A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 12, 2017
“New York is never the same city for more than a dozen years altogether”

New York City has long been known for destroying old buildings and replacing them with new ones. Harper’s New Monthly Magazine‘s “Editor’s Easy Chair” wrote in July 1856:

“New York is notoriously the largest and least loved of our great cities. Why should it be loved as a city?  It is never the same city for a dozen years together. A man born in New York forty years ago finds nothing, absolutely nothing, of the New York he knew. If he chance to stumble upon a few old houses not yet leveled, he is fortunate. But the landmarks, the objects which marked the city to him, as a city, are gone.”

It is not known who authored this, but the Harper’s Monthly editor was Fletcher Harper (1806-1877). The passage has become popular with New York’s landmarking interests since the 1980s.


Google Books
July 1856, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine (New York, NY), “Editor’s Easy Chair,” pg. 272, col. 2:
New York is notoriously the largest and least loved of our great cities. Why should it be loved as a city?  It is never the same city for a dozen years together. A man born in New York forty years ago finds nothing, absolutely nothing, of the New York he knew. If he chance to stumble upon a few old houses not yet leveled, he is fortunate. But the landmarks, the objects which marked the city to him, as a city, are gone.

24 June 1956, Indianapolis (IN) Star, “Our Civic Buildings Should Be Landmarks” by Corbin Patrick, sec. 4, pg. 2, col. 6:
The point is made in a lament from Harper’s Monthly quoted in the current issue of American Heritage. “New York is notoriously the largest and least loved of our great cities.,” it said. “Why should it be loved as a city?  It is never the same city for a dozen years together.

“A man born in New York forty years ago finds nothing, absolutely nothing, of the New York he knew. If he chance to stumble upon a few old houses not yet leveled, he is fortunate. But the landmarks, the objects which marked the city to him, as a city, are gone.”

16 May 1987, Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL), “Manhattan: Despite a shift of corporate headquarters to suburbs, deterioration of the city’s courts, subways and schools and the nation’s highest building costs, a real estate boom is changing its face” by Rick Hampson, pg. 6B:
Such is the pace these days in Manhattan, where a construction boom is raising the skyline, extending the coastline, and proving, as Harper’s observed in 1856, that New York “is never the same city for a dozen years.”

New York (NY) Times
Who Swung the Wrecker’s Ball at the Old Met
Published: July 28, 1987
To the Editor:
(...)
My second comment might be ‘’So what else is new?’’ Consider the following lament that New York is never the same city for a dozen years together: ‘’A man born in New York 40 years ago finds nothing, absolutely nothing, of the New York he knew. If he chances to stumble upon a few old houses not yet leveled, he is fortunate. But the lamdmarks, the objects which marked the city to him, as a city, are gone.’’ Mr. Mann might be interested to know that those words appeared in Harper’s Monthly. In the issue of June 1856, to be precise (July 1856 is correct.—ed.).

I’m afraid that the only constants in New York City are hustle, change and philosopher cabbies (who may or may not be able to find Grand Central Terminal).
JOHN STEELE GORDON
North Salem, N.Y.,
July 3, 1987

22 November 1992, Pantagraph (Bloomington, IL), “Bigger they are the longer they stall,” pg. E1:
NEW YORK (AP) - Five years ago, this city was on the verge of a building boom that promised to raise its skyline, extend its coastline and prove once again that, as Harper’s observed in 1856, “New York is never the same city for a dozen years.”

Google Books
New York:
The Big Apple Quote Book

By Bob Blaisdell
Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, Inc.
2011
Pg. 18:
New York is notoriously the largest and least loved of our great cities. Why should it be loved as a city? It is never the same city for a dozen years altogether. A man born in New York forty years ago finds nothing, absolutely nothing, of the New York he knew.
Harper’s Magazine (1856)

Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2017
One October
Rachel Shuman is the director of the film One October, a time capsule of New York in 2008, “when gentrification is rapidly displacing the working and middle classes, Wall Street is plummeting, and Senator Obama is making his first presidential bid.”
(...)
RS: At the beginning of my film I have a quote from “Harper’s Monthly,” from 1856, that says, “New York is never the same city for more than a dozen years altogether.” So change is the nature of this beast, but I do agree that this wave of change is unlike any other the city has seen. It’s not the Jews replacing the Italians replacing the Irish; it’s of an entirely different order.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityNames/Phrases • Sunday, November 12, 2017 • Permalink