Tag Archives: 42nd Street

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

Banning Cars On City Streets In Manhattan – Not A New Idea

Fifth Avenue – Sans Cars 1970

The Story Of Mayor John Lindsay’s Pedestrian Malls

Top photo shows 5th Ave. on a typical day. Bottom photo shows 5th Ave. on July 11, 1970

Top photo shows 5th Ave. on a typical day. Bottom shows 5th Ave. on July 11, 1970 as traffic was cleared

While many environmental and safety groups bandy about various schemes for making streets safer for pedestrians by removing or limiting cars from city streets, the idea is older than you might think.

During his tenure as mayor of New York City from 1966-1973, John Lindsay always favored pedestrians.

Lindsay’s initial ban of cars took place in May of 1969. Lindsay and the city closed a small area of Nassau Street in downtown Manhattan as part of a temporary 90 day experiment during lunch hour from 11 A.M. to 2 P.M..

After 90 days Lindsay declared the “experimental” closure permanent.

The next year on April 22, 1970 the city closed some streets for the first Earth Day.

It’s one thing to shut down a narrow street in the financial district or some larger streets for a special occasion like Earth Day, it’s quite another to ban cars in the heart of New York’s shopping district.

Lindsay’s bigger plans came to fruition, also as an experiment, 44 years ago on Saturday, July 11, 1970. Lindsay closed vehicular traffic from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., on a fifteen block stretch on Fifth Avenue from 42nd through 57th Streets.

The day before the experiment Mayor Lindsay said, “New Yorker’s should enjoy the most beautiful and exciting street when it becomes a pedestrian mall.”

This would also be different because the merchants along Fifth Avenue were not enamored with the idea. It was the first concerted effort by city officials to see the impact of a traffic closure on a major New York City street and observe the effects on noise, air quality and more importantly, quality of life. Continue reading

Mutilating The Main Branch Of The New York Public Library

Who Cares That New York’s Landmark Library Is About To Be Marred As Part Of A Sweetheart Land Grab Deal?

Library Protest1 May 8

Who cares? Apparently less than 100 people.

That is about the number of protesters who showed up on Wednesday, May 8 to try and bring about public awareness of the decision by the trustees of the New York Public Library to catastrophically alter one of New York’s greatest buildings, the main branch of  The New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd street.

Library Protest4 May 8As the stoic group held up signs to the passing throng on Fifth Avenue, some pedestrians slowed or took photos, many just walked by without notice.

The group was protesting the closed door deal that will sell off the land and buildings of two libraries, the Mid-Manhattan branch at 40th Street and Fifth Avenue and the Science, Industry and Business Library at 34th Street and Madison Avenue. Their operations would be condensed and the main library would be remodeled into a circulating library in addition to being a research library. The main library would then store 3.5 million books off-site in New Jersey. This defeats the entire purpose of the building: to be a first-class, on-site repository of research materials critical to tens of thousands of patrons.

Library Protest2 May 8The small group of protesters was comprised of mostly older people. It is true that this was a weekday afternoon, but there were maybe ten people under the age of 40 in attendance and one or two in their teens. 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 1907 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 Photos #25 – Street Scene 42nd St. & Broadway 1915

42nd Street and Broadway New York Times Building 1915

42nd st Times Building 10 3 15

We have previously featured an overview of the Times Tower Building and Times Square. Now we present a street level view looking west from Broadway. The date is October 3, 1915 and there are a handful of people milling about on the street.

Only the first three stories of the Times Building are visible and a newsstand in front of the building is selling out-of-town newspapers. In the background are some advertisements.  Below the “Some Baby” billboard there is one on the window for a Chop Suey establishment, which is right next to and above a popular chain restaurant, Child’s.

Part 3 Even More Vintage New York City Books With Great Art Deco Dust Jackets

The Art of The Book #3 – New York City Deco Dust Jackets From The 20′s & 30′s

We continue with our look at vintage books about New York City with great dust jackets. (click here to read part 1 and here to read part 2)

Starting with a look at an all-time classic of deco design, New York Nights. (click on any photo to enlarge)

Art Deco dj New York NightsNew York Nights by Stephen Graham, New York: George H. Doran, 1927, dj illustrator, Kurt Wiese

A native of Scotland, author Stephen Graham (1884-1975) goes on a tour of  jazz age nightclubs, speakeasies and cabarets. Graham provides the grittier side of life in an up to the minute description of prohibition New York neighborhoods, establishments and people.

Kurt Wiese (1887-1974) illustrated over 300 books and later became an award-winning children’s book author. Besides the knockout jacket cover, Wiese drew all the illustrations contained in the book. This was the first American book he worked on. Continue reading

Old New York in Photos #22 – History of Times Tower Building & Times Square In Detail

Times Square And The New York Times Tower Building 1908

Times Square featuring The Times Tower 1908 – click to vastly enlarge (six megabytes!)

Times Square is burgeoning with activity in 1908 and there is so much to see in this picture.

This photograph of Times Square was part of The Detroit Publishing Company collection, now housed at The Library of Congress. The company made picture postcards from these original photographs at the turn of the century.

The area formerly known as Longacre Square became Times Square after the New York Times opened their iconic flagship office building in 1905 at what would become known as “the crossroads of the world,” the southern end of Times Square, the triangular intersection of 42nd and 43rd streets where Broadway and Seventh Avenue diverge.

Flatiron Building in 1903

The Times Tower Building design is reminiscent of the Fuller Building, which became popularly known as the “Flatiron Building” soon after it opened in 1902 between 22nd and 23rd Streets where Broadway and Fifth Avenue intersect. The two buildings don’t look alike at all. But because they were each built on irregular plots of land, the triangular buildings both resemble flatirons.

The original Times Tower Building was a Gothic structure of beautiful light limestone and featured intricate terra-cotta and granite on the facade. More about the building later in the article. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #15

42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, 1928

A street level photograph looking east on 42nd Street towards 5th Avenue on a chilly day in 1928. On the left side of the photograph and just to the right of the twin street lamp globes is one of the early traffic towers which would control vehicular traffic flow with colored signals. New York City had been installing traffic lights at very busy intersections since 1920.

The billboard on the northeast corner of 5th and 42nd advertises The Delineator, a magazine devoted to fashion, culture and fine arts. It was published from 1873 until 1937 when it merged with Pictorial Review.