Guessing Age

I know what you’re all thinking as you look at that photo: you’re wondering where I got my incredible fashion sense. I have to disappoint and say that I’m going to be discussing the cast-iron manhole cover. The first part is easy. “DPW” is the city’s Department of Public Works. That agency was in existence …

Guessing Age Read More »

Proportional Research

My blog posts here are a combination of, in decreasing order of frequency: history, engineering, preservation, architecture, and random nonsense. I try to keep the nonsense quotient low by finding useful topics from the other categories. Since I’m an engineer working, often, in historic preservation, history seems like the odd man out. It’s not really, …

Proportional Research Read More »

The Background Is More Interesting

The construction photos at the New York Public Library call this “The Astor Building” which is singularly useless. The Astor family developed a lot of New York real estate, so calling it that doesn’t narrow the search much. It is the 1904 St. Regis Hotel at Fifth Avenue and 55th Street, still there and still operating. The picture above doesn’t …

The Background Is More Interesting Read More »


The earliest elevated rapid transit in New York was opened in the 1870s in Manhattan and in the 1880s in Brooklyn. New York and Brooklyn were two separate cities until 1898, and the first possibility of rail connecting them wasn’t until the Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883. The layout of the rail systems reflected the …

Adaptation Read More »

Not Distributed Equally

Some time ago, William Gibson, a science fiction writer, said “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.” You can debate the meaning of that pithy line, but there’s an important aspect to it that’s often overlooked: the same was true in the past. The picture above shows a street in Flushing, New York, …

Not Distributed Equally Read More »

Scroll to Top