In London I ate in Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese because Charles Dickens ate there. In Havana I drank Bodeguita del Medio because Pablo Neruda drank mojitos there. In Paris I shopped le Cave Auge because Proust shopped there. Except for le Cave Auge (I recommend you check out their huge selection of brandy — it’s in the 8e), there is little else noteworthy in any of those places, so, in New York? 74th and Central Park West because poor old Henry Bliss died there. No other reason. Mr Bliss was the first ever pedestrian traffic fatality involving a motor vehicle. Henry, hit by a hack — an electrically driven hack at that.
He had just stepped off a street car.
It was Wednesday, September 13, 1899. Henry was a realtor, of which there must have been thousands in New York. Now, there is a plaque (for years I could not find it so I think a new one has been installed), a stripe-painted crosswalk, and a countdown pedestrian crossing light all in order to deter unwitting Bliss copycats. It was not the first ever traffic death, but it was the first in the United States.
So when you go to see the Dakota apartment building at 73rd and Central Park West, say a prayer for beloved Beatle John, then check out 74th, and say a prayer for poor, forgotten Henry.