Tag Archives: Seventh Avenue

Old New York In Photos #65

The New York Times Tower Building Under Construction – 1904

New York Times Building under constructionRecently I had the misfortune of passing through Times Square, now a symbol of the mall-ification of New York.

Dead center, standing at 42nd Street where Broadway and Seventh Avenue diverge is the mutilated former New York Times Tower Building. The iconic building that gave Times Square its name, is now basically an electronic billboard. Before The New York Times moved from Park Row to their new headquarters, this area was known as Longacre Square. We covered the history of the building in a previous story.

What was once a classic building has become emblematic of the entire area. Times Square now means: chain stores, thick crowds moving s-l-o-w-l-y and solicitors every five feet hawking something. Then there’s a bunch of beggars in costumes who somehow get paid by having chump tourists hand over money to take a picture with them.

Our photograph from above shows the New York Times Building in the midst of construction in 1904.  The George A. Fuller Construction Company advertises that they are erecting the new skyscraper. The Fuller Company put up a similar building on a triangular plot two years previous to this at 23rd Street, the much beloved Fuller Building, better known as the Flatiron Building. Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #15

Postcard Views of 125th Street – The Heart of Harlem 1905-1910

A dreamy view of 125th Street looking east from the elevated station circa 1910

A dreamy colored sky hangs over 125th Street looking east from 8th Avenue circa 1910

What was 125th Street like at the turn of the 20th century? It was the commercial center of a genteel neighborhood, the heart of Harlem. Restaurants, hotels, businesses and entertainment venues lined the prosperous street. 1900 census data shows the area was white with almost no blacks living around the surrounding streets. Residents around the area were primarily Jewish, Italian, German or WASP.

View of 125th Street looking west from 7th Avenue. The Hotel Winthrop is on the left the Harlem Opera House with finials atop its roof is on the right circa 1907.

View of 125th Street looking west from 7th Avenue. The Hotel Winthrop is on the left the Harlem Opera House with finials atop its roof is on the right circa 1907.

By 1910, things were changing and blacks now made up around 10 percent of Harlem’s population.  That gradual change occurred after real estate speculators built apartments when  the subway was being constructed between 1900 and 1904. The anticipated housing boom was a bust and these buildings were slow to fill with white tenants. A shrewd black real estate manager and developer Philip Payton Jr. was instrumental in changing the demographics of Harlem starting at 133rd Street and Lenox Avenue around 1905. Payton seized the opportunity in filling new and vacant buildings with black families. Soon other surrounding blocks were attracting black families.

Another view of 125th Street west of 7th Avenue (now Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.). Keith & Proctor's sign sits atop the vaudeville theater which was formerly The Harlem Opera House circa 1910.

Another view of 125th Street west of 7th Avenue (now Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.). Keith & Proctor’s sign sits atop the vaudeville theater which was formerly The Harlem Opera House circa 1910.

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In 1918 New York’s Hotel Commonwealth Was Going To Be The Largest In The World

 The Unbuilt 2,500 Room Hotel Commonwealth – New York’s Largest Hotel

Hotel Commonwealth New York City postcard view 3New York has always been a city of ambitious plans, dreams and schemes. But there are few rivals to the grandiose project for a hotel which was to be the largest in the world with 2,500 rooms and set up on a cooperative system to be owned by common investors.

The promotional brochure proclaimed:

TO BE BUILT BY THE COMMON WEALTH
TO BE MANAGED FOR THE COMMON GOOD
TO BE OPERATED FOR THE COMMON BENEFIT

The Hotel Commonwealth was to be situated on Broadway between 55th and 56th Streets. The description on the back of this 1918 postcard pictured above contains early 20th century ballyhoo of the highest order:

Hotel Commonwealth – “Greatest thing of its kind on earth.” The Commonwealth will be the first important building to be erected in conformance with the new building law to conserve light and sunshine for the general public. Through its 28 stories which will contain 2,500 rooms, it will rise 400 feet in the air in graceful terraces, or “set-backs” as the zoning law calls them, the flowering plants and shrubs upon each terrace giving the monster hostelry an unusual beauty of architecture, rivaled only by the ancient Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

The planned 2,500 rooms would be 500 more rooms than the largest hotel ever built. Continue reading

Old New York in Photos #32

1915 Subway Explosion Kills Seven, Injures Scores: 7th Avenue Between 24th and 25th Streets

This photograph taken on September 24, 1915 looking east across Seventh Avenue between 25th and 24th Streets shows the extent of a tragedy that took the lives of seven people and injured more than 100.

At about 7:50 a.m. on September 22, 1915 during the subway excavation for a new line, an explosion followed by a massive street collapse threw 7th Avenue into a scene of pandemonium and carnage.  A blast of dynamite caused the temporary roadway of wood planking to give way. A trolley loaded with passengers plunged 30 feet into the abyss created by the cave in. A beer truck minus the driver also fell into the excavation.

The reason more people were not killed was because the street undulated for a few seconds before collapsing which allowed precious time for people on the street to scatter to safety.

The motorman of the northbound trolley, John Mayne said, “The car sank just where I stopped it. I had no stop at Twenty-fourth street and there was no warning there. When I was half way to Twenty-fifth street I saw a flagman and set my brakes. As I set the brakes I felt the earth going from under me. The next thing I knew I was being pulled out of hell.”

Fanny Borie, 18,  of Brooklyn was on the trolley, on her way to work when it went down into the hole. “When the car started to sink there were terrible screams, and I think I fainted,” she said. “I remember feeling people tugging at my feet, as I was buried under some timbers. Then I lost consciousness and came to again when I was being carried up a ladder to the street.” Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #29

Advertisements & Scenes of Times Square In Vintage Color Photographs 1954

Times Sq 7 1954

It’s been almost 60 years since these photographs were taken by an anonymous amateur photographer who was interested in the signage, ads and the streets surrounding a vibrant, now vanished Times Square.

The city began sterilizing all the flavor from the crossroads of the world in the late 1980’s. It was a few years later that most New Yorker’s began noticing the mall-ification of Times Square. True, Times Square had denigrated into a rather sleazy place from the mid-1960’s until the “revitalization” took place. But what has it become?

For anyone who lived through Times Square’s final heyday in the 1950’s, today the place must seem extremely distasteful with its countless tourist barkers, ill-planned pedestrian plazas and glass monolith buildings sheathed in gaudy LED light ads. It’s overcrowded with people moving slowly, chain stores, costumed kitsch characters and modern day hucksters hawking their products to tourists for a “real New York experience.” Give me the days of three card monte games and prostitutes over eight people wandering around in Mickey Mouse costumes any day.

As Nik Cohn said in 1997, ‘Times Square has always changed every 20 years. But this time it’s changed to a corporate, generic American city that doesn’t particularly express the uniqueness of New York.”

Times Sq  looking southeast 1954But let’s go back in time to 1954 when it was a better time for Times Square. Legitimate theatre was still great, movies offered up Cinemascope entertainment and real Broadway characters (not criminals and freaks) roamed the streets.

Enjoy these Kodachrome views of what you would have seen looking around Times Square on a sunny, warm July day in 1954.

Minimal commentary has been added for identification purposes. Click any photo to enlarge.

Times Sq 6 1954Times Square looking south from 46th Street. Shown are: Times Tower Building, Bishop’s Crook Light, Hotel Astor with The Astor Roof Garden, Victoria Theater showing About Mrs. Leslie starring Shirley Booth and Robert Ryan, on the extreme left a portion of the statue for the giant block long Bond Clothes advertisement.

Times Sq 1954 1Looking west from Broadway and Seventh Avenue along 45th Street. Shown are: the Astor Theater with a large billboard for Indiscretion of an American Wife starring Jennifer Jones and Montgomery Clift, and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musicals Me and Juliet  and The King and I, and the 26 story Hotel Piccadilly at 227 West 45th Street. Continue reading

Old New York in Postcards #6

Rare Postcards Of The Upper West Side And Harlem 1900 – 1915

Broadway and 141st Street Looking North circa 1903

Broadway and 141st Street Looking North circa 1903

Most old postcards depicting turn of the century New York City usually show the typical tourist attractions, landmarks and notable buildings of the city.

It was uncommon for the big postcard manufacturers to produce postcards of average streets, buildings or scenes in New York City for people to send to their friends back home. After all who wanted to see an apartment building on 117th Street and Seventh Avenue?

That is what makes these scenes of New York City and upper Manhattan rather unique. They feature the areas not frequented by tourists. They are photographs, rather than illustrations, and were typically produced in small quantities by smaller or unnamed card manufacturers. The absence of vehicles and people on the streets belies the rapid housing development that occurred in upper Manhattan during the time.  Click on any postcard to enlarge.

Broadway 86th St Euclid HallEuclid Hall Apartments 2349 Broadway, northwest corner of Broadway and 86th Street. This view shows the Euclid Hall Apartments which was built in 1903 by Hill and Turner is a heavily ornamented seven story red brick building. It is still standing and the ground floor has been modernized and now houses commercial businesses.

Broadway 98th Street The WilliamThe William Apartments looking west at 243 West 98th Street, northwest corner of Broadway and 98th Street. The William, a seven story building was completed in 1899 and is currently a condominium. To the right of The William behind the trees is the Arragon at 2611 Broadway. Continue reading

Old New York in Photos #22

Times Square And The New York Times Tower Building 1908

Times Square featuring The Times Tower 1908 – click to vastly enlarge (six megabytes!)

Times Square is burgeoning with activity in 1908 and there is so much to see in this picture.

This photograph of Times Square was part of The Detroit Publishing Company collection, now housed at The Library of Congress. The company made picture postcards from these original photographs at the turn of the century.

The area formerly known as Longacre Square became Times Square after the New York Times opened their iconic flagship office building in 1905 at what would become known as “the crossroads of the world,” the southern end of Times Square, the triangular intersection of 42nd and 43rd streets where Broadway and Seventh Avenue diverge.

Flatiron Building in 1903

The Times Tower Building design is reminiscent of the Fuller Building, which became popularly known as the “Flatiron Building” soon after it opened in 1902 between 22nd and 23rd Streets where Broadway and Fifth Avenue intersect. The two buildings don’t look alike at all. But because they were each built on irregular plots of land, the triangular buildings both resemble flatirons.

The original Times Tower Building was a Gothic structure of beautiful light limestone and featured intricate terra-cotta and granite on the facade. More about the building later in the article. Continue reading