Walking Tours that Conjure New York’s Tragic Past

East Coast
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
General Slocum Steamship Diaster, 1904. (Courtesy Sites of Memory)

General Slocum Steamship Diaster, 1904. (Courtesy Sites of Memory)

Before 9/11, the General Slocum steamship disaster was the greatest loss of life in a single day in New York. Never heard of it? You may have walked by a diminutive memorial fountain in Tompkins Square Park, but otherwise little remains to tell the tale of the 1904 East River wreck that killed over 1000 German immigrants from the Lower East Side. A major event of its time, the Slocum tragedy was commemorated in books and even a movie, but as generations pass, the memory has faded.

Sites of Memory, a newly launched project by art director and writer Angela Riechers, aims to reanimate the memories of events like the General Slocum, or the Civil War draft riots, or more contemporary tragedies like the shooting of Amadou Diallo, by taking you—physically or virtually—to the very spot and letting a literary-star narrators including Kurt Andersen, Luc Sante, and Lewis Lapham, tell you the often sad but always intriguing story of the unlucky people involved.

Continue reading after the jump.

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