Tag Archives: Central Park

Snow, Sleighing, Skating and Pure Joy In Central Park 1863

Central Park – A Winter Oasis of Sleighing and Skating in 1863

Central Park after the snow February 5, 1863. Woodcut from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper January 30, 1864.

New York City received its first significant snowfall this winter on January 7, 2016 with about 6 inches of snow covering Manhattan. That day and the next, Central Park had children sleighing down its various hills. Ice skating was available for all at Wollman Rink.

Would anyone today recognize Central Park 154 years ago with similar activity?

Reproduced here for the first time since it appeared in the January 30, 1864 edition of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, is this fantastic woodcut Illustration of Central Park. Unfortunately there is no artist attribution.

At first glance you would think this rural scene is not even in New York City, but the telltale signs are evident that this is indeed Central Park.

In the distant background, buildings can be seen. In the foreground is a proverbial one horse open sleigh. Other sleighs race past one another as their riders are covered in warm blankets and animal skins. One sleigh is named, the “Snow Bird.”

If you look carefully on the right you can see a familiar Central Park balustrade that onlookers are leaning against and taking in all the action.  Skaters glide across the frozen lake which begs the question: if you did not own ice skates, where could you get them from?

There was a structure called the “skating tent” in the southern portion of Central Park that rented out skates. 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

Old Photos Of New York City & Snow

A Big Snowstorm In New York? Not a Big Deal In The Past

Some vintage photos of snow in New York City and thoughts about how we cope with it

1905 Fifth Avenue & 27th Street after a big storm

1905 Fifth Avenue & 27th Street after a big storm photo Detroit Publishing

New York City is getting some snow on January 23, 2016. Possibly a lot of it. You know what I say to that? It’s snow, it’s not a big deal.

On January 3, 2014 just days after taking office as mayor of New York, Bill De Blasio blundered in panicking and declaring a disaster before any snow had fallen. The big predicted blizzard that shut down the city including the schools: it ended up being five inches of snow.

1935 snowstorm effects on midtown Manhattan. Life goes on.

1935 snowstorm effects on midtown Manhattan. Life goes on.

The media in its 24 hour news cycle has to generate ratings and viewers. It broadcasts “news” that conveys sheer panic every time New York is slated to receive almost any amount of snow above three inches. Then the mayor or governor gets on TV surrounded by a bunch of sycophants who just stand there and in somber tones take turns assuring viewers that everything will be all right.

1908 horse drawn trolley trudges through New York's snow covered streets

1908 horse drawn trolley trudges through New York’s snow covered streets

This phenomenon of turning every single snowstorm into some crisis is ridiculous and what’s more: it never used to happen. Approaching snowstorms now start a vicious circle by both media and politicians of fear, seriousness and over-protection in the name of safety. We have become a society that seems to be having a hard time dealing with snow, let alone nature.

1908 Snow at night on Riverside Drive Viaduct photo NY Edison Co.

1908 Snow at night on Riverside Drive Viaduct photo NY Edison Co.

Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #58

Panoramic View of Columbus Circle – 1904

Columbus Circle Trolley 1904 photo: National ArchivesThis phenomenal panoramic street level view of Columbus Circle comes via the National Archives. On their website it is misidentified as Eighth Avenue Trolley, (true – Eighth Avenue changes names to Central Park West) Downtown (which it certainly is not.) Click the photo to greatly enlarge.

We are looking north from 59th Street (Central Park South). The Columbus monument is not visible, but would be to the extreme left near where two gentlemen are standing in the street. Directly behind them are two subway kiosks for the entrance and exit of the soon to be opened New York City subway system.

Besides the subway, the new metropolis is emerging in other ways. An automobile is heading east towards Central Park South. To the left of the automobile, a trolley makes its way up Central Park West. To the left of the trolley is one of many horse drawn vehicles traveling up and down Broadway. Continue reading

Ten Great Films From The 1940s Featuring New York City

Filming Around New York City In The 1940s

On The Town posterDuring Hollywood’s golden years from the 1930s through the early 1950s there were many films set in New York City, but the vast majority were made on the studio lots in southern California. Almost every studio had their own New York set which would convey “the Big Apple.”

The reasons for doing so were obvious; the costs of actually sending the cast and crew on location to film would be cost prohibitive and complete control could be exercised in the studio for crowd control, noise, lighting and other technical issues.

Occasionally films would use stock footage of New York or a second unit directing team would be sent to capture a New York scene or two to be used as establishing shots showing the audience, yes this is New York. Usually though none of the principal characters in the film were ever actually in New York, but back in Hollywood, playing against what is called a “process shot” a background screen showing New York footage usually while the actors were walking or driving.

Even such quintessential “New York” films such as A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (1945) and Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) were shot completely in Hollywood.

So when the cast and crew actually did any filming in New York it was a rare treat, especially looking back today at the much changed metropolis.

Here are ten of the best 1940s films where a part of the movie was actually filmed on location in New York City.

Saboteur Cummings and Lloyd Statue of LibertySaboteur (1942) This cross-sountry chase of one man falsely accused of sabotage pursuing the real saboteur winds up in New York. Director Alfred Hitchcock had his second unit shoot footage in the city that shows New York in the midst of World War II. We see Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, the waterfront and other familiar city sights.  A masterpiece of storytelling the film moves at a smooth pace as you bite your nails watching. Spoiler alert: Sinister character actor Norman Lloyd battles hero Robert Cummings on Bedloe’s Island at The Statue of Liberty in one of the most iconic conclusions to a film ever shot.

Ray Milland The Lost Weekend Third Avenue photo Life MagazineThe Lost Weekend (1945) Director Billy Wilder takes advantage of New York, shooting many of the exteriors of The Lost Weekend on location. Ray Milland’s portrayal of troubled, alcoholic writer Don Birnam won him an Academy Award for best actor. The film also won Oscars for best picture, best director and best screenplay. There are so many shots of Milland in the city it becomes a game to recognize where the actual locations are. Third Avenue is prominently put on display. The giant street clock Milland passes in one scene is still there today – located on Third Avenue between 84th and 85th Streets. All the mom and pop stores and restaurants along the way are long gone, replaced mostly by chains. P.J Clarke’s on Third Avenue and 55th Street was used in the shooting but many of the interior scenes of the bar were shot back in Hollywood. Continue reading

Would You Recognize Central Park From 125 Years Ago?

20 Stereoviews Of 19th Century Central Park

Some Long Vanished Scenes And Other Familiar Sites

Mount Saint Vincent Convent, east side of Central Park near 102nd street

Mount Saint Vincent Convent, east side of Central Park near 103rd street

Central Park is a constantly evolving mixture of landscape, architecture, buildings and people.  Engineer Egbert Viele first surveyed the space encompassing the park. Landscape architects  Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, won the competition to design the park and  construction started in 1858.

Over the last 150 plus years, the park has seen many additions and subtractions within it.

The 19th century version of Central Park has many things that a New Yorker today would find familiar and others that seem completely out of character; such as a convent located in the northern part of the park.

The Academy of Mount St. Vincent shown above in the 1860’s was a group of buildings which predated the park and contained a school and convent run by the Roman Catholic Sisters. The nuns left the buildings before construction started on the park and moved to Riverdale in the Bronx in 1857.  The buildings they left behind remained for other uses such as a museum, storage and a rare plant conservatory.  All the structures were destroyed by fire on January 2, 1881. The site of Mount St. Vincent at East 103rd Street is now the composting area for the park.

Here are some other views of Central Park from 1863-1896. Click on images to vastly enlarge.

Central Park Bethesda Fountain without statueBethesda Fountain before sculptor Emma Stebbins famous bronze statue Angel of the Waters was installed in 1873.

Central Park The entrance on Fifth AvenueCentral Park’s original grand entrance on Fifth Avenue with policeman and guard house. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #42

Central Park Transverses 1863

Central Park Transverse at 79th St looking east 1863

Central Park Transverse 79th St looking east 1863

Central Park Transverse (which one?) 1863

Central Park Transverse (which one?) 1863

 

Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, the designers of Central Park, had amazing foresight to build transverses through the park so that omnibus, carriage and horse traffic, could get crosstown without disrupting the flow of the landscape. Users of the park today are the beneficiaries of the uninterrupted paths and vistas as automobile traffic crosses the park out of sight and mind.

These two photographs are from stereoviews taken in 1863 by E. & H.T. Anthony & Co. who took some of the best images of mid-nineteenth century New York. They show the recently opened Central Park with little activity and just a few buildings in the background.

The photo on the left shows transverse number two (I never knew they had numbers assigned to them) that cuts across the park from East 79th Street to West 81st Street. On the left can be glimpsed the southern edge of the Croton reservoir, one of two reservoirs that were in Central Park. The Croton reservoir was drained and filled-in in 1931 and the former reservoir located between 79th and 86th Streets became the Great Lawn, opening in 1937. The second reservoir above 86th Street remains in place today and joggers frequently circumnavigate its perimeter.

The photograph on the right is another one of the transverses but it is not identified on the stereoview itself. It looks to be the 65th Street transverse but I am unsure of the orientation and surroundings. Which one do you think it is?

The New York City Zoo In 1901

The Menagerie Or Animals In Very Small Cages

post card central park zoo

These photographs taken by an amateur photographer in 1901 show the Central Park Menagerie, more commonly known as the zoo.  The cramped quarters and cages the animals were kept in lasted until the 1970’s. Click on any photo to enlarge.

Bears 1901 New York City Zoo

Bears Central Park Zoo 1901

Leopard Central Park Zoo 1901

Leopard Central Park Zoo 1901

Hippopotamus and Baby 1901 Central Park Zoo

Hippopotamus and baby Central Park Zoo 1901

Buffalo and baby 1901 Central Park Zoo

Buffalo and baby Central Park Zoo 1901

Camels 1901 Central Park Zoo

Camels Central Park Zoo 1901

Old New York In Photos #17

The Easter Parade, circa 1900

This view of Fifth Avenue at the turn of the century shows New York City holding its famous Easter Parade. The parade, famous for its display of beautiful bonnets and fancy hats, has been occurring since the 1870’s in New York.

One of the first places crowds gathered to dispaly their Easter finery in New York City was not Fifth Avenue, but Central Park. The New York Times of April 21, 1873 reported:

“In the afternoon the crowds began to arrive. By every line of cars they swarmed into the Park. And, strange to say, there was a full fair sprinkling of the comparatively aristocratic classes, besides those who habitually make the Park their paradise on fine Sundays. Many couples were promenading who had certainly come from St. Thomas’ and other Fifth avenue churches, for their prayer-books were still in their hands. It seemed to be a universal exodus. Their were ladies in the most delicate Spring attire, poor sewing and shop girls in their Easter finery, ragged little children playing tag, to the great scandal of the straight-laced.  And their were gentlemen in fine Spring overcoats and in heavy Winter overcoats, in Spring suits and Winter suits. Their were ladies in heavy silks and warm furs, and beside them others in the latest varieties of cameo fabrics.  It was evident that if some had come to parade their finery, the great majority had been perfectly surprised by such kindness on the part of Spring, but had determined, like sensible folk, to enjoy the fresh air and the glorious day in their old clothes   It would be impossible to calculate the crowds that swarmed over the Park like emigrating bees.”

By 1879 the Easter Parade was officially taking place on Fifth Avenue according to The New York Times. The newspaper on April 14, 1879 commented  “that Fifth Avenue was crowded with promenaders” and “Spring bonnets were worn by every lady promenader.”

The tradition of the Easter Parade on Fifth Avenue continues in the 21st century and is no longer an aristocratic event, but one open to anyone wishing to show off their sense of style (or lack of it).