If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

October Interviews
10/2 Debra H. Goldstein, Two Bites To Many
10/10 Connie Berry, A Legacy of Murder
10/17 Lida Sideris, Double Murder or Nothing
10/23 Toni L. P. Kelner writing as Leigh Perry, The Skeleton Stuffs A Stocking
10/30 Jennifer David Hesse, Autumn Alibi

Saturday Guest Bloggers:
10/5 Ang Pompano
10/12 Eyes of Texas Anthology Writers
10/19 Neil Plakcy

WWK Bloggers: 10/26 Kait Carson


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Lyrical Press will publish Kaye George's Vintage Sweets mystery series. The first book, Revenge Is Sweet, will be released in March. Look for the interview here on 3/11.

Shari Randall will be writing again for St. Martin's, perhaps under a pseudonym. We look forward to reading Shari's Ice Cream Shop Mystery series debuting next year. Congratulations, Shari!

Susan Van Kirk's A Death At Tippett Pond was released on June 15th. Read E. B. Davis's interview with Susan.

KM Rockwood's "Frozen Daiquiris" appears in The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, edited by Judy Penz Sheluk. The anthology was released on June 18th.

Fishy Business anthology authors include KM Rockwood, Debra Goldstein, and James M. Jackson. This volume was edited by Linda Rodriguez.

Please read Margaret S. Hamilton and Debra Goldstein's short stories (don't ask about their modus operandi) in a new anthology, Cooked To Death Vol. IV: Cold Cut Files.

Warren Bull's Abraham Lincoln: Seldom Told Stories was released. It is available at: GoRead: https://www.goread.com/book/abraham-lincoln-seldom-told-stories or at Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/ydaklx8p

Grace Topping's mystery, Staging is Murder was released April 30.


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Seneca Village in Central Park by Kait Carson

Part of my growing up years were spent near New York City. My parents, both native New Yorkers, thought knowing the joys of the city was vital to their child’s formative years.

I should preface this by saying I was a late child. My closest sibling is nine years my elder. I was also the only girl. By definition in the fifties and sixties, I was Daddy’s girl. It was my father who undertook my NYC education. We made trips to the Metropolitan Opera twice a year, Radio City Music Hall for the Christmas show, the Statue of Liberty (climbed those steps a million times it seemed), the observation tower of the Empire State Building, the Museum of Natural History, the Hayden Planetarium, Carnegie Hall for a concert, and the Bryant Library (the one fronting Bryant Park with the lions). We also attended the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Christmas Tree lighting at Rockefeller Center, skated in the Rockefeller Center rink and the Wolman Rink in Central Park, and rambled through the park. So many visits to the Park that I had a personal acquaintance with Balto, the statue dedicated to the dog who carried the diphtheria antitoxin from Anchorage to Nome, and climbed the Alice in Wonderland statue annually until I was nine.

Had you asked me I would have told you I knew everything about Central Park. That it was designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux. That it was entirely constructed in the center of the city from land that had been farms and a few small settlements in the 1850s. That Olmstead and Vaux were chosen because their vision was to populate the park with native plant species. A very advanced ecological view at the time. That nearly every park feature was manmade including the waterfalls. That there is only one straight walkway in the park, the Mall. That the carousel had golden rings and if you caught one, you got a free ride. Wonder if it still has the rings.

Yep, a lot to know. I also knew that unless you were going to Tavern on the Green, you did not go into the park at night. That the park was deteriorating and was a high crime area. That didn’t stop us from skating there—the Wolman Rink is on the periphery. Nor did it stop the youth of New York City from invading the park on March 7, 1970, the day of the full solar eclipse. We gathered in Central Park near the Sheep Meadow. There’s a large rock there. We proved our trust in people under 30 by diving off the rock and expecting to be caught by our fellow compatriots.

But what I didn’t know proved to be very interesting. Recently I saw a book on the Barnes & Noble discount shelf. Death Angel by Linda Fairstein. The cover featured a depiction of the Bethesda Angel, also called the Angel of the Waters who overlooks the Lake in Central Park. I scooped the book up expecting to visit again so many of the sites of my childhood--although in a cleaner, safer park than I knew in my youth.

Have you ever heard of Seneca Village? I never had. Seneca Village was an African-American settlement sacrificed to the building of the park. Now, don’t misunderstand, villages and farms dotted the park and all were lost to eminent domain when the park became a legislated reality. Seneca Village was not singled out. But it was unique.

Founded in 1825, Seneca Village was arguably the largest settlement of free African-Americans in the US and definitely the largest in New York City with residents (African-American, German, and Irish) numbering approximately 264 in 1857 when the property was purchased by city.  In addition to numerous houses, there were three churches and a vibrant village. It is believed that half of the residents of Seneca Village had the vote, which required owning property valued at $250. Residences in the Village ranged from shanty structures to property worth $4,000. I have no idea what that translates into in 2016 dollars, but I’m betting it’s a bucket. When the land was taken in 1857 the residents of Seneca Village were displaced and never again united in a community. What a sad commentary.

In 2011, Columbia University, my father’s alma mater, began the controlled excavation of Seneca Village. Among the relics found, were pottery shards and relics of the people who lived in the village long buried beneath the green fields of the park. These discoveries form part of the premise for the story of Death Angel.

Without Linda Fairstein’s book, I would never have learned of Seneca Village. Have you ever read a work of fiction that made you investigate further? What did you learn?


Jim Jackson said...

I had no clue – and when I first read the name Seneca Village, I thought of the native American tribe, part of the Iroquois confederation. It is hard to remember that NYC started off as a collection of small villages that eventually included five boroughs, each the size of a county.

~ Jim

Margaret Turkevich said...

I've learned so many factoids about NYC landmarks from Fairstein's books. My favorite is the one about Poe's house.

Kait said...

@Jim, My first thought was the native American connection as well. The fact that I could have grown up in the area, spent so much time in the park and never have heard of the connection, even in the late 1960s and early 1970s when so much of African American history was being brought to the fore surprised and intrigued me. I had done a lot of research into early New York (during the New Amsterdam days) for my history thesis, so the village aspect was well imprinted. Somehow I had the impression that the area that became the Park was strictly farmland. The bread basket of Manhattan as it were. Of course, an area so large would have sported villages. Amazing how we can blind ourselves to simple truths.

@Margaret - I know, I learn something with each Fairstein book. In addition to her superb skills as a storyteller, I love reading her books for NY nuggets.

Grace Topping said...

Kait, your blog makes me want to hop in my car and travel up I-95 for a visit to NYC. It is so close, but we never go there. After reading about all the places you've visited, we'll have to rectify that. Interesting history about Seneca Village. It sounds a lot like what happened to a large section of D.C.

Gloria Alden said...

What a wonderful childhood you had, Kait. My first thought about Seneca Village was also members of the Iroquois tribe. How fascinating that information is. Yes, I have read many things in books that made me research further, but I can't remember any particular one right now.

I know when a sister and her husband got us started on the Transcendental period in New England when they recommended a book about Bronson Alcott. From there we read lots aout Ralph Waldo Emerson and of course, all Henry David Thoreau's works.

Kait said...

@Grace, the Park is so much safer than it was in my day (NYC is too as a rule) that it would be a fun trip. There are places in the Park that I've heard about, but never been to because of the danger. I'd love to do a walking tour again--and find out about those caves in the Fairstein book.

@Gloria, definitely had hands on parents. Sometimes with unintended consequences that provided unique educational experiences. Like the time we went to the Washington Monument and my mother screamed in fear the entire way up in the elevator (it was rickety, that much I remember) so after walking around the viewing platform at the top, my father decided we were taking the steps down. The entire stairwell from top to bottom has carvings in the stone and stories to tell. It was a fascinating trip. I was only 9 at the time, I wish I remembered more of what I saw.

I always wanted to visit Walden Pond and other sites. Maybe some day! Have you been?

Jim Jackson said...

Walden Pond is a state park with a beach, so it's very crowded during the summer. However, there are walking/hiking trails all around the area that are delightful and not heavily trafficed. If you're there, visit the Concord Meadows for a wonderful fresh water meadow. The Battle Road Trail that follows the battle from Concord back to Lexington is also interesting and depending on the time of year can be crowded or a relatively peaceful ramble in the middle of Boston's suburbs.

Shari Randall said...

Hi Kait, thank you for the wonderful memories - also thanks to Jim and Gloria for mentioning Walden Pond. We lived in Boston when my older daughter was a baby and we loved to hike and swim at Walden Pond!
I grew up in CT and often took the train in to the city, even as a teen. I, too, remember how different and dangerous it was in the 70s - and how exciting! How tame Times Square is now, and frankly, dull. Now I'm itching to get to Linda Fairstein's book.

Kait said...

@Jim. since my favorite times of the year are cool one's I'll take your advice and plan a Walden Pond hike in the early winter! My brother went to Providence College in the 1960s. We would drop him off and head to Boston. I remember following the Battle Road Trail, mostly self-guided in those days, following the permanent markers. It was a wonderful trip. Since then, I've read Sheila Connelly's books set in the area and now I want to go again.

@Shari. I think we may be in the minority remembering Times Square as a place to exercise caution. We used to take the bus to Port Authority and the 42nd Street area from the bus terminal to Times Square was...interesting. My Dad grew up in Yonkers, NY. He used to talk of walking from his house to the New Year's celebration in Times Square as a teenager. Can you imagine! Highly recommend the Fairstein book.

KM Rockwood said...

I haven't been up to NYC in a while, although my daughter is up there right now, at a program at St. John's University.

I was born in Yonkers, and grew up on Long Island. I remember Times Square when it was an iffy place. My "little" brother Charlie was an NYC cop who walked the midnight Time Square beat for years. He remembers when they were told to ignore all kinds of outrageous behavior, as long as no one was getting hurt, and then told to crack down on everything from public urination to three card Monte.

There's lots of interesting history, and a number of interesting tidbits I know, but I'd never heard of Seneca Village.

Kait said...

Like you, I haven't been to NYC in years. Friends of mine in Maine went to the city in the summer and told me how clean it was. Gobsmacked comes to mind! That was not the NYC I knew. I'm glad that the city has managed to rein in crime and resolve most of its problems. At the time I didn't realize it, but the city was having huge financial troubles in the 1960s and 1970s. It explains a lot.