Tag Archives: Fifth Avenue

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 #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

May Day, New York City In The Past And Today

Those Old May Day Gatherings In New York

SOCIALISTS HOLD MAY DAY CELEBRATION IN CENTRAL PARK – Shown above is a general scene showing the large crowd of socialists as they listened to the speakers during the meeting held in Central Park, New York City on May Day. (May 1, 1935 credit: Acme)

Today is May Day which for anyone who went to elementary school in New York City pre-1980 used to be a joyous holiday, celebrated by dancing around a Maypole.

May Day, a centuries old Pagan holiday whose origins and meaning are debated, is now a day of protest. In many parts of England, Wales, Germany and a few other European countries, the Maypole dance and tradition continues. In the United States the day has sunk into a free-for-all for any group to call attention to all their perceived slights and injustices.

In the late 19th century May Day began to be associated with organized marches and assemblies for worker’s rights, unions and socialism. By the 1930s, communists took the day as theirs to celebrate.

Today you will not see any New York City school children doing Maypole dances.

Brooklyn May Day celebration 10,000 girls at Prospect Park 1919

You will not see the veterans of foreign wars praising the freedoms of the United States and protesting communists.

VETERANS HOLD RALLY ON MAY DAY – Photo shows general view of crowd in Union Square , New York City, scene of recent Communist riots, to participate in rally held by the Veterans of Foreign Wars on May 1st. Later the Reds held a demonstration at the same spot. (May 1, 1930 credit P&A photos)

You probably will not see 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 Highbridge (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

Old New York In Photos #72 – Hotel Netherland circa 1912

The Hotel Netherland Fifth Avenue and 59th Street c. 1912

Located at 783 Fifth Avenue on the corner of 59th Street, the Hotel New Netherlands, was built by the Astor estate under William Waldorf Astor and leased by General Ferdinand P. Earle. For 33 years it was one of the finest of New York’s hostelries.

After the Hotel New Netherlands opened on June 1, 1893, a guide book noted the new hotel’s room rates as “unannounced, but among the most expensive.”

The New Netherlands was on the European plan, which meant you didn’t necessarily have to have your meals at the hotel, but you could eat there for an extra charge.

For a comparison the most expensive New York hotels on the European plan; the Normandie; Vendome; Brunswick; and Gilsey had rooms starting at $2.00 per night. the Waldorf was $2.50 per night. On the American plan with meals included, the Windsor was $6.00 and the Savoy was $4.50. The only other hotels besides the New Netherlands that did not list their prices were the Grenoble and the Plaza.

Architect William Hume designed what was at the time the tallest hotel in the world at 17 stories and 229 feet. The hotel had a fine panoramic view of the city. The seemingly endless green expanse of Central Park was directly across the street.  From the higher floors looking past the park you could see the Hudson River and looking southeast was a clear view of the Brooklyn Bridge.

It’s an interesting design and as you look up at the ornate hotel you will notice a hodgepodge of styles.

The hotel was renamed in 1908 as the Hotel Netherland. Later it was the home to the famous Louis Sherry’s restaurant from 1919-1925. When the hotel closed in 1925, it was soon demolished and replaced by the 35 story Sherry-Netherland Hotel in 1927.  The address of the new hotel was changed to 781 Fifth Avenue.

The exact year our photograph by the Detroit Publishing Company is not certain. It probably falls between 1912 -1914 based upon the vehicles in the street. A look at the scene around the hotel shows a bustling metropolis in action. Examining the details is always interesting, you can click on any photo below to enlarge.

The Hotel Netherland’s advertising sign and roof line are quite a sight. The turret is absolutely great. Some of the hotel’s windows are open with curtains parted to let in light on this sunny day.

On the corner of the Netherland are these fantastic light fixtures. Continue reading

A Look Back At New York City’s Great Blizzard of 2016

A Photographic Essay of New York City’s Great Blizzard of 2016 

One year ago, on the afternoon of Friday, January 22, 2016 snow began to fall in New York City. Nothing new there, but it kept snowing and it didn’t stop snowing until late Saturday night.

Late morning Saturday, January 23, when snow was falling as fast as three inches per hour, it was time to go outside.

This was the scene.

Madison Avenue is nearly deserted. Few people and little traffic.

There is absolutely no traffic on the FDR Drive.

Here is Fifth Avenue looking north from 72nd Street. Only one car is parked on the avenue and an ambulance in the distance is the sole vehicle navigating the treacherous driving conditions.

Tell me again: how long will parking be suspended for?

People brave the storm, venture outside and pause to take in the natural beauty of Carl Schurz Park.

No one is sitting on the park benches today at Carl Schurz Park on East 86th Street. 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 New York In Photos #68 – Broadway and Fifth Avenue 1933

Broadway and Fifth Avenue -1933

Flatiron building Sept 10 1933Looking south from 26th Street and Fifth Avenue, this sidewalk level view was taken by a tourist and dated on the back, September 10, 1933. The focal point was obviously meant to be the world famous Flatiron Building at 23rd Street where Fifth avenue and Broadway meet.

Mercury -photo via photobucket user steven19798

Mercury -photo via photobucket user steven19798

In the foreground however, there is something very interesting to look at. Although it can barely be distinguished, on top of the traffic signal is a statue of Mercury, the Roman god of shopkeepers and merchants, travelers and transporters of goods.

Beginning in 1931, these 17 inch bronze statues were put up on 104 new traffic signals and poles that ran along Fifth Avenue from 8th Street to 59th Street. 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