Old New York In Photos #63

Herald Square 1895

Herald Square Herald Building elevated 34th Street 1895 photo JS Johnston New York City commercial photographer John S. Johnston took this photo a few minutes before 1:00 pm on a lively day in 1895. We are looking north from 33rd Street where Sixth Avenue and Broadway converge to form Herald Square.

This vantage point from the Sixth Avenue Elevated station’s platform was a favorite for many photographers in the 19th century.

In the center stands the New York Herald newspaper building. The paper had just moved from Park Row to its new headquarters designed by McKim Mead and White in 1894.

A train is about to pull into the Sixth Avenue Elevated 33rd Street Station. Trolleys and horse drawn carriages share Broadway’s wide street and the sidewalks are crowded with pedestrians.

The large painted advertisement on the side of its building marks the eight story Hotel Normandie which was completed in 1884 and located at Broadway and 38th Street.

Years after our photograph of Herald Square was taken, the Hotel Normandie received a new advertising sign, but not for advertising the hotel.

On June 18, 1910 the Hotel Normandie unveiled one of the largest moving illuminated advertising signs in the world on its roof. The sign showed a Roman chariot race with three chariots appearing to race one another speeding around an arena. The sign had 20,000 white and colored lights and astounded crowds of people who gawked at its illusion of movement.

Hotel Normandie Chariot Race Sign photo: Byron Co. via MCNY collection Hotel Normandie Chariot Race Sign frame and truss photo: Byron Co. via MCNY collection Advertising sign Hotel Normandie

From the photograph above showing the sign illuminated at night, you do not get a sense of the true size of the advertisement. The photo in the center shows the truss and framework for the sign which was 72 feet high and 90 feet wide. From this perspective it is clear how immense the sign was. The photo on the right taken during the day shows in detail what the chariot race looked like.

The sign was split in half during a terrific wind storm on February 22, 1912 when wind speeds were measured as high as 110 miles per hour in the city. After dangling perilously over the street, the fire department ordered the sign taken down.

The Hotel Normandie was demolished in 1927 and the 23 story Lefcourt Normandie Building opened in January, 1929

For a look at what the area of Herald Square looked like before the New York Herald moved in, click here.

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