Old New York In Photos #59

Looking West Towards Sixth Avenue On 42nd Street – 1890s

42nd St looking west from Fifth Ave Dr. Parkhursts Church Horse Trolley 1889 ph HN TiemannWe are looking west along 42nd Street towards Sixth Avenue in a photograph taken sometime during the last decade of the 19th century.

A cropped version of this photograph appeared in the must own book New York Then & Now 83 Matching Photographic Views from 1864-1938 and from the 1970s by Edward B. Watson and Edmund V. Gillon (Dover) 1976.

42nd St looking west from Fifth Ave close up photo HN Tiemann

close-up of trolley

When published in the book the date was given as 1900, but on the original photograph (seen above) taken by the firm of H.N. Tiemann, the caption says 1889 and lists the church as Dr. Parkhurst’s. This is definitely incorrect as Parkhurst was presiding at the Madison Square Presbyterian Church. The building next door, the Spalding Building was not constructed until around 1890, so there is doubt as to the true date of the scene.

Rapid transit is on display in the form of a couple of horse drawn trolleys and the Sixth Avenue Elevated’s 42nd Street station in the background.

West Presbyterian Church 1897 photo Byron & Co via MCNY

West Presbyterian Church 1897 photo Byron & Co via MCNY

On the north side of the street is the West Presbyterian Church (built 1862, demolished 1911) which in its heyday was attended by business titans such as Jay Gould, Henry Flagler and Russell Sage. From 1882-1893 the Reverend Dr. John R. Paxton led the congregation and attracted wealthy parishioners with his popular sermons.

To the left of the church is the Spalding Building, named after the Chicago sporting goods manufacturer, located at 29-33 West 42nd Street. The building was demolished in 1912 to make way for Stern’s department store.

On the south side of the street stands Bryant Park which is not visible in the Tiemann photo, but seen here in a Byron & Co. photo looking north across 42nd Street at the church and Spalding Building.

Take in everything seen here; the steel tracks; horse drawn trolley; cobblestone street; streetlight; elevated station; civilized people and human scaled buildings.

With the exception of Bryant Park which has been remodeled several times in the intervening years, today not a single item remains from our main photograph.

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