What Is a Public Market? | Episode 259

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Public markets are one of the foundational institutions of urban life. The Project for Public Spaces defines public markets as indoor or outdoor markets that “operate in public space, serve locally owned and operated businesses, and have public goals.” They not only a place of commerce, or a tourist attraction, but a place for convening and community building that cuts across social, cultural, and economic strata. In many American cities, such spaces can be hard to find, which is why we cherish the truly great public markets that have survived. In this virtual program, we will survey some of our favorite public markets that we’ve had the chance to visit, what makes them great, and what are their “public goals,” from Los Angeles to Cleveland, Philadelphia to Flint, and even here in New York City.

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A Concrete History of Brooklyn | Episode 258

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Concrete is the world’s most ubiquitous building material, and many important milestones of its development took place in Brooklyn. In this virtual program, we will examine concrete’s history, production, and chemistry, then discuss some of the landmark structures that drove the development of steel-reinforced concrete in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. From Gowanus to DUMBO, Prospect Park to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, we will look at monumental buildings and small details designed by some renowned architects, including Cass Gilbert, Albert Kahn, and Calvert Vaux.

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Race, Riots, and the Right to Learn: Black Education in Antebellum New York | Episode 227

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The formal education of Black New Yorkers began with the Manumission Society’s African Free Schools, which first opened in 1787. Though the city was at the forefront of Black education, it would take decades to break down barriers to higher education, and schools, students, teachers, and benefactors were under threat of racial violence. This virtual program will examine the early history of Black schools in the city and neighboring Brooklyn, and the impact the evolving political discourse – and violence – around slavery had on them. This discussion will be hosted not in New York, but near the small town of Canaan, New Hampshire, which was the site of a horrific act of racial violence in 1835: the destruction of the Noyes Academy, the first racially-integrated college preparatory school in the country.

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Barnet or Bust: Canals on the Connecticut River | Episode 221

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Running from the Canadian border to Long Island Sound, the Connecticut River cuts through the heart of New England. And for a period of about 40 years, a concerted effort was made to turn the rather wild and narrow river into a transportation superhighway to rival the Hudson. Between 1792 and 1835, seven canals were built to circumvent rapids, with the dream of making the river navigable as far as Barnet, Vermont, 280 miles from the Sound. In this virtual program, Andrew Gustafson, who has paddled most of the river by canoe, will trace the history of engineering and navigation, why the effort ultimately failed, and where this disused infrastructure can still be seen today.

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Cass Gilbert’s New York: Skyscrapers to Supply Depots | Episode 165

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November 24 marks the 161st birthday of the famed architect Cass Gilbert, and to celebrate, we are taking a deep dive into his body of work in New York City. We will be joined by Helen Post Curry, Gilbert’s great-granddaughter, an expert on his life and work, and the founder of Woolworth Tours. Though born and raised in the Midwest, he rose to national prominence after moving to New York, where he built such landmarks as the Custom House, 90 West Street, the Woolworth Building, and of course, the Brooklyn Army Terminal. We will also discuss some of the less well-known buildings of his portfolio, including Brooklyn’s Austin, Nichols & Co. Building and a string of small railway stations in the Bronx, and his mastery of a wide diversity of styles that made him one of the most versatile architects of his era.

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