Category Archives: Old New York In Photos

Series: Old New York In Photos

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

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

Old New York In Photos #68 – Broadway and Fifth Avenue 1933

Broadway and Fifth Avenue -1933

Flatiron building Sept 10 1933Looking south from 26th Street and Fifth Avenue, this sidewalk level view was taken by a tourist and dated on the back, September 10, 1933. The focal point was obviously meant to be the world famous Flatiron Building at 23rd Street where Fifth avenue and Broadway meet.

Mercury -photo via photobucket user steven19798

Mercury -photo via photobucket user steven19798

In the foreground however, there is something very interesting to look at. Although it can barely be distinguished, on top of the traffic signal is a statue of Mercury, the Roman god of shopkeepers and merchants, travelers and transporters of goods.

Beginning in 1931, these 17 inch bronze statues were put up on 104 new traffic signals and poles that ran along Fifth Avenue from 8th Street to 59th Street. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #67 – Sightseeing In New York 1906

Sightseeing In New York – 1906

sightseeing-by-automobile-circa-1906If you’ve ever visited New York City you’ve probably seen the double deck buses that are all over Manhattan with a guide giving tourists facts over a loudspeaker.

This tradition of showing off the city from a motorized vehicle has been going on for over 110 years. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #66 – Brooklyn Bridge & The Manhattan Skyline At Night 1928

Under The Brooklyn Bridge & The Classic Manhattan Skyline At Night -1928

brooklyn-bridge-manhattan-skyline-at-night-1928The Brooklyn Bridge frames this unique view of lower Manhattan at night in 1928. The Woolworth Building (partially seen behind the tower of the bridge) was still the tallest building in the world.

In the center of the photo is the third tallest building in the world, the Singer Building at Liberty Street and Broadway. The second tallest building at the time was the Metropolitan Life Insurance Building on 23rd Street and Madison Avenue.

The next skyscraper to the left of the Singer Building is the Equitable Building. Just south of the Equitable with the pyramid shaped roof is the Bankers Trust Building.

Over the next four years Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #65

The New York Times Tower Building Under Construction – 1904

New York Times Building under constructionRecently I had the misfortune of passing through Times Square, now a symbol of the mall-ification of New York.

Dead center, standing at 42nd Street where Broadway and Seventh Avenue diverge is the mutilated former New York Times Tower Building. The iconic building that gave Times Square its name, is now basically an electronic billboard. Before The New York Times moved from Park Row to their new headquarters, this area was known as Longacre Square. We covered the history of the building in a previous story.

What was once a classic building has become emblematic of the entire area. Times Square now means: chain stores, thick crowds moving s-l-o-w-l-y and solicitors every five feet hawking something. Then there’s a bunch of beggars in costumes who somehow get paid by having chump tourists hand over money to take a picture with them.

Our photograph from above shows the New York Times Building in the midst of construction in 1904.  The George A. Fuller Construction Company advertises that they are erecting the new skyscraper. The Fuller Company put up a similar building on a triangular plot two years previous to this at 23rd Street, the much beloved Fuller Building, better known as the Flatiron Building. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #64

Gracie Square, 84th Street and East End Avenue 1949

1949 East End Ave 84th Street 1

1949 East End Ave 84th Street 2

1949 East End Ave 84th Street 3This sequence of photos from 1949 show a car coming down East 84th Street and entering 110 Gracie Square.

The stills are from the movie East Side, West Side starring Van Heflin, Barbara Stanwyck and James Mason.

The vantage point from the dead end of East 84th Street is one you will rarely see in old photos of New York. The wall in the foreground marks one of the entrances to Carl Schurz Park.

Nearly seven decades later the changes in this view are minimal.

84th Street Google 2009Some of the canopy’s to the buildings along Gracie Square are gone. 110 Gracie Square was renumbered for the film, it is really 10 Gracie Square, one of the most exclusive co-op buildings in the city. Built in 1930 as a rental building, famous past residents include Gloria Vanderbilt, conductor Leopold Stokowski (Vanderbilt’s husband), New York Times editor and author Charles Merz, and theater critic and author Alexander Woollcott. A five bedroom penthouse apartment has been on the market for over two years. Why so long? The original price tag was $23 million. Currently the asking price will only set you back $15 million, but be prepared for the monthly maintenance charges of $16,747. In 1937 the building went into foreclosure and the entire building was sold for $450,000!

The building seen in the first two photographs on the northwest corner of 84th Street and East End Avenue is the Chapin School, Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #63

Herald Square 1895

Herald Square Herald Building elevated 34th Street 1895 photo JS Johnston New York City commercial photographer John S. Johnston took this photo a few minutes before 1:00 pm on a lively day in 1895. We are looking north from 33rd Street where Sixth Avenue and Broadway converge to form Herald Square.

This vantage point from the Sixth Avenue Elevated station’s platform was a favorite for many photographers in the 19th century.

In the center stands the New York Herald newspaper building. The paper had just moved from Park Row to its new headquarters designed by McKim Mead and White in 1894.

A train is about to pull into the Sixth Avenue Elevated 33rd Street Station. Trolleys and horse drawn carriages share Broadway’s wide street and the sidewalks are crowded with pedestrians.

The large painted advertisement on the side of its building marks the eight story Hotel Normandie which was completed in 1884 and located at Broadway and 38th Street.

Years after our photograph of Herald Square was taken, the Hotel Normandie received a new advertising sign, but not for advertising the hotel.

On June 18, 1910 the Hotel Normandie unveiled one of the largest moving illuminated advertising signs in the world on its roof. The sign showed a Roman chariot race with three chariots appearing to race one another speeding around an arena. The sign had 20,000 white and colored lights and astounded crowds of people who gawked at its illusion of movement.

Hotel Normandie Chariot Race Sign photo: Byron Co. via MCNY collection Hotel Normandie Chariot Race Sign frame and truss photo: Byron Co. via MCNY collection Advertising sign Hotel Normandie

From the photograph above Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #62

Lower Manhattan As Seen From The Brooklyn Bridge Tower – c. 1905

View Manhattan From Brooklyn Bridge tower circa 1905 locThis unusual view was taken from the top of the New York tower of the Brooklyn Bridge around 1905. Lower Manhattan is in transition from low rise buildings to the ever increasing number of skyscrapers dotting the landscape.

We see smoke rising from many chimneys. Elevated trains make their way across the Brooklyn Bridge while many pedestrians use the bridge’s center walkway.

Near the waterfront atop a building, the Uneeda Biscuit Company billboard is conspicuously advertising one of the most popular turn-of-the-century brands right next to the heavily trafficked bridge.

Postcard Brooklyn Bridge transportation terminal hub on Park Row c. 1905

Postcard Brooklyn Bridge transportation terminal shed on Park Row c. 1905

At the end of the bridge on Park Row, the four and a half story shed structure is the transportation center also called Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #61

Broadway At Night – 1911

Broadway Times Square at night 1911

Photograph 1 Times Square at night

The glow of streetlights wash out some portions of this interesting view of Broadway looking south from 43rd Street in Times Square. But for the most part, many details can be seen in this unusual nighttime view taken by The Detroit Photo Company. There was no date associated with the picture at the Library of Congress which archives the Detroit Photo Company’s holdings; it is listed as circa 1900-1915. So how can narrow down an approximate date?

The main clue is in the marquee of George M. Cohan’s Theatre on Broadway and 43rd Street which heralds the musical The Little Millionaire which ran from September 25, 1911 through March 9, 1912.

The other clues are the billboards posted on the building to the right of the Cohan theatre advertising Broadway productions; one proclaiming “It’s a Hitchcock Conquest”; another for Mrs. Fiske, and another for a drama called Bought and Paid For. Raymond Hitchcock’s play The Red Widow ran from November 6, 1911 to February 24, 1912. Bought and Paid For had a long run from September 26, 1911 until October 1912. But the advertisement that narrows the date down is for a musical titled Peggy which only ran from December 7, 1911 to January 6, 1912. Of course the advertisement could have remained up after the show had closed, but with ad space being valuable in Times Square, it is unlikely.

Checking the Library of Congress’ holdings we find a second similar photo almost certainly taken the same night of Times Square from 46th Street looking south,

Times Square at night 1911

Photograph 2 Times Square at night

A few more interesting things to notice while zooming in on the details of the second photograph: Continue reading