A Block in Time is the story of New York City, told through the prism of a single block, highlighting the lives of the people who lived and worked there. "Introducing readers to a remarkable cast of characters," explains fellow writer David S. Brown, "CHRISTIANE BIRD traces the extraordinary story of a single New York City neighborhood from the Age of Discovery to our own era of hypergentrification. More than a microhistory, A Block in Time is a splendid portrait of the personalities and architecture, the fevered dreams and erratic energy that shaped a nation."
The biography of the block that is Bird's focus is the gridded rectangle bounded by 23rd and 24th streets and by Sixth Avenue on the west and Fifth Avenue and Broadway on the east, where they cross near Madison Square. From the story of Solomon Pieters, a former slave who was the first owner of the block, to Alexander "Clubber" Williams, a notorious police office of the 1870s, to Marietta Stevens, whose Sunday-night socials and scheming became the stuff of legend, Christiane Bird recounts how this block was home to "greed and generosity, guilt and innocence, extravaganza and degradation." This one Manhattan block may have intensified the changing forces in the city, but is also emblematic of New York as a whole.