"I propose to write for you some things which I can remember about New York when I was a boy," begins Gene Schermerhorn, drawing his nephew Phil--and us--into an enchanting account of real life in a story-book New York
Imagine, New York without skyscrapers, automobiles, or electricity, and with a population of 520,000. Grand Central Station, the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park did not exist yet...in fact, New York itself hardly existed north of Eighth Street. Gene Schermerhorn's letters to his young nephew, Phil, gave us a taste of what life was like for a boyliving on Manhattan's West 23rd Street--surrounded by farms. Gene describes houses, public buildings, streets, and neighborhoods [he was a tireless explorer as a boy] and remembers the games he and his friends played. With obvious enjoyment, he recounts the experiences with the volunteer fire department and tells of the winter rides down Broadway on the public transportation of the day...20 horse sleighs. These illustrated letters evoke a sense of the period as no history book could; and the reader, responding to the author's interest, affection, and wonder, receives along with Phil the gift of Gene's New York.
Gene Schermerhorn was born in 1842 and was one of the eighth generation of Schermerhorn's to live in New York. He was a gentle, home-loving man about whom very little is known. He died in 1922. Gene's letters to Phil were lost for many years. At one point discarded and found in a thrift shop, they passed from hand to hand before they were discovered by Barbara Cohen, publisher of this book.