By the early nineteenth century, New Yorkers had already developed an affinity
for "stoop sitting" on warm summer evenings. In the 1820s, one Englishman
raved about the joys of sitting outdoors "on the steps that ornament the
entrances of the houses. On these occasions, friends assemble in the most
agreeable and unceremonious manner. All sorts of cooling beverages and
excellent confectionary are handed round and the greatest good humour and
gaiety prevail." Although one architectural critic had accused the stoop of
"endangering the neck," for the Englishman, stoop-sitting was so pleasing that
it compensated for the burden of climbing the steps.
1900: Girls on stoop
(Jacob Riis Collection, Museum of the City of New York)
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Taken from City Play, copyright ©1990. Used with
permission by Streetplay.com.