Old New York In Photos #58

Panoramic View of Columbus Circle – 1904

Columbus Circle Trolley 1904 photo: National ArchivesThis phenomenal panoramic street level view of Columbus Circle comes via the National Archives. On their website it is misidentified as Eighth Avenue Trolley, (true – Eighth Avenue changes names to Central Park West) Downtown (which it certainly is not.) Click the photo to greatly enlarge.

We are looking north from 59th Street (Central Park South). The Columbus monument is not visible, but would be to the extreme left near where two gentlemen are standing in the street. Directly behind them are two subway kiosks for the entrance and exit of the soon to be opened New York City subway system.

Besides the subway, the new metropolis is emerging in other ways. An automobile is heading east towards Central Park South. To the left of the automobile, a trolley makes its way up Central Park West. To the left of the trolley is one of many horse drawn vehicles traveling up and down Broadway.

Pedestrians have an easy time navigating the streets as vehicular traffic is relatively light. On the right is one of the larger entrances to Central Park called the Merchants’ Gate at the intersection of Central Park South and Central Park West. You can see the guard house to the gate directly behind the automobile. The Maine Monument which now marks the corner was cast in 1912 and dedicated in 1913.

The building under construction at the corner of 61st Street and Broadway would become the 12 story Jermyn Hotel. It was demolished in 1964. Further up Broadway at 63rd Street, the seven story building with the cupola is the original Hotel Empire built in 1889. It was demolished in 1922 and the new 15 story Hotel Empire was constructed.

The seven story Poillon apartment building on Central Park West is directly behind the trolley. On the spot in front of The Poillon stood Durland’s Riding Academy which occupied the entire block between 60th and 61st Streets between Central Park West and Broadway. When it burned down February 15, 1902, the Academy was unoccupied as Durland’s had moved their operation further uptown to 66th Street.

The fire could not be controlled because when firemen arrived they discovered that four of the hydrants surrounding the building had been disconnected by subway workmen without the fire department’s knowledge and approval. The delay in hooking up hoses to working hydrants caused not only Durland’s to be totally destroyed but the Poillon across the street to catch fire as well.

Besides some burnt windows and broken glass, the Poillon was not badly damaged and the tenants were able to immediately return to their apartments. The Poillon Apartments were demolished in 1923.

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