Old New York In Photos #85 – 42nd Street From The 3rd Avenue Elevated 1887

42nd Street Looking West From 3rd Avenue Towards Grand Central 1887

This albumen photograph was taken in 1887 by Willis Knowlton who had his studio at 335 Fourth Avenue.

Knowlton set up his camera from the 42nd Street station of the Third Avenue Elevated looking west towards Grand Central Station. If you’re thinking, “wait a minute, why are there elevated tracks running west towards Grand Central?” The answer is, this connecting spur was in place between 1878 and 1923, taking commuters to and from Grand Central directly to the Third Avenue El. As practical as the connection was for the 15,000 daily riders still using it in 1923, the city’s Board of Estimate ordered its removal in October of that year. The IRT complied and the spur was closed at midnight December 6, 1923 and the tracks and station were demolished soon afterwards.

A little about the buildings seen in this photograph. Running along the northern (right) portion of 42nd Street at 145-147 East 42nd with the “DUMB WAIT” sign painted on its wall is the establishment of James Murtaugh, manufacturer of dumb waiters. With over 85,000 of his dumb waiters in use, Murtaugh’s products were praised by New York’s Great Industries, a book published in 1885, as being “the safest and most durable manufactured.”

Just beyond Murtaugh’s on the northeast corner of Lexington Avenue is the original Vanderbilt Hotel. In 1912 the Vanderbilt Hotel relocated to Park Avenue and 34th Street. This entire block between 3rd and Lexington Avenues is now occupied by the Chrysler Building.

Hospital for Ruptured & Crippled photo: King’s Handbook of NY 1893

On the northwest corner of Lexington Avenue, but set back from the photographer’s vantage point is the the Hospital for the Ruptured and Crippled. That building was opened in 1870 and moved further east along 42nd Street in 1912. The sign on the side of the building at 129 East 42nd Street marks the home of Warren, Fuller & Lange, manufacturers of fine wallpaper. Some of their wallpaper patterns were designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany.

At the elevated station in the distance on Depew Place you can see three trains waiting. To the right are the fancy cupolas which belong to the original Grand Central Station. The spire of the Church of the Holy Trinity on the northeast corner of Madison Avenue past Grand Central is the tallest structure seen in this photograph.

Turning to the southern (left) side of 42nd Street, a number of buildings are clearly identifiable.

Powell, Wenigmann & Smith, “importers and manufacturers of the finest cigars” occupies the  large warehouse like building in the foreground at 140-146 East 42nd Street.

Manhattan Storage 42nd St. Building photo: King’s Handbook of NY 1893

On the southwest corner of Lexington Avenue the building with the turret on its roof is the Manhattan Storage and Warehouse Company. The company owned two buildings; the one seen here on 42nd Street and another on 7th Avenue between 52nd and 53rd Streets.

The warehouse buildings were described by King’s Handbook of New York (1893) as “absolutely fire-proof. Large, massive, substantial, constructed of brick and stone, concrete and iron, they are conceded by all experts who have examined them to be indestructible depositories. Years were devoted to their construction. Each one consists of sections which are separate storage buildings under one roof, having no connection with each other except by the central court. These sections are separated from each other by solid brick walls, from 36 inches to 28 inches thick.”

Adjacent to the warehouse is the Madison Avenue Stage Stables and on the southeast corner of Park Avenue is the Grand Union Hotel.

The tall building between Park and Madison Avenues with the advertisement painted on its side is the Lincoln National Bank and Safe Deposit Company.

131 years later, every building and structure visible in our photograph has vanished.

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