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.
In 2000 and 2001 Swann Galleries (a New York auction house) held New York City auctions. All the items: books, posters, maps, ephemera, photographs, prints and art were related to the city. It was a great concept that they discontinued after 2001. It was at these auctions where I first encountered the art work of Luigi Kasimir.
Kasimir was born in 1881 in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and later came to New York where he repeatedly captured the architectural sights of the city. Today, Kasimir is best known for his detailed etchings, many of which were done in color, which apparently was not the norm for early 20th century etchings. The New York Times distinguished Kasimir from other etchers of the time at a contemporary exhibition in 1926 by referring to him as a “colorist.” Continue reading →
A Tale of Three Buildings: Franconi’s Hippodrome, The Fifth Avenue Hotel & The Fifth Avenue Building a.k.a. The Toy Center
The west side of Fifth Avenue between 23rd and 24th streets had been country land well into the middle of the 19th century. The land for many years had been occupied by a quaint tavern and horse changing station.
Franconi’s Hippodrome- Fifth Avenue 23rd -24th Streets (click to enlarge)
On this site in March 1853, Henri Franconi, a European from a long line of equestrian performers, arranged with investors to have an amphitheater built which was then called Franconi’s Hippodrome. This precursor of the modern day circus with performers, animals and chariot races was housed in a large structure shaped like an ellipse and was 338 feet by 196 1/2 feet that could seat 10,000 people and was covered by a red, white and blue canvas supported by a center pole 70 feet in height and a circle of smaller poles 40 feet in height.
It opened on Monday, May 2, 1853, and The New York Daily Times was not impressed with the class of people attending the Hippodrome shows. Attendees they said “…were blacklegs, gamblers, rowdies, and the miscellanea of polite roguery and blackguardism.” The reporter added “The Hippodrome is badly conducted and Continue reading →
Fifth Avenue Looking North from The Plaza (59th Street) 1930
Two way vehicular traffic is probably a shocking thing to see on Fifth Avenue, but in 1930 it was the norm. Also note: no traffic lights or policemen directing traffic. Pedestrians cross at their own risk.
Church steeples are among the tallest structures in the photo. The closest steeple belongs to the original St. Thomas Episcopal Church on Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street, which was destroyed by fire in 1905. The new St. Thomas was completed in 1913. The steeple two blocks north belongs to the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church at 55th Street, which was completed in 1875 and is still standing today.
Mansions line Fifth Avenue, as this section of Manhattan had not been encroached by the tide of merchants who were steadily creeping north with commercial developments.
In the center of the photo past the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church are the trees of Central Park. On the left of the photo the tall building on near Sixth Avenue and 59th Street, lining up with the center of the park, is the luxury duplex apartment building The Dalhousie. Opened for occupancy in October 1884, The Dalhousie was demolished in 1930 and replaced by a modern apartment building in 1941. In the upper left hand corner the light colored tall building in the distance is the Henry Janeway Hardenbergh designed Dakota Apartments.