Cortlandt Street – Spring 1908
Our view made by the Detroit Publishing Company is looking east from the corner of West Street along Cortlandt Street towards Broadway. Unlike some of their photographs, this one is copyrighted 1908 and that can be confirmed by advertising in the background.
The street is named after one of Dutch New York’s leaders Oloff (Olaf) Stevense Van Cortlandt. Born in 1617 in the village of Wyk near Utecht, Holland. Van Cortlandt arrived as a soldier in New Amsterdam on March 28, 1638 with Director General William Kieft.
After leaving the military in 1639, Oloff Van Cortlandt working as a merchant realized there were two paths leading to great wealth; one was brewing, New Amsterdam’s 400 citizens liked beer. The other path was a rich wife. Oloff Van Cortlandt doubled down becoming a brewer and marrying Annetje Loockerman, whose family held considerably assets. Annetje ‘s family had invested in the Dutch East India’s new colony and prospered. She had come to the new world with her brother to check on the family’s investments and stayed. With his growing brewery and moneyed wife, Oloff Van Cortlandt became one of the richest men in New Amsterdam.
Politically astute, in 1655 Van Cortlandt became Burgonmeester, (equivalent to Mayor) of the growing Dutch outpost. He remained in this position until 1664 when the English conquered the city unopposed. Oloff Van Cortlandt died on April 4, 1684. His three sons and four daughters constituted a dynamic family whose power, wealth and influence lasted several generations. At one time the Van Cortlandt’s owned much of what is today’s Westchester county. Anne Stevenson Van Cortlandt, the last lineal descendant of Oloff Stevense Van Cortlandt, died June 5, 1940 at age 92.
Cortlandt street used to run a quarter mile intersecting with West Street, Washington Street, Greenwich Street, Church Street and Broadway. Today, Cortlandt Street barely exists, having been truncated to one block between Church Street and Broadway. As it continues east, Cortlandt Street changes to Maiden Lane.
In the center of the street is the Ninth Avenue elevated station at Greenwich and Cortlandt Street.
Only partially seen the huge building on the left in the background is part of the original Twin Towers, The Cortlandt Building and the Fulton Building. The 22 story twin buildings designed by architects Clinton and Russell were the home of the Hudson & Manhattan railroad. When completed in 1908 the Hudson Terminal Buildings were the largest office buildings in the world. The H&M Railroad would eventually be renamed PATH. The Hudson Terminal buildings and much of Cortlandt Street were replaced by constructing the World Trade Center complex in the 1960s and 1970s. The World Trade Center was destroyed in the September 11, 2001 attacks upon America.
Across from the Hudson Terminal Buildings on the south side of Cortlandt Street is the 486 foot tall City Investing Building.
Let’s take a closer look at our photograph. You can click to enlarge all the photos.
The nearest building on the left (north) side of the street standing on the northeast corner of 115 West Street and 88-90-92 Cortlandt Street, is the four story Glen Island Hotel & Dining Saloon. It was operated by Augustus Quick for nearly three decades until 1922 when he sold it, and catered to a seafaring crowd. The hotel remained in business until the late 1940s.
These are the type of people who would hang out in front of the hotel. They’d stand by the curb lean on a pole and watch the day go by. In colder weather the bowler hat was the preferred men’s head attire of the day.
Maybe they were taking a break from drinking. Bars abound along Cortlandt street fueling the legend of sailors gathering at ale houses. At the Glen Island Hotel the featured brand was Oelsner’s Pilsner.
Not everyone would just stand around or go to bars, although the closer to the hotel the more ogling and loafing there seems to be. There is commerce along Cortlandt Street and a little past the hotel people go about their daily business.
Being right on the water’s edge Cortlandt Street was popular with transients coming to the city by boat. There were several inexpensive hotels on Cortlandt Street between West and Washington Streets, three of which can be seen.
These hotels were generally not listed in popular guide books of the period as accommodations visitors should seek out. The rooms going for between twenty-five to seventy-five cents per night were more like motels than hotels. Prostitutes would frequent these lower end establishments.
On the right (south) side of the street beneath the Pennsylvania R.R. sign is the sign and entrance way for Sorensen’s Hotel & Cafe.
The New Trenton Hotel stood on the southeast corner of Washington and Cortlandt Streets. The featured beer at the New Trenton was Ehret’s. On the southwest corner, though not readily visible, except for its vertical hotel sign, is the Princeton Hotel at 77 Cortlandt Street.
Back on the north side of the street can be seen a billboard advertising Gilsey House. The older genteel hotel on Broadway and 29th Street had just been “entirely renovated,” according to the ad. The one dollar per day rate is typical for this sort of hostelry further uptown.
On the left is an ad for Clysmic water which we featured in another story. Beneath the Clysmic sign is a billboard for John Mason starring in The Witching Hour at the Hackett Theatre, 254 West 42nd Street. The play ran from November 18, 1907 through May 1908 for a total of 212 performances.
The tallest structure which is partially blocked by the City Investing Building is Ernest Flagg’s newly completed 41 story Singer Building. We’ve written about the Singer Building before. For a few months until the completion of the Metropolitan Life Building it was the tallest building in the world.