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July 19th in NYC History

Posted: Jul 19, 2013 | 12:23 AM
by Jared Goldstein

1945:  A fire below Wall Street consumed over 300 buildings, causing $6 million in damages.

1967:  The F Line premiered air conditioned subway trains.  Not all trains were air conditioned even twenty years ago; it seemed.

2012:  Sylvia Woods, Harlem's Queen of Soul Food died at 86.

The following is adapted from a piece by an excellent tour guide, Peggy Taylor who conducts expert tours of Harlem and the Hamptons:

'Sylvia Woods descended from South Carolina farmers, washerwomen, midwives, and cooks.  In her time she was a bean picker, hairdresser, factory worker and waitress. 

Her mother mortgaged the family farm so she could buy a luncheonette in 1962.  She became a restauranteur with a personal touch, even as the service was a bit neglectful, as well as becoming an entrepreneur marketing food products and cook books based on her fame. 

Celebrities, politicians, governors, Presidents, heads of state all dined there.

In the 1960s the area was crime infested.  To keep criminals from harassing her customers, she opened an hour early to feed the drug dealers.  In the burning riots of the era, Silvia's was never torched.  The food was too good, reminiscent of grandmothers' southern cooking.'

Thank you, Peggy, for letting me adapt your piece that was part of a larger one in the Guides Association of NYC's Newsletter GuideLines.

Sylvia's food continues to be great, and her descendants have shown a lot of pride keeping the restaurant going strong.  In the era of Internet reviews, service has improved a great deal as well.


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