Category Archives: Old New York In Postcards

Series: Postcards of Old New York

Old New York In Postcards #26 – Broadway 1895-1915

Views Along Broadway From Bowling Green To Washington Heights

Broadway and 62nd Street – The Colonial Vaudeville Theater is on the left, 1913

Broadway means New York City. Sure there are other Broadway’s in the United States, but none have the same clout that New York’s Broadway does. It is the longest street in Manhattan and one of the oldest. What the Dutch called De Heere Straat and later De Heere Wegh, became Great George Street under English rule. The street was paved in 1707, but only from Bowling Green to Trinity Church at Wall Street. After the Revolution, New York’s citizens began renaming streets and Great George Street became Broadway.

Here are some postcard views of Broadway dating from 1895 – 1915 Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #25 – Night In The City

New York Night Scenes

Let’s start by saying in general most of these postcard scenes of New York are not really night scenes. The postcard companies would take a daytime scene and simply transform it into a night view.

Out first view of the Bowery at night circa 1905 is a prime example of day turned into night.

On the extreme left a small portion of the facade of the Bowery Savings Bank can be seen. Above the street is the Third Avenue El.

Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #24 – Pre-Prohibition Manhattan Restaurants 1900 -1920

Manhattan Meals – Some Pre-Prohibition Turn-Of-The-Century Restaurants

Maxim’s Restaurant 108-110 West 38th Street. Maxim’s was the first restaurant raided a few hours before prohibition went into effect January 15, 1920

With few exceptions owning a restaurant is among the most precarious businesses to enter. Long hours, high upfront costs for rent, food and labor and changing public tastes almost insure that few restaurants can make a long and successful run.

100 years ago many of New York’s older restaurants shut down because of an unexpected decline in business- the victims of prohibition.

Once cafes and restaurants lost the right to sell beer, wine and liquor many closed soon after the Volstead Act went into effect in 1920. Some restaurants known for fine cuisine were able to ride out 13 years with no alcohol sales. Other restaurants would turn to selling spirits illegally. Others like cafeteria and luncheon type restaurants survived, having always been patronized for their food.

All of the following restaurants shown below closed long ago.

Restaurant and Cafe Leo

Cafe Leo 14th Street New York CIty Restaurant and Cafe Leo stood on the southwest corner of 14th Street and Fourth Avenue. Note the Star of David over the entrances, not always the sign of a Jewish establishment, but a decorative element. In this case however, proprietor Leo Greenbaum was letting potential diners know this was a Jewish owned business. By 1923 Cafe Leo vanished from the city directory. Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #23 – The Bronx

The Bronx In Postcards 1905-1920

McKinley Square looking East – Bronx, NY

A short visit to the vanished Bronx of of a century ago.

It truly was the “Beautiful Bronx.”

Woodmansten Inn-Williamsbridge Road & Pelham-Parkway, Bronx, NY

A place to dine in style was the Woodmansten Inn. The Woodmansten Inn specialized in French cuisine and could seat 125 patrons. It was a busy place conveniently located across from the Morris Park Race Track (yes, the Bronx once had a horse racing track). 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

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

Old New York In Postcards #20 – Hotels Of The Past On The Upper West Side

Old New York Hotels Of The Upper West Side from 70th – 86th Streets

Hotel MAjestic 72nd St Central Park WestFor the past 150 years New York has had a thriving hotel industry. With real estate prices continually rising in Manhattan, more new hotels are opening now in Queens and Brooklyn.

The Plaza, The Waldorf Astoria and the St. Regis have over a century of  history. Those hostelry’s are the exception to longevity. Many of New York’s hotels are constantly in flux with ownership and name changes. Often smaller hotels have gone out of business because the real estate they sat upon was too valuable. Developers acquire the hotel and surrounding parcels and the hotel passes into history. Other times the buildings are spiffied up after years of neglect and converted from hotels to apartments.

Here are some views of the upper west side’s hotels of the past.

Hotel Emerson 75th Street off BroadwayThe Hotel Emerson at 166 West 75th Street off Broadway was a 300 room 16 story hotel opened in 1922, designed by Robert Lyons. In 1959 it became the Hotel Lincoln Square. The building has been remodeled and turned into rental apartments and is now named the Amstrdm. (That’s right, they cut out some vowels.) Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #19 – Chinese Restaurants, A Brief History

Postcard Views 1910 – 1949 & A Short History Of Chinese Restaurants In New York City

The Chinese Tuxedo Restaurant in New York’s Chinatown 1910

Along with Chinese immigration to the United States in the 1850s, came Chinese food. It wasn’t long before Americans took a liking to the transoceanic cuisine. The Chinese population in New York City was only 747 in 1880. By 1900 it had grown to 6,321.

Tai Sy Chinese restaurant

There “are eight thriving Chinese restaurants that can prepare a Chinese dinner in New York, almost with the same skill as at the famous Dan Quay Cha Yuen (Delmonico’s) of Shanghai or Canton,” according to Wong Chin Foo in the October 1888 Current Literature Magazine.  With only one day off, Chinese patrons, usually working as laundrymen, would crowd the Chinese restaurants on Sunday’s.

Port Arthur Restaurant

Port Arthur Restaurant 7 & 9 Mott Street, considered among the finest Chinese restaurants in New York City est. 1899

Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #18 – Bridges

Some Unusual and Rare Postcard Views of New York City Bridges

An unusual circa 1900 postcard view of the Brooklyn Bridge promenade with elegantly attired ladies

We don’t think too much about New York City’s bridges except when driving across them. Then you want to know if they are free from traffic, tolls and potholes.

Besides being civic utilitarian objects, on occasion they can be considered architectural masterpieces like the Brooklyn Bridge and George Washington Bridge.

But many of the old bridges crossing New York waterways had great thought put into their design. Unfortunately unless you are stuck in traffic or you bicycle or walk over them, you probably would not take the time to notice the turrets, iron flourishes and fine details that decorate and beautify most of New York City’s early bridges.

Let’s take a look at some 100+ year old bridge postcards and sprinkle in some interesting facts and stories.

Williamsburg Bridge at 6 pm 1906

The Williamsburg Bridge’s tower can be glimpsed in the background, but what makes this view interesting is its vantage point on Delancey Street. While not dated, the postcard has the printing year of 1906 and the time as 6:00 pm. Hundreds of Brooklynites make their way to the bridge to walk or take a trolley or elevated train back home.

If the Williamsburg Bridge seems crowded that’s because it is. In 1906 an estimated 1,191,000 pedestrians; 3,548,900 passengers and drivers of vehicles; 51 million surface car (trolley) passengers; 56 million elevated car passengers; and exactly 1,149,543 vehicles and 33,375 horses led by hand, crossed the bridge.

The Williamsburg Bridge was opened on December 19, 1903. The cost of the construction of the bridge with the land was $23,277,560.

Manhattan Bridge at night circa 1910

It is a snowy night and and the roads leading onto the Manhattan Bridge have a light coating of ice, snow and slush on them. The scene is brilliantly lit and there are vehicles or pedestrians in the scene. The Manhattan Bridge was opened for vehicular traffic December 31, 1909 and opened for pedestrian travel July 18, 1910. Including the land, the bridge cost $24,105,200.

Tolls were eliminated on the Williamsburg, Manhattan, Queensboro and Brooklyn Bridge on July 19, 1911 by order of Mayor Gaynor.

High Bridge is the oldest extant bridge in New York. Designed by John B. Jervis and completed in 1848 the bridge cost $963,428. The pedestrian bridge originally contained two three foot pipes which brought New York City fresh water from the Croton River, 41 miles away. The amount of water these pipes could carry was found to be inadequate within a dozen years. The side walls of the bridge were expanded and between 1860 -1864 a seven foot diameter water pipe was laid on top of the original two pipes.

The bridge was modeled after ancient Roman aqueducts, High Bridge’s 15 stone arches graced the river until the early 20th century. During World War I the bridge was declared a menace to navigation. Two proposals were put forward in 1918 to either remove two arches and replace that section with a steel span or entirely demolish the bridge at a cost of $150,000. Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #17 – Riverside Drive

Postcard Views of Riverside Drive 1900-1920

Riverside Drive may not be the most famous street in Manhattan, but it is among the prettiest.

The natural beauty of the surrounding area made this parcel of Manhattan real estate an ideal setting for a park and residential development.

Up until the late 19th century there was not a whole lot of home building along this western portion of the city with the exception of a few mansions perched high along the river.

As transportation options continued to improve, Riverside Avenue began attracting wealthy New Yorkers and real estate developers to the west side. The extension of the Ninth Avenue Elevated in 1879 and opening of the subway in 1904 made it possible to commute from the upper west side to New York’s business center downtown. In 1908 Riverside Avenue’s name was officially changed to Riverside Drive.

If Riverside Drive had been built as originally proposed by Park Commissioner William Martin in 1865, it would have been a 100 foot wide straight boulevard.

Fortunately that turned out to be impractical due to the natural topography of the area.

Riverside Drive looking north towards Grant’s Tomb 1912

In 1873 Frederick Law Olmsted the designer of Central and Prospect Park received the job of laying out Riverside Park and Drive. Olmsted realized that incorporating the existing landscape surrounding Riverside Avenue into a park was a better plan than grading and straightening the hills along the drive.

By the time work started on the park in 1875 Olmsted had left New York City. Over the next 25 years  a succession of designers, engineers and architects executed Olmsted’s proposal but not exactly sticking to his plan. Calvert Vaux, Samuel Parsons and Julius Munckwitz all had their turn in building up Riverside Drive and its park.

By the turn of the 20th century Riverside Drive was lined with expensive single family townhouses and row houses overlooking the Hudson River. Land speculation led to a spate of luxury apartment buildings in the upper parts of the boulevard.

A touring bus along Riverside Drive

The first portion of  Riverside Drive from 72nd to 85th Street was opened in 1879. Riverside Park terminated at 129th Street. The Riverside Viaduct completed in 1900, bridged the schism between 125th and 135th Streets. Riverside Drive then continued north to 181st Street.

Here are some of the views from 100 years ago.

postcard view Riverside Drive north from 72nd Street 1918

Riverside Drive north from 72nd Street 1918

This World War I era view shows Riverside Drive at 72nd Street looking north. The entire block between 73rd and 74th Streets and Riverside Drive and West End Avenue belonged to one man and his extravagant home. The french style chateau with the large front lawn is the 75-room Charles M. Schwab mansion.  Designed by Maurice Ebert and completed at a cost of $6 million in 1905, the home contained a gym, a bowling alley, a pool, and three elevators. Schwab had made his millions working with Andrew Carnegie. Schwab went on to head United States Steel. Continue reading