Old New York In Photos #90 – Broadway & 28th Street 1896

Street Level View of Broadway and 28th Street -1896

We are looking north on Broadway from 28th Street. This unusual ground level photograph is from a personal photo album and was taken in October of 1896. Though the photographer is an amateur and a bit of a tilt exists in the exposure, a lot of interesting details appear here.

The ornate street sign marking West 28th Street has something attached to it that was once very common and has now gone the way of the Dodo, a mailbox. Thousands of these sort of mailboxes were once attached to lampposts and street signs throughout the city.

Just past the street sign is a large sign denoting the site of the 5th Avenue Theatre. It’s a bit of a misnomer since the theatre was situated on the corner of 28th Street and Broadway, not on Fifth Avenue.

Across the street between 28th and 29th Streets near a parked horse cart we can see a good deal of the six-story Sturtveant House Hotel. The hotel was completed in 1871 and did a solid business through the turn-of-the-century. Sturtveant House was sold in February 1903 and demolished in autumn of that year. The twelve-story Hotel Breslin went up in its place, opening on November 12, 1904.

Further up the block on the right side of Broadway on the northeast corner of 29th Street is the Victorian masterpiece, Gilsey House which began construction in 1869.

Officially opened on April 15, 1871 as a sumptuous hotel owned by Peter Gilsey Sr., the Gilsey House is a miraculous 147-year-old survivor in New York’s turbulent merry-go-round of build and demolish.

Gilsey House was built at a cost of around $800,000 in the Second Empire architectural style. The hotel originally contained 270 rooms with all the modern conveniences, such as gas lighting, bath and hot and cold water.  Steam elevators ran from the cellar to the roof.  The center of the hotel had a unique feature: a winding staircase extending from the basement to the dome on the roof, all with exquisitely carved banisters. The first two stories of stairs was made of solid stone.

After its days as a hotel ended in 1911, the building became loft space. Though the former hotel went through periods of shabbiness and talk of possible demolition, Gilsey House survived. It was designated a New York City Landmark in 1979. The following year the cast iron masterpiece was converted into apartments. A two bedroom apartment will now set you back $2 million.

The final thing to take note of is the light pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Deliveries are made via foot messengers or horse power pulling wagons. Just beyond the two men riding in the horse cart in the center of the street, a Broadway trolley can be partially seen.

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