Brooklyn historian tells story of ‘The Finest Building in America’
Edwin G. Burrows is a distinguished professor of history emeritus at Brooklyn College, where he has taught since 1973. His course on the History of New York City remains one of Brooklyn College’s most popular offerings.
He is also the co-author of “Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for history, and is the author of “Forgotten Patriots: The Untold Story of American Prisoners During the Revolutionary War,” which was named Best Book of the Year on the American Revolution by Fraunces Tavern Museum. Burrows has been a distinguished lecturer for the Organization of American Historians and served on the board of the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum in Manhattan, New York History and the Society of American Historians, and is a past president of the New York Academy of History.
In “The Finest Building in America,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning author tells the tale of what was once proclaimed to be the country’s finest buildings. The New York Crystal Palace, centerpiece of the 1853 World’s Fair, like its London counterpart was intended to display the country’s latest technological achievements. As quickly as it appeared, it was gone. On Oct. 5, 1858, merely five years after its construction, the Crystal Palace caught fire. Despite frantic attempts to save it, the magnificent dome was engulfed and within 30 minutes the entire structure reduced to a heap of smoldering debris. For days afterward, bereft New Yorkers picked through the debris for mementos.
With sumptuous images and lively storytelling The Finest Building in America brings back to life an extraordinary monument, one that briefly but wholeheartedly captured the imagination of a country, giving form to its dreams and ambitions, and then vanishing from view.
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