Notes on A Science Fiction Walking Tour in New York City

Spaceman graffiti in Brooklyn.
Spaceman graffiti at NE corner of Court St. and Degraw St. in Brooklyn, New York.

Looking ahead to the New York City of Print NEH Summer Institute, I wanted to collect some notes and resources together for Science-Fiction-focused locations around the city, including the original Manhattan-based offices for the magazines Amazing Stories and Astounding Science-Fiction, and home and business locations in Brooklyn of importance to the SF writer Isaac Asimov.

Amazing Stories

Hugo Gernsback launched Amazing Stories in April 1926 as the world’s first magazine devoted to what he called “scientifiction,” a clunky term that would soon evolve into what we now call Science Fiction. Amazing Stories was based out of an office at 53 Park Place, Manhattan. Today, Google Map’s Street View of 53 Park Place reveals that the building looks remarkably unchanged from this early, undated photo held by the NYPL and this 1940 Tax Photo.

Astounding Science-Fiction

John W. Campbell, Jr., who oversaw the so-called “Golden Age of Science Fiction,” joined Street & Smith Publications as the third editor of Astounding Stories in 1937. Located at 79 7th Avenue, the Street & Smith office building where Campbell made his office for a number of years remains largely unchanged as seen in Google Street View from how it appeared in this photo from 1931 and its 1940 Tax Photo (albeit sans the Street & Smith sign).

Now known as Analog Science Fiction and Fact, it is based out of the 9th floor of 44 Wall Street, which seems largely unchanged today as compared to this 1940 Tax Photo.

Isaac Asimov

The FAQ for alt.books.isaac-asimov provides a useful list of family residences and storefronts from Asimov’s youth:

When the Asimov family came to the United States in 1923, they moved into their first apartment at 425 Van Siclen Avenue, in the East New York section of Brooklyn. In the summer of 1925 they moved one block away to an apartment at 434 Miller Avenue. They moved half a mile eastward in December 1928 to another apartment at 651 Essex Street, above the second candy store bought by his father. In early 1933, they moved to an apartment on Church Avenue, and after a brief stay there they moved to an apartment above yet another family candy store, at 1312 Decatur Street, in the Ridgewood section of Brooklyn. In December of 1936, Asimov’s father sold his third candy store and bought his fourth, at 174 Windsor Place, in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, and the family moved to a house across the street.

FAQ for alt.books.isaac-asimov

The 174 Windsor Place address is particularly significant. Asimov was a teenager at this point, and he used this address in some of his early SF magazine correspondences, such as his “Feminine-less Issue” letter to Startling Stories (November 1939, p. 115), which he wrote when he was 16 years old. 174 Windsor Place doesn’t have a photo in the 1940 tax photo records, but its right side can be clearly seen as carrying “Stationary” and other goods on the left side of this photo of 172 Windsor Place. Today, the building is home to CNS Construction and Cabinets, which you can see on Google Street View here.

The earlier addresses might be where Asimov first encountered science fiction magazines. These include:

Call for Applicants, City of Print: New York and the Periodical Press, Deadline Mar. 1, 2020

Benjamin Franklin printing press exhibit at City Tech.
Benjamin Franklin printing press exhibit at City Tech.

Mark Noonan, my colleague at City Tech, is running an NEH Summer Institute on the topic, “City of Print: New York and the Periodical Press.” I’ll be contributing to the Digital Methods Workshop on Wednesday, June 24 with my experience working on the City Tech Science Fiction Collection and using digital tools to make archival materials available to students and researchers. See the link below for all the sessions and apply to join us in Brooklyn!

City of Print: New York and the Periodical Press

(NEH SUMMER INSTITUTE)
(June 21 – July 3, 2020)

New York City College of Technology-CUNY will host a two-week NEH Summer Institute for college and university faculty in the summer of 2020 (June 21 – July 3).

For more information visit:

http://www.citytech.cuny.edu/cityofprint/

Applications to participate will be accepted via our online application system until March 1, 2020.

The Institute will focus on periodicals, place, and the history of publishing in New York.  As an institute participant, you will take part in discussions led by cultural historians, archivists, and experts in the fields of American literature, art and urban history, and periodical studies; participate in hands-on sessions in the periodicals collection of the New-York Historical Society; visit sites important to the rise of New York’s periodical press, such as Newspaper Row, Gramercy Park, the New York Seaport, the East Village, and the Algonquin Hotel; and attend Digital Humanities workshops.

You will also be asked to read a rich body of scholarship and consider new interdisciplinary approaches for researching and teaching periodicals that take into account the important site of their production, as well as relevant cultural, technological, aesthetic, and historical considerations. Sessions will be held across New York City including New York City College of Technology, the Brooklyn Historical Society, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Pace University, and the New-York Historical Society.

We encourage applicants from any field who are interested in the subject matter. Scholars and teachers specializing in periodical studies, journalism, urban history, art history, American studies, literature, and/or cultural studies will find the Institute especially attractive.

Independent scholars, scholars engaged in museum work or full-time graduate studies are also urged to apply.