They Keep Tearing It Down

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The other day they were tearing down the Irving House. It is too old; it has been built at least ten years. … New York is notoriously the largest and least loved of any of our great cities. Why should it be loved as a city? It is never the same city for a dozen years together. A man born in New York forty years ago finds nothing, absolutely nothing, of the New York he knew. If he chance to stumble upon a few old houses not yet leveled, he is fortunate. But the landmarks, the objects which marked the city to him, as a city, are gone.

Ah! with what emotion a man awakes in London, and walks out to see the famous places! The great men not only lived in a London, but in this London. Here is Whitehall, here is the Temple and its garden. Here are Greyfriars, Little Britain, Gray’s Inn. Here is St. James’s Palace and Charles Lamb’s Islington. In that room Gray staid, and in that corner house Scott stopped when in London…

We are not yet eighty years old as a nation, and there is scarcely one historic house left standing in our greatest city… What man can pause before any building in town and say, “There sat Washington,” “From that window looked Hamilton”—and yet they have been dead only little more than half a century.

When the French bombarded Rome in 1849, the whole world trembled. For in Rome were the Vatican, and St. Peter’s, and the palaces, with their pictures and statues… New York might rattle about our ears to-morrow; but who, if he had his family safe and were well insured, would care?