It only took 15 minutes for the New York Crystal Palace, a beautiful building made of iron and glass, to be destroyed.

Financially insolvent and falling apart, the building had seen better days. New management attempted to save the beautiful edifice, but its ruin was too far gone. What had once been a glamorous tourist attraction became a decrepit mess.

New York City considered selling it for scraps, or moving the building to Philadelphia, but the screws that kept it together had rusted, making the Crystal Palace too expensive to even take apart. It was almost a blessing when a fire–which was blamed on arson but was more likely the rest of some cost-saving compromises on the gas lines–burned the building to the ground.

But, as the New York Tribune said: “We shall never have another Crystal palace. Its glorious dome . . . is no more; its galleries, its treasures, its magnificent expanses indispensable to the mass-gatherings of this great metropolis–its superb memories are all gone, and gone forever.”

Highlights include:
• PT Barnum’s attempts to save the Crystal Palace
• An elevator safety demonstration that involved repeatedly cutting the cord
• An exclusive gala organized by conmen and ending in a brawl between ultra-wealthy guests
• How a sensation like the Crystal Palace could have been forgotten

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Pictures of the New York Crystal Palace Destroyed

 
New York Crystal Palace Destroyed

Souvenir coin (source: Museum of the City of New York)

New York Crystal Palace Destroyed

(source: Museum of the City of New York)

Folded souvenir with views of New York buildings, including the Crystal Palace, 1857. (source: Museum of the City of New York)

Folded souvenir with views of New York buildings, 1857. (source: Museum of the City of New York)

New York Crystal Palace Destroyed

Flyer for a sale of relics (source: Museum of the City of New York)

 

Sources consulted RE: the New York Crystal Palace Destroyed

Books

Articles

  • A Mammoth Tree. NEW-YORK CITY. New York Daily Times (1851-1857); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]09 Aug 1855: 1

Websites

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crystal_Palace#The_Great_Exhibition_of_1851
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latting_Observatory
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Crystal_Palace
  • http://crystalpalace.visualizingnyc.org/digital-publication/
  • https://nypost.com/2018/02/03/nycs-first-architectural-wonder-went-down-in-flames/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Crystal_Palace
    bgc.bard.edu/gallery/exhibitions/3/new-york-crystal-palace-1853
  • https://www.boweryboyshistory.com/2015/03/the-crystal-palace-americas-first-worlds-fair-and-bizarre-treasures-of-the-19th-century.html
  • https://books.google.com/books?id=XRNBAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=crystal+palace+new+york+guide&hl=en&sa=X&ei=NCcMVabVJ8elgwTkhoPABQ&ved=0CB0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=crystal%20palace%20new%20york%20guide&f=false
    https://books.google.com/books?id=9ecZAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=crystal+palace+new+york+guide&hl=en&sa=X&ei=NCcMVabVJ8elgwTkhoPABQ&ved=0CCIQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=crystal%20palace%20new%20york%20guide&f=false
  • https://lithub.com/the-question-of-homoeroticism-in-whitmans-poetry/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dalberg-Acton,_1st_Baron_Acton
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilded_Age
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horace_Greeley
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P._T._Barnum
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metropolitan_Museum_of_Art
  • https://aleteia.org/2019/10/07/thorvaldsens-christus-was-once-considered-the-most-perfect-statue-of-christ-in-the-world/

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