A Very Early View of Lower Manhattan Looking East Towards The East River & Brooklyn circa 1892
This magic lantern slide overlooking lower Manhattan along with the East River and Brooklyn is pre-twentieth century. Where exactly; when it was taken; and where from, was a mystery. But some things to take notice of:
Williamsburg Bridge Under Construction As Viewed From The East River 1901
From a personal photo album comes this previously unpublished 1901 view looking north from the East River.
Besides all the vessels navigating the heavily trafficked waterway, we can see the completed towers of the Williamsburg Bridge. The cables of the bridge have been completed but the roadway beneath the span is absent.
The first bridge crossing Kings County to Manhattan was the Brooklyn Bridge, opening in 1883. It would take another 20 years before the next great span, the Williamsburg Bridge was completed. Continue reading →
New York City’s Finest On Parade With The Broadway Squad Of The Police Department Dressed In Their Old Uniforms
Though these officers bear a resemblance to Mack Sennett’s Keystone Cops, they are actually old-timers of the New York City Police Department’s Broadway Squad dressed in their uniforms of days past.
The slug for this photograph reads:
Little Bit of Old New York
New York City – One of the features of the annual New York Police Department Parade, which was held in New York today, was the appearance in the ranks of the surviving members of the old Broadway Squad, who twenty years or more ago, directed the traffic and the peace of New York’s “Great White Way.” – 4/26/1930 credit: Wide World Photos
Stationed all along Broadway from the Battery to 42nd Street were the Broadway Squad. They were specially selected officers who were all over six feet tall. While that might seem like nothing special, at the turn-of-the-century anyone over six feet in height was considered quite large.
In 1898 the Broadway Squad was described as “ninety of the tallest, best proportioned and finest looking men on the police force.” Continue reading →
Street Level View of Broadway and 28th Street -1896
We are looking north on Broadway from 28th Street. This unusual ground level photograph is from a personal photo album and was taken in October of 1896. Though the photographer is an amateur and a bit of a tilt exists in the exposure, a lot of interesting details appear here.
The ornate street sign marking West 28th Street has something attached to it that was once very common and has now gone the way of the Dodo, a mailbox. Thousands of these sort of mailboxes were once attached to lampposts and street signs throughout the city.
Just past the street sign is a large sign denoting the site of the 5th Avenue Theatre. It’s a bit of a misnomer since the theatre was situated on the corner of 28th Street and Broadway, not on Fifth Avenue.
Across the street between 28th and 29th Streets near a parked horse cart we can see a good deal of the six-story Sturtveant House Hotel. The hotel was completed in 1871 and did a solid business through the turn-of-the-century. Sturtveant House was sold in February 1903 and demolished in autumn of that year. The twelve-story Hotel Breslin went up in its place, opening on November 12, 1904.
Further up the block on the right side of Broadway on the northeast corner of 29th Street is the Victorian masterpiece, Gilsey House which began construction in 1869. Continue reading →
A Previously Unpublished View Of The Flatiron Building 1902
There is nothing extraordinary about this photo of old New York. But because it is previously unpublished and taken by an amateur photographer at an interesting time, we’re sharing it here.
This sepia photograph is from an old personal photo album and was taken sometime in the summer of 1902. It shows the Flatiron Building as it neared completion. The scaffolding had been removed at the end of June 1902. If you look carefully you can see a sign in front of the building announcing space for rent.
The Flatiron Building is located at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway at 23rd Street. When it was completed it was not the tallest building in New York at 307 feet, but the slenderest and most aquiline. It was, and still is considered by many to be the most remarkable building in New York. In 1902, hundreds of people would stop and just stare at the building for five or ten minutes. Then many of them would move to a slightly different vantage point and continue looking at the building with amazement. Continue reading →
The 14th Street Store of Henry Siegel – 14th St. & 6th Ave c. 1905
These two photographs were taken by the Detroit Publishing Co. on the same day, likely minutes apart. They show Henry Siegel’s 14th Street Store (1904-1914) and the Sixth Avenue Elevated Railroad looking towards the southeast corner of Sixth Avenue and 14th Street.
There is much to see, especially when zooming in on the details by clicking to enlarge the photos.
Besides the orientation of landscape versus portrait there are slight but noticeable differences in the two photos.
In the first photo at the 14th Street elevated station the northbound passengers wait for the next train and all sorts of advertising can be seen along the station walls.
On top of the southbound station, a man is painting the roof with two cans of paint, one in front of him, the other behind him. In the other photo the painter is not in frame, but both cans of paint are near one another.
On the fourth floor of the store, two women appear to be watching the photographer as he set up to take his picture. The window openings are in the exact same position as the other photo, but the women are gone. Continue reading →
This is an ordinary view of an ordinary street, East 69th Street taken on April 4, 1931 from the northeast corner of First Avenue. But even though it is ordinary, there is a lot to notice.
Still under construction at the end of 69th Street and York Avenue are the art deco inspired buildings of New York Hospital-Cornell Medical College. The hospital began construction in 1929 and was opened in September 1932. What had previously been the site of the Central Brewing Company and some row houses, became the home of buildings that housed New York Hospital, Cornell University Medical College, New York Hospital School of Nursing, and the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic.
On the right side of 69th street is the Roman Catholic Church of St. Catherine of Siena. The church had been located there since 1897 and was soon to be demolished. The congregation moved to a new building on East 68th Street in 1932.
Even with the paucity of pedestrians and traffic on 69th Street, there is activity near the church. Continue reading →
Lower Manhattan’s Classic Skyline Seen Aerially From Battery Park c. 1956
And What Became of It
Classic lower Manhattan skyline before the late 1950s transformation. Battery Park is in the foreground. (c.1956)
Every time I’m in Brooklyn I gaze across the East River at the lower Manhattan skyline. I feel I’m looking at a city I don’t recognize.
It’s not because I’m old. But it might be because the buildings that have been going up since the late 1950s are so similar. They’re all of the same mold- glass sheathed pinnacles with no flourishes, adornments or personality.
For the first half of the twentieth century, when you came upon New York whether by ship, train or car and got your first glimpse of the skyline you knew you were coming into New York City.
For a native New Yorker coming upon New York today, you may as well be entering the architectural equivalent of the Mall of America, any-city USA. Examples sprout up everywhere of New York’s architectural monstrosities, ugly and tall for the sake of being tall.
Classic lower Manhattan skyline form Brooklyn waterfront in the 1930s. photo: Acme
Commercial Cable Building
The skyline of lower Manhattan had remained pretty much static from 1931 through 1957 Continue reading →