Source: New York City, J. S. Buckingham
The hotels are generally on a larger scale than in England. The great Astor House, which overlooks the Park from the west side of Broadway, is much larger in area than the largest hotels in London or Paris; it makes up 600 beds, and has a proportionate establishment to Suit the scale of its general operations. It is built wholly of granite, is chaste in its style of architecture, and is called after the rich John Jacob Astor.
Of places of public amusement there are a great number, including six theaters, which are well filled every night, though the majority of what would be called the more respectable classes of society, the most opulent, and the most religious members of the community do not generally patronize or approve of theatrical exhibitions under the present management.
The private dwellings contain, as must be the case in all large cities, a great variety of kinds and descriptions. The older houses are small, and mostly built of wood, painted yellow or white. These are now confined to the residences of the poorer classes, and are fast disappearing in every quarter, their places being occupied by substantial buildings of brick, though here and there are a few with granite fronts. The style of decoration, in the steps of ascent, the area of railings, and the doors, is more florid and ornamental than in the best parts of London, and the interior of the principal houses may be described as spacious, handsome, and luxurious, with lofty passages, good staircases, large rooms, and costly and gorgeous furniture. There are many individual houses of much greater splendor in London than any to be seen in New York, especially in the mansions of the English nobility; but, on the whole, the number of large, commodious, and elegantly furnished private dwellings in New York is much greater in proportion to the whole population than those in London, and approaches nearer to the ratio of Edinburgh or Paris.
The streets are very unequal in their proportions and conditions. The great avenue of Broadway is striking from its continuous and unbroken length of three miles in a straight line; but its breadth, about eighty feet, is not sufficiently ample for the due proportion of its length. It is, moreover, wretchedly paved, both in the center and on the sides. Large holes and deep pits are frequently seen in the former; and in the latter, while before some houses the slabs of stone are large, uniform, and level, there is often an immediate transition from these to broken masses of loose stones, that require the greatest caution to pass over, especially in wet or frosty weather. The lighting and cleansing of the streets are not nearly so good as in the large towns of England, the gas being scanty in quantity, the lamps too far removed from each other, and the body of scavengers both weak in numbers and deficient in organizations. Some of the smaller streets are almost impassable in times of rain and snow; and, when not incommoded by a profusion of mud or water, they are prolific in their supply of dust. Many of the streets have trees planted along the edge of the foot pavement on each side, which in summer affords an agreeable shade, but in autumn it has the disagreeable effect of strewing the path with falling leaves, and in winter it makes the aspect more dreary.
A custom prevails, in the principal streets for shops, of having wooden pillars planted along the outer edge of the pavement, with horizontal beams reaching from pillar to pillar, not unlike the stanchions and crosspieces of a ropewalk.
Broadway, which is greatly
disfigured by these, is therefore much inferior to Regent Street in London in
the general air of cleanliness, neatness, light, spaciousness, good pavement,
and fine shops, by which the latter is characterized; and although the number
of beautiful and gayly dressed ladies, who make
Broadway their morning promenade, uniting shopping, visiting, and walking at
the same time, gives it a very animated appearance of a fine day, between
twelve and two o'clock, yet the absence of handsome equipages and fine horses,
and the fewness of well-dressed gentlemen who have leisure to devote to morning
promenades of pleasure occasions Broadway to be interior in the general effect
of brilliance and elegance to the throng of Regent Street on a fine day in May,
between three and four o'clock.
The population of New York is estimated at present to be little short of 300,000. Of these perhaps there are 20,000 foreigners, including English and persons from Canada and the British possessions, and 30,000 strangers from other states of the Union, making therefore the fixed resident population 250,000 and the floating population about 50,000 more. The greatest number of these are engaged in commerce or trade, with a due admixture of professional men, as clergy, physicians, and lawyers. But among them all there are fewer than perhaps in any other community in the world who live without any ostensible avocation. The richest capitalists still take a part in the business proceedings of the day; and men who have professedly retired and have no counting-house or mercantile establishment still retain so much of the relish for profitable occupation that they mingle freely with the merchants, and are constantly found to be the buyers and sellers of stock, in funds, or shares in companies, canals, railroads, banks, et cetera.
The result of all this is to produce the busiest community that any man could desire to live in. In the streets all is hurry and bustle; the very carts, instead of being drawn by horses at a walking pace, are often met at a gallop, and always in a brisk trot.