Monday, April 02, 2007

Macomb Street Monday Mystery

Here's an interesting sign carved into this old building at the corner of 5th Ave and Garfield Place in Park Slope identifying the street as Macomb St (the other side of the building-not shown- says "Fifth Ave"). The street was originally called Macomb St until sometime after 1881 when President James Garfield- our first ambidextrous President- was assassinated.
Forgotten New York speculates that it was named after Alexander Macomb Sr, a wealthy merchant during the Revolutionary era and builder of one of George Washington's houses on Broadway in Manhattan, back in 1790 when NYC was the capitol.

I'm going to go out on a limb here, disagree with Forgotten NY and guess that it's actually named after his arguably more famous son, Alexander Macomb, Jr- a hero of the War of 1812 and commanding general of the US Army from 1828-1841. I'm unsure when the street was actually named (which would be a big help) but it does appear on this 1855 map which places it after the death of Jr. in 1841.

The name change to Garfield Place occurs sometime between Garfield's death in late 1881 but prior to 1891, as it's on this map from that year. Did you know that Alexander Graham Bell invented a crude but working metal detector in an unsuccessful attempt to locate the bullet in Garfield's chest? Also part of Garfield's assassin's brain is on display at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia.

Unfortunately for our ex-President, 97 years after his death, a big orange lasagna-loving cat of the same name would make his comic strip debut and within 10 years become the more famous Garfield. James A. Garfield died on a Monday and Garfield the cat hates Mondays and today is Monday- coincidence?

Wow this has become way more involved than my original idea for this post which went something like "check out the sky and the incorrect sign on this building- cool".