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The Saint Paul globe. (St. Paul, Minn.) 1896-1905, June 26, 1904, Image 1

Image and text provided by Minnesota Historical Society; Saint Paul, MN

Persistent link: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn90059523/1904-06-26/ed-1/seq-1/

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Will New York Become A Chromatic City?
YVORY and dull gold against a|
1 background of breathless blue —!
that is the New York of the
stranger, and of its more pros
perous inhabitants, too, who are little
more than strangers except where
their regular well-worn trails are con
Ivory and gold, chaste cold white
and warm brown make the color note
of the show parts of the tight-waisted
island town; of the city of skyscraping
business blocks, of the middle city of
aerial hotels, and of the upper city
of apartment castles.
So vast are the^e jumbles of big
buildings that their simple colors
dominate all the town and create the
impression that a monotony of color
is typical of New York.
But. in truth, New York, away from
its show places, is barbarically splen
did. Behind the towering set pieces
of steel and granite, in the deep cuts
where the people of the machine
swarm, every exotic fancy from Fuji
San to Naples has impressed its own
wild color on some part of it.
This is not coloring designed by
architect or artist. It is as spontan
eous, as innocent of conscious effort
as the picturesqueness of a band of
tramps camping at night around a fire.
Chromatic New York begins at the
City Plall, and displays itself along
the crowded tenement-lined thorough
fares, where the immigrant goes
through his cocoon stage of Ameri
can citizenship.
Go north from the Mayor's office
a few squares to Five Points, now a
nark most unbeautiful but glorious
compared with what the spot used to
be, and the moment you enter it the
deep trenches of streets flare at you,
painted by the Italian of Naples and
Genoa—painted not with brush and
paint, but with multi-colored foreign
life itself.
The builders of the miles of dark
tenements have wasted no money on
paint for their exteriors or interiors.
Impelled by economy, they have-done
what an artist would have done with
them to make them a background for
that revelry of color —they have left
them in their dim hues of brick, sooth
ed to a neutral tint by the smoke and
dirt of years.
Here, too, there is no room or use
for that apotheosis of utter, hopeless,
vulgar ugliness, the New York busi
ness sign. There isn't a splotch of
all the splotches, a smear of all the
smears that decorate these streets
that isn't perfectly unconscious, nat
ural and native.
It is a monster palette, this Little
Italy of Mulberry From
house line to house line wimble a
thousand living daubs of green, yel
low, purple, blue and lilac, the human
color spots that fill the street from
dawn to midnight as daisies fill the
fields. It is a daily Durbar, a be
wildering weaving to and fro of gor
geous tints, such as can be produced
only by the Italian in the mass.
It lacks only the vivid blue sky of
Ita"ty to be wholly Genoese or Nea
politan. Even the brilliant Old World
effect of the daily wash is there, flung
out over the streets for all men to
Every day is wash day in Little
Italy; and since there is no room
there for rear yards, the wash must
be hung from windows and fire es
capes to dry. So all the gloomy
crags and cliffs of houses are blotched
from bottom to top by the gaudy
blankets and gowns and more inti
mately personal garments of rainbow
hued Little Italy.
Since there is not a room in all
those nests of rooms but serves a^
sleeping place for from one to six
persons, so there is hardly a window
that does not flaunt its flaming dec
oration of mattress or other multi
colored bedding, ranging in tone from
SUNDAY, JUNE 26, 1904.
lire-red to the poisonous purple that
is dear to the Italian. Spattering the
walls as far as the eye can reach
through the telescoping hollow ways
of street, the gaudiness hangs in the
sun as the rugs and silken fabrics
used to hang over every marble win
dow sill of old Venice.
Even the foodstuffs in the shops
do their part. The visitor who dives
into Mulberry street may well be im
pressed by the thought that the Ital
ian not only wears color and sur
rounds himself with it, but eats it.
Piled to the ceilings of fearsomely
aromatic shops stand cheeses, great
as mill wheels and hard enough to
make it a burglar-like task to enter
them; and through the dimness that
is produced by the greasy windows in
duplication of the half light of the
Old Masters, their round sides gleam
in oranges and reds and brassy gold.
Barrels and boxes full of snails
make mottled patches in mounds of
green and scarlet peppers. Red lob
sters and crabs are piled by other
heaps of brown fried fish. Even the
cigars of Mulberry street have their
own peculiar color, for they are cho-
eolate brown, tipped with amber yel
low uhere the straw protrudes from
the end.
In the pepper season the streets
have an added brilliancy of color, for
then every window is draped with
chains of peppers, hung, there to dr}'.
And at all seasons there are great
ivory-yellow portieres here and there,
where spaghetti is hung over a fire
escape to air in huge streamers.
It is less than a step from the land
of the Italian to the land of the
Chinese, for the two blend, and at
their meeting points the gaudy mat
tress and the black and gold and
crimson and black of the Chinaman's
banners hang side by _§ide in friendly
The Chinaman's painted street is
the result of a little more conscious
effort at decoration; yet in the main
his airy iron balconies, that cling pre
cariously to the square tenement
houses with the incongruous effect of
a pagoda perched on a railroad track;
his swinging paper lanterns: his shop
windows filled with mysterious sau
sages shining with grease; his blue
and white garments, hanging so utter
ly without shape or fold that they are
picturesque through sheer force of
native ugliness —all make up a mass
of rare colorings that are so unstudied
that they have the force of all true
expressions of racial life.
The Syrian and Armenian adds his
fair share to the coloring of the big
city, lie does not confine it selfishly
to his own quarters of town, but bears
it abroad during the pursuit of his
fayori^? occupation of peddling rugs.
The Syrian and Armenian rug is
nothing if not exclamatory. Its
turkey reds and aniline greens, its
fierce blacks and extraordinary golden
embroideries force themselves so in
sistently on the eye that their bearer
need not cry his wares.
When the rug peddler strides proud
ly along, it is a sight as brilliant as
the march of a State Camel from
Trebizond laden with the spoils of the
desert looms.
The foreigner makes most of the
color in Xew York, and he is making
more and more of it. He has splash
ed areas covering whole sauare miles
already; and still he is spreading his
Italys and Ghettoes and Syrias farther
and farther.
The native color of Xew York, of
which ' old Greenwich and Chelsea
villages and other dear old spots were
delightful examples once, has tied be
fore the new barbaric invasion, where
it has not been crushed out to make
room for the white and brown of
new native New York.
There is some of it left still, how
ever, in such old spots as Washing
ton Square, where the ancient houses,
still reserved and exclusive, front the
deep green of lawns and trees in their
softened magentas and vermilions.
And here and there, as in old
Bleecker street, the prowler can still
find medleys of color that belong
back in the days of brown country
roads and taverns and village water
ing troughs.

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