Monday, November 5, 2012

From the Archives: The James Gordon Bennetts' New York Herald, Part 3

As you shop 34th Street and browse Macy's Herald Square, did you ever ask yourself "Why Herald Square?" Today is the last of a 3-part series on the New York Herald from our archivist Anne. This post also appears on NYC Circa, a blog about New York City and its history.

After returning to the States, Bennett commissioned Stanford White to design new offices for the Herald. The new building would be located a fair distance from Park Row and competitor Joseph Pulitzer's World building, completed in 1890. Bennett obtained a 30-year lease at Sixth Avenue and 35th Street, at the south border of a small clearing then known as Dodge Plaza in honor of William Earle Dodge, who I've mentioned before.

Park Row, and most of the competition
Bennett chose the new site for its proximity to public transportation and nightlife. The elevated train line had been built a few years before, and now afforded the public, including Herald's reporters, easy access to most parts of the city. The site also bordered Tin Pan Alley, and several music halls and theaters, including places like Jim Corbett's and the Haymarket.

Corbett's, said to be a hangout spot for JGB Jr., c. 1900. Photo: MCNY
No stranger to scandal himself, Stanford White designed an elaborate Renaissance Revival building based on Fra Giancondo's Loggia del Consiglio, a late 15th century seat of the local city council in Verona. The Loggia's roof was lined with sculptures of famous poets, including the risque poet Catallus. It is said that this inspiration was chosen on purpose as a nod of sorts to the Herald's coarse nature and Bennett's sporting life.

Instead of poets lining the roof, Bennett chose his spirit animal, the owl. (The more I learn about him, the more hipster he starts to sound: a bearded, heavy drinking, somewhat arrogant but also creative person with an abundance of family resources and a questionable work ethic. Insert "Put a Bird on it" joke here.) In any case, he claims that an owl's cry saved him at sea during his Civil War service.

The Herald building shortly after construction. Postcard property of Dan Pisark.
A couple of them are now incorporated in the Bennett memorial in Herald Square. I've written of the monument before, and so have others. . .

Ever-conscious of public perception, Bennett mandated that there would be windows along the Broadway side of the building allowing passersby to view the presses below. People loved it and regularly crowded at them to watch sheet after sheet of the Herald come off the presses.

The Herald building's elaborate western facade and people crowding near the windows, c. 1902 Photo: Library of Congress
And, what they saw below:
The Herald presses, c. 1902. Photo: Library of Congress
The acclaim of the building and increased commerce of the area led to a name change for the Square. It became known as Herald Square in the late 1890s. Still a commercial hub, now instead of newspapers, the square welcomes millions of daily shoppers.

Ed. note I asked Anne if any of Stanford White's building remains in what is now 1350 Broadway, and she thinks the bones of the building are left but "the ornate fa├žade has been stripped."

Part 1 can be found here; part 2 here.

More sources:
Broderick, Mosette. Triumvirate, McKim, Mead & White: Art, Architecture, Scandal, and Class in America’s Gilded Age.