Fifth Avenue & 42nd Street circa 1897
By the shadows we can see it is morning on a somewhat chilly day in the heart of Manhattan in about 1897. We are looking north up Fifth Avenue from the corner of 42nd Street. Pedestrians stroll on the flagstone sidewalks while horse drawn vehicles make their way up and down the avenue.
On the extreme left the small wall with the iron fence marks the perimeter of the Croton Distributing Reservoir also known as the Murray Hill Reservoir, on the west side of Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets. Beyond the fence, stood massive walls 25 feet thick and over 50 feet high which when filled to capacity held 21 million gallons of water. The old reservoir served New York’s thirsty population from 1842 until it was taken out of service in 1897. The structure was demolished in 1900 and the main branch of the New York Public Library now stands on the site.
On the same corner we see an old fashioned fire hydrant and new electric lamppost standing next to what appears to be a gas lamp.
Just to the right of the wall a policeman chats another man perhaps a plain clothes detective as they look east across 42nd Street. The building just behind them is the eight story Hotel Bristol. In 1903 the hotel would be converted to the Bristol Building.
After the Bristol was demolished the art deco 59 story skyscraper, 500 Fifth Avenue Building, would go up on the site between 1929-1931. 500 Fifth Avenue was built by Shreve, Lamb & Harmon the same architects of the Empire State Building, also completed in 1931.
Next to the Hotel Bristol we see a glimpse of the seven story Hotel Renaissance built in the obligatory French Renaissance style and completed in 1891. Though the hotel was designed with the intention of attracting a “high class family and bachelor clientele” there were a certain class of people that were not welcome.
In 1907 Continue reading