One of the crown jewels of Manhattan, the grand dame of New York City, is turning 100. We are talking, of course, about Grand Central Terminal. A century ago, on February 2, 1913 – after a decade of construction – the building that would revolutionize commuter train travel opened its doors.

There isn’t anything to say that hasn’t been said before about the building’s grandiose and tumultuous history. So, we offer something else to commemorate one of the most amazing buildings in the city: a 360 look at Grand Central. Part of a larger project photographing iconic landmarks in glorious 360 degrees, we teamed up with Shots 360 and photographer Thomas Erh, the man behind the lens of interactive 360º panoramic photography, to document some of our favorite Old New York places.



General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York | OHNY

While we were checking out the lobby of the Chrysler Building,  we got a tip from an OHNY volunteer that we really should visit the General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen,  an organization dating back to 1785 and headquartered at 20 West 44th St. since 1885. Well,  say no more!  

Back in 1785,  things were not going too well for New York City. Heavily damaged by war,  occupation and a massive fire,  the city was broke and its citizens even more so. As a response to the terrible times,  a group of 22 tradesman (blacksmith, silversmith, sail maker, potter, shoe scrimper, bell hanger among others) got together to form a society for mutual help and cooperation. Their goal was to help each other out in times of need,  such as sickness,  distress and to help the widows and orphans of members who died in poverty. They also wished to “encourage the mechanic interests of the city.” And so the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen was born.
From its early accomplishments of working with the legislature to impose tariffs on imports,  the Society took an interest in social reform when,  in the 1820s,  it became involved in improving public education. At that time there was no public school system,  and only two free schools existed in the entire city - so the Society created the Mechanics Institute School,  where members’ children attended for free and others paid a small fee. A separate girls’ school was added the following year.

The Apprentice’s Library,  which was operated by the Society,  was one of the first public libraries in New York City. In its first day,  over 300 books were checked out.

Throughout the years,  the Society evolved,  opening a nigh school for laborers who worked all day. It also offered separate courses for women in subjects such as stenography,  and typewriting – a move that was well ahead of its time,  as women had yet enter the office workforce in any significant numbers. In the early 1900s,  courses grew to include automobile drafting and industrial electricity.

To this day,  the Society maintains the library,  offering lectures and tuition free evening instruction on trades-related education. It is the oldest privately endowed technical school in New York City,  with more than 18, 000 alumni.