Category Archives: New York

Snow, Sleighing, Skating and Pure Joy In Central Park 1863

Central Park – A Winter Oasis of Sleighing and Skating in 1863

Central Park after the snow February 5, 1863. Woodcut from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper January 30, 1864.

New York City received its first significant snowfall this winter on January 7, 2016 with about 6 inches of snow covering Manhattan. That day and the next, Central Park had children sleighing down its various hills. Ice skating was available for all at Wollman Rink.

Would anyone today recognize Central Park 154 years ago with similar activity?

Reproduced here for the first time since it appeared in the January 30, 1864 edition of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, is this fantastic woodcut Illustration of Central Park. Unfortunately there is no artist attribution.

At first glance you would think this rural scene is not even in New York City, but the telltale signs are evident that this is indeed Central Park.

In the distant background, buildings can be seen. In the foreground is a proverbial one horse open sleigh. Other sleighs race past one another as their riders are covered in warm blankets and animal skins. One sleigh is named, the “Snow Bird.”

If you look carefully on the right you can see a familiar Central Park balustrade that onlookers are leaning against and taking in all the action.  Skaters glide across the frozen lake which begs the question: if you did not own ice skates, where could you get them from?

There was a structure called the “skating tent” in the southern portion of Central Park that rented out skates. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #71 – Wall Street In 1880 & 1904

Two Views of Wall Street – 1880 & 1904 – With A Story From A 19th Century Stockbroker

Wall Street 1880

Wall Street 1904

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The changes in Wall Street from 1880 to 1904 are clear by comparing these two photographs taken from Broad Street. The center of each photograph is unchanged with historic Trinity Church at the foot of Wall Street and Broadway.

In the 1880 photo the church clock indicates it is 9:40 in the morning. Wall street looks almost provincial with gas lit lamps and small five story buildings, mainly housing insurance companies, brokers and banks. With the wild stock swings in this tumultuous era, many firms were here today, gone tomorrow.

On the far left side behind the gas lamp you can see the advertisement on the stairs leading to 17 Wall Street for stock brokers Taylor Brothers. Directly adjacent is a three story building with a sign above its entrance for Duff and Tienken, gold brokers. Immediately next to Duff and Tienken at 13 Wall Street is the first building owned by the New York Stock Exchange. Looking closely  at the sidewalk in front of most of the buildings, the small circular cylindrical objects are coal chute covers.

Fast forward 24 years later to 1904 and Wall Street is lined with tall buildings. Continue reading

19th Century New York Inventor and Business Titan Peter Cooper Once Inherited Almost The Entire Town of Kinderhook New York – But Gave It Away!

Peter Cooper, Inventor and Industrialist, Once Inherited A Large Part Of Kinderhook, NY.

It’s What He Did With His Inheritance That Would Be Inconceivable Today

What kind of a man would inherit most of a town and not be willing to take possession of it?

The answer is Peter Cooper (1791-1883), a businessman who conducted his life in a principled way.

Peter Cooper c. 1850 (Library of Congress)

The name Peter Cooper may not be as known today as it was in the 19th century, but his influence lives well into the 21st century. Three of Cooper’s grand-daughters founded the Cooper Hewitt Museum and Peter Cooper Village is a large apartment complex on the east side of Manhattan.

But who was Peter Cooper?

Cooper was a tinkerer who lacked a formal education, but became a great inventor and entrepreneur who owned many patents. Cooper designed and built the first steam locomotive train in the United States. He developed new revolutionary methods of producing glue and one of his companies, Cooper Hewitt manufactured the wire used in laying the Transatlantic Cable.

Cooper was a strong advocate of Native American rights, the abolition of slavery and used his vast fortune in philanthropic causes. Cooper was one of the founders of an orphanage, The New York Juvenile Asylum, which is one of the oldest non-profits in the United States. But Peter Cooper’s greatest legacy was as founder of Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, a free college for both men and women that still exists today. (Cooper Union began charging tuition in 2014, but will soon return to being tuition free.)

Cooper’s grandson, scientist and naturalist Edward R. Hewitt, (1866-1957) wrote a book Those Were The Days (Duell, Sloan & Pearce) 1943, in which he tells highly entertaining stories about old New York City. Continue reading

Huge Crowd Of Last Minute Shoppers At Macy’s -1942

1942 – Crowds Come To Macy’s At The Last Minute, Not For Christmas Gifts, But Liquor

Macy’s department store in New York City – On October 31, 1942 people flock to the liquor department to stock up on spirits the day before a new liquor tax goes into effect

The government can raise food taxes, gasoline taxes and income taxes and people will get riled up. But when you increase taxes on alcohol, that’s when people go into a panic .

Immediately after the Unites States jumped into World War II on December 8, 1941, the Federal government added taxes on all sorts of things to raise money for the war effort. A tax on distilled liquor was passed: $4.00 per gallon effective November 1, 1942. In addition to that tax, retailers would have to pay a floor tax of $1.00 per gallon on any unsold liquor in their possession after that date.

Here is proof crazed buying scenes did occur in the past, though they were much more civilized. Today we associate buying frenzies with the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday or on Christmas Eve.

In our photo above on October 31,1942 crowds descended upon Macy’s liquor department to stock up on whiskey, gin, vodka and any liquor they could get, before the new liquor tax went into effect the next day.

The increased cost to consumers would be about 50 cents per bottle.

In New York City, Gimbels, Abraham & Strauss, Hearn’s, Bloomingdales, Macy’s and all the large department stores had liquor departments. Continue reading

Can You Identify This 19th Century New York City Building?

A 19th Century Mystery Building In New York City That Eludes Identification

Many times I’ll come across stereoviews of 19th century New York City that I have never seen before. Usually they are of buildings or scenes I am acquainted with either by name or written anecdote. But here is a a stereoview that leaves me stumped.

As you see, it is clearly labeled New York City & Vicinity. Beyond those words under the right panel of the view, there is no other information. I do not recognize the large building which is the stereoview’s centerpiece, the surrounding structures, or an approximate year it was taken.

Maybe the view was labeled incorrectly by the stereoview manufacturer (which I highly doubt) or it is a scene in the “vicinity” of New York. It is a mystery building and I have been unable to determine anything. Continue reading

Who Was Appearing At The Madison Square Garden Theatre 116 Years Ago Today

December 17, 1900 The Great Sarah Bernhardt Was Appearing At The Madison Square Garden Theatre

madison-square-garden-theatre-program-dec-17-1900-coverMadison Square Garden was the center of entertainment for wealthy New Yorkers in the late 19th and early 20th century. Occupying the entire block between Park and Madison Avenues from 26th to 27th Streets, the Garden Theatre was the work of architects McKim, Mead and White.

Program for week of December 17, 1900 at Madiison Square Garden

Program for week of December 17, 1900 at Madiison Square Garden

The Garden Theatre featured the most famous stars of the day and 100 years ago today, you could have seen the fabulous French star Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) during her “farewell” week. Bernahardt made over nine “farewell” tours of America between 1906 – 1918. In 1900 Bernhardt was just doing farewell weeks.

Bernhardt was appearing in a prose adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The crazy part was Ms. Bernhardt was playing….Hamlet! This was considered very controversial in 1900.

The other ads on the page show what major acts were appearing at theatres around the city.

The famous Maude Adams (1872-1953), was concluding her run at the Knickerbocker Theatre in L’Ainglon. There were only 12 more performances scheduled.

The Garden Theatre was managed by Charles Frohman, the most influential and important theatre impresario of the day. Frohman also managed the Criterion, Empire and Garrick Theatre. In addition to managing theatres, Frohman was the personal manager of Maude Adams.

If you have ever seen the movie Somewhere in Time with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, you may know that writer Richard Matheson based a good deal of Seymour’s character (Elise McKenna) on Ms. Adams. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #70 – 59th Street Central Park – 1903

59th Street, Fifth Avenue & Central Park On a Snowy Day – 1903

central-park-december-1903-from-burr-mcintoshThis panoramic view looking west from 5th Avenue of 59th Street, also known as Central Park South, was published in December 1903 by a theatrical magazine, Burr McIntosh monthly. Unless you’ve seen that issue of the magazine (unlikely) this view has remained unseen for the last 113 years.

A snowy day means light pedestrian and vehicular traffic. A few horse drawn vehicles are braving the elements, while a handful of pedestrians go about their business.

The building In the upper left corner on the south side of 59th Street is John D. Phyfe and James Campbell’s New Plaza Hotel (the original Plaza Hotel) built 1885-1890.

Phyfe and Campbell ended up losing the hotel in foreclosure before it was completed and it was purchased on September 18, 1888 by the New-York Life Insurance Co. for the bargain price of $925,000. Continue reading

Punching Out A Pedestrian In New York City – 1968

Pedestrians Have To Be Careful Then and Now

We’ve all heard of road rage, how about road-pedestrian rage?

Today the problem in New York City seems to be aggressive drivers nearly mowing down pedestrians who have the right of way. Sometimes it’s the opposite problem – pedestrians strolling into oncoming traffic when the traffic light is against them.  Typically because the pedestrian is so caught up in their personal device that they completely ignore their surroundings.

In 1968 the confrontations were much simpler.
pedestrian-punched-out-by-a-driver-new-york-1968

End of Round One

New York: With tempers a bit short on this steamy morning in New York City  Nov. 12th thsi pedestrian at left finds himself in an unusual position – prone – at 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue. He got that way after taking exception to a chauffeur’s driving ability. The driver got out of his car, flattened the pedestrian and continued on his way. The storm continued unabated. Credit: UPI telephoto 11/12/68

Continue reading

Along 13th Avenue Brooklyn

Some Sites Along 13th Avenue in Brooklyn

building-corner-39th-13thA few of the things seen along 13th Avenue in Brooklyn on a sunny day in April 2015.

In our first photograph at the corner of 39th Street and 13th Avenue, a once elegant building has been neglected and altered to detract from its original beauty. Portions of its roofline have been unmercifully lopped off at the building’s corner. Some of the ornamental features are still there, even the original building name. You just have to look for it. Near the roosting pigeons on the faded red roof just below what was certainly once an ornate cupola: The Abels and Gold Building.

abels-and-gold-building-brooklyn-39th-and-13thSimon Abels and Louis Gold were Brooklyn real estate developers at the turn-of-the-century. The Abels Gold Realty Company developed and controlled buildings around the Borough Park and Bay Ridge neighborhoods. By the 1930’s Abels Gold Realty were gone. This building is the sole reminder of their real estate legacy.

39th-13th-trolley-tracks-1Next, if you look down at the street at the same intersection, you will notice there used to be a trolley running along this stretch of road turning from 13th Avenue on to 39th Street. This small section of track was peeking through the asphalt.

39th-13th-trolley-tracks-2Now the city talks about bringing back light railway (electric trolleys) to Brooklyn in areas that have limited transportation options like Red Hook along the Brooklyn waterfront. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #69 – Where New York’s Poor Shopped 1905

Under The Williamsburg Bridge 1905 – Where New York’s Poor Shopped

market-under-williamsburg-bridgeLooking at this 1905 stereoview photograph of the market located under the Williamsburg Bridge, the one thing that jumps out at you is the number of children present among the throng of humanity.

In the foreground of the photograph the children are looking directly at the photographer who must have set up his camera at least 10 feet above the crowd to get this extraordinary view.

The Williamsburg Bridge terminus in Manhattan is at Delancey Street, in the heart of the lower east side. As New York’s ever growing immigrant population flooded into the lower east side at the turn of the century, the area was steeped in poverty.

Many vendors sold their wares in the open streets, crammed onto pushcarts overfilled with fish, meat, fruits, vegetables, pots, candles and rags. Everything you could imagine was sold from these pushcarts.

To the residents of the neighborhood the pushcarts offered necessities for a reasonable sum. For the vendors, the pushcarts offered a meager living. For the city the pushcarts represented a nuisance, selling goods of questionable quality and safety, clogging traffic and dirtying the streets.

Before the bridge was officially opened on December 19, 1903, a market was set up under the bridge to move some of the vendors off the crowded streets.

The first group of vendors to set up in the market were the fish dealers who opened for business on March 30, 1903. Continue reading