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Toynbee Tiles

Raising the dead on Jupiter! This idea is why one person has embedded linoleum tiles in the asphalt of major avenues of NYC and in other cities around the world. Look down when walking around, and soon you start to notice them. Where did that idea come from?  What is "Toynbee"? Who is the person responsible for these tiles? Is human resurrection on Jupiter feasible? (No.) Kate and Kathleen discuss these questions and more, in Episode T of ABC Gotham.

The Toynbee tile documentary is available for viewing on Vimeo.

Why yes, there is an official website and an official blog about Toynbee tiles.

The tiles were the inspiration behind the feature film West of Her.

As always, we have tons of pictures on our Facebook page


Today, Snug Harbor in Staten Island is a busy cultural center and gorgeous botanic garden. But when Sailors' Snug Harbor initially opened in 1833, it was the country's first home for retired merchant seamen. It consisted of three beautiful Greek Revival- style buildings on a 130-acre plot on the north shore of Staten Island, overlooking the Kill Van Kull. This self- sustaining community grew their own food and produced their own power, and provided the retired sailors with health care, housing, spiritual edification, and amusement. Like any historic site, it has plenty of juicy stories (both good and bad) and Kate and Kathleen tell you about them all. And the site should not be missed today! 

Don't miss our Facebook page for astonishing images of the Wandering-in-Bamboo Courtyard, Moon Embracing Pool, Gurgling Rock Bridge, and other amazing things you can visit. 

Ready to go right now? Here's how to get there: Take the Staten Island Ferry, follow the signs to the S44 bus, take the “SI Mall Yukon Ave”- bound bus for 6 minutes (10 stops) to Lafayette and Fillmore St, and then follow the signs for an 8 min- walk to Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden.

We see a lot of similarities between Snug Harbor and Governors Island, especially with the city's effort to preserve historically significant buildings and keep out condos.


Planning a wedding?  Consider Snug Harbor.  Gorgeous photos: guaranteed!

Here's the New York Times article about the murder- suicide.  It's also a vivid example of the differences between journalistic standards then and now.

Travel Channel's "Ghost Adventurers" team went to investigate the site of the murder- suicide for themselves. You can watch a clip which is sort of hilarious because host Zak Bagans (left) has no idea what to do with his hands throughout this excerpt. Kathleen thinks the actor playing Reverend Robert A. Quinn in the re-enactment is clearly Edward James Olmos’ younger brother. (Warning: Unnecessarily grisly image at 1:19.)

Steve Warran has a great article archive about Sailors Snug Harbor, including beautiful newspaper illustrations of daily life when the sailors lived there.


Doctors and medical students have not always been respected, rigorously- trained, caring professionals.  In fact, around the time of the Revolutionary War and thereafter, they were regarded with suspicion and even horror.  Not only was the job itself grisly and failure- prone, but for students, dissection was nearly impossible due to strong cultural biases against desecrating bodies.  Forced to find a way to learn about the human body, medical students hired-- or become-- Resurrection Men, or grave robbers.  Their callous indifference to mourning families offended the sensibilities of the citizens of New York City. Finally, after a particularly gruesome encounter in April 1788, New Yorkers decided they would no longer stand for constant grave- robbing. A two- day riot ensued, in which both medical schools in New York City were attacked, anatomical models were destroyed, and an estimated 20 people were killed.

How has medical education changed over time?  This episode of Sawbones, Kathleen's favorite medical history podcast, tells you everything you need to know.

Check out the Facebook page for lots of good images!

Discreetly hidden away in Prospect Park, there is a 10- acre cemetery.  The land belonged to the Quakers of New York City long before the park grew up around it.  It's hard to imagine a more peaceful and happy place to be laid to rest.  Join Kate and Kathleen to learn a bit more about Quakers, about how the cemetery happened, and even about how you might be able to claim a plot on this patch of private land in one of the most gorgeous parks in the world. Learn about how to get to the cemetery to pay your respects.

Learn more about the Friends Society (aka Quakers) here, or specifically NYC Quakers and their quarterly meeting or monthly meeting. All burial- related information is available as well.

You can learn more about Mary McDowell, the badass Quaker schoolteacher who now has a Brooklyn school named after her.

Don't forget to visit the Facebook page for lots of great photos-- and the map to the cemetery!



New York City has an admirable history of investing in public art.  Ordinances require a certain amount of money to be spent on art in all city-owned buildings. Parks Department also strives to bring art to everyone, not just fans of museums and galleries.  The upshot is a ton of fascinating sculptures and murals to see throughout all five boroughs.  And of course everyone-- every citizen, every artist, and every patron of the arts-- loves every piece that has been created.

Ha!  This wouldn't be ABC Gotham without controversy!  Listen to Kate and Kathleen describe works by Diego Rivera, Richard Serra, Keith Haring, and Jeanne-Claude and Christo. And we'll tell you all about the graffiti mecca 5 Pointz in Long Island City.  We STRONGLY recommend checking out the pictures on the Facebook page-- verbal descriptions can only do so much!

In case you can't get enough 5 Pointz images, take a look at this great series of pics, here for some amazing before- and - after pics, and a great slideshow of the day after the building was whitewashed. Last, in case you're curious, here's the reason why you can't go to 5 Pointz today.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude have created amazing large- scale works all over the world.



CSI tells us only part of the story.  After an unexplained death, what happens back at the morgue?  Who is in charge of making sure clues are recorded so crimes can be prosecuted?  New York City's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) is currently one of the best in the world, but that hasn't always been the case.  It was not so long ago that New York City was saddled with a corrupt and ineffective system, with coroners accepting bribes to change death certificates or ignore inconvenient homicides.  Listen as Kate and Kathleen tell you all about some truly reprehensible coroners from the past, and the struggle to implement our current medical examiner system.

Kate was horrified to discover, in the course of her research, that Murderpedia is a thing.

Blood On The Table by Colin Evans is really interesting. It's the whole reason Kathleen made Kate do this topic.

A coroner would get paid $27.75 per body in 1868, so they were very motivated to grab all the bodies they could find.  That's approximately $477.00 in today's money, according to MeasuringWorth.  And that scant $11,000 annual salary?  That's $189,000 today. Um, yes, please.

OCME had a close relationship with Bellevue Hospital early in its existence.  Learn more about this beautiful and storied institution thanks to Untapped Cities!

Learn more about the Jake Walk that afflicted drinkers of Jamaican rum extract during Prohibition.  Because it was poisoned. On purpose. No joke.

PBS American Experience bring you an interactive comic book.  Follow forensic chemist Alexander Gettler and chief medical examiner Dr. Charles Norris through 1920s New York City as they help solve crimes with groundbreaking forensic science.

Former CME Micheal Baden loves the spotlight.  He investigated the deaths of the lost Tsar Nicholas, John Belushi, the president of Poland, Nicole Brown Simpson, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner.

A bit more detail about the Murder at The Met.

And don't forget to check our Facebook page for lots of great images, including gorgeous photos of Bellevue!  (Nothing gory, we promise.  Some bones, that's all.)



The exciting conclusion is here!  Listen to Kate and Kathleen explain how the unfortunate members of Operation Pastorius journey across the Atlantic and try to succeed in their mission. Learn about their grim passage, their brushes with the law, their muddled miscalculations, and best of all, their splendid spending sprees in New York City. An excellent This American Life describes the experience of one of the Florida men, Herbie Haupt. It's HIGHLY recommended.   Don't forget to check our Facebook page for more photos! 


Nazi spying operations in New York City didn't end with the Duquesne. Germans were reeling from the obliteration of their vast spy ring, and ample resources were dedicated to rebuilding German espionage in the USA.  This effort started with Operation Pastorius: a well- researched but poorly- executed effort to send saboteurs to bomb aluminum and magnesium plants, major bridges, and major railroad junctions.  This was a time when the German American Bund was going strong. However, it did not go as planned. One of the many errors in this plan was recruiting men of questionable loyalty to Germany.  Kate and Kathleen tell you all about the countless ways these plans went off the rails.

Check out the Facebook page for lots of great pictures, including a some terrifying ones of the American Bund Rally in Madison Square Garden in 1939.


Remember how we left World War II out of Episode E: Espionage?  Here's why!  There's so much cool information that we needed to separate it from the rest.  You're getting not one, not two, but THREE episodes to tell you about Nazis in New York City.  Yes, Nazi spies walked the streets of New York and worked to undermine the Allied effort during World War II.  

There were two major espionage efforts by the Third Reich, and in Part I of Episode N, Kate and Kathleen tell you all about the Duquesne Spy Ring.  This story is amazing on many levels.  You'll meet the first double agent in FBI history, William Sebold, who was an astonishingly brave and clever guy.  You'll meet their leader, ultra- spy extraordinaire Fredrick "Fritz" Joubert Duquesne, whose life story could have easily filled up three episodes. Last, you'll hear about some of the THIRTY- THREE spies who were brought to justice-- the most convictions for a single spy ring in American history.

And I strongly recommend going to the Facebook page for more images-- especially of foxy femme fatale Lily Stein.

Morris-Jumel Mansion

Up in Washington Heights, on Jumel Terrace between 160th and 162nd Streets, sits a beautiful Federal- style mansion that played a critical role in American history.  The oldest house in Manhattan (but not the oldest in New York City!), Morris-Jumel had residents and visitors including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr, Queen Elizabeth, and Robert Stack, host of "Unsolved Mysteries".  Listen and learn about some amazing, headstrong women who lived there, like Mary Phillipse Morris (one of only 3 women to be tried for treason after the Revolutionary War) and Eliza Jumel, who rose from humble beginnings and manged her investments with such skill that she became the wealthiest woman in the United States. And hear all about the Mansion today, where friendly and informed staffers answer your questions about the beautifully- restored Georgian interiors and the rumors of restless spirits that wander the halls to this day.

In case you wondered, the oldest house in the CITY is The Wycoff House Museum in Brooklyn.

Here are the details you need if you want to visit the mansion.

Big thanks to Jacquetta Szathmari, co-host of the great podcast Hey You Know It, for suggesting this topic!

The grounds are kept free of rats and mice by hardworking local cats.  

Of course I wouldn't mention the cats of Morris- Jumel without providing you with lots of pictures!

Don't forget to visit our Facebook page for more photos!


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