Category Archives: Old New York In Postcards

Series: Postcards of Old New York

Old New York In Postcards #10 – Restaurants

A Look At Churchill’s and Four Other Restaurants From Old New York

Exterior Churchills Restaurant Broadway 49th St c 1915Churchill’s Restaurant southwest corner 49th Street and Broadway, circa 1915.

Police Sergeant Jim Churchill did not have the background of a typical restauranteur. He put in 20 years on the job policing the streets of New York and was named acting Captain of a precinct in the Bowery for a few months starting in November of 1901. He wound up being dismissed from the force in 1902 for neglect of duty.

It seems that Churchill was not aggressive enough in closing saloons operating illegally on Sunday and shutting down houses of ill-repute under his jurisdiction. From reading the newspaper accounts of his trial, Churchill may have been set up by others in the police department who wanted his ouster.

Churchill, with the help of friends and backers went into business for himself. In May 1903 Churchill ironically opened a saloon at 1420 Broadway between 39th and 40th Streets. The small bar and restaurant prospered and in 1906 he moved north to new digs on Broadway at 46th street to a space which could accommodate up to 350 patrons.

But even that was not enough room for the captain’s friends and clientele. In 1909 Churchill built for himself a spacious, luxurious entertainment and feasting palace at 49th Street that could seat 1,400 diners. Designed by architect Harold M. Baer, the three story terra cotta brick building with stucco ornamentation attracted huge crowds. Even with so much more space, guests frequently would have to wait in line for a table as capacity crowds filled the restaurant.

Employing over 300 people and with an annual advertising budget of $50,000 for a $250,000 business, Churchill’s became world famous and remained a favorite restaurant and cabaret spot for the Broadway crowd throughout the teens.

Churchill’s stayed in business until prohibition cut into profits and forced Jim Churchill to close his doors and lease the space to a Chinese restaurant. The building was demolished in 1937 and the location eventually housed heavyweight champ Jack Dempsey’s Broadway Bar and Grill from 1938 until its closing in 1974.

Churchill went abroad for a number of years after closing his restaurant and upon returning to the states, he commented about the changes that many New York City restaurants had undergone during the 1920’s. To the New York Times he remarked, “Hostesses? There were no such things in my days. No one ever thought of such a thing. It was not permitted that any woman come into a restaurant-cabaret unaccompanied. Instead of hostesses I employed 30 boys, one of them the late Rudolph Valentino, to dance with women who came unescorted for luncheon.”

When Churchill died in 1930 at the age of 67, he left most of his sizable estate, a half million dollars, to his wife.

Exterior Cafe Boulevard Restarant 156 2nd ave at 10th st 1911The Cafe Boulevard 156 Second Ave southeast corner of 10th Street, circa 1909. Continue reading

Old New York in Postcards #9 – Postcard Views Of The Interior Of Old Penn Station

Postcard Views Of The Interior Of Old Penn Station

Because it was dismantled over 50 years ago, many people are familiar with the grandeur of the original Penn Station only through photographs.

The station was opened to the public on September 8, 1910 and the cost of the exterior alone was over $100 million.

Seen from the exterior, the beautiful McKim Mead and White masterpiece represented a merging of modernity and classic architecture. Penn Station exterior

The interior was spacious and wondrous to behold. But according to the Pennsylvania Railroad, the owners of Penn Station, by the mid 1950’s, it was also grimy, outdated, in need of costly repairs and difficult to keep clean. These conditions existed mostly because the Pennsylvania Railroad let the station fall into that state.

The Pennsylvania Railroad knew the land the building was sitting on was worth more than the station itself. This grand monument to railroads and public space was sacrificed to “progress,” the development of the Penn Plaza office buildings and a new Madison Square Garden.

Without regard that a great civic wrong was being done, Penn Station was demolished between 1963 and 1966. It was replaced by a banal, claustrophobic, ugly underground maze also called Penn Station which bears no resemblance to the original, to cattle chute passengers to their trains.

More than two generations of New Yorkers have lamented the loss and contemplated replacements to bring about a new edifice and station worthy of the name. The Farley Post Office (also by McKim Mead and White) between 8th and 9th Avenues directly across the street from the current Penn Station is often discussed as hosting a remodeled station, but nothing has been done to bring those plans to fruition.

Here are some postcard interior views of the original Penn Station. (click on any image to enlarge.)

Old New York In Postcards #8 – Dreamland Coney Island Part 2

Coney Island’s Dreamland Amusement Park 1904-1911 – Part 2

Coney Island Dreamland general view

Coney Island- Dreamland midway on a crowded day

Continuing from part one of our postcard journey through Dreamland Amusement Park at Coney Island, we examine the other features of the park.

Coney Island Dreamland The Ballroom InteriorConey Island Dreamland Bathing Beach

At the turn of the century, dancing was possibly the most popular amusement at Coney Island, even more so than bathing at the beach. The Dreamland ballroom reflected this popularity by being the largest ballroom ever built in the United States. Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #7 – Dreamland Coney Island Part 1

Coney Island’s Dreamland Amusement Park 1904-1911

Coney Island Dreamland at night

Dreamland Map from Jeffrey Stanton's site http://www.westland.net/coneyisland/index.html

Dreamland Map from Jeffrey Stanton’s site
http://www.westland.net/coneyisland/

Dreamland was built on a 15-acre parcel at Surf Avenue and West 8th Street and opened on May 14, 1904. It cost over $3.5 million to build. The park could accommodate over 250,000 people. Ex-State Senator William H. Reynolds was the man behind Dreamland. The original name of the park was to be the Hippodrome, as Reynolds originally wanted chariot races around a lagoon. On the architect’s plans the name was changed to Wonderland, but the name that stuck was Dreamland. With its bright lights and a dizzying array of exhibits and amusements Dreamland was an apropos name.

On the right is a map of how Dreamland was laid out.

Coney Island Dreamland opening ad 1904 05 08 NY Sun

The week before Dreamland opened, this ad in the May 8, 1904 New York Evening Sun heralded the pleasures that awaited visitors.

Coney Island Dreamland Tower Night 2 Coney Island Dreamland Tower Night 1Coney Island Dreamland Tower side view

The defining feature of Dreamland was the White Tower built by architects Kirby, Petit and Green and modeled after the Giralda Tower in Seville. It was 370 feet high and had over 100,000 electric lights. Continue reading

Old New York in Postcards #6 – Rare Views Of The Upper West Side & Harlem

Rare Postcards Of The Upper West Side And Harlem 1900 – 1915

Broadway and 141st Street Looking North circa 1903

Broadway and 141st Street Looking North circa 1903

Most old postcards depicting turn of the century New York City usually show the typical tourist attractions, landmarks and notable buildings of the city.

It was uncommon for the big postcard manufacturers to produce postcards of average streets, buildings or scenes in New York City for people to send to their friends back home. After all who wanted to see an apartment building on 117th Street and Seventh Avenue?

That is what makes these scenes of New York City and upper Manhattan rather unique. They feature the areas not frequented by tourists. They are photographs, rather than illustrations, and were typically produced in small quantities by smaller or unnamed card manufacturers. The absence of vehicles and people on the streets belies the rapid housing development that occurred in upper Manhattan during the time.  Click on any postcard to enlarge.

Broadway 86th St Euclid HallEuclid Hall Apartments 2349 Broadway, northwest corner of Broadway and 86th Street. This view shows the Euclid Hall Apartments which was built in 1903 by Hill and Turner is a heavily ornamented seven story red brick building. It is still standing and the ground floor has been modernized and now houses commercial businesses.

Broadway 98th Street The WilliamThe William Apartments looking west at 243 West 98th Street, northwest corner of Broadway and 98th Street. The William, a seven story building was completed in 1899 and is currently a condominium. To the right of The William behind the trees is the Arragon at 2611 Broadway. Continue reading

Old New York in Postcards #5 – Broadway & Fifth Avenue

Postcards of Old New York –  Featuring Broadway and Fifth Avenue

These postcards generally depict New York from 1900 – 1920. We are concentrating this batch on the well traveled areas of Broadway and Fifth Avenue.

pc Broadway S Warren St

As the brief description on the card says we are looking south and east along Broadway from Warren Street. The trees on the left belong to City Hall Park. The wide building with the large central rotunda is the main branch of the General Post Office, which was demolished in 1938. Behind the Post Office stands The Park Row Building, which at 391 feet was the tallest office building in the world when completed in 1899. The Singer Building surpassed the height of The Park Row Building in 1908. To the right of The Park Row Building stands the 26 story St. Paul Building built in 1896 and demolished in 1958.

Interesting to note: the flags are at half-staff on the Postal Telegraph and Cable Company Building on the right. Continue reading

Old New York in Postcards #4

Public Schools In The Bronx In The Early 20th Century

Most of these postcards are from between 1905 -1925.  Some public schools were quaint schoolhouses as the Bronx was rural in most areas.

Click on any image to enlarge

PS 7 in Kingsbridge or referred to here as Kings Bridge.

PS 44 Prospect Avenue and East 176th Street Continue reading

Old New York in Postcards #3 – A Tale of Three Buildings: Franconi’s Hippodrome, The Fifth Avenue Hotel & The Fifth Avenue Building

A Tale of Three Buildings: Franconi’s Hippodrome, The Fifth Avenue Hotel & The Fifth Avenue Building a.k.a. The Toy Center

The west side of Fifth Avenue between 23rd and 24th streets had been country land well into the middle of the 19th century. The land for many years had been occupied by a quaint tavern and horse changing station.

Franconi’s Hippodrome- Fifth Avenue 23rd -24th Streets (click to enlarge)

On this site in March 1853, Henri Franconi, a European from a long line of equestrian performers, arranged with investors to have an amphitheater built which was then called Franconi’s Hippodrome. This precursor of the modern day circus with performers, animals and chariot races was housed in a large structure shaped like an ellipse and was 338  feet by 196 1/2 feet that could seat 10,000 people and was covered by a red, white and blue canvas supported by a center pole 70 feet in height and a circle of smaller poles 40 feet in height.

It opened on Monday, May 2, 1853, and The New York Daily Times was not impressed with the class of people attending the Hippodrome shows. Attendees they said “…were blacklegs, gamblers, rowdies, and the miscellanea of polite roguery and blackguardism.”  The reporter added “The Hippodrome is badly conducted and Continue reading

Old New York in Postcards #2 – Old Hotels Of New York City

A Longer Tour Around Old New York

Today we will look at the old hotels of New York.  In some cases these buildings still stand. For others the names have changed. Some have been converted to apartments or other uses. And some are just a memory.  Working our way from south to north let’s look at a dozen of the lesser known of New York’s hostelry’s.

Hotel Marlton just off of 5th avenue circa 1920. The center of Greenwich Village and now a street of endless cut price shoe stores, 8th Street was once a fashionable residential neighborhood. Many famous literary and artistic figures resided at the Hotel Marlton at one time. Starting in 1987 the Marlton was leased as a residence for students of The New School of Social Research. It is now closed as a hotel and a dormitory, and its future is undecided.  Notice on the side of the hotel there is an advertisement for the hotel proclaiming it “absolutely fireproof.” There was a  good reason for touting this feature. On St. Patrick’s Continue reading

Old New York in Postcards #1

A Short Postcard Tour Around New York circa 1900-1915 Part 1

How much has New York City changed? If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is a postcard worth? These are all about 100 years old. Let’s start with these five views. We’ll be doing this feature regularly.


Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street looking North approximately 1915


Broadway looking North from Union Square circa 1910


Centre Street 1900


University Street & 9th Street showing Cafe and Hotel Lafayette circa 1914

Park Row showing The Old Post Office looking southwest 1900