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Old New York In Postcards #21 – 1920s & 1930s New York City Aerial Images

New York City In The 1920s & 1930s As Seen By Airplane

A Vanished Skyline

Peenn Station Area from airplane 1920sWhen in lower Brooklyn, Queens or bicycling across the George Washington Bridge, I look at the New York City skyline. It has become something I do not recognize.

New York is a city that architecturally alters itself every year. It comes as no surprise that there are buildings that now obscure the sight of what were once tourist magnets.

The Woolworth, Bankers Trust, Equitable, Municipal, Citicorp and Chrysler Buildings are dwarfed by new neighbors. Fifty Seventh Street is now an ugly amalgamation of needle glass towers selling for $40 million to absentee owners.

I never experienced the grandeur of the classic Manhattan skyline. It had mostly vanished by the 1960s in a spate of modern construction in the financial district and midtown. However, even through the 1980s there was not an infestation of buildings that blocked New York’s most notable structures.

But in the past fifteen years the New York skyline has been overhauled. In the process obliterating the uniqueness of New York. New, mammoth unattractive buildings are now spreading like a fungus in the city. The skyline seen now could be Chicago, Los Angeles or Houston. It has been impossible to stop a bunch of undistinguished architectural monstrosities to destroy the vistas that made New York famous.

Let us return to the 1920s and 30s when New York City looked like NEW YORK CITY. Here are some aerial postcard views showing what was once a picturesque city.

Click on any image to enlarge as all of these postcards are real photo. I scanned many (not all) of them at 300 dpi so the detail is pretty clear when enlarged.

New York from the south aerial view 1930sLooking north we have a fantastic overview of the entire southern portion of the island.

aerial lower manhattan east river 1930s aerialAnother classic view when approaching Manhattan from the south showing the piers and many turn-of-the-century and art deco buildings that proliferate in lower Manhattan.

Aerial view of Lower Manhattan from the Hudson Looking east across the Hudson another at the southern tip of Manhattan. This view captures most of the important buildings in the financial district.  Continue reading

New York In The Late 1940s As Seen By The Saturday Evening Post’s Cover Artists

Five Classic New York City Saturday Evening Post
Magazine Covers

A magazine with great cover art? The New Yorker fits the bill with every issue having an illustration adorning the covers since beginning publication in 1925.

Over the course of the 20th century photography eventually replaced magazine cover art. But if there was a magazine that could give The New Yorker a challenge in the cover art department, it would be The Saturday Evening Post.

If The New Yorker was the quintessential representative for sophisticates, then The Saturday Evening Post represented the rest of America. The covers of The Saturday Evening Post mirrored America, the same way The New Yorker echoed New York.

Arguably no New Yorker cover artist past or present is widely known to most Americans. The Post fostered the career of a legendary artist, Norman Rockwell. From the late teens until the 1960s Rockwell drew an astounding 321 covers for the magazine. Rockwell’s name and work is still recognized by millions of people nearly 40 years after his death.

But what of the hundreds of other talented artists who illustrated magazine covers? There were only a few artists who worked for both the New Yorker and The Saturday Evening Post. Each magazine wanted exclusivity considering the illustration style was at times somewhat similar.

Every now and then, the Post would feature a New York City scene on its cover.

Here are five examples from the 1940s.

John Falter (1910-1982) drew over 120 covers for the Saturday Evening Post. The April 30, 1949 cover shows Central Park and the skyline of the upper east side. The original cover Falter submitted had a lightning bolt and a rainbow simultaneously, which concerned the Post’s editors. They consulted the weather bureau asking if it was possible to have both lightning and a rainbow appear at the same time? The weather bureau replied they had never seen the phenomenon but where weather was concerned “anything could happen.”

The Post’s Art Department decided to remove the lightning and the illustration appeared as seen here.

Constantin Alajalov (1900-1987) was one of those few artists who worked concurrently for The New Yorker and The Saturday Evening Post. The February 12, 1949 cover has  a young lady in a travel office dreaming of getting away from the cold as she’s surrounded with posters advertising sunny locales. Note there is something never seen in New York City anymore: clotheslines connected from building to building. Alajalov originally drew snowflakes falling in the courtyard, but then decided to remove them when he thought: would anyone be drying clothes in a snowstorm? Probably not. So either remove the clotheslines or the snowflakes. Alajalov chose to remove the snowflakes. Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #16 – 1960s & 70s Aerial Views of Manhattan In Color

Color Aerial Views of Manhattan’s Skyline In The 1960s & Early 70s

nyc-skyline-1-1

The Staten Island Ferry is arriving as Manhattan’s classic skyline is seen from the south c 1963

As Manhattan grows more crowded with slender glass boxes rising all over the island, some say New York is losing its classic skyline.

The truth is that classic skyline started to be lost  in the early 1950s as box-like buildings replaced older “obsolete” structures.

Developers were aided by city planners like Robert Moses whose vision of urban renewal often lead to urban devastation. In the mid 1950s Moses proposed building a ten lane elevated highway, the Lower Manhattan Expressway, across the neighborhoods now known as TriBeca and SoHo. Dozens of historic buildings would have been bulldozed in the process to connect a highway from the Holland Tunnel to the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. Fortunately after a long debate the city abandoned the plan in 1969.

For the most part in the past 300 years, progress and the money involved in Manhattan real estate has never let sentimentality or a sense of history stand in the way of demolition.

Sites that once held classic tall buildings such as the Savoy Plaza Hotel and the Singer Building were demolished in the 1960s to make way for even bigger skyscrapers. With the exception of a few well designed buildings, hundreds of nondescript office and residential buildings have been constructed over the past 60 years.

The current skyscraper building craze has blocked views from many vantage points of Manhattan’s iconic buildings.

These photo postcards were all taken between 1963 and 1974. Manhattan still had many vestiges of its classic skyline and sense of scale in place. They capture lower and midtown Manhattan from various angles just before the permanent eradication of these classic views.

nyc-skyline-1A close view of lower Manhattan’s financial district looking north in 1963. Only a few post-war buildings have been constructed in the financial district.

nyc-skyline-1-2Looking northwest, change has begun as several boxy buildings are under construction near South Street and the FDR Drive as seen directly behind the Staten Island Ferry terminal (1965).

nyc-skyline-2Looking south in 1964 towards the financial district. On the left are the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges spanning the East River. The tallest building on the right is the Woolworth Building. Other tall buildings seen in the center, include the Cities Services Building, the Bank of Manhattan Trust Building, and the City Bank Farmers Trust Building,. The modern tall glass and aluminum structure is the 60 story Chase Manhattan Bank Building bounded by Nassau, Liberty, William and Pine Streets. When opened in 1961 it was the sixth tallest building in the world. Continue reading