New York is a magical place, as you know.
And yet sometimes it surprises us greatly.
Take, for instance, the Sudden Appearance of the Bulletin Board on the corner of 6th avenue (what the tourists call Avenue of the Americas) and Charlton Street.
now Charlton Plaza (for this is what that small yet perfectly tended patch of land is called) occupies that corner of manhattan.
and one day a Bulletin Board appeared – proud as Punch.
black painted frame, a goodly thick glass and a keyhole.
who owns the Key? we thought, curiously looking around.
and being that we’ve worked in digital for many-a-year we looked, in Vain, for a way to “respond” to the Bulletin Board.
the Park remained mum on the subject.
not an email address, a website, a social media presence or even a telephone number.
and then – not at regular intervals (that we could ascertain) New Information would Appear in the bulletin board.
historical Prints of the area – interesting factoids and curious ephemera discussed.
who was the Curator of the Bulletin Board?
we asked around (we know many people in-the-know).
it took a while.
and then we got to the right person.
said Mary Beth
Richard curates the bulletin board.
do you have his number?
could you factor an Introduction for us?
Mary Beth is Most Accommodating.
and so – today – we took tea (actually, coffee) at Cafe Henri, around the corner from the Bulletin Board with Richard Blodgett who is a writer, historian and general Pillar of the Neighbo(u)rhood (being President of the Block Association).
He has written a fascinating account of Charlton Street here which one can download as a PDF, most helpfully.
so – we started – opening up the trusty moleskine #144 if you’re keeping track – and we are)…
how did the Bulletin Board come About?
Oh! a delicious late morning was had. Richard (for he said we could call him thus) was a splendid storyteller (underpinned with excellent facts because Richard was a reporter in the 1960s on the Wall Street Journal and so most definitely au fait with the facts) and told us all about the Bulletin Board.
Harry Schroder manages the park – Charlton Plaza – and wanted a bulletin board to put in notices and announcements about the park – such as planting days and so forth. But then we found we didn’t have a huge number of announcements so I started putting in vintage prints of the area and the story behind the picture.
Some of the prints come from archival work Richard does for local history (especially being President of the Block Association and thus renowned for knowing about the area) or the Museum of the City of New York or the New York Public Library – OR – rather splendidly – from local people who find out that he is curating the Bulletin Board and provide material from their family histories. The pictures and stories range from those of 120 years ago (a kind preacher at the church on what was Macdougal across the street who gave out bread – but only After the Sermon so he was guaranteed a full house – clever chap) to the destruction caused by the creation of 6th avenue (that was Quite a Forceful picture with the houses pulled down and the street exposed for the innards of the Subway) in the 1920s to – oh how we wish we had a webcam trained on the Bulletin Board so you could see for yourself.
Richard’s favo(u)rite post? He couldn’t say. But he did acknowledge that the sight of people walking down 6th avenue and pausing by the Bulletin Board cheers him greatly (and he has been known to approach and explain but not claim ownership, which is very understated and rather nice).
we told him that we posted on Instagram and put what we thought was an amusing quip:
look! there’s a Bulletin Board near where we live so if the interweb breaks down we’ll have a way of communicating with each other locally still
and then the laugh was on Us – when hurricane Sandy blew into town and yes, blew out the Interweb south of 29th street.
we were very grateful for the Bulletin Board during that week of blackout.
it felt comforting.
a way to link us to the past.
just as we start to say goodbye to manhattan.
thank you, bulletin board.
and thank you Richard.