Sunday, May 19, 2013

Monumental Mysteries

Over thirty-five years ago when I moved to Manhattan, I was overwhelmed by the wealth of history and architecture the city offered.  Yet I was also taken with the busy New Yorkers who rushed past buildings and monuments, never looking up, never wondering why or how that statue or building or memorial came to be.

When I started my blog I hoped to share the human stories behind those structures—the joy and pathos, the happiness and tragedy of the people who lived among us.  As important as the lives and deeds of statesmen and generals are; even more fascinating (at least to me) are the human stories of the people who resided and worked in our buildings, who planted our parks and who died in our disasters.

The study of history, we are often told, is necessary to avoid repeating mistakes.  Baloney.   History tells us where we came from, who we are, and possibly where we are going.   And as important as dates and events are the regular human lives involved.

It is important not to confine ourselves by living solely in the Now.

Some time ago I discovered Don Wildman’s addicting Travel Channel series “Mysteries at the Museum.”  Don shares my interest in the back stories of history.  In that series he investigates the coincidences of fate that enable an otherwise mundane object to change or make history.

Recently I was alerted to an upcoming series by Wildman, “Monumental Mysteries” and was given the opportunity to ask him a few questions about it (check it out below).  The concept of a television show that explores the stories of American monuments is, of course, right up my historical alley.  I love telling the story of the Thomkins Square memorial to the children lost in the General Slocum side-wheeler disaster, the greatest loss of human live in New York until 9/11; or the background of the Roscoe Conkling statue in Union Square—a monument to a philandering politician who got lost in a blizzard and subsequently died; or the story of the Tomb of an Amiable Child, a once-rural grave marker in the shadow of Grant’s Tomb now engulfed by the city.

Don Wildman was informative and patient (I was told I had eight minutes to fire questions at him; so when ten minutes elapsed, I was out of questions!).  I am excited about the series “Monumental Mysteries;” which is why I interrupted my normal blog flow and issued an unexpected, editorial Sunday post to mention it.

But just because you tune into the series doesn’t mean you can stop reading Daytonian in Manhattan.


  1. Bravo! The attention you get is well earned to say the least.

  2. Thats what I so love about this blog! The lives of the people that formally living in this buildings!

    1. Absolutely! I love the personal stories as much as the history of the buildings.

  3. So cool! I love Don Wildman's series. I don't miss an episode of Mysteries at the Museum. My DVR is full of them!

  4. New Yorkers..."Never looking up".. As you know it's been ingrained in every NYer to never look up "only tourists look up" I was one such youngster. Once I started peeking, I was hooked, I couldn't stop looking up ..The human stories have always been far more interesting to me than the standard history of dates,battles etc. So glad I found your blog.. architecture & back-story history ...two of my favorite things....Keep looking up...