Tag Archives: 42nd Street

What Were The Best New York City Restaurants In 1929?

Brooklyn Daily Eagle Columnist Rian James Shares His Picks For The Best Restaurants in New York City in 1929

Rian James (1899-1953) may not be a well known name today, but back in the 1920s and 30s, he was a widely read journalist and  “man about town.”

In 1933 James took a stab at writing for the movies. He wrote the screenplay for 42nd Street, one of the most successful and popular films of the 1930s. James would go on to write over three dozen screenplays.

As a columnist for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from 1928-1935, James rambled all around New York City. Along the way James hobnobbed with everyone: the well-to-do, the hoi-polloi, actors,  and bohemians, in the process, hitting all the night spots. The stories James gathered made for a widely read column about the city he loved.

Four times a year the Eagle published a small guide Going Places With Rian James casting his top picks in New York City food and entertainment.

For the Summer 1929 Going Places, a good portion of  James’ 32 page booklet is devoted to dining. Unlike the modern Zagat restaurant guides or Yelp, consensus was not considered. The only thing that mattered was James’ opinion. James knew all the “in” places, the haunts of celebs, the exclusive, the ribald and the popular.

Proving he’s no snob, the best New York restaurant according to James is not at a high class hotel or Madison Avenue establishment. It’s Feltman’s, originator of the hotdog, in Coney Island that wins the prize.  James writes, “The best all-round food in all New York, excluding no place.”

This is a New York booklet written for New Yorkers.

James offers a unique slice of the New York dining scene just prior to the October 1929 stock market crash and the onset of the Great Depression. The good times were to end soon after.

While there were a ton of contemporary guidebooks published about New York City, very few delved into the restaurant scene. James’ punchy one line descriptions tell you a lot more than many a detailed review.

The writing has some jazz age jargon such as “Beeway” for Broadway and “black and tan” for an establishment that has race mingling between Blacks and Caucasians. Sometimes there’s an “inside”, long forgotten, or even a risque reference such as this one:

BARNEY’S – 85 W. 3rd St.
The best bet for whoopee in the Village.

In other words, where you have the best chance of hooking up.

James later wrote several full length books about New York City: a full guidebook All About New York An Intimate Guide; John Day (1931) and another not surprisingly titled, Dining in New York; John Day (1934).

While you peruse this list, you may recognize some names long gone from New York’s glorious culinary past. Other eateries you never heard of just sound like they would have been a blast to visit.

What is stunning in the transient world of dining, is that there are a small number of restaurants that are still in business nearly 90 years later.

We have left Rian James’ spelling, grammar and punctuation as it is written in the booklet.

So with that, here is Rian James’ New York City’s restaurant recommendations for the summer of 1929, divided into his appropriate section headings in bold.

Restaurants of All Nations

Name      Address       Nation

L’AIGLON – 55th, E. of Fifth Ave. French
Complete French Cuisine.LUCHOWS – 110 E. 14th St. German
Complete German Cuisine. Try the German Rye Bread. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #93 – Police Parade With The Old “Broadway Squad” 1930

New York City’s Finest On Parade With The Broadway Squad Of The Police Department Dressed In Their Old Uniforms

Though these officers bear a resemblance to Mack Sennett’s Keystone Cops, they are actually old-timers of the New York City Police Department’s Broadway Squad dressed in their uniforms of days past.

The slug for this photograph reads:

Little Bit of Old New York

New York City – One of the features of the annual New York Police Department Parade, which was held in New York today, was the appearance in the ranks of the surviving members of the old Broadway Squad, who twenty years or more ago, directed the traffic and the peace of New York’s “Great White Way.” –  4/26/1930 credit: Wide World Photos

Stationed all along Broadway from the Battery to 42nd Street were the Broadway Squad. They were specially selected officers who were all over six feet tall. While that might seem like nothing special, at the turn-of-the-century anyone over six feet in height was considered quite large.

In 1898 the Broadway Squad was described as “ninety of the tallest, best proportioned and finest looking men on the police force.” Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #85 – 42nd Street From The 3rd Avenue Elevated 1887

42nd Street Looking West From 3rd Avenue Towards Grand Central 1887

This albumen photograph was taken in 1887 by Willis Knowlton who had his studio at 335 Fourth Avenue.

Knowlton set up his camera from the 42nd Street station of the Third Avenue Elevated looking west towards Grand Central Station. If you’re thinking, “wait a minute, why are there elevated tracks running west towards Grand Central?” The answer is, this connecting spur was in place between 1878 and 1923, taking commuters to and from Grand Central directly to the Third Avenue El. As practical as the connection was for the 15,000 daily riders still using it in 1923, the city’s Board of Estimate ordered its removal in October of that year. The IRT complied and the spur was closed at midnight December 6, 1923 and the tracks and station were demolished soon afterwards.

A little about the buildings seen in this photograph. Running along the northern (right) portion of 42nd Street at 145-147 East 42nd 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

New York In 1911 As Drawn By Vernon Howe Bailey

6 Drawings Of New York Unseen For Over 100 Years By Vernon Howe Bailey

Times Square The Great White Way (1911)

Obscure publications can yield hidden gems. These drawings by famed artist Vernon Howe Bailey appeared in the Illuminating Engineer in 1911 and as far as can be determined have not been reproduced since then.

Vernon Howe Bailey (1874-1953) was a prodigious illustrator whose work appeared primarily in  newspapers and magazines.

He eventually made his way to the New York Sun newspaper in the 1920s where he captured New York’s architecture and streets  with exquisite on-the-spot illustrations.

Eventually a good deal of Bailey’s New York City work was compiled in a book called Magical City. These illustrations were not included in that book. So for the first time in over 100 years here are Vernon Howe Bailey’s renderings of New York City in 1911.

Looking North on the Speedway to the Famous High Bridge (1911)

As these illustrations were intended for a magazine promoting electric lighting, you will notice that electric light fixtures appear rather prominently in each illustration.

The Harlem Speedway, where wealthy New Yorker’s used to take out their horse drawn carriages for a spirited run, was eventually incorporated into the highway that became the Harlem River Drive. 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

Old New York In Photos #59

Looking West Towards Sixth Avenue On 42nd Street – 1890s

42nd St looking west from Fifth Ave Dr. Parkhursts Church Horse Trolley 1889 ph HN TiemannWe are looking west along 42nd Street towards Sixth Avenue in a photograph taken sometime during the last decade of the 19th century.

A cropped version of this photograph appeared in the must own book New York Then & Now 83 Matching Photographic Views from 1864-1938 and from the 1970s by Edward B. Watson and Edmund V. Gillon (Dover) 1976.

42nd St looking west from Fifth Ave close up photo HN Tiemann

close-up of trolley

When published in the book the date was given as 1900, but on the original photograph (seen above) taken by the firm of H.N. Tiemann, the caption says 1889 and lists the church as Dr. Parkhurst’s. This is definitely incorrect as Parkhurst was presiding at the Madison Square Presbyterian Church. The building next door, the Spalding Building was not constructed until around 1890, so there is doubt as to the true date of the scene.

Rapid transit is on display in the form of a couple of horse drawn trolleys and the Sixth Avenue Elevated’s 42nd Street station in the background.

West Presbyterian Church 1897 photo Byron & Co via MCNY

West Presbyterian Church 1897 photo Byron & Co via MCNY

On the north side of the street is the West Presbyterian Church (built 1862, demolished 1911) Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #13

10 Postcard Views Of Fifth Avenue From 31st -59th Street

postcard Fifth ave street sceneLet’s have a look at ritzy Fifth Avenue. All the postcards depict scenes from about 1900 – 1935. Fifth Avenue has a long association with wealth and privilege. Several of these postcards  capture the shifting tide of commercial intrusion into a neighborhood once dominated by  private residences.

As we look over the avenue, the one thing you will notice is how much traffic, both pedestrian and vehicular, increased after the 1920’s.  We’ll start south and work our way north.

postcard Fifth Ave from 32nd St Waldorf AstoriaThis photo postcard taken around 1915 is looking north on Fifth Avenue from 32nd Street. The turreted Waldorf-Astoria Hotel with its American flag raised on the roof is the focal point of this scene. There are no traffic signals to interrupt the  vehicular traffic on the avenue. People cross the street with little difficulty as the traffic is light.

postcard Fifth Ave 34th St 1936In just 20 years Fifth Avenue has changed dramatically. Looking south on Fifth Avenue from 34th Street in 1935, the Waldorf-Astoria is gone and the Empire State Building is in its place. The Empire State is directly behind the double deck Fifth Avenue bus. Pedestrian and vehicular traffic is substantial and in front of the bus a policeman deals with the congestion. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #50

Fifth Avenue & 42nd Street circa 1897

5th Ave 42nd Street c 1897By 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.

Croton Distributing Reservoir photo: NYPL

Croton Distributing Reservoir photo: NYPL

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.

500 Fifth Avenue Building

500 Fifth Avenue 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

Old New York in Postcards #11 – Unbuilt New York

Some Interesting Things Around New York that Were Never Built

West Jersey BridgeNew York City: plans are made, plans are scrapped. We’ve dug up postcards of unbuilt projects, variations of existing structures or other anomalies such as a lawn in front of the main branch of the New York Public Library.

The postcard seen here is the West Jersey Bridge which predates the George Washington Bridge by a few years. In the 1880’s Gustav Lindenthal came up with a design for a large train bridge for the Pennsylvania Railroad that would have connected Manhattan at 23rd Street with New Jersey. The railroad opted for tunnels instead of a bridge. Lindenthal had a long career in bridge engineering supervising the building of the Queensboro and Hell Gate Bridges.

Lindenthal’s plans for the West Jersey Bridge were drawn up in 1920. The West Jersey Bridge would have had 20 lanes of traffic on its upper deck and a dozen on the lower level.  Pedestrian walkways were to be part of the gargantuan bridge which would have stretched from Weehawken, NJ to 57th Street in Manhattan. The master plan included cutting a highway across Manhattan to the Queensboro Bridge. The West Jersey Bridge was never built. Instead, Lindenthal’s protege Othmar Ammann designed the George Washington Bridge which was constructed further north at 177th Street.

Hudson River BridgeWhich brings us to something we covered previously: that the George Washington Bridge was originally supposed to have its towers sheathed in stone. Architect Cass Gilbert’s stone arches were depicted in various early drawings and plans for the Hudson River Bridge before it was given the name that it is known by today: the George Washington Bridge.

Williamsburg BridgeWith this illustration of the Williamsburg Bridge completed in 1903, the artist took some liberties in showing the completed towers.  On the top of each of the towers we see what appear to be windowed rooms, possibly for observation or just decoration. They were never built.

Manhattan Bridge Approach

The Manhattan Bridge completed in 1909 is accurately shown in this postcard, but the entrance certainly is not something that came to fruition. The Manhattan Bridge approach as seen here is a veritable garden in a park-like atmosphere with neatly pruned trees, shaped into squares  surrounding the entrance way.

Hudson Fulton Bridge 1Hendrick Hudson River Bridge 2

1955 photograph of current Henry Hudson Bridge

1955 photograph of current Henry Hudson Bridge

For the Hudson-Fulton celebration of 1909 there were various proposals to build a bridge connecting upper Manhattan with the Bronx. Known as The Hendrick Hudson Memorial Bridge or Hudson-Fulton Memorial Bridge, both designs featured elegant approaches for an arch bridge over Spuyten Duyvil. Continue reading