Tag Archives: 1900s

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 opening of the Ninth Avenue Elevated in 1879 and 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

New York City Apartment Building Names In 1904 – Part 3

New York City Apartment House Names In 1904 (O-Y)

A survivor – The Vondel 171 East 83rd Street

We conclude our list of the named apartment buildings in New York city in 1904 with letters O-Y, there were no named apartment buildings beginning with a Z

The most popular name was the Washington, with eight buildings spread out across the city.

Walking across 23rd Street the other day I noticed an abundance of vacant lots and new construction.This is the trend all over the city. Old smaller (and sometimes large) buildings get demolished and glass-mirrored “luxury ” apartments take their place.

As we pointed in the first of these articles, almost none of the named buildings in 1904 are extant today (either by name or location).

If humanity does not destroy itself, how many of the buildings that are here in New York City today, be around 113 years from now?

This list is only comprised of apartment buildings in Manhattan and the Bronx.

Apartment – Hotels are denoted by an asterisk.

Oakdale, 36 W. 25th st.

Oakhurst, 2139 Seventh ave.

Oakland, 152 W. 49th st.

Oakley, 212 W. 14th st.

Ohio, 200 W. 79th St.

Olga, 44 W. 120th St.

Olympia, 501 W. 125th st. Continue reading

Bad Luck Baby Katie – In 1904, Katie Reed Had 3 Accidents In One Week

Baby Katie and Irresponsible Parenting In 1904 

Depending upon how you look at life maybe this article should not be titled “Bad Luck Baby,Katie” but “Good Luck Baby Katie,” because Baby Katie didn’t die.

Today if you leave a young child unattended for any extended period of time and somebody reports you to the New York Office of Child and Family Services, they may eventually come around to pay you a visit.

That was not the case 100 years ago. Parents would frequently leave their children alone and bad things would happen. Generally no one interfered with poor parenting.

So if a child accidentally fell down a 20 foot flight of stairs not once, but twice within a week, you might think the child is accident prone and that’s not the parents fault.

Falling out a fourth story window is another matter altogether.

If what happened to sixteen-month-old Katie Reed in 1904 were to happen today, there would be a public outcry to remove her from her home.

This is the report from the July 30, 1904 New York Times:

” BABY KATIE ” FALLS 4 STORIES
Only Breaks a Leg—Fell Down stairs Twice Last Week.

Continue reading

New York City Apartment Building Names In 1904 – Part 2

New York City Apartment House Names In 1904 (G-N)

Graham Court Apartments Seventh Ave 116th – 117th St

We continue our list of New York City apartment building names and their addresses in 1904 with part two, building names from G to N.

Researching a building at random, I came across this interesting aside. The fully occupied Marlborough Arms, a seven story apartment building at 57 West 10th Street was offered for sale at auction in 1895.

The sale price was $89,407.

The building stands today, though the name Marlborough Arms is nowhere to be seen. The current managing agent lists the building as being built in 1915, but they are wrong. According to real estate records, the same 19th century Marlborough Arms apartment building was sold in 1919 to A.A. Hageman.

This list is only comprised of apartment buildings in Manhattan and the Bronx.

Apartment – Hotels are denoted by an asterisk.


Gainsboro, 2 W. 120th st.

Gainsborough, 112 Riverside ave.

Galathea, 51 W. 106th st.

Galena, 101 W. 89th st.

Ganoga, 35 E. 27th st.

Garden, 164 St. Nicholas ave.

Garfield, 338 W. 56th st.

Garrick, 101 W. 126th st.

Gedrin, 525 W. 123d st.

Genesta, 448 W. 57th st.

Genevieve, 51 E. 12 2d st. Continue reading

New York City Apartment Building Names In 1904

A Good Name Is Hard To Find – New York City Apartment House Names In 1904 (A-F)

Demolition and new construction: the old landmarks vanish, new ones takes their place. It’s a practice that has been celebrated and lamented in New York City for more than 200 years..

As New York City accelerates its destruction of past places, it is important to note what was previously there.

The naming of apartment buildings in New York City goes as far back as 1870 when the Stuyvesant Flats, the first modern apartment building in the city was constructed.

Of course many people are familiar with The Dakota, The Beresford and The Osborne: grand apartment buildings with high prices and famous residents.

But in the 19th century, hundreds of relatively nondescript apartment buildings were given names too.

Real estate developers generally did not trademark the names they gave to their building. Therefore you will find multiple Augusta’s, Berkshire’s and Cambridge’s and other not so unique building names.

So why compile this list? If you are reading an old news story, doing genealogical research or are just curious for the exact address of a named apartment building from turn-of the-century New York City here it is. We thought this list would be helpful.

On the handful of addresses I checked on, the building was gone or the name had been removed from the facade. I would estimate fewer than half of these apartment buildings remain standing today and of those that do remain, less than one in ten retain their original name.

Because of the number of buildings involved in this list we will be breaking this up into three separate stories.

This list is only comprised of apartment buildings in Manhattan and the Bronx. It is also almost certainly not a complete inventory, because there were many tenement buildings on the Lower East Side and elsewhere that were given names, but do not show up on these lists.

Apartment – Hotels are denoted by an asterisk.

Below is A – F

Abelard 1887 Seventh ave

Aberdeen 249 W 107th st

Abington 44 E 79th st

Acacia 142 W 103d st

Acadia 1889 Seventh ave

Ackerly 241 W 101st St

Acropolis 519 W 123d st

Adela 228 W 25th st Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #78 – Fifth Avenue & 42nd Street 1903

Fifth Avenue & 42nd Street c. 1903 – Crowded Street On A Cold Sunny Day

This bustling scene was captured by a Detroit Publishing Company photographer around 1903. The view is from the southeast corner of 42nd Street looking north up Fifth Avenue.

It is obviously a cold and sunny day with most people wearing warm coats. Enlarging our photograph the first thing you may notice is that everyone is uniformly dressed. All the women have the same dress length, just past the ankle. Every man wears a suit or overcoat.  Take a look around. There is not a single person hatless.

Let’s zoom in on some of the details.

On the northeast corner of 42nd Street an elderly man stops to take a look at the work going on inside an open manhole.

As usual, at all very busy intersections, a policeman is on duty to help direct the flow of traffic both vehicular and pedestrian.

This gentleman on the left with the gold watch fob and chain looks to be a prosperous fellow, possibly on his way back to his office after lunch.

Of course other people look spiffy without being wealthy. This sharp looking mustachioed hansom cab driver holding a whip is dressed immaculately. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #77

Fourth Avenue & 23rd Street 1908 –  A Detailed Breakdown Of New Yorker’s Going About Their Business

A spectacular clear view of Fourth Avenue looking south towards 23rd Street from 1908 shows pedestrians going about their daily activities. Once again the source is the Detroit Publishing Co.

Above 14th Street up to 34th Street Fourth Avenue is now called Park Avenue South.

Before we examine our old picture, let’s take a modern look at approximately the same spot from Google maps.

Now forget our modern view and return to 1908.

When we zoom in on some of the details, there are some interesting things to take note of. You can click any photo to enlarge.

The People

Unless you were a construction worker, city worker or a young boy, almost every man wore a hat, jacket and usually a tie. Here almost all the men are wearing straw hats.

The man in the center holding a newspaper is smoking a cigarette. I’ve seen men smoking in old photos but usually not on the street. The subway kiosk on the northeast corner of 23rd street is an “exit only.”  There is a trash can right by the kiosk.

Looking at the southeast corner we can see another subway kiosk and lots of people crossing the street. The subway kiosks were removed many years ago and the subway entrances and exits relocated.

The shadows indicate that it is probably around noon. With the exception of a newspaper on the ground, there is hardly any litter on the streets or sidewalks. Civilized people disposed of their trash properly.

These two women with their ornate flowered hats are crossing the street, carefully. No matter how often the streets were cleaned there was horse manure and urine everywhere. By 1908 at least women’s skirts were no longer dragging on the ground. Over the years skirts had gradually risen to slightly above the ankles. The little boy in the background between the women looks like the poorest person in this prosperous district.

On the southeast corner a group of boys and young men have newspapers that they are getting ready to sell. The World; The Times; The Herald; The Evening Post; The Globe and Commercial Advertiser; The Tribune; The Morning Telegraph; The Sun; The Call; The Press; The American; The Evening Journal; in the highly competitive world of journalism there were over a dozen daily newspapers in English and many more in other languages. Continue reading

The New York Housewife Who Was Too Pretty To Walk In The Streets In 1902 – She Had To Use A Gun and A Knife To Protect Herself

Ellen Emerson, So Beautiful, Lecherous Men Kept Accosting Her On The Streets Of New York In 1902

To Fight Them Off She Once Used A Gun, Another Time A Knife

But There’s A Twist At The End Of The Story

She could stop traffic, that is all male pedestrian traffic. Imagine being so attractive that every time you left your home you were the recipient of unwanted stares, comments and in the  worst case, groping.

In 1902 at 60 West 98th Street lived Ellen Emerson, who when she went out in public, men would constantly ogle her.

The undesired attention from men was so bad that she brandished a gun at one of her pursuers and a knife another time to protect herself from being accosted.

Within a space of four weeks Joseph Pulitzer’s Evening World did two stories about Mrs. Ellen Emerson. The first story which ran on November 8, 1902 told about Mrs. Emerson’s dilemma; “attractive and blonde and long the victim of ‘mashers.'”

Ellen told an unnamed reporter, “My life has been made a perfect burden for me  by these obnoxious men. I don’t know what there is about me. I am not a loud dresser, but I scarcely ever go on the street without being pursued.” Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #76

Around The Flatiron Building 1906 – Looking At The Details

We’ve profiled the fabulous photographs of the Detroit Publishing Company held by the Library of Congress before, but with over 40,000 photographs in the collection there are always interesting views to examine.

This scene  looking south from 27th Street and Fifth Avenue shows moderate traffic at a typically busy time. (Click any photo to enlarge)

If we look at the clock on the extreme right, near the Fifth Avenue Hotel (not visible), we can see the time is 8:53 in the morning on a sunny day.

Two smartly dressed women with great hats are walking west along the edge of Madison Square Park. A policeman walks with his white-gloved hands clasped behind his back and his distinctive helmet perched upon his head. The NYPD liked their officers to be tall and actively recruited men who were six feet or taller.

The man in the white helmet is a sanitation worker, dressed in a suit! As you can see, even in 1906 people knew bicycles were an effective way to navigate Manhattan. With the city powered by over 100,000 horses, you didn’t have to concern yourself too much with a car hitting your bicycle, as horses outnumbered cars about 10 to 1.

In 1906 there were only 130,000 motorized vehicles in the entire United States, and about 10,000 in New York City.

It only took another twelve years before cars outnumbered horses in New York City. Continue reading

New York City By Day… & Night – 1904

Four New York Locations Photographed At Night – 1904

You’ve probably noticed that most of the old photographs of turn-of-the-century New York City were taken during daylight hours.

At the time the difficulty with night photography was the long exposure times necessary for a camera to effectively capture an image.

There is an extremely rare book I own called The Lighting of New York City put out by General Electric in 1904. The purpose of this publication was to extol the virtues of General Electric lighting apparatus and to encourage homes and businesses in New York and elsewhere to use electric light.

Electric lighting had been around for a little over 20 years, but the book mentions a startling fact: “It is estimated that more than 35,000 arc lamps are in use on Manhattan Island.”

35,000, that’s means outdoors and indoors.

Gaslight was still the predominant means of lighting streets, factories, stores, homes and the waterfront.

The 74 page book contains a photograph on every page accompanied by a short description on the opposite page. Eight of the photographs are day and night views of the exact same location.

Words in Italics are from the book:

At the 59th Street entrance to Central Park, in what is known as Park Plaza, the Sherman Statue was recently unveiled. It is illuminated at night by eight low energy General Electric arc lamps installed on ornamental poles in such a manner that only the pear-shaped outer globe is visible. The installation has received very favorable comment.

Behind the statue on the right is Park and Tilford, grocers to New York’s smart set. To the left on the corner of 60th Street is the Metropolitan Club.

Night illumination of the Sherman Statue by eight three-ampere low energy General Electric lamps. The white building directly in the rear is the home of the Metropolitan Club, so well known to many New Yorkers as the “Millionaires'” Club. Continue reading