Category Archives: New York

Birds-Eye View Of New York 1870

A Panoramic View of Lower Manhattan Including The Unbuilt Brooklyn Bridge

Lower Manhattan Harper's Weekly 1870 Brooklyn BridgeOur view is from the November 19, 1870 Harper’s Weekly.  Entitled, “Bird’s-eye view of the southern end of New York and Brooklyn showing the projected suspension bridge and East River from the western terminus in printing house square, New York.”

That long title reflects a fairly accurate view of New York, Brooklyn and surrounding area drawn by Theodore R Davis. Marine traffic crowds the river and piers with ferries, paddle-wheelers, steamships, schooners and sloops of all descriptions. The building of the bridge would slightly alleviate this nautical congestion.

Construction on the bridge began on January 2, 1870.  Continue reading

Book Review – The Finest Building In America The New York Crystal Palace

The New York Crystal Palace Gave Americans A Building To Be Proud Of

burrows finest building in americaOn the site of the future Bryant Park on 42nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues stood The New York Crystal Palace. It was only there for a little more than five years. Built of cast iron, timber and glass the building was unlike anything previously built in America.

Edwin G. Burrows book, “The Finest Building in America The New York Crystal Palace 1853-1858” Oxford; (2018), is a short, entertaining account of the impact the building and the wonders displayed inside, had on the city. Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #22 – 1950s New York City In Color

Color Postcards of New York City In The 1950s

The world famous Radio City Music Hall

When you say the words “old New York” a monochrome picture may materialize within you. What is old? It depends how old you are. To many people under the age of 40, the 1950s is considered ancient. To modern eyes, the 1950s was a black and white world because most movies were still not made in color and television sets were black and white.

So when you see the old Kodak Kodachrome moments, the pre-1960 vibrant colors still deliver  a wow effect.

1950s scenes around New York

At Foley Square where the buildings house the local, state and federal government agencies.

Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village marks the beginning of Fifth Avenue. Continue reading

New York Holds A Party For George Washington In 1889

 New York Celebrates The Washington Centennial 1889

Washington Centennial 1889 Union Square

Horse drawn floats make their way through Union Square celebrating the Washington Centennial in New York City May 1, 1889 – illustration Harper’s Weekly May 11, 1889

For the first year and a half while President, George  Washington was a New Yorker. Washington took the oath of office in New York City in 1789 and lived at 3 Cherry Street during his Presidency until 1790 when he moved to Philadelphia. Vice -President John Adams lived at 133 Broadway. Congress met in New York and the city was the center of the Federal government. Continue reading

New York’s Pedestrian Danger In 1890

Before Automobiles, Runaway Horses Caused New York’s Traffic Accidents

Runaway horse Brooklyn side of bridge Harper's Weekly March 15 1890 illustration John Durkin

Runaway on the Brooklyn side of the East River Bridge – drawn by John Durkin (Harper’s Weekly March 15, 1890)

Horses are a rarity on New York Streets. In 1890 there were tens of thousands of horses supplying transportation to the city.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is not a fan of horse drawn vehicles. Since his election in 2014 de Blasio has been inundated by animal activists to ban Central Park’s carriage horses. His efforts to do so have only removed the horses from waiting for customers outside the park. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #109 – Old Subway Signs, Helpful or Confusing?

A Times Square Subway Entrance Sign – 1955

Times Square subway entrance 1955If you say the single digits four, five and six along with the letters N, R, Q and W to a first time visitor to New York City they probably won’t be able to decode the meaning.  But a New Yorker hearing that same combination would instantly recognize you are talking about the subway. Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #89 – An Interview With Harpo Marx – Bagpipes Player

An Interview With Harpo Marx: Why He Was Taking Up The Bagpipes – 1943

Harpo Marx with bagpipes 1943 credit photo APDuring World War II Hollywood celebrities that were too old or unfit to be in the armed forces served in other ways. Almost without exception performers tirelessly traveled across the United States and all over the world to entertain the troops.

The Marx Brothers had not made a movie since 1941s The Big Store. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #108 – Fifth Avenue & 33rd Street c. 1908

Fifth Avenue Looking North From 33rd Street c. 1908

5th Ave 33rd Street Waldorf-Astoria

The Detroit Publishing Company photographer captured a typical summer day on Fifth Avenue looking north from 33rd Street. The date is sometime between 1905 -1910 based upon the vehicles seen on the streets and style of dress.

Two prominent buildings are on the west side (left) of the street. The Waldorf- Astoria Hotel in the immediate foreground between 33rd and 34th Streets. One block further north is the Knickerbocker Trust Building.

The Waldorf-Astoria as some people know is a combination of two different entities. Seen here on the near corner of 33rd Street is the 13 story Hotel Waldorf built by William Waldorf Astor in 1893. The 17 story Hotel Astoria was opened four years later on November 1, 1897 by his cousin John Jacob Astor IV. Before the Hotel Astoria was completed the two hotels agreed to combine operations to form the world famous hostelry that stood on the site until 1929. The Waldorf Astoria set up their new hotel on Park Avenue and 50th Street and the Empire State Building went up on  the hotel’s old site.

In this close-up you can see the dividing line between each hotel as the exterior wall colors are different. The Waldorf-Astoria was unified in many design elements such as exterior lighting and window canopies. Though slight differences between the two hotels are apparent. The Hotel Astoria put some extra flourishes beside their windows in the form of lion head bas reliefs. Continue reading

A List Of 59 “Really Interesting” Books About New York City Compiled In 1936

These 59 Books About New York City Were Recommended To Anyone Who Was Considering Working For The City

In 1936 New York librarian Rebecca Rankin was asked to compile a list of books with good stories which have New York as a background by the Municipal Service Commission. Along with Miriam Mayer of the Municipal Library, the two came up with a list of hundreds of good books that they would recommend to anyone considering working for the city. Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #21 – 1920s & 1930s New York City Aerial Images

New York City In The 1920s & 1930s As Seen By Airplane

A Vanished Skyline

Peenn Station Area from airplane 1920sWhen in lower Brooklyn, Queens or bicycling across the George Washington Bridge, I look at the New York City skyline. It has become something I do not recognize.

New York is a city that architecturally alters itself every year. It comes as no surprise that there are buildings that now obscure the sight of what were once tourist magnets.

The Woolworth, Bankers Trust, Equitable, Municipal, Citicorp and Chrysler Buildings are dwarfed by new neighbors. Fifty Seventh Street is now an ugly amalgamation of needle glass towers selling for $40 million to absentee owners.

I never experienced the grandeur of the classic Manhattan skyline. It had mostly vanished by the 1960s in a spate of modern construction in the financial district and midtown. However, even through the 1980s there was not an infestation of buildings that blocked New York’s most notable structures.

But in the past fifteen years the New York skyline has been overhauled. In the process obliterating the uniqueness of New York. New, mammoth unattractive buildings are now spreading like a fungus in the city. The skyline seen now could be Chicago, Los Angeles or Houston. It has been impossible to stop a bunch of undistinguished architectural monstrosities to destroy the vistas that made New York famous.

Let us return to the 1920s and 30s when New York City looked like NEW YORK CITY. Here are some aerial postcard views showing what was once a picturesque city.

Click on any image to enlarge as all of these postcards are real photo. I scanned many (not all) of them at 300 dpi so the detail is pretty clear when enlarged.

New York from the south aerial view 1930sLooking north we have a fantastic overview of the entire southern portion of the island.

aerial lower manhattan east river 1930s aerialAnother classic view when approaching Manhattan from the south showing the piers and many turn-of-the-century and art deco buildings that proliferate in lower Manhattan.

Aerial view of Lower Manhattan from the Hudson Looking east across the Hudson another at the southern tip of Manhattan. This view captures most of the important buildings in the financial district.  Continue reading