Let's make a game of it: NYC history
November 11, 2020 5:58 AM   Subscribe

A friend and I are working on a board game prototype for eventual publication and are looking to refine our card list of historical events. These cards reflect buildings, disasters, institutions, policy changes and social movements specific to New York City. We want to maximize the extent to which they are both recognizable and resonant.

The game has players building the center of New York City (Manhattan from the tip to just past Midtown) from 1700 through today. At set-up and through the course of the game, cards are played out to represent historical events. We have a 60 card deck, divided among centuries, of which about a quarter will be played in any game. There will be no events post 1999.

The cards relate to historical buildings, landmarks and events which shaped the city. Some are very direct, such as the Brooklyn Bridge and Empire State Building. Others a bit more abstract. You can view the current list here.

I think we were able to get our list off to a good start but I'm sure we have all sorts of blind spots. Anything out of line? Is there something missing?
posted by meinvt to Society & Culture (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The sinking of the General Slocum in 1904 was the highest number of lives lost in New York in a single disaster prior to 9/11.
posted by punchtothehead at 6:02 AM on November 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

Not a specific event per se, but 1970 was the first running of the NYC marathon. Kind of a city-defining phenomenon every November.
posted by gaspode at 6:10 AM on November 11, 2020

Just making sure y'all already have a copy of the encyclopedia.
posted by saladin at 6:23 AM on November 11, 2020

In the precolonial era, the area of present-day New York City was inhabited by Algonquian Native Americans, including the Lenape. Their homeland, known as Lenapehoking, included Staten Island, Manhattan, the Bronx, the western portion of Long Island (including the areas that would later become the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens), and the Lower Hudson Valley.[48]
posted by aniola at 6:36 AM on November 11, 2020

The Con-Ed building in Union Square
Something about the South Street Seaport? (Fulton Fish market started in 1822, big fire in 1835, museum established in 1967)
the building of the Cloisters in Ft Tryon park (1939)
the book that saved the Little Red Lighthouse (1942)
Grant's Tomb (1897)
1934 Apollo Theater opened to black patrons having previously been whites only
posted by xo at 6:36 AM on November 11, 2020

The Malbone Street Wreck, worst accident in New York City subway history.
posted by Ampersand692 at 6:45 AM on November 11, 2020

Headquarters of the United Nations
posted by aniola at 6:52 AM on November 11, 2020

You have memail...
posted by nkknkk at 6:52 AM on November 11, 2020

1894 - Country's first bike path
posted by aniola at 6:53 AM on November 11, 2020

another citation for that
posted by aniola at 6:55 AM on November 11, 2020

I think that, probably because of your emphasis on buildings, you're missing a lot of the cultural life of the city. Also, your geographic focus makes this an awfully white version of New York history. There's nothing about the Harlem Renaissance here, nor about any other aspect of modernism that wasn't architectural. There's nothing about punk or hip-hop. (Punk could be represented by CBGBs. I think your geographical focus on the absolute whitest part of the city is going to make it tough to do hip-hop.) In general, pop culture gets awfully short shrift. Do you want to do the Brill Building? Could you do something about the emergence of Soho as an art district?

I would probably also pay a little more attention to religion: definitely St. Patrick's Cathedral, and maybe a synagogue. (I can't think off-hand which one you should go with.)
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:02 AM on November 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

Look for study materials for the NYC tour guide examination. It’s a very difficult and detailed test and there are lots of study guides that will give you a lot of good ideas.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:49 AM on November 11, 2020

I would probably also pay a little more attention to religion: definitely St. Patrick's Cathedral, and maybe a synagogue. (I can't think off-hand which one you should go with.)

I can.

I would do both St. Patrick's cathedral and a synagogue, and moreover I would do BOTH St. Patrick's Cathedrals - because there are two, and the history behind that tells you something about the shifting demographics of the city. The one St. Patrick's Cathedral you're thinking of is actually the second one - the FIRST one is in what is now Little Italy, but was predominantly Irish back in 1808, when the "Old Cathedral" was built. Here's a link to its history, and the history of Catholicism in New York.

As for synagogues - I would do the Eldridge Street Synagogue or the Bialystoker Synagogue. Both are historic synagogues built during the late 1800s when there was a huge wave of Jewish immigrants to the city. And - again speaking to "how the neighborhoods change", the Eldridge Street Synagogue is located in what is now Chinatown.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:50 AM on November 11, 2020

Since you want to include policy changes and social movements, I think you have a good reason to expand the geography of your game to include Upper Manhattan - lots of things happened in Harlem that would fit right into your game (and make it a lot less white).

Here's a source for some groundbreaking events and policies: the New York City Department of Health. They made vaccines, ran a diagnostic lab for bacterial infections, and basically invented the model for the modern municipal public health agency. This PDF lists significant events going back a few hundred years.

Good luck - sounds like fun game!
posted by Quietgal at 11:56 AM on November 11, 2020

Don’t forget NYC’s music scene.
I’m taking The Bitter End ,Cafe Wha?, CBGB.
posted by Champagne Supernova at 12:59 PM on November 11, 2020

Add Tin Pan Alley and the Brill Building to music landmarks!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:07 PM on November 11, 2020

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great answers so far! Both the general reactions, and the specific ideas. It has already spurred some discussion and is going to give us plenty to chew on. If anyone has more reactions or ideas, keep them coming.
posted by meinvt at 4:28 PM on November 11, 2020

1975: "Ford to City: Drop Dead" NY Daily News headline

1857: Central Park begins construction/landscaping
1876: Initial construction completed on Central Park

(It doesn't sound like your map will go far enough north to allow you to cover Seneca Village, which was razed in 1857 to make room for Central Park? Founded in 1825 by mostly African American landowners, it was the first such community in the city.)
posted by nobody at 7:31 PM on November 11, 2020

The Astor Place riots.
Abraham Lincoln's Address at Cooper Union.
1923 - The Cotton Club Opens.
The Harlem Community Arts Center and The Harlem Renaissance.
Andy Warhol's Factory

Your list is pretty anglo centric, which is perhaps a blind spot.

Also the 1939 World's Fair was held out in Queens, which is not a part of Manhattan.
posted by brookeb at 10:55 PM on November 11, 2020

Seneca Village
posted by gteffertz at 6:35 PM on November 12, 2020

The Tompkins Square Park Riot - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tompkins_Square_Park_riot_(1988)
The defeat of Robert Moses and the Lower Manhattan Expressway, and more Moses stuff in general
posted by soy_renfield at 8:45 AM on November 20, 2020

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