Late on a moonlit night, people sometime still hear the fatal crash at Central Park West and West 74th Street. Arthur Smith of 151 West 62nd Street and his neighbor Henry Bliss of 235 West 75th were unintentional participants in a landmark event. On September 13, 1899 Taxi driver Smith was the first motorist in America to run over someone fatally. Bliss, who was alighting from a Central Park West streetcar at the time, was his victim. Arthur Smith, the driver of the taxicab, was arrested and charged with manslaughter but was acquitted on the grounds that he had no malice, nor was he negligent. At the time, three-quarters of all America’s car was in New York City!
A plaque was dedicated at the site on September 13, 1999, to commemorate the centenary of this event. It reads: “Here at West 74th Street and Central Park West, Henry H. Bliss dismounted from a streetcar and was struck and knocked unconscious by an automobile on the evening of September 13, 1899. When Mr. Bliss, a New York real estate man, died the next morning from his injuries, he became the first recorded motor vehicle fatality in the Western Hemisphere. This sign was erected to remember Mr. Bliss on the centennial of his untimely death and to promote safety on our streets and highways.” The ceremony was attended by his great-granddaughter, who placed roses on the place where Bliss was struck.