Category Archives: Photography

Can You Identify This 19th Century New York City Building?

A 19th Century Mystery Building In New York City That Eludes Identification

Many times I’ll come across stereoviews of 19th century New York City that I have never seen before. Usually they are of buildings or scenes I am acquainted with either by name or written anecdote. But here is a a stereoview that leaves me stumped.

As you see, it is clearly labeled New York City & Vicinity. Beyond those words under the right panel of the view, there is no other information. I do not recognize the large building which is the stereoview’s centerpiece, the surrounding structures, or an approximate year it was taken.

Maybe the view was labeled incorrectly by the stereoview manufacturer (which I highly doubt) or it is a scene in the “vicinity” of New York. It is a mystery building and I have been unable to determine anything. Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #55 – Party At The Cocoanut Grove 1937

Bennett, Roland, Davies and Fairbanks Party at The Cocoanut Grove -1937

constance-bennett-gilbert-roland-marion-davies-douglas-fairbanks-party-at-cocoanut-grove-february-10-1937

Looking at this picture the first thing you notice is, “It sure looks like these elegant people are having a lot of fun.”

The date is February 10, 1937 and the place is the Cocoanut Grove nightclub located inside the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. The people partying were at the time among the biggest stars of Hollywood, past and present. From left to right, Constance Bennett, Gilbert Roland, Marion Davies and Douglas Fairbanks.

Who the party was for I could not find out, but almost every night there was a party at the Cocoanut Grove. In 1940 the Academy Awards ceremony was held at the Cocoanut Grove. The Ambassador Hotel closed to the public in 1989. Amid outcries from preservationists, the hotel was demolished in 2006 with the promise that portions of the hotel would be retained for the future, including the Cocoanut Grove. But due to the poor structural condition of the Cocoanut Grove most of the nightclub was eventually demolished leaving behind just one wall that still stands.

A brief note about the people in the photograph. Continue reading

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

Punching Out A Pedestrian In New York City – 1968

Pedestrians Have To Be Careful Then and Now

We’ve all heard of road rage, how about road-pedestrian rage?

Today the problem in New York City seems to be aggressive drivers nearly mowing down pedestrians who have the right of way. Sometimes it’s the opposite problem – pedestrians strolling into oncoming traffic when the traffic light is against them.  Typically because the pedestrian is so caught up in their personal device that they completely ignore their surroundings.

In 1968 the confrontations were much simpler.
pedestrian-punched-out-by-a-driver-new-york-1968

End of Round One

New York: With tempers a bit short on this steamy morning in New York City  Nov. 12th thsi pedestrian at left finds himself in an unusual position – prone – at 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue. He got that way after taking exception to a chauffeur’s driving ability. The driver got out of his car, flattened the pedestrian and continued on his way. The storm continued unabated. Credit: UPI telephoto 11/12/68

Continue reading

Along 13th Avenue Brooklyn

Some Sites Along 13th Avenue in Brooklyn

building-corner-39th-13thA few of the things seen along 13th Avenue in Brooklyn on a sunny day in April 2015.

In our first photograph at the corner of 39th Street and 13th Avenue, a once elegant building has been neglected and altered to detract from its original beauty. Portions of its roofline have been unmercifully lopped off at the building’s corner. Some of the ornamental features are still there, even the original building name. You just have to look for it. Near the roosting pigeons on the faded red roof just below what was certainly once an ornate cupola: The Abels and Gold Building.

abels-and-gold-building-brooklyn-39th-and-13thSimon Abels and Louis Gold were Brooklyn real estate developers at the turn-of-the-century. The Abels Gold Realty Company developed and controlled buildings around the Borough Park and Bay Ridge neighborhoods. By the 1930’s Abels Gold Realty were gone. This building is the sole reminder of their real estate legacy.

39th-13th-trolley-tracks-1Next, if you look down at the street at the same intersection, you will notice there used to be a trolley running along this stretch of road turning from 13th Avenue on to 39th Street. This small section of track was peeking through the asphalt.

39th-13th-trolley-tracks-2Now the city talks about bringing back light railway (electric trolleys) to Brooklyn in areas that have limited transportation options like Red Hook along the Brooklyn waterfront. 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

He Didn’t Play Baseball With Fidel Castro

Not One Of Fidel Castro’s Baseball Teammates

The Havana Baseball Monkey 1950s

The Havana Baseball Monkey 1950s

There is a myth that the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro was an excellent baseball player during his collegiate years. It was claimed he was so good that major league scouts were following him. He was even offered a major league contract.

The whole story is untrue. There is one known photograph of Fidel Castro in a baseball uniform.

One thing Fidel Castro did do with baseball was effectively kill off the flow of major league talent from Cuba to the United States.

So how does this monkey photograph relate to Fidel Castro? Was the baseball monkey a mascot of one of Fidel’s teams?

There is no relationship except we thought it was a very strange photograph.

This 1950s news photograph above has lost its original caption. the note on the back says “Havana baseball monkey.”

Several things to ponder:
If this is your mascot, what is the name of your team?
That is one terrible place to lay out a baseball field. Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #54 – Katharine Hepburn 1940

Katharine Hepburn Looking Beautiful – Even Her Neck!

katharine-hepburn-1940-photo-van-damm-studioThere are a number of classic movie fans who like Katharine Hepburn as an actress but don’t care for her looks.

Looking at a photograph of Hepburn like this one taken in 1940 by Vandamm Studio, how could anyone say she doesn’t look absolutely beautiful?

The one feature Katharine Hepburn did not like about herself, especially as she aged, was her neck. She called it her “turkey neck.” By the end of the 1940s, wrinkles around her neck made her self conscious, and she would frequently cover up her neck both on screen and off. Continue reading

The Girls Of The Chorus – 1920

The Girls From The Chorus of Always You, A 1920 Musical Comedy

chorus-girls-1920-broadway-show-always-youThere’s really no reason to show this photograph other than it portrays an eternal theme – trying to get your big break on Broadway. Most chorus girls toil in anonymity for years without finding fame and fortune.

Unfortunately there is no identification on the back of the photo, other than the play name.

Always You, a musical comedy in two acts ran from January 5 until February 28, 1920, for a total of 66 performances.

Checking the cast through the IBDB the ensemble (chorus girls) include: Rose Cardiff, Virginia Clark, Elinore Cullen, Lillian Held, Irma Marwick, Helen Neff, Marietta O’Brien, Mildred Rowland, Emily Russ, Memphis Russell, Marvee Snow and Beatrice Summers.

Which six are pictured?

I’m not sure who is who, but I believe Memphis Russell is third from right and another one of the women is Marietta O’Brien (second from left) who has an interesting story.

After Always You, Marietta O’Brien appeared in a number of musical plays and revues. She also posed nude for famous Ziegfeld Girl photographer Alfred Cheney Johnston. In 1928 O’Brien married Ned Jakobs, the producer of the play she was starring in, The Houseboat On The Styx.

The only problem with that was Ned was already married 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