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Today in History - July 27

Cyrus Eidlitz, Architect

Architect Cyrus Lazelle Warner Eidlitz was born on July 27, 1853, in New York, New York. His father, Prague-born architect Leopold Eidlitz, was an influential theorist who became a founding member of the American Institute of Architects External in 1857. Educated in New York and Europe, the younger Eidlitz is known for designing numerous public buildings, including Chicago’s Dearborn Station and the Buffalo Public Library. Cyrus Eidlitz’s work, like that of his father, was especially influenced by Gothic and Romanesque revival styles of the second half of the nineteenth century.
[New York, N.Y., Times Building Under Construction], photographic negative, [ca. 1903] Detroit Publishing Company Prints & Photographs Division
Times Building, Times Square, Samuel H. Gottscho, photographer, photographic negative, 1962. Gottscho-Schleisner Collection
Prints & Photographs Division
In 1904, Cyrus Eidlitz collaborated with Alexander McKenzie on the New York Times Building—a steel-framed skyscraper with Beaux-Arts facade and Gothic accents created for New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs. Located at the intersection of 7th Avenue, Broadway, and 42nd Street, the building filled a triangle at the base of Longacre Square, soon renamed Times Square in honor of the building. When it opened the Times Building was the second tallest in Manhattan, and soon became the cornerstone of a growing Broadway theater district. By the 1930s, dozens of theaters, including the Ziegfeld Theater, competed for audiences in and around Times Square.
New York, New York. People watching the electrical news sign on the Times building at Times Square. Howard R. Hollem, MacLaugharie, or Edward Meyer, photographer, June 6, 1944. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black and White Negatives, Prints & Photographs Division
Times Square, New York, New York. Carol M Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006. Highsmith (Carol M.) Archive, Prints & Photographs Division
At the urging of Arthur Ochs, Eidlitz and McKenzie connected the Times Building underground to the 42nd Street subway station. As early as 1904, New Yorkers were riding the subway from City Hall in lower Manhattan to 145th Street in just twenty-six minutes. Within a decade, the newspaper outgrew the Times Building and moved to larger quarters. After it was sold in 1961, the original ornate facade was replaced by shear walls of concrete and marble. Today, the well-known tower at One Times Square is rarely used by tenants, but instead is covered in large and elaborate electronic billboards that almost overwhelm the familiar news ticker, a descendent of the first scrolling text bar installed in lights around the building in 1928. Even so, the tower remains a focal point of Times Square, where since 1907 crowds have gathered every December 31 to watch the lighted ball on its roof drop as they welcome in the new year.

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Gertrude Stein Dies

On July 27, 1946, American avant-garde writer and art connoisseur Gertrude Stein died in France. Her longtime companion, Alice B. Toklas, was at her side. In their last conversation, Stein reportedly questioned Toklas about the meaning of life: “Alice, what is the answer?” When Toklas was unable to reply, Stein queried, “In that case, what was the question?”
[Portrait of Gertrude Stein, with American flag as backdrop]. Carl Van Vechten, photographer, January 4, 1935. Van Vechten Collection. Prints & Photographs Division
Stein was born on February 3, 1874, in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. Her family moved when she was three years old—first to Vienna, then to Paris. They returned to the U.S. and settled in Oakland, California, in 1879. After her parents died, she joined her eldest brother, Michael, in San Francisco in 1891. Next, she moved to Baltimore with her brother, Leo, and sister, Bertha, to live with an aunt. Stein attended the Harvard Annex—the precursor to Radcliffe College, from 1893-97 and then enrolled at Johns Hopkins University Medical School (1897-1901)—but decided not to pursue a medical career. She joined Leo in Paris in 1903. In Paris, Stein enjoyed a reputation both as a cultural figure and for her circle of friends. She cultivated friendships with Picasso, Henri Matisse, and other experimental painters who frequently gathered for food and conversation at her home.
[Portrait of Alice B. Toklas, Chartres]. Carl Van Vechten, photographer, October 8, 1949. Van Vechten Collection. Prints & Photographs Division
During the 1920s, Stein’s talent for the apt turn-of-phrase and her willingness to mentor others made her Paris salon a gathering place for American expatriates Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Carl Van Vechten, Virgil Thomson, and Archibald MacLeish. Watching these young men struggle to come to terms with World War I’s devastation, Stein observed to Hemingway, “You are all a lost generation.” Stein’s writing—a fragmented, abstract style intended to capture the moment, was influenced by the Cubist school of art. Her first book was the novel Three Lives (1909). Her second book, Tender Buttons: Objects, Food, Rooms (1914), a poetry collection, exemplified the effect that modern painting had on her writing. Her other influential works include The Making of Americans (1925) and How to Write (1931). Her best seller, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933) tells Stein’s life from Toklas’ point of view. The composer Virgil Thomson scored Stein’s operas, Four Saints in Three Acts (1933) and The Mother of Us All (1947). Based on the life and career of Susan B. Anthony, the latter is described in its foreword as a “pageant” on the theme of winning rights for women in the United States.

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