The Titanic Guide To New York City – Part 2

Below is Part 2 of Scouting NY’s Titanic Guide To New York City. Click here for part 1!

As we head uptown to continue the next leg of our tour, be sure to choose a route that takes you past Macy’s in honor of its former owner, Isidor Strauss, who died on the Titanic with his wife Ida.

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Shortly after the Civil War, Isidor Strauss and his brother Nathaniel set up a crockery and glassware business at Macy’s. By 1896, the brothers owned the entire company.

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For years, I remember seeing a plaque in the Macy’s lobby honoring their deaths, but when I went back to take a picture recently, it was gone. Apparently, it was removed in 2005 when the lobby was remodeled and given to the Straus family – which is frankly pretty insulting. There really isn’t enough room for the memorial along with another wall of those hideous Donald Trump-brand shirts?

The memorial read “Their lives were beautiful and the deaths glorious” – and I’m not sure there’s a better way to put it.

As the ship was sinking, a life boat officer said he’d allow Isidor and his wife on. However, Isidor refused, as there were still women and children aboard the ship. Though he urged Ida to go without him, she refused, reportedly saying, “We have lived together for many years. Where you go, I go.”

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They were last seen sitting on deck chairs when a wave washed over them – which apparently wasn’t compelling enough for James Cameron, who rewrote them tucking each other into bed.

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While the Macy’s memorial might be gone, the Straus’ have a pretty fantastic park and memorial at 106th Street and Broadway, located just a block from their former residence:

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A bed of flowers (formerly a reflecting pool) leads up to a “pensive” statue (not meant to be Ida), installed in 1913:

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Below, a photograph of the memorial taken at an unspecified date (note the reflecting pool):

Straus Memorial

A passage on the bench behind the statue features a quote from Second Samuels 23: “Lovely and pleasant were they in their lives and in their death they were not parted.”

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In 1995, Strauss Park was renovated and expanded, with a new plaque…

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…and, er, it looks like the engraver couldn’t decide which date the Titanic sank on:

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The Straus’ home was located at 106th & Broadway in what was once a rural neighborhood known as Bloomingdale. Few pictures exist of the property, which was described in the NY Times as “an attractive, old-fashioned wooden structure set well back…with ample lawns and large trees,” the last of its sort in an area quickly becoming congested with apartment buildings. Also on the property: a baseball field, a chicken coop, an apple orchard, pear trees, a stable, and a barn with cows and goats.

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Sadly, after the Straus’s deaths, the property was sold to developers, who demolished it and built the 16 story Cleburne Building on the site:

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From here, it makes sense to take a quick detour up to Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx to visit the Straus family mausoleum:

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The vault is centered around an almost art-deco ship manned by oars, clearly symbolic of the Titanic disaster (from the powerful design, perhaps implying that the Straus family continues on, afloat and strong?).

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Still in use by the Straus family to this day, Ira is buried in the center vault (his wife’s remains were never found, though her name accompanies his above the door).

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Lining the fence are a number of swastikas which, prior to World War II, were a popular symbol of luck and good fortune.

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And could there be a cooler mausoleum key than one shaped in an “S” for Straus?

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Also in Woodlawn Cemetery is the grave of the one of the Titanic’s true heroes, Archibald Gracie IV.

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A direct descendant of Archibald Gracie (responsible for Gracie Mansion), Archibald IV, a writer and historian, was returning home to his family in the US after a vacation abroad.

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As the ship began sinking, Gracie worked tirelessly to help second officer Charles Lightoller fill the remaining lifeboats with women and children, then assisted in freeing the four collapsible boats lashed to the ship. Gracie actually went down with the Titanic, but managed to grab hold of the same overturned lifeboat as wireless operator Jack Phillips (mentioned in the previous post), and survived until rescue boats came the following morning.

Upon returning to the United States, Gracie immediately began writing a first hand account of his experience, though sadly died eight months later. “Hero of the S.S. Titanic” is written at the top of his grave.

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In addition to several other Titanic-related graves at Woodlawn, there’s also a memorial dedicated by one Anna Bliss to the Titanic’s victims…though I’m not sure Bliss had any actual connection to the Titanic. Perhaps she was just being nice? Bliss herself is buried in the rear of the monument.

Photo by TheTeach1166 – Click for more!

Returning to Morningside Heights, our next stop is at the gargauntuan, yet still unfinished, St. John the Divine, at 112th Street & Amsterdam:

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As you walk down the center aisle, stop at the sixth stained glass window on your left…

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This window was given in the memory of John Jacob Astor IV, the richest passenger aboard the Titanic and one of its victims:

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Thematically, the window depicts important events from American history…

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…and if you look in the bottom right hand corner, you’ll see “SINKING OF THE TITANIC” as the final moment.

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Born into one of the wealthiest families in the United States, Astor dabbled in a number of disciplines and was known as a businessmen, real estate investor, hotelier (The Waldorf-Astoria), inventor (a bicycle brake and a turbine engine, among others), and writer.

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Astor shocked the world by not only divorcing his first wife of 18 years, but remarrying 18-year-old Madeleine Force (pictured above) at the ripe age of 47. With Madeleine pregnant at the time, the two were returning home via the Titanic so that their first child would be born in the United States. Below, the Astor mansion at East 65th Street and Fifth Avenue…

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…which was torn down in 1926 for the construction of Temple Emanu-El, still on the site today:

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In fact, Astor is the only Titanic victim to be buried in Manhattan, at the Old Trinity Cemetery at 153rd Street & Broadway (western division) (note: I saw at least one Titanic walking tour place Astor’s grave at Trinity Cemetery in lower Manhattan. This is incorrect!!).

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Buried in the family plot, the center monument is for Astor IV, though strangely does not feature any identifying names or dates.

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After the Titanic collided with the iceberg, Astor convinced his wife that everything would be OK, and the two spent some time on the mechanical horse and camel in the gym.

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Later, as the damage became more apparent and passengers began boarding life boats, Astor helped his wife, her maid, and her nurse into one, casually asking if he might join them due to his wife’s fragile state. His request was denied, and he was last seen smoking with mystery writer Jacques Futrelle on the starboard bridge.

On his monument, a so-called fouled anchor is the one reference to his death at sea.

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Astor’s body was found with significant head trauma, and it is believed he may have been hit by one of the ship’s falling smokestacks. Wife Madeleine survived, and is supposed buried “nearby,” though the Trinity Cemetery office had no idea where. Below, her life jacket:

Picture from TitanicHistoricalSociety.org – Click for the full story!


From Old Trinity Cemetery, we’re going to make a pretty big leap across town to 91st Street and Fifth Avenue…

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…where, hidden behind a tree, is a memorial to one W. T. Stead.

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One of the most famous passengers aboard the Titanic, William Thomas Stead was a powerful turn-of-the-century English journalist whose controversial “New Journalism” opened the doors for today’s tabloid press.

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As the Titanic began sinking, Stead assisted several women and children into lifeboats, and was last seen in the First Class Smoking Room reading a book in a leather armchair. This memorial is actually a 1920 copy of the original 1913 work found along London’s Embankment promenade on the Thames.

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Our final stop takes us all the way to Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, where a number of Titanic passengers are buried.

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Probably the most well known is Robert Douglas Spedden, just six years old when he boarded the Titanic. There’s a good chance you’ve seen him in the famous picture of a boy spinning a top on the Titanic’s deck:

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Spedden was rescued aboard Lifeboat 3 while holding onto his toy bear, which inspired his mother to later write an illustrated story of their trip through Europe told from the doll’s perspective (Spedden is pictured below with his bear):

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Sadly, Spedden died just three years later in Maine at nine years old, a victim in one of the state’s first automobile accidents. Chasing a tennis ball into the street, he was struck by a passing car (note: despite dozens of Titanic walking tours stating otherwise, Spedden’s grave does not say “Titanic Survivor” on it).

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I hope you’ve enjoyed my Titanic tour of New York City! I’ve put together a helpful map below:


View The Titanic Guide To New York City, from Scouting NY in a larger map

And of course, be sure to let me know if I’ve missed anything!

-SCOUT

PS: One question that’s been bugging me ever since I saw Titanic the day after Christmas in 1997:

At the end of Cameron’s Titanic, we see Rose toss her jewel into the ocean, fall asleep in her room, and presumably die, as the final scene of the movie is her reuniting with Leonardo DiCaprio on the Titanic in what could be described as Heaven.

Except, here’s what bothers me: after returning to America, we know she got married, had children and later grandchildren (one of whom is pictured in the movie).

So why isn’t the first person she meets in Heaven her husband??? I mean, I get why this doesn’t make sense for tear-jerking/storytelling reasons, but wouldn’t you be pissed if you were up in Heaven, your spouse dies, you expect him or her to come running to you, so happy to be together for all eternity…

And instead, they jump into the arms of someone they had a fling with on a cruise ship for a couple of days?

Just asking.

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40 comments

  1. I’m more worried about the maids’ and stewards’ ghosts. Does that ending mean they have to serve those snooty rich people…forever?

    Anyway, great posts!

  2. I had a similar discussion with my mother, but she believed that the child Rose had came from Leo (what was his name?). She did not believe that Rose got married.

    But even so… Rose and Leo where True Love. That’s special. :-)

  3. Excellent, informative and most interesting notes Scout! I’ve been a Titanic news buff all my life and having been born on West 87th Street,
    seen many of the photo’s you have posted. Brilliant job!

  4. RE: No hubby. Well, let’s be honest here…Rose was pretty into Jack and she would have run off with him if he had survived (woops, spoiler). So, no matter who Rose’s children’s father was, Rose’s hubby was just a stand-in for Jack. And I guess if he was pissed about being left out when Rose got to heaven, well, them’s the breaks, kid.

    RE: Astor’s head trauma. That’s untrue. His body was pristine (except dead and kind of puffy, of course). The crushing is a myth.

  5. Great post. Always tragic to see what used to exist. You forgot the Titanic House on 11th St in Hunter’s Point/LIC, somewhere near 46th. The owner has turned the front of the house into a rather spectacular memorial. We used to live around the corner and I would always walk by. I seem to recall it was tied to the oldest remaining survivor of the Titanic, but I could be wrong.

  6. Is their last name “Strauss” or “Straus”?

    Also, you wrote: Spedden’s grave does say “Titanic Survivor” on it …

    Did you mean to write “does NOT”, as the photo suggests?

  7. “till death do we part”. I guess she wasnt in live with her husband. Great work as usual. Living in NY my entire life I had no idea there was this much Titanic stuff.

  8. I’ve seen that quote on the Straus memorial attributed all over the place to 2 Samuel 23 – but as far as I can tell, it’s not actually in there: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Samuel+23&version=NIV (nor in the Hebrew: http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt08b23.htm)

  9. Really great work, collecting all of these sites. I knew the Straus’ staye with the ship but didn’t know Isidor’s body was actually located. Quite a tomb/monument for his family.

  10. That always irked the heck out of me too about Titanic. Though one time I was nosing around a cemetery like I do and found a pair of markers. He’d died young in around 1920 and his wife died in 1980ish and there was no sign of any other husbands, so clearly she’d chosen to remain single her entire life.

    On the other hand I was once saw another set of markers where he was buried next to I think four wives. The first three had died within a couple years of the one previous, which made me wonder…

  11. “Sadly, after the Straus’s deaths, the property was sold to developers, who demolished it and built the 16 story Cleburne Building on the site”

    Why “Sadly”? The Cleburne is a beautiful building, with unusual details both inside and out, and some very notable artists, authors, and innovators have lived there over the years. The layout of the apartments, and the scale and detail of the lobby are extraordinarily unique. Oh, and it is 13 stories tall, not 16.

    • And the Cleburne is at 105th St between Broadway and West End, not 106th St.

      • I’m not sure anyone said The Cleburne was located on 106th, but of course, you’re right. The Lancaster is located on 106th Street between broadway and West End Avenue.

        The Cleburne has an amazingly well preserved old switchboard in the lobby, as well as a recessed porte cochere.

  12. Fantastic as always. Keep up the good work. I always look forward to reading your new posts.

  13. Thank you for another great post.

  14. Fabulous job, Scout. My apologies for doubting you yesterday, when I didn’t see Straus park. I should have known that any child of Columbia would know that spot!

  15. You didn’t mention the Straus estate in what is now Inwood Hill Park–a wall remains, even thought he house is long gone.

  16. It’s not from 2 Samuel chapter 23. It’s from 2 Samuel chapter 1, verse 23.

  17. The relics at the “Titanic House” on 11th Street in Hunters Point have been relocated to the Greater Astoria Historical Society at Broadway and 37th Street in the Quinn Funeral Home.

  18. Great scouting. Especially good to see the memorial to Stead. I had seen the one in London and had no idea a duplicate was in NYC. Family legend has it that Stead, in addition to coming to US on the Titanic was also intending to see his cousins in Ontario, CN. John and Charles Cliff. John Cliff was my great great grandfather.

  19. Just discovered your blog today! I love it! Will dig in more tomorrow. Thank you for the wonderful history & pics! Former New Yorker, Barb in Texas :)

  20. Another Scouting Classic. When people ask me what there is to do in NYC I send them here. Depending on who they are I might tell them to beware posts written around the end of March.

  21. Three possible explanations for Rose’s husband:

    One: perhaps he’s still alive?
    Two: maybe they got divorced?
    Three: as someone else said, possibly Rose never married and her child was Jack’s?

  22. Jude Mermelstein

    I always thought Rose was dreaming, not dead…the movie was morbid enough!

  23. It’s not a typo on the date – it sank really late at night, so technically the tragedy happened on the 14th AND 15th of April.

  24. Macy’s posted on their Facebook page today (April 15) a picture of the Strauss plaque which is going back up after e Herald Square store renovations are complete.

  25. I hate EVERYTHING Titanic movie related.

    Your Titanic Tour NYC was EXCELLENT! I will take my friend – who made me sit through that movie – after she saw it 3x already – on this very cool tour you laid out for us. Thanks you for all that you do.

  26. Actually a few of the rooms from the Astor mansion can be seen at the Ringling Musuem near Coral Gables, FL.

    “In 1926 before the house was demolished there was an auction of the contents, furnishings and architectural details. John Ringling, the head of the famous Ringling Brothers Circus was building a new mansion, Ca’ d’ Zan in Sarasota, Florida, purchased a few of the main floor rooms and furniture. He then used some of the furniture in his home and also installed the rooms in an annex to his home, which became the museum for his art collection. The rooms are still there today and can be viewed when visiting the museum.”

  27. Scout, thank you for this fabulous compilation of Titanic history in NY, both “then” and “now”. With the centennial anniversary upon us, the impact of the tragedy delivers lessons just as appropriate today as they were 100 years ago. We all dare to dream, and some of us are rewarded with lavish rewards. Others toil with little to show for their efforts. Together, we all advance forward with our changing technology, while Mother Nature watches by the sidelines, daring to put our accomplishments in proper check every now and then. We’re all in the same boat, so to speak. In a recent news column, Leonard Pitts wrote, “Titanic was the newest there was, but she died upon an ocean that was old when the Vikings sailed, under a sky that saw the continents rise.”

    For those interested in a poignant aspect of the story, I would recommend a read of “Polar The Titanic Bear” – the story of young Robert Douglas Spedden and his beloved toy bear, who together, endured the Titanic saga. The hard-copy version is filled with photos and family mementos of the time that help any reader to capture a sense of life in that noble bygone era.

    Thank you, again, for a wonderful read!

  28. Scout, thanks for another great post. I really enjoy your site. In terms of the Straus memorial plaque at Macy’s, The Jewish Daily Forward had an article on it recently: http://forward.com/articles/154407/mystery-shrouds-macys-titanic-plaque/?p=all. Thanks again, Ezra

  29. What an excellent post! I must admit I recently saw Titanic in 3D (about the 100th time I’ve seen the movie) and forgot how kind of fascinating stories of Titanic and it’s passengers are. Since I live right outside the city this was a very interesting read and thanks for the map to make it easy to see some of these places!

  30. Scout, your virtual tour was great and I have always maintained “A Night To Remember” is THE definitive film about the Titanic disaster. Although Cameron’s “Titanic” was well detailed and the effects amazing the “Rose & Jack crap” was just that: crap! What Cameron should have done was use his expertise, sets, and huge budget to blend “A Night To Remember” with a film-version of the Broadway musical “Titanic”. Then he could have showcased the REAL Titanic love story: Isador and Ida Straus. Another movie most today do not know of is 1953′s “Titanic” with Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb.

  31. Absolutely wonderful read….and thank you SO MUCH!! I live in NYC, love reading anything/everything about the history of this city, watching movies set and filmed here, also love walking all over, especially places where history happened. Will I be disloyal mentioning another great website – newyorksonglines.com – virtual walking tours of Manhattan. Scout – you’ll love this, if you don’t already know about the site. Keep writing and I’ll keep reading!!!

  32. Cameron did actually write in the scene with the Straus’ real words, but for obvious time-saving reasons, had to leave it on the cutting room floor. It is included in the deleted scenes available on DVD (and here, on youtube): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcXCm-KFFRw

    As for the end, it is most certainly supposed to be Rose dying… as Jack had wanted her to, old and warm in bed. Plus, the people she reunites with on the ship are only the ones who died that night and the final tilt of the camera upward into the blinding white light. And as for her husband, is it such a stretch to “believe” (I get that they’re fictional characters, but for argument’s sake…) that Jack was really the love of her life and that they were simply taken from one another too quickly? After all, she might not have married the Calvert guy had Dawson not died, but marrying the guy she had kids with didn’t mean that she did it out of choice or because he was the love of her life. A relationship split up by death isn’t nearly the same as one ended by choice of one or both of the people in it.

  33. I always interpreted the end of Cameron’s “Titanic” to be Rose dying and meeting up with her first love in heaven. Sure, she may have married and had a family after reaching America, but I think her connection to Jack was her strongest bond.

    Over the past week, I watched 5 hours of mostly wonderful programming on Titanic. The History Channel had a two-hour look at its discovery and those studying it, and the National Geographic Channel had one hour with Robert Ballard (who discovered the wreck) and then two hours with James Cameron as he and several experts (including some from the History Channel doc) looked over the evidence again and realized what they had wrong in the movie. He also said that his pitch for the movie consisted of showing an artist’s painting of the sinking and saying, “It’s this, plus Romeo and Juliet.”

  34. Although I like the movie, sappy as it is, two things above all have bugged me:

    1) Margaret Brown never went by “Molly”; that was changed for the musical.
    2) Why is the diamond important to Rose? Jack didn’t give it to her; the dirtbag Cal did! It’s something Jack would be appaled by. So, why does keeping it remind her of Jack, and why does she “return” it to him?

    Thanks for the tour, though, the real story of “Titanic” has an enduring pull, and it’s great to see some things from a century ago that still connect us to it.

  35. Fascinating posts. I was just watching a documentary about the Titanic and wondered about the White Star offices, googled, and found your very informative posts. Great work!

  36. Hi Just wanted to say i loved your website. Was well thought out and informative. Thanks for sharing. Id love to go to New York and do a tour like this it would be great.

  37. I love these posts!
    But just wanted to answer your question kind of. I never thought Rose died at the end of the Titanic, I always saw it as her going to sleep. And implying that she reunites with Jack in her dreams :)
    So theoretically she could still meet her husband in heaven or dream of him on other nights too :P
    Interesting perspective cos I just never considered it as her dying! haha
    I’ll be going to New York later this year, I hope I can see some of these places :)

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