In 1945, New York City stood at the pinnacle of its cultural and economic power. Never again would the city possess the unique mixture of innocence and sophistication, romance and formality, generosity and confidence which characterized it in this moment of triumph. In Manhattan '45, acclaimed travel writer and historian Jan Morris evokes the city in all its romantic grandeur. From its beguilingly idiosyncratic architectural style to its unmistakable slang, post-War New York springs to life through Morris's brisk, affectionate prose. Morris visits Wall Street, Harlem, Greenwich Village, Chinatown, and the Lower East Side. She rides the trollies, the El, the Hudson River ferries, and the Twentieth Century Limited. She dines at Schrafft's and Le Pavillon, drinks ale at McSorley's Saloon, sips Manhattans at the Manhattan Club, and spots celebrities at El Morocco. She meets Fiorello La Guardia, Robert Moses, Leo Durocher, I. B. Singer, and Dizzy Gillespie. And she tours the tenements of Hell's Kitchen and the Gashouse district, as well as the Foundling Hospital where the crushing realities of poverty belie the unchallenged exuberance of the age. Taking into account both Social Register and slum, Manhattan '45 celebrates New York's Golden Age as a place where, for one unrepeatable moment in history, anything seemed possible.
This book is filled with details of life and how it was lived in 1945 mostly from books, letters, photographs and interviews. Everything's discussed in categories and in a gossipy tone that covers people, places, race, class, shopping, transportation, music, technology, slums, mansions, art, parties, and schools. I kind of wish I'd taken better notes on this book since it's full of fun little tidbits, but no great memorable themes. I'd like to read it again, perhaps while in Manhattan, the book tucked under my arm as I visit what's there and what once was.