Broadway Looking North From Broome Street On A Rainy Day C. 1870
Our scene is a rainy day in New York City and that is what makes this photograph a little unusual. Setting up the large bulky cameras then available required patience, time and usually nice weather. The last thing you’d want is to get your expensive camera wet!
The photographer for this 1870s stereoview set his camera up on the 2nd floor of a building on Broome Street and Broadway. Perhaps an overhang protected him from the elements. Broome Street was named after John Broome, a veteran of the Revolutionary War and later a city alderman.
We’re looking north on Broadway from Broome and can see the street crowded with horse drawn vehicles and pedestrians. The stone paved streets glisten with rain. Gas lamps, some of them ornate, line both sides of the street.
A few walkers carry open umbrellas. Before widespread mass transit initiated by the elevated train in the 1870s, the main option besides walking or owning your own carriage, was the horse-drawn omnibus. Often crowded and dirty, the omnibus offered patrons a bumpy, if not sometimes efficient, ride. However, lower Broadway could become so clogged with traffic it could take 15 minutes to travel two blocks. Even then, the corrupt politicians did not dare try to introduce the faulty, ridiculous idea of congestion pricing to solve crowded streets.
Broadway was then a two way street like all Manhattan streets. Horses provided the means of transporting materials locally.
Besides that, this street scene is not much different from one in 2019.
If you were to venture to this neighborhood today you’d see only a few changes from our 1870s photograph. Many of the buildings seen in this photograph are still present. A great deal of the structures are constructed of cast-iron which has saved them from destruction. The Landmark Preservation Commission wisely designated much of the section as an historic district in 1973 and expanded the area covered in 2010. Overzealous developers who wipe out history at the mere sight or smell of a possible buck cannot decimate the area as they are currently doing to much of Manhattan.