Broadway At Night – 1911
The glow of streetlights wash out some portions of this interesting view of Broadway looking south from 43rd Street in Times Square. But for the most part, many details can be seen in this unusual nighttime view taken by The Detroit Photo Company. There was no date associated with the picture at the Library of Congress which archives the Detroit Photo Company’s holdings; it is listed as circa 1900-1915. So how can narrow down an approximate date?
The main clue is in the marquee of George M. Cohan’s Theatre on Broadway and 43rd Street which heralds the musical The Little Millionaire which ran from September 25, 1911 through March 9, 1912.
The other clues are the billboards posted on the building to the right of the Cohan theatre advertising Broadway productions; one proclaiming “It’s a Hitchcock Conquest”; another for Mrs. Fiske, and another for a drama called Bought and Paid For. Raymond Hitchcock’s play The Red Widow ran from November 6, 1911 to February 24, 1912. Bought and Paid For had a long run from September 26, 1911 until October 1912. But the advertisement that narrows the date down is for a musical titled Peggy which only ran from December 7, 1911 to January 6, 1912. Of course the advertisement could have remained up after the show had closed, but with ad space being valuable in Times Square, it is unlikely.
Checking the Library of Congress’ holdings we find a second similar photo almost certainly taken the same night of Times Square from 46th Street looking south,
A few more interesting things to notice while zooming in on the details of the second photograph:
On the right at The Astor Theatre the electric sign confirms Raymond Hitchcock is currently in The Red Widow as the theatre marquee displays. On the left at The New York Theatre, though it is difficult to make out because of the glare, Kitty Gordon is in The Enchantress, an opera in two acts that ran October 19, 1911 to January 20, 1912.
We can also determine the time these two photographs were taken probably minutes apart. On the left is a street clock and zooming in on it we see it is approximately 9:35 p.m. The final thing to note in this second photograph is the street level lighting for vehicles: lanterns hanging from rods!
Night photography was still in its infancy and the exposure time necessary to produce images was long, so that is the reason for the overexposure of streetlights and the streaks of moving vehicular lights.
Returning to our first photograph, in the foreground we can see an uptown subway entrance kiosk to the Times Square station. A second subway kiosk is just to the right of the Times Tower. Bundled newspapers are ready for distribution or recycling alongside the kiosk. Behind the kiosk stand the lower stories of the iconic Times Tower Building which we previously covered.
On the left side of Broadway below the theatrical billboards stand two more subway kiosks. Just past Cohan’s Theatre sign on the corner of 42nd Street with its electric lights trimming around its upper facade and roof line is the Hotel Knickerbocker built 1906. The hotel was converted into offices in 1921 and just reconverted in 2015 back to a luxury hotel. Other large advertising signs down the block from the Knickerbocker are at 41st Street marking the Hotel Albany. Lorber’s Restaurant with its signage is between 39th and 40th Streets. The scene gets slightly blurry but the sign for the Hotel Normandie can be made out at 38th Street right near the Wrigley’s Spearmint gum sign. On the right side near the Wrigley’s sign can be spotted a large sign for Macy’s.
On both sides of Broadway between 41st and 42nd Streets are lighted signs for Louis Martin’s Restaurant. The space had been previously occupied in 1910 by Café de l’Opera, a short lived, opulent restaurant that failed soon after it opened. Veteran restaurateur Martin took over, renamed the restaurant for himself, but he did not fare well and by 1913 he rid himself of the restaurant. After another ownership and name change, the restaurant closed permanently in 1914 and the building was demolished in 1915.
Finally to the right of Broadway just above the subway kiosks in the distance can be seen the electric sign for the Hotel Navarre on 7th Avenue and 38th Street.