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Picturing a World

Rooftop dolls

Flat roofs on buildings have been used as living space ever since the first towns in the Mediterranean world. New York at the turn of the 20th C was no different. Tenants in the crowded tenements of the Lower East Side went to the roofs to cool off. Elaborate roof gardens graced hotels, theaters, department stores, and luxury apartments. On a scale somewhere between the two extremes, there were rooftop amenities for ordinary, middle-class tenants living in the new apartment houses. I knew I wanted to send Mattie up onto the roof of hers when I first read this passage from a novel, Topless Towers: A Romance of Morningside Heights (1922), by Margaret Ashmun:

"The Laureana took pride in its roof …There was a floored pavilion with an awning, where in summer the tenants could disport themselves in rocking chairs. There were complicated systems of clothes lines sacred to the respective floors, so that tenants could dry and air their garments at pleasure" (p. 109).

This photograph made me think about having some toys left lying around, but the Riverview Arms I invented became an apartment house for single women, so no go.

If anybody knows of a source for photos of apartment rooftops, let me know. I've searched the on-line site for the collections of the Museum of the City of New York and come up with a few, but I'd love to have more.
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