A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

Recent entries:
“Can anyone tell me what oblivious means? I have no idea” (7/21)
“Sundays were made for good coffee, good music, and being lazy with the people you love” (7/21)
“The people who currently own this world don’t care which ruler you choose. They care only that you keep choosing to be ruled” (7/21)
Entry in progress—BP96 (7/21)
Entry in progress—BP95 (7/21)
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Entry from April 12, 2006
Valley of Ashes (now Flushing Meadows Corona Park)
F. Scott's Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby (1922) described the "Valley of Ashes." This was the Corona Dump in Queens.

In 1936, the Corona Dump was cleared to prepare for the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair. The New York Mets currently play in the area of the former "Valley of Ashes," and a new Mets Stadium is also planned for the area.

The great ash heap/valley of ashes of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby used to be the ash dumping grounds in what is now Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

The opening of the Triborough Bridge and Grand Central Parkway from the Bridge to Kew Gardens in 1936, of Queens College in 1937, and of LaGuardia Airport in 1939 all pointed in these directions. Even more critical was the World's Fair of 1939-1940, which put the new borough on the national map for the first time. Massive preparations for the event began in 1936 and brought about the elimination of the stupendous Corona dumps -- dubbed the "valley of ashes" by F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby -- the building of the Whitestone Bridge, and the widening and boulevarding of Astoria Boulevard.

The Valley of Ashes
First introduced in Chapter II, the valley of ashes between West Egg and New York City consists of a long stretch of desolate land created by the dumping of industrial ashes. It represents the moral and social decay that results from the uninhibited pursuit of wealth, as the rich indulge themselves with regard for nothing but their own pleasure. The valley of ashes also symbolizes the plight of the poor, like George Wilson, who live among the dirty ashes and lose their vitality as a result.

Between Great Neck and the city was a large swamp-like area known as the Corona dumps (present site of Shea Stadium), which was being filled with ashes from coal-burning furnaces--as well as with horse manure and garbage. Wilson's gas station in the Valley of Ashes would have been located where either Northern Boulevard or the railroad crosses the Flushing River. But Fitzgerald moved the road and the railroad tracks closer together in order to place the garage alongside the road and a short distance from the railroad drawbridges.

The Valley of Ashes represent, then, a site that was literally covered with ashes and smelling of garbage, the least inhabitable area in this region outside New York City that attracted to either side of it some of the best known, most respected and wealthiest of American families. To live and work in this valley is to be constantly reminded of the things that are possible to others but beyond your reach.

And the Valley of Ashes is also a literary construction inspired by T.S. Elliot's "The Wasteland." Both are sites in which happiness and inner peace are unattainable.

All the immorality and death of all the people converges in one distinct place, the Valley of Ashes. It is found between West Egg and New York City. This Valley of Ashes is "a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat ridges and hills and grotesque gardens, where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through powdery air," (27). Dr. Eckleburg symbolizes the unknowing God whose eyes look aimlessly throughout the Valley of Ashes. His large glasses represent the "eternal blindness" or the ignorance of the immoral actions of humans on Earth. A certain garage, "Repairs, George B. Wilson, Cars Bought and Sold," is found in this desolate area. This garage implies to the reader that the people living in this area lack morals, and the owner of the garage along with his wife, are going to die.

Posted by Barry Popik
Neighborhoods • Wednesday, April 12, 2006 • Permalink

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