the captain came very near being burned with it, but he was carried out by neighbors and shortly after died in an adjacent farmhouse. Mrs. Clarke rebuilt the house on the crest of a hill that sloped down to the river about three hundred feet distant.

The estate descended to her daughter, the wife of Bishop Moore, and in 1813 it was conveyed to their son, Clement C. Moore, by whom the old house was considerably enlarged. The house was taken down when the bulkhead along the river front was constructed by the city. Mr. Moore gave the whole of the block bounded by Twentieth and Twenty-first streets and Ninth and Tenth avenues to the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church, and it became known as Chelsea Square. The building here shown was built about 1835 and is constructed of a gray stone. The modern buildings, however, are of brick and stone, of a Gothic style and, with the old trees remaining and the stretches of green lawn, produce, especially in summer time, a suggestion of English seclusion and repose quite at variance with the bustle and the crudeness of that part of the city.

The Cooper Union

It occupies the triangular space formed by the junction of the Bowery, Third and Fourth avenues and 7th street, one square east of Broadway. It is a plain but massive and imposing edifice of brownstone, six stories high, with a large basement below the level of the streets. It was erected by Peter Cooper in 1857, at a cost of $630,000, and was endowed by him with $150,000, for the support of the free reading room and library. The street floor is let out in stores, and the floor above is occupied with offices of various kinds. These floors and the great hall in the basement yield a handsome revenue, which is devoted to paying a part of the expenses of the institution. The remainder of the building is devoted to a free library and reading room, and halls for lectures and for study. The institution was designed by Mr. Cooper for the free instruction of the working classes in science, art, English literature, the foreign languages, and telegraphy. Of late years there has been added to it a school of design for women. The course of instruction is very thorough, the ablest teachers being employed, and the standard of scholarship is high.

The Bible House

It stands immediately facing the Cooper Union, and occupies the entire block bounded by Third and Fourth avenues and 8th and 9th streets. It is a massive structure of red brick, covers an area of three-quarters of an acre, and is six stories in height. It was erected in 1852 and 1853, at a cost of $303,000, but is today worth more than twice that sum. It is the property of the American Bible Society, and besides the portion occupied by that organization, contains fifty stores and offices, which return a rental of more than $40,000. Many of the stores on the ground floor are occupied by dealers in religious books, and the offices are mainly taken up by benevolent and charitable societies. The greater portion of the building is occupied by the offices, the printing establishment, and the bindery of the American Bible Society. Over six hundred persons are employed in these establishments, and six thousand Bibles are printed, and three hundred and fifty Bibles are bound and finished, and sent to the warerooms every day.

Contact: miriammedina@thehistorybox.com

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