Old New York In Photos #116 – Fifth Avenue & 27th Street 1903

Fifth Avenue Between 26th & 27th Street – The Old Hotel Brunswick

5th Avenue 27th Street 1903 photo Detroit Publishing CoA Detroit Publishing Co. photographer got this shot on a rare day without any traffic. Every building seen here is soon to be demolished.

The Hotel Brunswick

This photograph shows the east side of Fifth Avenue from 27th to 26th Street in 1903. Above the Cremo cigar billboard on the eight story building in the center is an announcement. The General Building and Construction Company will be razing the site for the new 20 story Hotel Brunswick beginning June 1, 1903. The new hotel would contain 1,000 rooms. The old Hotel Brunswick (with the four large billboards) closed in 1896.

The backers of this scheme went into foreclosure and the site was sold on September 23, 1905, for $2,565,907. The hotel was never built and a 12 story office building by architects Francis H. Kimball and Harry E. Donnell was erected in 1907.  The Brunswick Building is now a New York City designated landmark and was converted to apartments in 2006.

So why did our photographer take a picture of relatively mundane buildings? To document their passing? Probably. This photo also shows the home of The Detroit Publishing Company. Their retail shop is in the building immediately to the left at 229 Fifth Avenue.

A man in a straw hat pauses to look through the display window at some of the large format photographs. To his left are two women, one of whom has stopped to adjust her shoe laces.

Directly above the Detroit Photographic Company are tailors and shirt makers George H. Fullencamp and Samuel L. McGonigal. That may be the partners by the window.

Fullencamp and McGonigal Tailors and Shirtmakers 1903 Fifth AvenueWhile awaiting demolition the developers could make some money in lieu of rent. This explains the huge billboards that have gone up over the windows. Most of the buildings are or about to be vacant as seen by signs on the ground floor of some of the stores.

K.M. Crane Lamp sale

Innovation Trunk Co. has moved


Some Advertisements

As miraculous as it may seem Lea & Perrin’s Original Worcestershire Sauce has survived into the twenty-first century. Amolin Deodorizing Powder on the other hand is no longer around. If you are wondering what “For Special Toilet Uses” means – it is for the unspeakable in 1903 – sprinkling on women’s sanitary pads to absorb odor.

The other advertisements covering the old Hotel Brunswick on the northeast corner of 26th Street are rather straightforward. The same, but larger, ad for Lea & Perrin’s. Benedictine proclaims they have “the best Cordial.” Bacardi currently owns Benedictine.

Pe-Ru-Na a quack patent medicine was popular for curing all Catarrhal (mucus buildup) diseases. Perhaps the reason Pe-Ru-Na was so popular was that it contained 28% alcohol.

Whereas with Wilson High Ball at least you knew you were downing hard liquor. Is it just me or does the gentleman in the ad look like a voracious alcoholic trying to get every last drop of booze out of that glass?

The strangest ad by far is for Ross’s Royal Belfast Ginger Ale with the tagline “The Safest Summer Drink.” What does this mean? Safe in what way? Non-alocholic?  It appears the exploding ginger ale bottle is interrupting the mating activity of two canines.

According to the Ross’s own literature, Belfast, Ireland is apparently well known for aerated waters to produce soda. Besides that fact, I could find nothing that would explain the tagline or the dog image.

You May Not Notice

Some things you have to look more closely at to pick up.

The driver of the livery is black.

Directly above the carriage is a sign for the publishing house of Frank Nelson Doubleday, and Walter Hines Page.

A ghostly image of a sanitation worker near the southeast corner of 27th Street.

Finally, looking down 27th Street we can see one of the towers to McKim, Mead & White’s Madison Square Garden.

4 thoughts on “Old New York In Photos #116 – Fifth Avenue & 27th Street 1903

  1. Jack

    The man looking at the photographic enlargements in the window of the Detroit Publishing Company is *not* wearing a top hat. It looks at first glance like a straw boater with an extra wide ribbon, but I see no other indication in the picture of seasonality: straws would only be worn from the end of May until the beginning or middle of September. The Hotel Brunswick sign says that construction of the new hotel will begin by June 1, but as we know from the text that didn’t happen. So this COULD be a summer shot, which COULD confirm the hat.

    1. B.P. Post author

      That was a faux pas. Thanks for pointing it out. The sentence was meant to say “straw” hat, as it obviously is one. I think I was distracted and thinking about the livery driver.


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