Alice Hoffman, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, 2014
Now, here it was, the last Saturday in March, and Eddie settled down with his rod. He'd left his studio in the dark, and it was hardly daybreak when he began to fish. On both sides of the Hudson the sky was struck with a hazy pink glow. He'd brought along night crawlers1 and crusts of bread in an old tin pail. Eddie avoided the Harlem River—it was overcrowded and overfished, even more so than the Hudson, littered with oystering boats. Several bridges had recently been built across the waters, disturbing the marsh birds. He knew it wouldn't be long before the countryside disappeared, as it had in Chelsea, where there was pavement everywhere.
Through the new leaves of the locust trees, Eddie spied Beck fishing farther down along the bank. An encounter with the old man appeared unavoidable, for the hermit gazed over and nodded. Eddie returned the greeting, considering how to best keep his distance. Beck was known to chase off intruders with a rifle, and there were those who said he vowed to kill any man who hunted the wildlife that was rapidly becoming rare, coyotes and fox and the huge, cantankerous2 wild turkeys. Past the area of Washington Heights was Hudson Heights, the highest altitude in Manhattan, at 265 feet above sea level. There was the pastoral village of Inwood, and although the subway ran this far, this section of north Manhattan was still dotted with small farms, including a house once owned by the Audubon family. Eddie joined the hermit in his agitation over the constant building in Manhattan. Apartment buildings were rising everywhere.
1 Night crawlers : worms
2 Cantankerous : bad-tempered
Donald L. Miller, Supreme City: How Jazz Age Manhattan Gave Birth to Modern America, 2014
By 1927, the commanding apartment buildings along Park Avenue were not just tall ; they were immensely tall, true towers, the first skyscrapers built for permanent living. The tallest of them was the Ritz Tower, shooting up from the pavement at the corner of Fifty-seventh Street and Park Avenue. Built for blue-bloods1 and tycoons by Emery Roth, […] it opened in October 1926 and was one of the first residential buildings in New York constructed in sympathy with the city's landmark zoning law2 of 1916.
Concerned about diminishing sunlight and fresh air in the canyonlike streets created by the closely massed skyscrapers of lower Manhattan, the city placed a limit on the maximum height and bulk of tall buildings. Height limits were based upon the width of the street a building faced ; if a developer proposed to exceed the legal limit, the stories above it had to be set back, roughly one foot for each four feet of additional height. […]
Forced to work within the confines of the so-called zoning envelope, architects began constructing “set-back” skyscrapers, with sections of the buildings set back further and further as they rose from their bases into the island's sky. “Wedding cake” architecture, some New Yorkers called it […].
The Ritz Tower […] was forty-one stories high. The tallest inhabited building in the world, it dominated the skyline of Midtown Manhattan as the Woolworth Building did that of lower Manhattan. Residents of its upper stories had unobstructed views in all directions for a distance of twenty-five miles on clear days, “panorama[s] unexcelled in all New York,” Emery Roth boasted.
It was a new way of living for the rich. They became sky dwellers, their “mansions in the clouds” higher than anyone had ever lived. In its architectural aspirations alone, the Ritz Tower expressed the shoot-for-the-moon spirit of the Jazz Age. Sculpted in rusticated limestone3 , it rose from its base “like a telescope,” up through its set-back terraces to a square tower crowned by a glistening copper roof.
1 Blue-bloods : aristocrats
2 Zoning law : loi d'urbanisation
3 Limstone : type of white stone
In what city is the scene set? Justify with two elements from the text.
Who are the characters present?
What are they doing?
When does the scene take place?
Name three types of construction that Eddie has noticed in his city.
Explain two ways in which the new constructions have an impact on the landscape.
What are Eddie's feelings about the changes in the landscape?
What are Beck's feelings about these changes?
Compare and contrast how they react to the changes.
Pick out information about the Ritz Tower: Name of the architect.
Pick out information about the Ritz Tower: Opening date.
Pick out information about the Ritz Tower: Precise location. (At least two elements)
This type of architecture is compared to two objects in the text. Name them.
Pick out why the zoning law of 1916 was voted.
What choices did architects face after the zoning law of 1916?
What made the Ritz Tower exceptional at that time? Answer with a quote.
Why did rich people want to live in such buildings ?
What representation of New York City is given in the document?
Compare and contrast the visions of progress given in the three documents.