Magic is basically extinct in the modern day New York of The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell. The Mageus, the few who have an affinity for magic, have to hide who they are. Esta has the power and training to set things right in order to save the Mageus from their hopeless future. She does this by time traveling back to New York in 1901.
Even though New York City is constantly changing and shifting, there are still plenty of reminders of the past that can’t be completely erased—train tracks leading to nowhere, abandoned buildings, secret spots that often go overlooked. There are plenty of surprises and bits of history if you look hard enough. It may not be Esta’s New York of the 1900’s, but it still has some lesser-known places that feel like you had to time travel to see them and others that seem to exist as if by magic. After reading about (or even better, visiting) these places in New York, you’ll be in the perfect mood to dive into The Last Magician. Read the extended excerpt on Riveted until August 14!
The Cloisters – You can time travel like Esta by taking the A train or the 1 back to the 12th century. The Cloisters are part of the Met, but hidden all the way up in Washington Heights. They were reconstructed from four French monasteries and abbeys and contain quiet gardens bursting with plants and herbs used in medieval remedies; huge tomb effigies; jewel-colored stained glass windows; and unicorn tapestries.
Renwick Hospital – A smallpox hospital from the 1850s rests abandoned and crumbling on Roosevelt Island. The hospital was accessible via ferry to keep infected patients away from the rest of the population. By the 1950s, Renwick Hospital became useless.
Steinway Piano Factory in Astoria – Factories tend to evoke images of conveyor belts and mass produced items churning out. This famous piano factory seems to be a wonder because these complex devices are still made by hand. Tours are offered at very limited times to see the factory and learn how pianos are made, from starting with raw wood to final tuning.
Clocktower Gallery and Machinery Room – This landmark really emphasizes the time part of time travel that takes place in The Last Magician. This mechanical clock is the city’s largest, with over a dozen gears attached to a hammer that strikes a 5,000-pound bronze bell on the hour on the 13th floor in Tribeca. The clock was built in 1898. By the 1970s, the clock tower had been abandoned. In 1973, the space below the clock was turned into a gallery. In 1979, the clock got another repair to get it back in working order. Today, the tower currently serves as a radio station. The galleries are open to the public and hosts events throughout the year.
A piece of the Berlin Wall – A piece of history is tucked away in the lobby of this office building, located at 520 Madison Ave. Five sections of the wall are on display for public viewing.
Whispering Gallery – Grand Central Terminal feels like it’s out of this time, with its opal-faced clocks, train schedules, archways, ornate ceiling, and other decorative flourishes. The Whispering Gallery is an additional feature that seems impossible. In spite of all the noise of the station, if you stand at a corner outside the entrance to the Oyster Bar, you can clearly hear someone whispering at the opposite corner.
Hidden subway station Beneath City Hall – When the MTA isn’t having you time travel in the worst way possible (i.e. dropping you off on the other side of town because your train changed tracks and now you’re being held at a station hours after you were supposed to be elsewhere), it sometimes can show you glimpses of the past in a grand kind of way. The subway station under City Hall has been closed since 1945. The ceilings are tall and arched and covered in antique tile and glass skylights, sealed away for all these years. However, you can now get a glimpse of it by taking the 6 train to the Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall station. Don’t get off. When the train loops around, you can get a quick view of the location (or you can take the New York City Transit Museum tour when the lights of the station will be turned on).
Underground bowling alley – There’s supposedly a bowling alley underneath The Frick, an Upper East Side mansion/museum that houses old master paintings. The bowling alley has mahogany-paneled walls, pine-and-maple lanes, and a custom-made set of balls, all completed in 1916.
The Wizard of Park Avenue – There’s a bearded wizard who waves his wand on the hour above the crowds. He goes unseen most of the time atop his clocks, decorated with silkworms and mulberry leaves. On the hour, the queen emerges holding a tulip and doesn’t disappear until the clock stops striking.
6 ½ Avenue – Want to get across Midtown in half the time? Take this half avenue, which stretches between 6th and 7th Avenues from West 51st to West 57th Streets. This avenue is pedestrian-only, leading a quarter-mile path through privately owned public spaces with stop signs to cross the streets mid-block.
Brazenhead Books – This bookstore—which is located in an undisclosed NYC apartment—has the tagline “the little shop where time stood still.” Brazenhead is crammed full of books inside of the owner’s living space. Book lovers can make a trip to the store by setting up appointment ahead of time.