"The style of architecture is the classical Italian Renaissance, with some modifications to harmonize with the treatment of the roofs, which are to be French, as best suited to such architecture on a large scale. The Mansard roof will be covered with an ironclad cornice and metallic cresting.
"The irregular angles imposed by the shape of the lot are marked by semi-hexagonal pavilions. The main building line is withdrawn from the lower, or southerly front, to extend the facade on that side. The roof, square-domed, rests on three arms of a Greek cross, out of the centre of which rises a heavily buttressed cupola, carrying projecting pediments, with detached columns on its four faces. The foot of the flagstaff, which is to surmount the cupola, will be 160 feet above the sidewalk.
"The fronts on Broadway and Park Row, respectively, are broken by square central pavilions, with pyramidal roofs, of which the first and second stories are faced with detached colonnades of coupled columns. Below are the main lateral entrances to the Post-office corridor. The centre of the largest and northerly front is relieved by a broad pavilion with a two-story colonnade, roofed with a dome, the balustrade of which is 150 feet above the sidewalk. The dome is lighted by a range of round windows, and surmounted by an attic, ornamented by a sculptured pediment and a crown with the national arms. The form of the building is, substantially, a trapezoid, with an open triangular court in the centre, below the main story; it includes a sub-basement, basement, three stories in the walls, and a roof story.
"A drive-way, or street, forty feet in width, reserved from the northerly side of the ground purchased by the Government, serves as an approach to that front, and secures the perfect isolation of the building, with perpetual access of light and air on that side, as well as on the other sides, whatever changes may hereafter be made in the adjoining ground.
"The principal entrances are at the south west front under a portico, which gives access to the Post-office corridor, and by a broad double staircase to the upper stories; and at the northerly corner pavilions on Broadway and Park Row, where two great elliptical stairways lead again to the higher stories, but do not communicate with the ground-floor, being reserved for the United States Courts, and their dependencies. Besides these, there are lateral entrances to the Post-office corridor on Broadway and Park Row, and to the Post-office proper on those two sides, and also on the northerly front.
"The sub-basement, or cellar, and the basement, cover the whole area of the lot, and are extended under the sidewalks, the central court and the drive-way on the northerly side. The cellar will be used for the boilers, engines and heating apparatus, and for the storage of coal and other bulky material. The basements and the first story are reserved for the use of the Post-office.
"The first story occupies the entire space of the building, including the central court, which is here roofed with glass; the walls of which, with all the interior partitions of the stories above, are, in this story and the basement, carried on columns, leaving the whole area of the Post-office roof open to light and free use and communication.
"The corridor for the use of the public occupies the exterior belt of the ground-floor on the southerly front, and on the Broadway and Park Row fronts far enough to include the central pavilions, and it is separated from the Post-office room by a Box and Delivery screen. This corridor is half the height of the first story, and the space above it is occupied by a half-story, which, being entirely open on the inside, forms a gallery encompassing the Post-office room on three sides. The high windows of the first story, running through both the corridor and the half-story, give an uninterrupted communication of light and air to the interior, while the supply of light is increased by the whole breadth of the glass roof over the court. The floor under this floor is also of glass, giving light to the sub-basement, which is also lighted by means of illuminating tile in the sidewalks.
"In the upper stories, corridors fourteen feet wide make the circuit of the whole building; and from those corridors, rooms open on either hand toward the streets and the inner court. The rooms over the principal entrance, and which look down Broadway, are reserved for the Postmaster; and those for the Assistant Postmaster and Cashier are close at hand.
"The whole of the northerly front is given to the United States Courts. There are three court-rooms, of which the two largest are continued up through two stories in height. Adjoining these, are special rooms for the Judges, near which private stairways furnish the only access to the jury-rooms in the third story. The remainder of the second story is occupied by rooms for Marshals, United States Attorney, Clerks of the Courts, record-rooms, etc., etc. Other United States officers are to be accommodated with rooms in the upper story."
III. THE LETTER CARRIERS.
For the purpose of distributing the letters received at the New York Post-office, the Government has organized a force of Letter Carriers, or, as they are sometimes called, "Postmen." All letters that are addressed to the places of business or the residences of citizens, unless such persons are renters of boxes in the General Post-office, are turned over to the Carriers for delivery.
The force is organized under the direction of a Superintendent, who is appointed by and responsible to the Postmaster of the city. Applicants for positions in the force of Letter Carriers must, as a prime necessity, be able to command a sufficient degree of political influence to secure their appointments. Possessing this, they make their applications in duplicate, on blank forms supplied by the Department. The applicant must state his age, general condition, former occupation, experience in business, his reason for leaving his last place, and whether he has served in the army or navy. One of these applications is laid before the Postmaster of the city, and the other is sent to the Post-office Department at Washington. If the applicant is successful, he is subjected to a physical examination by the surgeon of the Department, in order to make sure of his bodily soundness. Good eye-sight is imperatively required of every applicant. If "passed" by the surgeon, the applicant must then furnish two bonds in five hundred dollars each, for the faithful performance of his duties. This done, he is enrolled as a member of the corps of Letter Carriers, and is assigned by the Superintendent of the force to a station.
Together with his certificate of appointment, the Superintendent hands him an order on a certain firm of tailors for an "outfit," or uniform, which consists of a coat, pants, vest, and cap of gray cloth, trimmed with black braid, and with gilt buttons. The cost of this uniform is in winter twenty-four dollars, and in summer twenty dollars. It is paid for by the Post-office Department, and the amount deducted from the first two months' pay of the carrier.
Upon being assigned to a station, the Carrier is required to commit to memory the rules laid down for his guidance. His route is then marked out for him, and he is frequently accompanied over it several times by an older member of the force to familiarize him with it. The Superintendent of the Station is his immediate superior. From him the Carrier receives his orders, and to him submits his reports.
There is a "time-book" kept in each station, in which the employes are required to enter the time of their arrival at the station in the morning. The Carriers are also required to enter the time of their departure on their routes, and the time of their return to the station. Once a month this book is submitted to the inspection of the Superintendent of the force, and any delays or other negligences that are noted are reprimanded by him.
The Station-clerk, whose duty it is to assort the mail, is required to be at his post at ten minutes after six o'clock in the morning. He places each Carrier's mail in a separate box, leaving to him the arrangement of it. The Carriers must be at the station at half-past six. They at once proceed to arrange their mail in such a manner as will facilitate its prompt delivery, and at half-past seven A.M., they start out on their routes. If any of the postage on the letters to be delivered is unpaid, it is charged by the clerk to the Carrier, who is held responsible for its collection. Once a week the Superintendent of the Station goes over the accounts of the Carriers, and requires them to pay over to him all the sums charged against them.
There are nine deliveries from the stations every day. The first at half-past seven A.M., and the last at five P.M. This entails an immense amount of labor upon the Carriers. They are obliged to perform their duties regardless of the weather, and are subjected to an exposure which is very trying to them. They are very efficient, and perform their task faithfully and promptly.
The pay of a carrier is small. By law he is entitled to $800 per annum for the first six months. After this he is to receive $900 per annum, and at the expiration of one year, he may, upon the recommendation of the Superintendent of the Station, receive an additional $100 per annum; but $1000 is the limit. It is said, however, that it is very rare for a carrier to receive an increase of salary before the expiration of one year. Why he is subjected to this loss, in defiance of the law, the writer has been unable to ascertain.
Although the pay is so small, the Carrier is not allowed to enjoy it in peace. The party in power, or rather its managers, tax him unmercifully. From one to two per cent. of his salary is deducted for party expenses, and he is required to contribute at least five dollars to the expenses of every City and State election. The Postmaster of the city does not trouble himself about this robbery of his employes, but allows it to go on with his indirect approval, at least. General Dix has the honor of being the only Postmaster who ever had the moral courage to protect his subordinates from this extortion.
The Carriers have organized a benevolent association among themselves. Upon the death of a member, each surviving member of the association makes a contribution of two dollars to the relief fund. From this fund the funeral expenses are paid, and the surplus is handed over to the widow and children of the dead man.
The tenure by which the Carriers hold their positions is very uncertain. A new Postmaster may remove any or all of them, to make way for his political friends, and any refusal on their part to submit to the orders or extortions of their party-managers is sure to result in a dismissal.
XXXIV. A. T. STEWART.
ALEXANDER T. STEWART was born in Belfast, in Ireland, in 1802. He is of Scotch-Irish parentage. At the age of three years he lost his father, and was adopted by his grandfather, who gave him a good common school and collegiate education, intending him for the ministry. His grandfather died during his collegiate course, and this threw him upon his own resources. He at once abandoned all hope of a professional career, and set sail for America. He reached New York in 1818, and began his career here as assistant teacher in a commercial school. His first salary was $300. In a year or two he went into business for himself, carrying on a modest little store, and manifesting no especial talent for business.
At the age of twenty-one, he went back to Ireland to take possession of a legacy of nearly one thousand pounds, left him by his grandfather. He invested the greater part of this sum in "insertions" and "scollop trimmings," and returned to New York. He rented a little store at 283 Broadway, and there displayed his stock, which he sold readily at a fair profit. His store was next door to the then popular Bonafanti, who kept the largest and best patronized variety store of the day. Stewart's little room was twenty-two feet wide by twenty feet deep.
Without mercantile experience, and possessing no advantage but his determination to succeed, Mr. Stewart started boldly on what proved the road to fortune. He gave from fourteen to eighteen hours per day to his business. He could not afford to employ any help, and he did all his own work. He was almost a total stranger to the business community of New York, and he had no credit. He kept a small stock of goods on hand, which he bought for cash and sold in the same way for a small profit. His purchases were made chiefly at auctions, and consisted of "sample lots"—that is, miscellaneous collections of small articles thrown together in heaps and sold for what they would bring. He spent several hours after business each day in assorting and dressing these goods. They were sold at a low price, but his profit was fair, as he had paid but a trifle for them. Little by little his trade increased, and he was soon obliged to employ an assistant. About this time he inaugurated the system of "selling off below cost." He had a note to pay, and no money to meet it. His store was full of goods, but he was short of ready money. No man could then afford to let his note go to protest. Such a step in those days meant financial ruin to a young man. Stewart proved himself the man for the crisis. He marked every article in his store down far below the wholesale price, and scattered over the city a cloud of handbills announcing that he would dispose of his entire stock of goods below cost within a given time. His announcement drew crowds of purchasers to his store, and before the period he had fixed for the duration of the sale, Mr. Stewart found his shelves empty and his treasury full. He paid his note with a part of the money thus obtained, and with the rest laid in a fresh stock of goods. He made his purchases at a time when the market was very dull, and, as he paid cash, secured his goods at very low prices.
The energy and business tact displayed by Mr. Stewart at length brought him their reward. In 1828, he found his little room too small for his trade. He leased a small store, thirty feet deep, on Broadway, between Chambers and Warren streets. Here he remained four years, his trade increasing rapidly all the while. In 1832, he removed to a two-story building in Broadway, between Murray and Warren streets, and in a short time was obliged by the growth of his business to add twenty feet to the depth of his store, and to put an additional story on the building. A year or two later he added a fourth story, and in 1837 a fifth story, so rapidly did he prosper. He had now a large and fashionable trade, had fairly surmounted all his early difficulties, and had laid the foundation of the immense fortune he has since acquired.
The great commercial crisis of 1837 was not unexpected by him. It had always been his habit to watch the market closely, in order to profit by any sudden change in it, and his keen sagacity enabled him to foresee the approach of the storm and to prepare for it. He marked his goods down at an early day and began to "sell for cost," conducting his operations on a strictly cash basis. The prices were very low, the goods of the best quality, and he found no difficulty in obtaining purchasers. People were glad to save money by availing themselves of his low prices. In the midst of the most terrible crisis the country had ever seen, when old and established houses were breaking all around him, he was carrying on a thriving business. His cash sales averaged five thousand dollars per day. Other houses, to save themselves, were obliged to sell their goods at auction. Thither went Stewart regularly. He bought these goods for cash, and sold them over his counters at an average profit of forty per cent. On a lot of silks for which he paid fifty thousand dollars he cleared twenty thousand dollars in a few days. He came out of the crisis a rich man and the leading dry-goods dealer of New York.
A few years later he purchased the property lying on the east side of Broadway, between Chambers and Reade streets, on which he built a magnificent marble store. He moved into it in 1846. His friends declared that he had made a mistake in erecting such a costly edifice, and that he had located it on the wrong side of Broadway. Besides, he was too far up town. He listened to them patiently, and told them that in a short time they would see his new store the centre of the fashionable retail trade of the city. His prediction was speedily fulfilled.
A few years ago, finding that the retail trade was deserting its old haunts, below Canal street, and going up town, be began the erection of his present retail store, into which he moved as soon as it was completed, retaining his lower store for his wholesale business.
During the war, he made large profits from his sales to the Government, though he exhibited genuine patriotism in these dealings by charging only the most liberal prices for his goods. The gains thus realized by him more than counterbalanced the losses he sustained by the sudden cessation of his trade with the South.
Fifty-four years have now elapsed since he first set foot in New York, poor and unknown, and to-day Mr. Stewart is the possessor of a fortune variously estimated at from thirty to fifty millions of dollars, and which is growing larger every year. The greater portion of his wealth is invested in real estate. He owns his two stores, the Metropolitan Hotel, and the Globe Theatre, on Broadway, and nearly all of Bleecker street from Broadway to Depau Row, several churches, and other valuable property. He owns more real estate than any man in America except William B. Astor, and is the most successful merchant in the world. He has acquired all this by his own unaided efforts, and without ever tarnishing his good name by one single dishonest act. Any man may be proud of such a record.
Mr. Stewart is one of the hardest workers in his vast establishment. Though he has partners to assist him, he keeps the whole of his extensive operations well in hand, and is really the directing power of them. He goes to his business between nine and ten in the morning, and works until five, and is never absent from his post unless compelled to be away.
His time is valuable, and he is not willing to waste it; therefore access to him is difficult. Many persons endeavor to see him merely to gratify their impertinent curiosity, and others wish to "interview" him for purposes which simply consume his time. To protect himself, he has been compelled to resort to the following expedient: A gentleman is kept on guard near the main door of the store, whose duty it is to inquire the business of visitors. If the visitor replies that his business is private, he is told that Mr. Stewart has no private business. If he states his business to the satisfaction of the "sentinel," he is allowed to go up stairs, where he is met by the confidential agent of the great merchant, to whom he must repeat the object of his visit. If this gentleman is satisfied, or cannot get rid of the visitor, he enters the private office of his employer, and lays the case before him. If the business of the visitor is urgent, he is admitted, otherwise an interview is denied him. If admitted, the interview is brief and to the point. There is no time lost. Matters are dispatched with a method and promptitude which astonish strangers. If the visitor attempts to draw the merchant into a conversation, or indulges in complimentary phrases, after his business is arranged, Mr. Stewart's manner instantly becomes cold and repelling, and troublesome persons are not unfrequently given a hint to leave the room. This is his working time, and he cannot afford to waste it. In social life, he is said to be a cultivated and agreeable man.
Mr. Stewart resides in a handsome brown stone mansion at the northeast corner of Fifth avenue and Thirty-fourth street. Immediately across the avenue, he has erected a residence of white marble, the handsomest and costliest dwelling in the Union, and one of the handsomest private residences in the world. It is said to have cost upwards of two millions of dollars. "The marble work, which forms the most distinguishing characteristic of this palatial abode, receives its entire shape and finish in the basement and first floor of the building. The fluted columns (purely Corinthian, and with capitals elaborately and delicately carved), which are the most striking feature of the main hall, are alone worth between three thousand five hundred and four thousand dollars each. On the right of this noble passage, as you proceed north from the side entrance, are, the reception and drawing rooms, and the breakfast and dining rooms, all with marble finish, and with open doors, affording space for as splendid a promenade or ball as could be furnished probably by any private residence in Europe. To the left of the grand hall are the marble staircase and the picture-gallery—the latter about seventy-two by thirty-six feet, lofty and elegant, and singularly well designed. The sleeping apartments above are executed upon a scale equally luxurious and regardless of expense. Externally, the building must ever remain a monument of the splendor which, as far as opulence is concerned, places some of our merchants on a footing almost with royalty itself, and a glance at the interior will be a privilege eagerly sought by the visiting stranger."
Mr. Stewart is not generally regarded as a liberal man in the metropolis, probably because he refuses to give indiscriminately to those who ask his assistance. Yet he has made munificent donations to objects which have enlisted his sympathy, and has on hand now several schemes for bettering the condition of the working classes, which will continue to exert a beneficent influence upon them long after he has passed away. His friends—and he has many—speak of him as a very kind and liberal man, and seem much attached to him.
Mr. Stewart is now seventy years old, but looks twenty years younger. He is of the medium height, has light brown hair and beard, which are closely trimmed. His features are sharp, well cut, his eye bright, and his general expression calm, thoughtful, and self-reliant. His manner is courteous to all, but reserved and cold except to his intimate friends. He dresses quietly in the style of the day, his habits are simple, and he shuns publicity.
XXXV. PLACES OF AMUSEMENT.
I. THE THEATRES.
There are sixteen theatres in New York usually in full operation. Taking them in their order of location from south to north, they are the Stadt, the Bowery, Niblo's, Theatre Comique, the Olympic, Lina Edwin's, the Globe, Wallack's, Union Square, the Academy of Music, the Fourteenth Street, Booth's, the Grand Opera House, the Fifth Avenue, the St. James, and Wood's.
They are open throughout the fall and winter season, are well patronized, and with one or two exceptions are successful in a pecuniary sense. There are usually from 50,000 to 100,000 strangers in the city, and the majority of these find the evenings dull without some amusement to enliven them. Many of them are persons who come for pleasure, and who regard the theatres as one of the most enjoyable of all the sights of the city; but a very large portion are merchants, who are wearied with buying stock, and who really need some pleasant relaxation after the fatigues of the day. To these must be added a large class of citizens who are fond of the drama, and who patronize the theatres liberally. All these, it is stated, expend upon the various amusements of the place about $30,000 per night; and of this sum the larger part goes into the treasury of the theatres. The sum annually expended on amusements is said to be from $7,000,000 to $8,000,000.
The New York theatres richly deserve the liberal patronage they enjoy. In no other city are such establishments as elegant and commodious, and nowhere else in America are the companies as proficient in their art, or the plays as admirably put upon the stage.
[Picture: BOOTH'S THEATRE.]
The most beautiful theatre in the city is Booth's, at the southeast corner of the Sixth avenue and Twenty-third street. It was begun in the summer of 1867, and opened to the public in January, 1869. It is in the Renaissance style of architecture, and stands seventy feet high from the sidewalk to the main cornice, crowning which is a Mansard roof of twenty-four feet. "The theatre proper fronts one hundred and forty-nine feet on Twenty-third street, and is divided into three parts, so combined as to form an almost perfect whole, with arched entrances at either extremity on the side, for the admission of the public, and on the other for another entrance, and the use of actors and those employed in the house. There are three doors on the frontage, devised for securing the most rapid egress of a crowded audience in case of fire, and, in connection with other facilities, said to permit the building to be vacated in five minutes. On either side of these main entrances are broad and lofty windows; and above them, forming a part of the second story, are niches for statues surrounded by coupled columns resting on finely sculptured pedestals. The central or main niche is flanked on either side by quaintly contrived blank windows; and between the columns, at the depth of the recesses, are simple pilasters sustaining the elliptic arches, which serve to top and span the niches, the latter to be occupied by statues of the great creators and interpreters of the drama in every age and country. The finest Concord granite, from the best quarries in New Hampshire, is the material used in the entire facade, as well as in the Sixth avenue side. The glittering granite mass, exquisitely poised, adorned with rich and appropriate carving, statuary, columns, pilasters, and arches, and capped by the springing French roof, fringed with its shapely balustrades, offers an imposing and majestic aspect, and forms one of the architectural jewels of the city."
In its internal arrangements the theatre is in keeping with its external magnificence. Entering through a sumptuous vestibule, the visitor passes into the magnificent auditorium, which is, in itself, a rare specimen of decorative art. The seats are admirably arranged, each one commanding a view of the stage. They are luxuriously upholstered, and harmonize with the rich carpets which cover the floor. Three elegant light galleries rise above the parquet. The walls and ceiling are exquisitely frescoed, and ornamented with bas reliefs in plaster. The proscenium is beautifully carved and frescoed, and is adorned with busts of the elder Booth and the proprietor of the theatre; and in the sides before the curtain are arranged six sumptuous private boxes. The curtain is an exquisite landscape. The decoration of the house is not done in the rough scenic style so common in the theatres of the country, but is the perfection of frescoe painting, and will bear the closest inspection. It is impossible, even with a strong glass, to distinguish between some of the frescoes and the bas reliefs. The stage is very large, and rises gradually from the footlights to the rear. The orchestra pen is sunk below the level of the stage, so that the heads of the musicians do not interfere with the view of the audience. The dressing of the stage is novel. The side scenes, or wings, instead of being placed at right angles to the audience, as in most theatres, are so arranged that the scene appears to extend to the right and left as well as to the rear. In this way the spectator is saved the annoyance of often looking through the wings, a defect which in most theatres completely dispels the illusion of the play. The scenery here is not set by hand, but is moved by machinery, by means of immense hydraulic rams beneath the stage, and the changes are made with such regularity and precision that they have very much the effect of "dissolving views." The scenes themselves are the work of gifted and highly educated artists, and never degenerate into the rough daubs with which most playgoers are familiar. The building is fireproof, and is warmed and ventilated by machinery. The great central chandelier and the jets around the cornice of the auditorium are lighted by electricity.
The plays presented here are superbly put on the stage. The scenery is strictly accurate when meant to represent some historic locality, and is the finest to be found in America. Perhaps the grandest stage picture ever given to an audience was the graveyard scene in "Hamlet," which drama, in the winter of 1869-70, "held the boards" for over one hundred nights. The dresses, the equipments, and general "make up" of the actors are in keeping with the scenery. Even the minutest detail is carefully attended to. Nothing is so unimportant as to be overlooked in this establishment.
With a few exceptions, the company is unworthy of the place and the fame of the proprietor. Mr. Booth, himself, is the great attraction. It is his custom to open the season with engagements of other distinguished "stars," and to follow them himself about the beginning of the winter, and to continue his performances until the spring, when he again gives way to others. When he is performing it is impossible to procure a seat after the rising of the curtain.
[Picture: GRAND OPERA HOUSE.]
The Grand Opera House is next to Booth's in beauty. It is much larger than that theatre. But for its unfortunate location, nearly a mile from Broadway, it would be one of the most successful establishments in the city. The theatre is divided into two buildings, one fronting on the Eighth avenue and Twenty-third street, and containing the offices and entrances, and the theatre proper, which is in the rear of the former. The former building is a magnificent structure of white marble, in the Italian style of architecture. It fronts 113 feet on Eighth avenue, and 98 feet on Twenty-third street. It is adorned with statuary and carvings, and is far too handsome for the part of the city in which it is located. The greater portion of this building is taken up with the offices of the Erie Railway Company.
The theatre proper is connected with the front building by means of a superb vestibule, into which open the doors of the auditorium. It is one of the most beautiful halls in America, and one of the pleasantest lounging places. The auditorium is finished in light blue, white, and gold, and when lighted up is magnificent. Every appointment and decoration is tasteful and beautiful, and there are many persons who consider it the finest interior in America. The stage is large and convenient, and the scenery good. The performances are passable.
The house was built by Mr. Samuel N. Pike for an Opera House. It was not successful, and was sold by him to the late Colonel James Fisk, Jr., for $1,000,000, a slight advance upon its cost.
Wallack's Theatre, at the northeast corner of Broadway and Thirteenth street, is, par eminence, the theatre of New York. Its audiences are more exclusively composed of citizens than those of any other house. New Yorkers are proud of it, and on Thursday evenings, or the first night of some new play, the audience will consist almost entirely of city people. The theatre itself is very plain, and there are many things about it that might be bettered. In other respects it is unqualifiedly the best theatre in which the English language is spoken. It is devoted almost entirely to comedy, and the plays presented on its stage are always of a high character. The Star system is not adopted here, but the company consists of the best and most carefully trained actors and actresses to be found here or in England. It is emphatically a company of gentlemen and ladies. At present it includes Lester Wallack, the proprietor, John Brougham, Charles Mathews, John Gilbert, Charles Fisher, and J. H. Stoddart, and Mrs. Jennings, Miss Plessy Mordaunt, Miss Effie Germon, and Mrs. John Sefton. Mr. Wallack is very proud of his theatre, and with good reason. He has made it the best in the country, and a model for the best establishments in other cities. The greatest care is taken in the production of plays, and every detail is presented to the audience with a degree of perfection which other managers vainly strive to attain. The scenery is exquisite and natural, the dresses are perfect—the toilettes of the ladies being famed for their elegance, and the acting is true to nature. There is no ranting, no straining for effect here. The members of the company talk and act like men and women of the world, and faithfully "hold the mirror up to nature." It is a common saying in New York that even a mean play will be a success at Wallack's. It will be so well put on the stage, and so perfectly performed by the company, that the most critical audience will be disarmed.
The Fifth Avenue Theatre, on Twenty-fourth street, in the rear of the Fifth Avenue Hotel, is next to Wallack's in popular favor. It is very much such an establishment in the character and excellence of its performances. It possesses a first-class company of ladies and gentlemen, some of whom have achieved national reputations, and all of whom are worthy of the highest praise. The theatre itself is a handsome marble edifice, not very large, but of very attractive appearance. The interior is bright and cheerful. The ceiling is finely frescoed, the walls are panelled with large plate-glass mirrors, and the general effect is very brilliant. The building was owned by the late Col. James Fisk, Jr. The manager is Mr. Augustin Daly, a well-known writer of successful plays. To his literary gifts Mr. Daly adds a high order of managerial talent, and it is to his efforts exclusively that the very marked success of the theatre is due.
The Academy of Music is, as its name indicates, the Opera House of New York. It is a gloomy-looking structure without, but possesses a magnificent auditorium, fitted up in the style of the European Opera Houses. Its decorations are in crimson and gold, and are magnificent and tasteful. It is the largest theatre in the city, and one of the largest in the world. It is opened occasionally during the winter for operatic performances. The audiences to be seen here are always in full dress, and the toilettes of the ladies, to say nothing of the beauty of many of the fair ones, offer a great attraction to sight-seers.
Niblo's Theatre, or as it is generally called, "Niblo's Garden," is situated in the rear of the Metropolitan Hotel, with an entrance on Broadway. It is one of the largest and handsomest theatres in the city, and by far the coolest in warm weather. It is devoted principally to the spectacular drama. It was here that the famous spectacle of the Black Crook was produced. Its revival is to take place before these pages are in print, and it will probably be continued throughout the remainder of the season.
[Picture: ACADEMY OF MUSIC.]
The Olympic is a large, old-fashioned theatre, on Broadway, between Houston and Bleecker streets. It is devoted to pantomime, and is famous as the headquarters of the erratic genius who calls himself Humpty Dumpty.
The Old Bowery Theatre, situated on the thoroughfare from which it takes its name, below Canal street, is the only old theatre left standing in the city. Three theatres have preceded it on this site, and all have been destroyed by fire. Within the last few years, the interior of the present theatre has been greatly modernized. The plays presented here are of a character peculiarly suited to that order of genius which despises Shakspeare, and hopes to be one day capable of appreciating the Black Crook. "Blood and thunder dramas," they are called in the city. The titles are stunning—the plays themselves even more so. A writer in one of the current publications of the day gives the following truthful picture of a "Saturday night at the Bowery:"
[Picture: THE OLD BOWERY THEATRE.]
"I had not loitered long at the entrance after the gas blazed up, when from up the street, and from down the street, and from across the street, there came little squads of dirty, ragged urchins—the true gamin of New York. These at once made a gymnasium of the stone steps—stood on their heads upon the pavements or climbed, like locusts, the neighboring lamp-posts; itching for mischief; poking fun furiously; they were the merriest gang of young dare-devils I have seen in a long day. It was not long before they were recruited by a fresh lot of young 'sardines' from somewhere else—then they went in for more monkey-shines until the door should be unbarred. They seemed to know each other very well, as if they were some young club of genial spirits that had been organized outside of the barriers of society for a long while. What funny habiliments they sported. It had never been my experience to see old clothes thrown upon young limbs so grotesquely. The coat that would have been a fit for a corpulent youth nearly buried a skinny form the height of your cane.
"And on the other hand, 'young dropsy's' legs and arms were like links of dried 'bolonas' in the garments which misfortune's raffle had drawn for him. Hats without rims—hats of fur, dreadfully plucked, with free ventilation for the scalp—caps with big tips like little porches of leather—caps without tips, or, if a tip still clung to it, it was by a single thread and dangled on the wearer's cheek like the husk of a banana. The majority seemed to have a weakness for the costumes of the army and the navy. Where a domestic tailor had clipped the skirts of a long blue military coat he had spared the two buttons of the waist-band, and they rested on the bare heels like a set of veritable spurs. Shoes and boots (and remember it's a December night) are rather scarce—and those by which these savoyards could have sworn by grinned fearfully with sets of naked toes. One 'young sport,' he had seen scarcely ten such winters, rejoiced in a pair of odd-mated rubber over-shoes, about the dimensions of snow-shoes. They saluted him as 'Gums.' A youngster, with a childish face and clear blue eyes, now shuffled upon the scene.
"'O Lordy, here's Horace, jist see his get up.' A shout of laughter went up, and Horace was swallowed in the ragged mob.
"'Horace' sported a big army cap like a huge blue extinguisher. He wrapped his wiry form in a cut-down, long-napped white beaver coat, the lapels of which were a foot square, and shingled his ankles as if he stood between a couple of placards. I had seen the latest caricature on the philosopher of the Tribune, but this second edition of H. G. swamped it. I knew that that young rogue had counted upon the effect of his white coat, and he enjoyed his christening with a gleeful face and a sparkle in his blue eyes. O, for the pencil of a Beard or a Bellew, to portray those saucy pug-noses, those dirty and begrimed faces! Faces with bars of blacking, like the shadows of small gridirons—faces with woful bruised peepers—faces with fun-flashing eyes—faces of striplings, yet so old and haggard—faces full of evil and deceit.
"Every mother's son of them had his fists anchored in his breeches pockets, and swaggered about, nudging each other's ribs with their sharp little elbows. They were not many minutes together before a battle took place. Some one had tripped 'Gums,' and one of his old shoes flew into the air. I think he of the white coat was the rascal, but being dubbed a philosopher, he did his best to look very wise, but a slap on the side of the ridge of his white collar upset his dignity, and 'Horace' 'went in,' and his bony fists rattled away on the close-shaven pate of 'Gums.'
"The doors are now unbarred, and this ragged 'pent up little Utica' rends itself, but not without much more scratching and much swearing. O, the cold-blooded oaths that rang from those young lips! As the passage to the pit is by a sort of cellar door, I lost sight of the young scamps as the last one pitched down its gloomy passage.
"In the human stream—in a whirlpool of fellow-beings—nudging their way to the boxes and the upper tiers, I now found myself. It was a terrible struggle; females screaming, were eddied around and around until their very faces were in a wire cage of their own 'skeletons.'
"'Look out for pickpockets,' shouted a Metropolitan. Every body then tried to button his coat over his breast, and every body gave it up as a bad job. In at last, but with the heat of that exertion—the smell of the hot gas—the fetid breath of two thousand souls, not particular, many, as to the quality of their gin—what a sweltering bath follows! The usher sees a ticket clutched before him, and a breathless individual saying wildly, 'Where?' He points to a distant part of the house, and the way to it is through a sea of humanity. A sort of a Dead Sea, for one can walk on it easier than he can dive through it. I shall never know how I got there at last; all I remember now are the low curses, the angry growls and a road over corns and bunions.
"The prompter's bell tingles and then tingles again. The bearded Germans of the orchestra hush their music, and the big field of green baize shoots to the cob-web arch.
"Now is the time to scan the scene—that teeming house—that instant when all faces are turned eagerly to the foot-lights, waiting breathlessly the first sound of the actor's voice. The restlessness of that tossing sea of humanity is at a dead calm now. Every nook and cranny is occupied—none too young—none too old to be there at the rise of the curtain. The suckling infant 'mewling and puking in its mother's arms.' The youngster rubbing his sleepy eyes. The timid Miss, half frightened with the great mob and longing for the fairy world to be created. Elder boys and elder sisters. Mothers, fathers, and the wrinkled old grand-sire. Many of these men sit in their shirt-sleeves, sweating in the humid atmosphere. Women are giving suck to fat infants. Blue-shirted sailors encircle their black-eyed Susans, with brawny arms (they make no 'bones' of showing their honest love in this democratic temple of Thespis). Division street milliners, black-eyed, rosy-cheeked, and flashy dressed sit close to their jealous-eyed lovers. Little Jew boys, with glossy ringlets and beady black eyes, with teeth and noses like their fat mammas and avaricious-looking papas, are yawning everywhere. Then there is a great crowd of roughs, prentice boys and pale, German tailors—the latter with their legs uncrossed for a relaxation. Emaciated German and Italian barbers, you know them from their dirty linen, their clean-shaven cheeks and their locks redolent with bear's grease.
"Through this mass, wandering from pit to gallery, go the red-shirted peanut-venders, and almost every jaw in the vast concern is crushing nut-shells. You fancy you hear it in the lulls of the play like a low unbroken growl.
"In the boxes sit some very handsome females—rather loudly dressed,—but beauty will beam and flash from any setting.
"Lean over the balcony, and behold in the depths below the famous pit, now crowded by that gang of little outlaws we parted with a short time ago.
"Of old times—of a bygone age—is this institution. In no other theatre in the whole town is that choice spot yielded to the unwashed. But this is the 'Bowery,' and those squally little spectators so busy scratching their close-mown polls, so vigorously pummeling each other, so unmercifully rattaned by despotic ushers—they are its best patrons.
"And are they not, in their light, great critics, too? Don't they know when to laugh, when to blubber, and when to applaud, and don't they know when to hiss, though! What a fiat is their withering hiss! What poor actor dare brave it? It has gone deep, deep into many a poor player's heart and crushed him forever.
"The royal road to a news-boy's heart is to rant in style.
"Versatile Eddy and vigorous Boniface are the lads, in our day, for the news-boys' stamps.
"Ranting is out of the female line, but Bowery actresses have a substitute for it.
"At the proper moment, they draw themselves up in a rigid statue, they flash their big eyes, they dash about wildly their dishevelled hair, with out-stretched arms and protruding chins they then shriek out, V-i-l-l-a-i-n!
"O, Fannie Herring! what a tumult you have stirred up in the roused pit! No help for it, my dear lady. See, there's 'Horace,' standing on his seat and swinging his big blue cap in a cloud of other caps—encore! encore! And the pretty actress bows to the pit, and there is more joy in her heart from the yells of those skinny little throats than from all the flowers that ladies and gents from above may pelt her with.
"The bill of fare for an evening's entertainment at the Old Bowery is as long as your cane, and the last piece takes us far into the night—yet the big house sits it out, and the little ones sleep it out, and the tired actor well earns his pay.
"I'll not criticise the acting—a great part of the community thinks it's beyond the pale of criticism—this peculiarity of tearing things to pieces, and tossing around 'supes' promiscuously.
"And another thing, those little ungodly imps down there have a great appreciation of virtue and pathos. They dash their dirty fists into their peepers at the childish treble of a little Eva—and they cheer, O, so lustily, when Chastity sets her heavy foot upon the villain's heart and points her sharp sword at his rascal throat. They are very fickle in their bestowal of approbation, and their little fires die out or swell into a hot volcano according to the vehemence of the actor. 'Wake me up when Kirby dies,' said a veteran little denizen of the pit to his companions, and he laid down on the bench to snooze.
"'Mind yer eye, Porgie,' said his companion, before Porgie had got a dozen winks. 'I think ther's somthen goen to bust now.' Porgie's friend had a keen scent for sensation.
"As I came out, at the end of the performance, I again saw 'Horace.' He had just rescued a 'butt' from a watery grave in the gutter. 'Jeminy! don't chaps about town smoke 'em awful short now'days!' was the observation of the young philosopher.
"The theatre is almost the only amusement that the ragged newsboy has, apart from those of the senses. The Newsboys' Lodging House, which has been the agent of so much good among this neglected class of our population, find the late hours of the theatre a serious obstacle to their usefulness. It is safe to say that if the managers of the two Bowery Theatres would close at an earlier hour, say eleven o'clock, they would prosper as greatly as at present, and the boys who patronize their establishments would be much better off in body and mind. An effort is about to be made to obtain this reform from the managers voluntarily—instead of seeking legislative aid. We are quite sure it will be for the interest of all to close the theatres early."
The Stadt Theatre, just across the street from the Old Bowery, is exclusively a German establishment. It is a plain old-fashioned building, without and within, but is worth a fortune to its proprietors. The performances are given in the German language, and the company is usually good. The prices are high and the audiences are large. Occasionally a season of German opera is given. I doubt that a more appreciative audience is to be found than that which assembles within the walls of the Stadt on opera nights. They are to a man good judges and dear lovers of music, and their applause, when it breaks forth, is a spontaneous outburst which shakes the house to its foundations. It is generously given, too, and must be particularly grateful to the performers.
It is said that the members of the dramatic profession and the various attaches of the theatres number 5000 persons. They constitute a class, or rather a world of their own. We shall have more to say of some portions of them in other chapters, and can only speak of them in a general way here. As a rule they are poor, and are compelled to work hard. Wallack's and a few other establishments pay good salaries and have many "off nights," but of the majority of performers constant labor is required, at poor pay. It is said that Forrest and Booth have received as much as $500 per night, and that Jefferson and Owens are paid at very near the same rate. The "stars," however, can make their own terms, but the rank and file of the profession have to take what they can get. The pay of these ranges from $15 to $50 per week. Some of the leading ladies and gentlemen receive from $100 to $200 per week, but these can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Considering the work, the pay is poor, for an actor's life requires an immense amount of study and preparation, and is terribly trying to the nervous system. At some of the theatres three performances are sometimes given in a single day, the same members of the company appearing each time.
"Ballet girls," says Olive Logan, "get from $8 to $15 per week; the prompter $25 to $30; the call boy $15; the property man's salary ranges from $15 to $30. Then there are men up in the rigging loft, who attend to the flies and the curtain wheel, and various assistants, at salaries of $20 and $10. There are from two to three scene painters at salaries of from $60 to $100. The back door keeper has $10, and two women to clean the theatre every day at $6 each. The orchestra consists of a leader, at $100, and from twelve to sixteen musicians, whose salaries range from $30 to $18 a week. The gasman and fireman get from $6 to $25 a week; costumer or wardrobe keeper $20 to $40; dressers $5 to $6; ushers $4 to $6; doorkeepers $12; policeman $5; treasurer $25 to $40."
One of the most important positions in the establishment is the ticket clerk. The receipts of the house pass through his hands, and as a constant effort is made to pass off bad money in this way, it is necessary to have some one in this position who is a good judge of money. In some of the theatres a broker's clerk or bank clerk is employed in this capacity.
With the exception of Wallack's, the Fifth Avenue, and perhaps Booth's, the theatres generally change their companies every season. The houses named retain the favorites, and there are among these companies many whose loss would be loudly deplored by the theatre-going people of the city. Many of the best actors, having distinguished themselves here, assume the rank of stars, and play engagements throughout the States. A metropolitan reputation will carry them successfully over the whole Union.
II. MINOR AMUSEMENTS.
Next in popularity to the theatres are the performances of the Negro Minstrels. Some of these companies have permanent halls which they occupy during the winter. The summer and early autumn are spent in travelling through the country. The principal companies are Bryant's and the San Francisco Minstrels.
Dan Bryant is now the proprietor of a beautiful little theatre in Twenty-third street, just west of the Sixth avenue. It is one of the cosiest and most comfortable places in the city, and is usually filled with an audience of city people of the better class. The music is good, the singing excellent, and the mirth unrestrained and hearty. Dan Bryant, himself one of the most irresistibly humorous delineators of the "burnt cork opera," has collected a band of genuine artists, and has fairly won his success. He has raised Negro Minstrelsy to the dignity of a fashionable amusement, and has banished from it all that is coarse and offensive. Men worn out with business cares go there to laugh, and they do laugh most heartily. I think that even the king who "never smiled again," would have been forced to hold his sides here. Families come by the score to laugh at the vagaries of the sable minstrels, and the mirth of the little folks is one of the heartiest and healthiest sounds to be heard in the great city.
Next in order are the concerts. These are well patronized when the performers are well known. There are several fine halls used for concerts and lectures. The principal are Steinway Hall, in Fourteenth street, and Irving Hall, in Irving Place.
Lectures also draw largely. The principal halls used for this purpose are Steinway Hall, and the Halls of the Young Men's Christian Association and the Cooper Institute.
Last, but not least in the estimation of New Yorkers, is the Circus. This is a permanent entertainment during the fall and winter. The performances are given in a handsome iron building located on Fourteenth street, opposite Irving Place. The building is in the form of a circus tent, and is lighted with gas, and warmed by steam coils. The audiences are large, and consist to a great extent of children. The little folks are very fond of the sports of the ring, and are among Mr. Lent's best patrons.
XXXVI. THE MARKETS.
The principal markets of New York are the Fulton, Washington, Jefferson, Catharine, Union, Clinton, Franklin, Centre, and Tompkins Markets. With the exception of Tompkins Market, they are, as far as the houses are concerned, unmitigated nuisances to the city. They are in the last stages of dilapidation, and from without present the most ungainly spectacles to be witnessed in New York. The streets around them are always dirty and crowded, and in the hot days of the summer the air is loaded with foul smells which arise from them.
Within, however, the scene is very different. The rickety old buildings are crammed to repletion with everything edible the season affords. In the summer the display of fruit is often magnificent. The products of every section of the Union are piled up here in the greatest profusion. The country for miles around the city has been stripped of its choicest luxuries, and even the distant West, and the far-off South have sent their contributions to the bountiful store. Meats, fish, and fowl also abound, of every species and description. Indeed, one who has the means can purchase here almost everything the heart can desire. The demand is great, and the prices are high. The stock seems immense, but it disappears rapidly. Fruits command high prices in New York, but sell readily. The market is very rarely overstocked. The same may be said of vegetables. Good vegetables are always in demand. Those who furnish pure, fresh vegetables and meats are sure of a prosperous trade, but the amount of tainted wares of this kind disposed of daily is surprising. Nothing is lost here. Everything finds a purchaser.
[Picture: WASHINGTON MARKET.]
Two-thirds of the people of the city, to save time and trouble, deal with the "corner groceries," and "provision stores," and never see the markets, but still the number of persons patronizing these establishments is very large. The sales begin between four and five o'clock in the morning. The first comers are the caterers for the hotels, the restaurants, the fashionable boarding houses and the mansions of the rich, and the proprietors of the aforesaid "corner groceries" and "provision stores." These latter charge their own customers an advance of from twenty-five to fifty per cent. on the market rates. Prices are high at this hour, and the best the market affords is quickly disposed of. The hotels and restaurants leave standing orders with the dealers, but always send their caterers to see that these orders are faithfully executed. "Market-men have to be watched," say the caterers.
As the morning advances, prices decline. The dealers have reaped their harvest, and can afford to "fall" on what is left. Now come those whose means compel them to be content with indifferent fare. With them is seen a perfect torrent of boarding-house keepers, who are too smart to come when the prices are high and the articles good and fresh. Others, too, the dealers will tell you, are independently wealthy, some are said to be millionaires. They are niggardly as to their tables, though they make great show in other respects, and they will haggle over the last penny. Last of all, towards ten o'clock, and later, come the poor, to purchase what is left. God help them! It is no wonder the death rate is large in this class.
The best known markets are the Fulton, at the end of Fulton street, on East River, and the Washington, at the western end of the same street, on North River. Almost anything can be found in the Fulton market. There are all kinds of provisions here; eating stands abound; bar rooms are located in the cellars; cheap finery is offered by the bushel in some of the stalls; books, newspapers, and periodicals are to be found in others, at prices lower than those of the regular stores; and ice creams, confections, and even hardware and dry goods are sold here. The oysters of this market have a worldwide reputation. Dorlan's oyster house is the best known. It is a plain, rough-looking room, but it is patronized by the best people in the city, for nowhere else on the island are such delicious oysters to be had. Ladies in full street dress, young bloods in all their finery, statesmen, distinguished soldiers, those whom you will meet in the most exclusive drawing rooms of the avenue, come here to partake of the proprietor's splendid "stews."
It is more than thirty years since Dorlan began business here, and he has amassed a handsome fortune. He has done so by providing the best oysters in the market. He is well known throughout the city, and is deservedly popular. He is conscientious, upright in the minutest particular, and gives his personal attention to every detail of his business. Although very wealthy, he may still be seen at his stand, in his shirt sleeves, as of old, superintending the operations of his establishment, and setting an excellent example to younger men who are seeking to rise in the world.
The Washington market is more of a wholesale than a retail establishment. Supplies of meat, fish, vegetables, etc., are usually sent to the wholesale dealers here, to be sold on commission. These dealers will frequently go into the country, and engage a truckman's entire crop of vegetables and fruits, and then retail them to city dealers at their own prices.
XXXVII. THE CHURCHES.
I. THE SACRED EDIFICES.
In some respects New York may be called "the City of Churches." It contains 430 Protestant churches and chapels, with "sittings" for nearly 400,000 persons. Exclusive of endowments, the church property of the Protestant denominations is estimated at over $30,000,000. The annual expenses of these churches make an aggregate of about $1,500,000, and they pay out in charities about $5,000,000 more. The Roman Catholics have forty churches, each with a large and rapidly increasing congregation. Their church property is estimated at about $4,000,000, and their other property used for religious and educational purposes is exceedingly valuable. The Greek Church has one congregation, now worshipping in a temporary chapel. The Jews have twenty-seven synagogues, some of which are very handsome. In all, there are nearly 500 edifices in New York used for the public worship of God.
The first churches built in the city were those of the Dutch. Their church records are uninterrupted as far back as the year 1639. Their successors are now known as the Reformed Dutch, and are now in possession of twenty-five churches and chapels in the city. Some of these are very handsome. The new Collegiate Church, at the northwest corner of the Fifth avenue and Forty-eighth street, is to be built of brown stone, with light stone trimmings. It is nearly completed, and when finished will be one of the most massive and imposing church edifices in America.
The Protestant Episcopal Church was introduced into the city at the advent of the English. The conquerors seized and appropriated to their own use the old Dutch Church in the fort, and introduced the service of the Church of England, which was continued there until the completion of the first Trinity Church in 1697. This denomination now possesses ninety-four churches and chapels in the city, and a number of benevolent and charitable institutions. Its churches outnumber those of any other denomination, and its membership is the wealthiest. The General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church is located in New York. Trinity, mentioned elsewhere in this work, is the principal church. Grace, St. Thomas's, St. George's, Ascension, Calvary, the new St. Bartholomew's, St. John's, Trinity Chapel, St. Paul's, St. Peter's, the Transfiguration, and the Heavenly Rest, are among the most beautiful in the city.
The Lutherans were the third in the order of their appearance in New York. They were to be found here before the capture of the city by the English, but their first church was not erected until 1702. It was a small stone edifice, and was located at the corner of Broadway and Rector street. They have now fifteen flourishing churches, and are very strong in members and wealth.
The Presbyterians now constitute one of the largest and most flourishing denominations of the city. Owing to the intolerance of the Established Church and the Civil Government, they had considerable difficulty in introducing their faith here. They at first met in private houses. In 1707, one of their ministers was heavily fined, and condemned to pay the costs of the suit for preaching and baptizing a child in a private house. In 1716 they organized their first society, and connected it with the Philadelphia Presbytery. The city authorities now granted them toleration, and allowed them to worship in the City Hall until 1719. In the latter year they opened their first church in Wall street, near Broadway. The Presbyterian churches and mission chapels of New York are now as follows: Presbyterian proper, 70; United Presbyterian, 8; Reformed Presbyterian, 7; Congregationalists, 9; making a total of 94. The denomination is extremely wealthy, and many of its churches are noted for their beauty and magnificence. The Presbyterians also support a number of noble benevolent and charitable enterprises.
The Baptists, like the Presbyterians, had considerable difficulty in establishing themselves here. In 1709, a Baptist minister was sentenced to three months' imprisonment for preaching in New York without the permission of the city authorities. For some time the Baptists were subjected to considerable hostility, and were often obliged to immerse their proselytes by night to avoid interruption. Their first church was erected on Golden Hill, now known as Gold street, about 1725. The various branches of this denomination have now about fifty churches and chapels in the city. The First and the Fifth Avenue Churches are among the wealthiest corporations in the city, and their sacred edifices are noted for their beauty and elegance.
The Methodists appeared here soon after their church had become strong in Great Britain. In 1766, Philip Embury, an Irishman, and a local preacher in the Wesleyan Church, began to hold religious services in his own house, in Barrack Row, now Park Place, to a congregation of half a dozen persons. The church growing greatly in numbers, a large room was rented for public worship on what is now William street, between Fulton and John streets, and was used by them until the completion of their first church in John street, in 1768. The Methodists now have sixty churches and chapels in the city. They claim a membership of 13,000, and estimate the value of their church property at over $2,000,000. Some of their churches are very handsome. St. Paul's, at the northeast corner of Fourth avenue and Twenty-second street, is a beautiful structure. It is built of white marble, in the Romanesque style. The Rectory, adjoining it, is of the same material. It is the gift of Daniel Drew to the congregation. The spire is 210 feet high, and the church will seat 1300 persons.
The Jews are said to have come into New York with its early settlers, and there seems to be good authority for this statement. Finding tolerance and protection here, they have increased and multiplied rapidly, and are now very numerous. They are immensely wealthy as a class, and make a liberal provision for the unfortunate of their own creed. They have twenty-seven synagogues, several of which are among the most prominent buildings in the city. The Temple Emanuel, Fifth avenue and Forty-third street, is one of the costliest and most beautiful religious edifices in America. It is built of a light colored stone, with an elaborately carved front, and from the north and south ends rise slender and graceful towers, which give an air of lightness to the whole structure. The Temple is said to have cost, including the site, about one million of dollars.
The Roman Catholics are, in point of numbers, one of the strongest, if not the strongest denomination in the city. In the early history of the colony a law was enacted which required that every Roman Catholic priest who should come into the city of his own free will, should be hanged forthwith. This barbarous statute was never put in force, and one cannot help smiling to think how times have changed since then for the people of the Roman faith. Their first church occupied the site of the present St. Peter's, in Barclay street, and was built in 1786. In 1815, they were strong enough to erect St. Patrick's Cathedral, on the corner of Mott and Prince streets. They have now forty churches in the city, and own a vast amount of real estate. The city authorities, being frequently of this faith, have made liberal grants to their church, and in this way have excited no little hostility on the part of the Protestant churches, who are, as a rule, opposed to secular grants to religious denominations.
The Roman Catholics of New York consist principally of the poorer classes, though the church contains a large body of cultivated and wealthy people. Still its strength is among the poor. Consequently the majority of its churches are located in the meaner quarters of the city, so that they may be convenient to those to whose spiritual wants they minister. The attendance upon these churches is immense. The pastor of a church in the Fourth Ward once said to the writer that he had 25,000 persons of all ages and both sexes under his pastoral care, and that nearly all of them were very poor. His labors were arduous, and they were well performed.
Some of the Roman Catholic churches, on the other hand, are located in the most desirable portions of the city, and are extremely handsome within, even if plain without. St. Stephen's, on Twenty-eighth street, between Third and Lexington avenues, is an unattractive brick structure extending through to Twenty-ninth street. The interior is very large and very beautiful. The altar is of pure white marble, and its adornments are of the richest description. The church is decorated with a series of excellent fresco paintings of a devotional character. The altar piece, representing The Crucifixion, is a magnificent work. The music is perhaps the best in the city. The church will seat nearly 4000 people, and is usually crowded.
The new St. Patrick's Cathedral, now in course of erection, will be the most elaborate church edifice in the Union. It covers the entire block bounded by Fifth and Madison avenues, and Fiftieth and Fifty-first streets, fronting on Fifth avenue. The corner stone was laid by Archbishop Hughes in 1858, and the work has been in progress, with some interruptions, ever since. Archbishop McCloskey has for several years past been pushing the work forward with steadfastness, and it is believed that a few years more will witness its completion.
The site of the church is very fine. It is the most elevated spot on Fifth avenue. The length of the building will be 332 feet; breadth of the nave and choir, 132 feet; breadth at the transepts, 174 feet. The foundations rest upon a stratum of solid rock. The first course is of Maine granite, the material used in the Treasury Building at Washington. The upper portions of this course are neatly dressed with the chisel. The remainder of the church is to be constructed of white marble, from the Pleasantville quarries, in Westchester county. The crystalline character of this stone produces very beautiful effects in those portions which are most elaborately worked. The style of the edifice is the "decorated Gothic," which was most popular in Europe between the ninth and fifteenth centuries.
[Picture: THE NEW ST. PATRICK'S CATHEDRAL.]
The design would seem to be modelled after the famous Cathedral of Cologne, the most beautiful specimen of this order of architecture. The Fifth avenue front will be exceedingly beautiful. The carvings and statuary for its ornament are genuine works of art, and this portion of the building will be equal to anything in the world. The central gable will be 156 feet high. On each side of it will rise towers which are to reach a height of 328 feet from the ground, counting from the summit of the cross on each. These towers are to be square in form to a point 136 feet above the ground. They are then to rise in octagonal lanterns 54 feet high, above which are to soar magnificent spires to a further elevation of 138 feet. The towers and spires are to be adorned with buttresses, niches filled with statues, and pinnacles, which will have the effect of concealing the change from the square to the octagon. The cost of the church is estimated at over two millions of dollars.
The Unitarians made their appearance in the city in 1819, and have now five churches. One of these, the Church of the Messiah, Park avenue and Thirty-fourth street, is very handsome.
The Friends, or Quakers, opened their first meeting-house in 1703, and now have five places of worship, and own considerable property in the city.
All the denominations are actively engaged in missionary work. They have mission houses and chapels and schools in the worst quarters of the city, which are doing a noble work, and support them liberally.
The majority of the city churches are above Canal street. In some localities, especially on the fashionable streets, they crowd each other too greatly. A few are very wealthy, but the majority are compelled to struggle to get along. Pew rent is very high in New York, and only persons in good circumstances can have pews in a thriving church. In a fashionable church large sums are paid for pews.
The New Yorkers can hardly be said to be a church-going people. The morning services are usually well attended, but the afternoon and evening services show a "beggarly array of empty benches." It is astonishing to see the widespread carelessness which prevails here on the subject of church-going. There are thousands of respectable people in the great city who never see the inside of a church, unless drawn there by some special attraction. The support of the churches, therefore, falls on comparatively a few. These give liberally, and it may be doubted whether any other band of Christians are more munificent in their offerings.
The distinctions which govern the world prevail in the city churches. Fashion and wealth rule here with an iron hand. The fashionable churches, with the exception of Grace Church, are now located high up town. They are large and handsome, and the congregations are wealthy and exclusive. Forms are rigidly insisted upon, and the reputation of the church for exclusiveness is so well known that those in the humbler walks of life shrink from entering its doors. They feel that they would not be welcome, that the congregation would consider them hardly fit to address their prayers to the Great White Throne from so exclusive a place. The widow's mite would cause the warden's face to wear a well-bred look of pitying amazement if laid in the midst of the crisp bank notes of the collection; and Lazarus would lie a long time at the doors of some of these churches, unless the police should remove him.
Riches and magnificence are seen on every side. The music is divine, and is rendered by a select choir of professional singers. The service is performed to perfection. The sermon is short and very pretty, and the congregation roll away in their carriages, or stroll along the avenue, well satisfied that they are in the "narrow way," which the Master once declared to be so difficult to the feet of the rich man. But that was eighteen hundred years ago, and the world has grown wiser in its own estimation.
II. THE CLERGY.
Talent, backed by experience and industry, will succeed in the long run in New York, but talent is not essential to success in the ministry here. We have often wondered what does make the success of some clergymen in this city. They have done well, and are popular, but they are not pulpit orators. In other cities a good pastor need not always be a good preacher. He may endear himself to his people in many different ways, so that his other good qualities atone for his oratorical deficiencies. In New York, however, pastoral duties are almost entirely confined to the ministrations in the church, visitation of the sick, marriages, and attendance upon funerals. The city is so immense, the flock so widely scattered, that very few clergymen can visit all their people. The result is that pastoral visiting is but little practised here. The clergyman is generally "at home" to all who choose to call, on a certain evening in each week. A few civil, common-place words pass between the shepherd and the sheep, but that is all. The mass of the people of this city are neglected by the clergy. Possibly the fault is with the people. Indeed, it is highly probable, considering the carelessness which New Yorkers manifest on the subject of church going. During the summer months a large part of New York is left to do without the Gospel. Very many of the churches are closed. The ministers are, many of them, delicate men, and they cannot bear the strain of an unbroken year of preaching. So they shut up their churches during the warm season, go off to Long Branch, Saratoga, or the mountains, or cross the ocean. With the fall of the leaves, they come back to town by the score, and their churches are again opened "for preaching." Don't be deceived by their robust appearance. It is only temporary. By the approach of the next summer they will grow thin and weak-voiced again, and nothing will restore them but a season at some fashionable resort, or a run over the ocean.
A man of real talent will always, if he has a church conveniently and fashionably located, draw a large congregation to hear him; but the location and prestige of the church often do more than the minister, for some of our poorer churches have men of genius in their pulpits, while some of the wealthiest and most fashionable congregations are called on every Sunday to listen to the merest platitudes.
Let us not be misunderstood. There are able men in the New York pulpit—such men as Vinton, Hall, Chapin, Spring, Osgood, John Cotton Smith, Adams, and others—but we have some weak-headed brethren also.
A few clergymen grow rich in this city, the wealthy members of their flock no doubt aiding them. Some marry fortunes. As a general rule, however, they have no chance of saving any money. Salaries are large here, but expenses are in proportion; and it requires a large income for a minister to live respectably. One in charge of a prosperous congregation cannot maintain his social position, or uphold the dignity of his parish, on less than from eight to ten thousand dollars per annum, if he has even a moderate family. Very little, if any, of this will go in extravagance. Many clergymen are obliged to live here on smaller salaries, but they do it "by the skin of their teeth."
As a rule, the clergymen of New York are like those of other places. Whether weak-headed, or strong-minded, they are, as a class, honest, God-fearing, self-denying men. There are, however, some black sheep in the fold; but, let us thank Heaven, they are few, and all the more conspicuous for that reason.
The speculative mania (in financial, not theological matters) invades even the ranks of the clergy, and there are several well-known gentlemen of the cloth who operate boldly and skilfully in the stock markets through their brokers. One of these was once sharply rebuked by his broker for his unclerical conduct, and was advised, if he wished to carry on his speculations further, to go into the market himself, as the broker declined to be any longer the representative of a man who was ashamed of his business. There are others still who are not ashamed to mingle openly with the throng of curb-stone brokers, and carry on their operations behind the sanctity of their white cravats. These last, however, may be termed "Independents," as they have no standing in their churches, and are roundly censured by them.
Others there are who, on small salaries, support large families. These are the heroes of the profession, but the world knows little of their heroism. With their slender means, they provide homes that are models for all. They do their duty bravely, and with an amount of self-denial which is sometimes amazing. They have happy homes, too, even if it is hard to make both ends meet at the end of the year. They are often men of taste and culture, to whom such trials are particularly hard. They carry their culture into their homes, and the fruits of it blossom all around them. Wealth could not give them these pleasures, nor can poverty deprive them of them. They bring up their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and, thanks to the free schools and their own efforts, give them a good education. They send them out into the world well equipped for the battle of life, and reap the reward of their efforts in the honorable and useful lives of those children. They go down into the grave without knowing any of the comforts of wealth, without having ever preached to a fashionable congregation, and the world comes at last to find that their places cannot easily be filled. Let us be sure "their works do follow them."
XXXVIII. BOARDING-HOUSE LIFE.
New York is a vast boarding-house. Let him who doubts this assertion turn to the columns of the Herald, and there read its confirmation in the long columns of advertisements of "Boarders wanted," which adorn that sheet. Or, better still, let him insert an advertisement in the aforesaid Herald, applying for board, and he will find himself in receipt of a mail next morning that will tax the postman's utmost capacity. The boarding-houses of New York are a feature, and not the pleasantest one, of the great city. How many there are, is not known, but in some localities they cover both sides of the street for several blocks. Those which are termed fashionable, and which imitate the expensiveness of the hotels without furnishing a tithe of their comforts, are located in the Fifth avenue, Broadway, and the Fourth avenue, or near those streets. Some are showily furnished as to the public rooms, and are conducted in seemingly elegant style, but the proprietress, for it is generally a woman who is at the head of these establishments, pays for all this show by economizing in the table and other things essential to comfort. The really "elegant establishments," where magnificence of display is combined with a good table and substantial comfort in other respects, may be almost named in a breath.
Whether fashionable or unfashionable, all boarding-houses are alike. They are supremely uncomfortable. The boarder is never really satisfied, and lives in a state of perpetual warfare with his landlady. The landlady, on her part, takes care that her guests shall not be too comfortable. People generally become accustomed to this feverish mode of life; so accustomed to it indeed that they cannot exist without it. They find a sort of positive pleasure in boarding-house quarrels, and would not be able to exist without the excitement of them.
The majority of boarders in the city are persons who have not the means to live in their own houses. Others there are, who fancy they have less trouble in boarding than in keeping their own establishments. This is a singular but common delusion, and its victims endure with what patience they can the wretched fare, the constant changes, and the uninterrupted inconvenience and strife of a boarding-house, and imagine all the while that they are experiencing less trouble and annoyance than they would undergo in keeping house. The truth is, living is so expensive in New York, that all modes of life are troublesome to those who are not wealthy enough to disregard expense. But, here, as elsewhere, the privacy of one's own home is better than the publicity of a boarding-house, and a fuss with Bridget in one's own kitchen preferable to a row with a landlady, who may turn you out of doors at the very moment you are congratulating yourself that you are settled for the season. To persons with families, boarding-house life ought to be intolerable. Those who have children find that they cannot rear them as properly as they could within their own homes, that they cannot as surely shield them from unfavorable outside influences. Indeed, the troubles which these "encumbrances" cause are so great that the wife and mother comes to the conclusion that more children will simply add to her difficulties of this kind, and so she commences to "regulate" her family, and the little ones cease coming. Some boarding-houses will not receive children at any price. Year by year the number of such establishments is increasing. What will be the result? The question is not hard to answer.
The boarding-house is generally a cast-off mansion of gentility. There are a score of things about it to remind you that it was once a home, and to set you to speculating on the ways of the grim fate that has changed it into a place of torment. Whole volumes have been written on the subject, and all agree that is simply what I have described it to be. From the fashionable Fifth avenue establishment down to the cellar lodging-houses of the Five Points, all boarding-houses are alike in this respect. Their success in tormenting their victims depends upon the susceptibility and refinement of feeling and taste on the part of the latter.
Landladies and boarders are mutually suspicious of each other. The landlady constantly suspects her guest of a desire to escape from her clutches with unpaid bills. The latter is always on the look-out for some omission on the part of the hostess to comply with the letter of her contract. Landladies are frequently swindled by adventurers of both sexes, and guests most commonly find that the hostess does not comply very strictly with her bargain. Furthermore, the boarder has not only to endure his own troubles, but those of the landlady as well. Her sorrows are unending, and she pours them out to him at every opportunity. He dare not refuse to listen, for his experience teaches him that his hostess will find a way to punish him for his unfeeling conduct. It is of no use to change his quarters, for he may fare worse in this respect at the next place. And so he submits, and grows peevish and fretful, and even bald and gray over the woes of his tormentor. He consoles himself with one thought—in the next world landladies cease from troubling and boarding-houses do not exist.
All boarding-houses begin to fill up for the winter about the first of October. Few of the proprietors have any trouble in filling their establishments, as there is generally a rush of strangers to the city at that time. The majority of boarders change their quarters every fall, if they do not do so oftener. At first, the table is well supplied with good fare, the attendance is excellent, and the proprietress as obliging as one can wish. This continues until the house is full, and the guests have made arrangements which would render a removal inconvenient. Then a change comes over the establishment. The attendance becomes inferior. The landlady cannot afford to keep so many servants, and the best in the house are discharged. The fare becomes poor and scanty, and there begin to appear dishes upon which the landlady has exercised an amount of ingenuity which is astounding. They are fearfully and wonderfully compounded, and it is best to ask no questions about them. The landlady keeps a keen watch over the table at such times; and woe to him who slights or turns up his nose at these dishes. She is sorry Mr. X—-'s appetite is so delicate; but really her prices of board do not permit her to rival Delmonico or the Fifth Avenue Hotel in her table. Mr. P—-, who was worth his millions, and who boarded with her for ten years, was very fond of that dish, and Mr. P—- was a regular bon vivant, if there ever was one. Hang your head, friend X—-, mutter some incoherent excuse, gulp down your fair share of the dish in question—and fast the next time it makes its appearance at the table.
[Picture: UNION SQUARE.]
The landlady has shrewdly calculated the chances of retaining her boarders. She knows that few care to or can change in the middle of the season, when all the other houses are full; and that they will hang on to her establishment until the spring. If they do not come back the next fall, others will, and as the population is large, she can play the same game upon a fresh set of victims for many years to come. It is of no use to complain. She knows human nature better than you do, and she adheres rigidly to her programme, grimly replying to your tale of woes, that, if you do not like her establishment, you can go elsewhere. You would go if you could find a better place; but you know they are all alike. So you make up your mind to endure your discomforts until May, with her smiling face, calls you into the country.
Boarding-houses allow their guests a brief respite in the summer. The city is then comparatively deserted, and the most of these "highly respectable" establishments are very much in want of inmates. Expenses are heavy and receipts light then, and the landladies offer an unusual degree of comfort to those who will help them to tide over this dull season.
As regards the ferreting out of impropriety on the part of her guests, the New York landlady is unequalled by the most skilful detective in the city. She doubts the character of every woman beneath her roof; but in spite of her acuteness she is often deceived, and it may be safely asserted that the boarding-houses into which improper characters do not sometimes find their way are very few. It is simply impossible to keep them out. The average boarding-house contains a goodly number of men who are so many objects of the designs of the adventurers. Again, if the adventuress wishes to maintain the guise of respectability, she must have a respectable home, and this the boarding-house affords her. One is struck with the great number of handsome young widows who are to be found in these establishments. Sometimes they do not assume the character of a widow, but claim to be the wives of men absent in the distant Territories, or in Europe, and pretend to receive letters and remittances from them. The majority of these women are adventuresses, and they make their living in a way they do not care to have known. They conduct themselves with the utmost outward propriety in the house, and disarm even the suspicious landlady by their ladylike deportment. They are ripe for an intrigue with any man in the house, and as their object is simply to make money, they care little for an exposure if that object be attained.
XXXIX. THE RESTAURANTS.
New York is said to contain between five and six thousand restaurants. These are of every kind and description known to man, from Delmonico's down to the Fulton Market stands. A very large number of persons live altogether at these places. They are those who cannot afford the expense of a hotel, and who will not endure a boarding-house. They rent rooms in convenient or inconvenient locations, and take their meals at the restaurants. At many nominally reputable establishments the fare is infamous, but as a rule New York is far ahead of any American city with respect to the character and capabilities of its eating-houses.