All the ghost stories that inhabit the five boroughs—all the empty, abandoned Bronx tenements, Staten Island mansions, and crowded Harlem hospital wards—couldn't possibly be gathered up into a single volume, but in Capital, Kenneth Goldsmith's new anti-history of New York City, some lesser-known losses are recalled with dignity. The 1,000 page book digs into themes like urban spectacle, sex, protest, architecture, and loneliness, and is constantly running into death, ruin, and what comes next. You can "walk through" these darker corners of Manhattan's history below, in a tour that comes complete with historic quotes and modern context, making it easy to uncover the "Ghost Town" underneath all this metropolis.
Made up of 25 locations and quotations, the tour addresses dying workhorses on 110th Street, the constant train accidents along the western edge of Manhattan, and Andy Warhol coping, dazed and drunk, with news of Kennedy's assassination. Check it out a preview of the tour below.
Here're a few (slightly morose) highlights:
- "On the original Black Tuesday in 1929, Lorca, the Andalusian poet wandered through the canyons of Wall Street, watching in amazement as ruined investors flung themselves from windows of monstrous buildings. 'The ambulances collected suicides,' he wrote, 'whose hands were full of rings.' Amidst the 'merciless silence of money' Lorca “felt the sensation of real death, death without hope, death that is nothing but rottenness.” It was easy, then, for him to visualize the inevitable destruction of lower Manhattan by “hurricanes of gold” and “tumults of windows.” — "The Flames of New York" by Mike Davis, The New Left Review, 2010
- "When President Kennedy was shot that fall, I heard the news over the radio while I was alone painting in my studio. I don’t think I missed a stroke. I wanted to know what was going on out there, but that was the extent of my reaction...It seemed like no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t get away from the thing. I rounded up a bunch of people and got them to come over and we all went out to one of the Berlin bars on 86th Street for dinner." — POPism: The Warhol ‘60s by Andy Warhol, 1980
- "In 1932 proportionately twice as many people died at Harlem Hospital as at Bellevue Hospital. It was for this reason that Negroes feared going to Harlem Hospital and referred to it fiercely as the 'morgue' or the 'butcher shop.' In March 1937, the wife of W.C. Handy, composer of St Louis Blues, lay critically ill in an ambulance more than an hour before the doors of Knickerbocker Hospital while the officials debated whether or not a Negro should be admitted." — The Negro in New York: An Informal Social History, 1626-1940 by Roi Ottley and William Weatherby, 1935
- "Yesterday afternoon, while laborers were engaged in uprooting trees at the new entrance to Central Park, corner of Eighty-fifth street and Eighth avenue, they discovered, fourteen inches beneath the surface, a black rosewood coffin, richly mounted and in a state of good preservation." — New York City: An Outsider’s Inside View by Mario Maffi, 2004
Check out the entire walking tour of New York City's ghost town geography right here.