Old New York in Photos #6 – Birdseye View of Fifth Avenue and Central Park 1888

Early Birdseye View of New York 1888

Looking North up Fifth Avenue from 52nd Street.

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.

3 thoughts on “Old New York in Photos #6 – Birdseye View of Fifth Avenue and Central Park 1888

  1. Michael Sommers

    Terrific view! I expect it’s taken from St. Patrick’s.
    Other landmarks in view:
    Lower left, the W.K. Vanderbilt chateau at 52 Street.
    The two-tower complex beyond St Thomas’ steeple is St Luke’s Hospital and its grounds.
    Thanks for this!

  2. Peter Braffman

    What is the building located at the site of the Plaza hotel? The original plaza was built in 1890 (before the most recent in 1906). But in that picture, you can definitely see a somewhat grand building there (or perhaps just behind it?). Would love any thoughts you have on this. Thanks! Great picture and appreciate the history very much!

    1. B.P. Post author

      Hi Peter – Good question. The building is John D. Phyfe and James Campbell’s New Plaza Hotel which according to The New York Times on March 23, 1886 a workman had been killed in an accident the day before and the building was nearly completed as the roof had just been put on. 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.

      The architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White were hired to remodel the hotel and it finally opened in 1890 only to be torn down in 1905 to make way for the current Plaza Hotel now sitting on the site.


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