Tag Archives: Fifth Avenue

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

Old New York In Photos #38

Fifth Avenue Looking North From 44th Street 1923

Fifth Ave north from 44th st 1923

There is a lot of activity in this photograph taken in 1923 showing Fifth Avenue looking north from 44th Street.

No traffic signals impede the two way traffic which runs on the avenue. A Fifth Avenue double-deck bus is heading northbound packed with passengers. Pedestrians walk along on the avenue while deliveries are being made from trucks, like the one in the lower center of the photograph.

Among the buildings seen are H. Jaeckel and Sons Furriers which occupied the west side corner of Fifth Avenue at 45th street and further in the distance at 48th street is the spire of the Collegiate Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of Saint Nicholas. The church was designed by architect Wheeler Smith and was built from 1869-1872. Theodore Roosevelt and his family occupied pew number number 39. The church was demolished in 1949 and the land was leased to Rockefeller Center.

7 Old Ads Of New York Businesses From 1874

How Macy’s, Tiffany & Co. And Other New York Firms Advertised Their Businesses In 1874

Macy's Ad 1874 The 1874 book New York Past and Present by Charles Edwin Prescott (Mercantile Publishing) contains interesting advertising which provides a look at how various companies sold their wares.

Some companies or the buildings they occupied in 1874 are still here today, other companies vanished long ago without a trace and are completely forgotten.

Click on any advertisement to enlarge.

R. H. Macy was down on 14th Street at the corner of Sixth Avenue. They had a collection of buildings joined together on 14th Street as the company kept growing throughout the late 1800’s. They moved to their Herald Square location in 1902. I remember up until the 1980’s looking up at some of the buildings on 14th Street and still being able to see the Macy’s red star emblazoned on the facades of a few buildings.

In 1874 Macy’s top line for advertising was that they were “importers and dealers of embroideries and lace goods.” The rest of the ad goes on to describe carrying goods:”various ladies’, gents’ and childrens’ furnishing goods,” “white goods,” “fancy goods” and “kid gloves”

Colton Dental Ad 1874The advertisement for the Colton Dental Association located at 19 Cooper Institute says they originated the use of “laughing gas for the painless extraction of teeth.” Who knew?

In the 19th century, people were really scared of the dentist because it was generally a painful experience. The interesting part of the ad: “77,228 patients without a failure or an accident.”

Zero Refrigerator Ad 1874Seeing the word “refrigerator” in an 1874 ad may cause you to do a double take. But this is not a modern refrigeration system advertised by Alex M. Lesley, the manufacturer of the Zero Refrigerator with offices located at 224 -226 West 23rd Street. The Zero Refrigerator was merely an icebox with “water, wine and milk cooler.” Mr. Lesley simply says the Zero “is the best food and ice keeper in the world.” The world’s first refrigerator was built in 1834. Refrigerators for home use didn’t come into existence until 1913.    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 Photos #28 – New York City Early Color Photos

New York City In Old Color Photographs At The Turn Of The Century

Mulberry Street Detroit Publishing Company

Mulberry Street in color New York City 1900

Life was colorful in turn of the century New York City. But because almost all the photographs we see from that era are in black and white, it is hard to imagine what the city looked like in its full color glory.

The Library of Congress holds the incredible collection of The Detroit Publishing Company who manufactured postcards and chronicled the world with their photographs from 1880-1920.

One of the processes used to achieve color was called the photochrom. Photochrom’s are color photo lithographs created from a black and white photographic negative. Color impressions are achieved through the application of multiple lithograph stones, one per color. In 1897, the Detroit Publishing Company brought the process over from Switzerland where it was first developed.

The images presented here were eventually used for postcards. Here is a look at New York circa 1900 in high resolution color photographs. Click on any image to vastly enlarge.

South Street Brooklyn Bridge 1900 Detroit Publishing

South Street and Brooklyn Bridge 1900

Looking north along South Street with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background. This was still the age when shipping and boats crowded the harbor.

City Hall 1900 Detroit Publishing

City Hall New York City 1900

City Hall looking northwest with a sliver of City Hall Park on the bottom extreme left. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #27 – Fifth Avenue Looking North From 51st Street – 1913

Fifth Avenue Looking North From 51st Street – 1913

Fifth Avenue 51st Street 1913

In this one hundred year old view of Fifth Avenue, we see some of the many methods of transportation that New Yorker’s took to get around the city.

A double-decker Fifth Avenue bus ambles to its terminus at 22nd Street and is packed with riders on the top deck taking in the sights. There are horse drawn carriages and many types of automobiles traveling both north and south as Fifth Avenue was a two way street until 1966.

And of course pedestrians crowd the sidewalks on this brisk sunny day.

A couple of things to take note of: 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 1896 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

All New York City Sidewalks Are Not Created Equal

What Is The Width Of The Sidewalks In Manhattan?

Following up on our November 19, story, All New York City Streets Are Not Created Equal, the 1904 World Almanac has a list of the width of Manhattan’s sidewalks. The chart can provide the answer to which avenue has wider sidewalks Fifth Avenue or Lenox Avenue? While this may not be a burning question on anyone’s mind, it is interesting to see how much the sidewalk width varies from street to street and avenue to avenue.  The obvious differences are plainly apparent to any New Yorker walking the streets so we thought it would be worth it to reproduce this list with the actual measurements.

Width of Sidewalks in Manhattan Borough

In streets 40 feet wide 10 ft.
In streets 50 feet wide 13 ft.
In streets 60 feet wide 15 ft.
In streets 70 feet wide 18 ft.
In streets 80 feet wide 19 ft.
In streets above 80 feet, not exceeding 100 feet. 20 ft.
All streets more than 100 feet 22 ft.
 
Lenox and 7th Avenues, north of W. 110th St 35 ft.
Grand Boulevard (Broadway above 59th Street) 24 ft.
Manhattan St. 15 ft.
Lexington Avenue 18 ft. 6 in.
Madison Avenue 19 ft.
5th Avenue 30 ft.
St. Nicholas Avenue 22 ft.
Park Avenue from E. 49th to E. 56th St. and from E. 96th St. to Harlem River 15 ft.
West End Avenue 30 ft.
Central Park West, from W, 59th St. to W. 110th, East side 27 ft.
Central Park West, from W. 59th St. to W. 110th, West side 35 ft. 6in.

How many of these sidewalk measurements remained the same throughout the 20th century is open to conjecture. I would imagine that many sidewalks have had their original dimensions changed due to the high value of Manhattan real estate.

click to enlarge

This photograph, taken November 10, 1914 at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 59th Street looking south, has a clear view of the sidewalk. The men near the carriage are standing in front of the Hotel Savoy (built 1892 – demolished 1927). On the right at 58th Street is the Cornelius Vanderbilt II mansion (built 1893 – demolished 1926).  It does not appear that the sidewalk is actually 30 feet wide.

What It Was Like Riding A Turn Of The Century New York Stagecoach

New York Transportation In The Early 1900’s

Hamilton Fish Armstrong was the longtime editor of the magazine Foreign Affairs. His charming memoir, Those Days published in 1963 by Harper and Row is a wonderfully evocative description of an upper middle class boyhood spent in New York City, the Hudson Valley and Quebec. The book’s dust jacket description states that it is: “A lively, spontaneous re-creation of the childhood of a famous editor and writer at the turn of the century – an unforgettable picture of a vanished New York.”

It’s one of those out of print, forgotten books that deserve to be read by a new generation. I highly recommend it.

Here is an excerpt from pages 68-69 where Armstrong describes getting uptown to school from his home on 10th street via the Fifth Avenue coach which was pulled by horses.

When I was nine the time came for me to go to a “real” school uptown, and unless it was pouring pouring rain or snowing I went of course, on skates. When the weather ruled this out I used the Fifth Avenue stage or the Sixth Avenue El.

On the stage I rode by choice  on the outside, either perched up behind the driver or, if I was lucky, along side him. Continue reading

Old New York in Photos #19 – First Traffic Light Signals

First Traffic Light Signals –  Fifth Avenue and 34th Street, 1922

The Beginning of New York City’s Traffic Lights

This ornate traffic light at 34th Street, was one of seven put up in New York City on the heavily traveled Fifth Avenue in 1922.

The city had experimented with traffic signals in 1917 when a device invented by an engineer, Foster Milliken, was installed at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. The device was a revolving flashlight that would flash signals as red to stop and green for go.  This may sound ridiculous now, but in the early days of traffic signals there was no standard for color relating to traffic. Continue reading