Two Photographs At 26th Street & Madison Avenue c. 1870 & 1875
We are looking west from the southwest corner of 26th Street and Madison Avenue. On the tree lined street is the edge of Madison Square Park. The right side of the street shows fine examples of single family brownstones, which were abundant in this tony, residential area of New York.
A boy walks his dog in the center of the Belgian block paved street. Standing on the flagstone sidewalk a small group observes the Anthony Company photographer preserving this scene.
If our cameraman would return a few years later in 1875 and take a photograph in the opposite direction we would see a new enterprise. An entertainment center, Gilmore’s Concert Garden, would occupy the northeastern corner of Madison Ave. and 26th Street. By 1879 Gilmore’s acquired a new moniker – Madison Square Garden, the first of four structures to bear that name.
Along Madison Avenue
Our second photograph is looking south along Madison Avenue showing Gilmore’s Concert Garden. On the left are two advertisements for upcoming shows. Though both signs are very blurry, I was able to deduce what they promote and date this stereoview to August 1875.
The contra-alto singer performed an unprecedented 200 consecutive appearances at London’s Covent Garden cementing her fame and popularity as the queen of “Opéra bouffe,” French comic opera.
Mathews had been married to an abusive drunk, William Mumford. He apparently did nothing but live off her vast earnings. In 1870 Mathews obtained a judicial separation from him.
The advertisement on Madison Avenue is announcing Mathews upcoming appearance in Offenbach’s “Barbe Bleue” retitled “Boulotte” at Wallack’s Theatre on August 19, 1875.
Less than a year later while on tour in St. Louis, Missouri, Mathews died suddenly on May 19, 1876 from complications of rheumatism and malarial fever she contracted in New Orleans, Louisiana. Mathews was only 33-years-old and left behind three children ages five, seven and eleven.
The other sign to the extreme left advertises the revival of “The Big Bonanza” at the Fifth Avenue Theatre beginning on August 23. The show marked the first New York appearance of 25-year-old Maurice Barrymore, progenitor of the famous Barrymore acting family.
Notice the corner of Gilmore’s building. There is a large sign below the second story which says “Beware Ticket Speculators,” meaning beware of ticket scalpers. Over the course of 150 years some things never change, others do.
Not one building in either of our photographs remain today.