This is related to last night’s post about the New York City Draft Riots, which began 150 years ago yesterday. It started right here, at E 47th and Third Avenue in Manhattan. It’s much different now of course, but during the Civil War this corner was the site of the Ninth District Provost Marshal’s Office, where numbers of draftees were being read on the morning of July 13, 1863. An angry crowd, mostly working class people, had been gathering since dawn. They marched on the Provost’s Office, broke windows and eventually burned the place down.
It’s hard to visualize these 19th century passions while standing on a modern streetcorner like this, in what is now part of the Midtown business district. But urban history is often invisible. When I last visited New York, in 2005, I thought about all the blood, bones and detritus of history that lay in the ancient dirt under these busy streets. I’m fascinated by the history of cities, especially in the 19th century, so this kind of thing definitely piques my interest.