Who Cares That New York’s Landmark Library Is About To Be Marred As Part Of A Sweetheart Land Grab Deal?
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.
As 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.
The 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 →
New York City In Old Color Photographs At The Turn Of The Century
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 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 New York City 1900
City Hall looking northwest with a sliver of City Hall Park on the bottom extreme left. Continue reading →
Fifth Avenue Looking North From 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.
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.
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 →
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.
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 →
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 →
This view looking north on Fifth Avenue taken at the turn-of-the-century shows New York City holding its famous Easter Parade. The parade, known for its display of beautiful bonnets and fancy hats, has been occurring since the 1870’s in New York. You can see how packed the streets near St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Anyone could walk Fifth Avenue on Easter, but it was generally the well to do who participated in the exhibition. Fifth Avenue being home to some of the most expensive homes made this a natural gathering spot for the wealthy. But is that where the tradition began?
One of the first places crowds gathered to display their Easter finery in New York City was not Fifth Avenue, but Central Park. Continue reading →
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.