Holographic Studios is located on the East Side of midtown Manhattan in a century old former blacksmith forge. When this brownstone building was constructed, there were no automobiles, airplanes, telephones, computers, blackberrys, cell phones, electric lights, radio, television, refrigeration, central heating and almost every modern convenience that we now take for granted. The streets outside were made of cobble stones. And horses and walking were the means of transportation. A blacksmith would heat iron over the hot coals until it glowed red and then he would shape it into the three dimensional shape of a horse shoe. Today we use a red laser beam to record three dimensional objects in the same space through holography. So although much has changed, much also remains the same.
As you may know, Manhattan Island (“island of hills”) is the center of the five boroughs (counties) that make up New York City. When the Dutch first arrived on their ships on the North River (now called the Hudson River in honor of the explorer Henry Hudson) in 1624, they named their colony Nieuw Nederland (New Netherland) and the city Nieuw Amsterdam (New Amsterdam) which Peter Minuit purchased from Chief Seyseys of the Canarsies in 1626 for 60 guilders worth of trinkets (often said to be worth $24 US dollars, but more like $20,000 today). The native New Yorkers called Weckquaessgeeksands lived for thousands of years on the forested lands where Holographic Studios now stands. They were soon displaced by the Dutch. These Native Americans were Algonquins. The local Algonguins called themselves Lenni-Lenape, but were called Deleware Indians by the settlers because they first encountered them along the shores of the Deleware River. The English displaced the Dutch in 1664 and the colony was renamed as New York to honor the King of England’s brother, the Duke of York.
General Horatio Gates built his farmhouse a few blocks south of here on 2nd Avenue at 21st Street and named it Rose Hill. The neighborhood still retains that name to this day. Gates commanded the Continental Army troops who won the first American victory in the War of Independence from England at the Battle of Saratoga in 1777, considered by many historians to be the turning point of the Revolutionary War. Incidentally, it was the bold leadership in that battle by General Benedict Arnold that is said to have carried the day. Years later Arnold betrayed the Continental Army and plotted the surrender of the American fort at West Point, New York to the British. After his defeat and capture by General Gates, the English General “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne returned home in disgrace never to be given another command. When news of the outcome of the battle reached Europe, France entered the war on the side of the colonies and helped the colonies achieve independence.
As the city expanded by leaps and bounds in the mid to late 1800s with wave after wave of immigration, the farm was subdivided and sold off to make way for the gridiron of brownstones on local streets that now make up the city. One of these brownstones housed the blacksmith’s forge that we now occupy. After many decades of service, it found it self increasingly isolated in a world of automobiles. When it closed, a medical instruments company took over the space. They used the forge to fabricate the surgical tools used in the obstetrics ward at nearby Bellevue Hospital. In the 20th century the stately brownstones increasing have become dwarfed by the skyscrapers that rise like mushrooms on these ancient fields and forests. It is on this former forest, then farmland, and then forge that Holographic Studios now stands.