Archive | December, 2012

Second Avenue & 2nd Street

27 Dec

I’m a “blogger” (no really!) but I don’t have internet….not at my place at least.  It’s one of the things that makes it hard for me to write too many posts.  I don’t regret it most of the time – there’s some good trade-offs; when you don’t have internet for example you’ll find a lot more time for reading from a wide variety of books.  I just finished one on James Monroe (I’m gonna try to go through the presidents – I like lists) and I just started one called You Can Be a Stock Market Genius (no really!), not so much because I want to be a stock market genius as that I hope to understand a little more about the financial world.  Because it’s sort of how the real world works.  The problem is, I guess, that to really understand the financial world you’d probably have to be in it, which would mean among other things having internet at your house, which would mean you don’t have much time for reading from a wide variety of books.  That’s kind of the problem in general; it’s exciting to work, honestly: to be involved in something and to feel busy, to understand that human endeavor is equal somehow to meaning; it just kind of sucks sometimes – the things it takes away from you.

It’s along the lines of that old debate of city vs. country, ie. you can’t really have them both.  Though it might have been a little easier back when the city and the country weren’t so far apart – when you could have a little plot of farmland in the East Village.  Though then again, even when you could have a plot of farmland in the East Village it probably wasn’t the merchants and the stock brokers that were tilling them.  Still, you have to figure things were less busy in the financial world back before there was internet, or telephones, or telegrams; back when news took weeks and months to travel.  I guess something can only feel complicated relative to its time period.  I’m no Republican (no really!) but it is pretty amazing to read about the early federal government, and how inherently small it was.  It seems like it must have been so much easier to run things.

The early federal government was run out of NYC, as you maybe know (they probably weren’t tilling too much farmland either).  Washington was inaugurated as the first president on the site of today’s Federal Hall (April 1789), and on that same site the First U.S. Congress met.  That First Congress included James Monroe as a senator from Virginia (starting in Nov. 9, 1790), just a month before the federal capital moved to Philadelphia.  Monroe had already spent some time in New York as a member on the Continental Congress, and it was in New York that he met and married – at Trinity Church – his wife, Elizabeth Kortright Monroe in 1786.

New York was also the site of Monroe’s death, on July 4th, 1831 (making him the third president to die on the 4th).  Although he was a Virginian – the last of the “Virginia Dynasty” of Jefferson, Madison, Monroe – he had come to live with his daughter and son-in-law in NYC, after the death of his wife.  He was buried in the brand new New York City Marble Cemetery on 2nd Street, between First and Second Avenue – with a lot of pomp and pageantry.  The New York City Marble Cemetery was the second non-sectarian cemetery in the city, inspired by the first non-sectarian cemetery in the city: the New York Marble Cemetery, just around the corner on 2nd Avenue between 2nd and 3rd Street.  That first Marble cemetery was popular enough to inspire the creation of the second (and clearly inspire the choice of name) – laid out on land owned by Samuel Cowdrey.  Monroe’s son-in-law Samuel Gouverneur owned a vault in the NYC Marble Cemetery and so it was there (in a real boost to the cemetery’s prestige) that Monroe was laid to rest.


You won’t find Monroe’s remains there anymore though.  As a native son of Virginia he was only going to be allowed to be buried somewhere else for so long.  In 1857 (or ’58) the Virginia State Legislature passed a resolution to have Monroe’s remains returned – the Gouverneur family agreed – and on July 2nd, 1858 he was dug up and eventually sent by steamer to Richmond, where he was reburied in Hollywood Cemetery; today a National Historic Landmark.  Both the New York City and the New York Marble Cemetery survive today as well, with the latter one open to visitors at least once a month between April and October.  The New York City Marble Cemetery – and former site of Monroe’s vault – isn’t open to the public, though you can walk by and stare in through the iron gates.  And they do have a website – the home page of which states “You have most likely come here as part of genealogical research on your family and we are happy for you to visit.”  I don’t know, there’s something I find very soothing in that line – there’s nothing they’re trying to sell – unlike a lot of the internet which tells you something more like “Look at this every few minutes! No every few seconds!”  Don’t go reading from a wide variety of books.