CHAPTER XVI. Position of New York - Externals of the city - Conveyances - Maladministration - The stores - The hotels - Curiosities of the hospital - Ragged schools - The bad book - Monster schools - Amusements and oyster saloons - Monstrosities - A resta
New York, from its position, population, influence, and commerce, is worthy to be considered the metropolis of the New World. The situation of it is very advantageous. It is built upon Manhattan Island, which is about thirteen miles in length by two in breadth. It has the narrowest portion of Long Island Sound, called East River, on its east side; the Hudson, called the North River, environs it in another direction; while these two are connected by a narrow strait, principally artificial, denominated the Harlem River. This insular position of the city is by no means intelligible to the stranger, but it is obvious from the top of any elevated building. The dense part of New York already covers a large portion of the island; and as it daily extends northward, the whole extent of insulated ground is divided into lots, and mapped out into streets.
But, not content with covering the island, which, when Hendrick Hudson first discovered it, abounded with red men, who fished along its banks and guided their bark canoes over the surrounding waters, New York, under the names of Brooklyn, Williamsburgh, and four or five others, has spread itself on Long Island, Staten Island, and the banks of the Hudson. Brooklyn, on Long Island, which occupies the same position with regard to New York that Lambeth and Southwark do to London, contains a population of 100,000 souls. Brooklyn, Williamsburgh, Hoboken, and Jersey City are the residences of a very large portion of the merchants of New York, who have deserted the old or Dutch part of the town, which is consequently merely an aggregate of offices. Floating platforms, moved by steam, with space in the middle part for twelve or fourteen carriages and horses, and luxurious covered apartments, heated with steam-pipes on either side, ply to and fro every five minutes at the small charge of one halfpenny a passenger, and the time occupied in crossing the ferries is often less than that of the detention on Westminster Bridge. Besides these large places, Staten Island and Long Island are covered with villa residences. Including these towns, which are in reality part of this vast city, New York contains a population of very nearly a million! Broadway, which is one of the most remarkable streets in the world, being at once the Corso, Toledo, Regent Street, and Princes Street of New York, runs along the centre of the city, and is crossed at right angles by innumerable streets, which run down to the water at each side. It would appear as if the inventive genius of the people had been exhausted, for, after borrowing designations for their streets from every part of the world, among which some of the old Dutch names figure most refreshingly, they have adopted the novel plan of numbering them. Thus there are ten "Avenues," which run from north to south, and these are crossed by streets numbered First Street, Second Street, and so on. I believe that the skeletons of one hundred and fifty numbered streets are in existence. The southern part of the town still contains a few of the old Dutch houses, and there are some substantial red-brick villas in the vicinity, inhabited by the descendants of the old Dutch families, who are remarkably exclusive in their habits.
New York is decidedly a very handsome city. The wooden houses have nearly all disappeared, together with those of an antiquated or incongruous appearance; and the new streets are very regularly and substantially built of brown stone or dark brick. The brick building in New York is remarkably beautiful. The windows are large, and of plate-glass, and the whole external finish of the houses is in a splendid but chaste style, never to be met with in street-architecture in England. As the houses in the city are almost universally heated by air warmed by a subterranean stove, very few chimneys are required, and these are seldom visible above the stone parapets which conceal the roofs. Anthracite coal is almost universally used, so there is an absence of that murky, yellow canopy which disfigures English towns. The atmosphere is remarkably dry, so that even white marble edifices, of which there are several in the town, suffer but little from the effects of climate.