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New York in New York County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

The Crystal Palace

“... beautiful beyond description” – Mark Twain

 
 
The Crystal Palace Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, May 19, 2012
1. The Crystal Palace Marker
[Illustrations: left] The Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations opened in 1853. [top right] The teenager who grew up to be Mark Twain. [bottom right] No lives were lost when the Crystal Palace blazed in 1858. Click on image to enlarge.
Inscription.  By the early 1850s New York had grown to sufficient size and prominence that the city decided to host a major exhibition similar to London’s Great Exhibition of 1851. The Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations – a world’s fair precursor – opened July 14, 1853 in a still sparsely developed part of the city. Fortieth and Forty-second Streets bounded the four-acre site immediately west of the Croton Distributing Reservoir, today’s Bryant Park.

To house the exhibition, Georg Carstensen, and Charles Gildemeister designed a remarkable iron-and-glass structure, much like an enormous greenhouse. The building was inspired by the one built in London for its exhibition two years earlier, also called the Crystal Palace.

The Crystal Palace was one of the largest and most sophisticated designs that had ever been built in America. Octagonal in plan, it was surmounted by a soaring 123-foot-high dome, and inspired American architects and builders with the possibilities of iron construction. The exhibition hall comprised fifteen thousand panels of glass.

Four thousand exhibitors filled the hall with the industrial wares,
The Crystal Palace Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, May 19, 2012
2. The Crystal Palace Marker
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consumer goods, and art works of the nation. Elisha Graves Otis, a young inventor and entrepreneur, staged one of the most dramatic of the exhibits. Otis had been promoting his steam-powered elevators, but what, people wondered, would happen should the cable break? To allay such fears, he invented the automatic safety brake – but he had to demonstrate the invention.

Otis erected a high platform connected to one of his elevators. He himself got in the cab, and cut the cable. As the cab fell, his new spring-leaf safety brake was successfully activated.

A prominent New York merchant of china and glassware, who may have witnessed Otis’s demonstration at the fair, ordered and installed the invention in his new store at Broadway and Broome Street. The safety elevator in the Haughwout Building, completed in 1857 (and still standing), was the first in the world to be installed in a commercial building.

The exhibition set off one of the first major tourism booms in New York, and many hotels were built. One visitor was seventeen-year-old Samuel Langhorne Clemens of Hannibal, Missouri. Later, as Mark Twain, he wrote that the Crystal Place was “beautiful beyond description,” and marveled that the six thousand daily visitors to the exhibition were double the population of his hometown. Over one million people visited the Crystal Palace Exhibition
The Crystal Palace image. Click for full size.
New York Public Library, n/a
3. The Crystal Palace
before it closed on November 1, 1854. Despite its popularity, exhibition sponsors lost $300,000.

After the fair, the structure, believed to be fireproof, was leased for a variety of purposes. On October 5, 1858, in a spectacular blaze it burned to the ground. Remarkably, no lives were lost.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Notable Buildings. A significant historical date for this entry is July 14, 1938.
 
Location. 40° 45.268′ N, 73° 59.039′ W. Marker is in New York, New York, in New York County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of West 42nd Street and 6th Avenue (Avenue of the Americas). This marker is located in Bryant Park which is bounded by West 42nd Street, 6th Avenue (Avenue of the Americas), West 40th Street and the New York Public Library. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: New York NY 10018, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain (within shouting distance of this marker); Benito Juarez (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Early Bryant Park (about 300 feet away); Monuments in Bryant Park (about 300 feet away); Mercury Theatre (about 400 feet away); Bryant Park Today (about 400 feet away); Buildings Overlooking Bryant Park (about 500 feet away); The Garment District Mural (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in New York.
 
Also see . . .
The Crystal Palace image. Click for full size.
New York Public Library, n/a
4. The Crystal Palace

1. New York Crystal Palace - Wikipedia. New York's 1853 Exhibition was held on a site behind the Croton Distributing Reservoir, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues on 42nd Street, in what is today Bryant Park in the borough of Manhattan. (Submitted on July 3, 2012, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California.) 

2. The Lost 1853 Crystal Palace. "Daytonian in Manhattan" entry. (Submitted on April 12, 2020, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York.) 
 
Additional keywords. exhibitions
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on April 12, 2020. It was originally submitted on July 3, 2012, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. This page has been viewed 407 times since then and 3 times this year. Last updated on February 7, 2019, by Bruce Guthrie of Silver Spring, Maryland. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on July 3, 2012, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California.

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Apr. 21, 2021