42nd Street Looking West From Sixth Avenue c. 1906
The Keystone photographer shot this unusual second story viewpoint sometime around 1906. The New York Times Tower Building was the new addition to the city’s skyline. Most other period photographs of the Times Tower are from the north looking south, highlighting its slender bow-like front. Surrounded by its short counterparts along 42nd Street, the Times Tower is the star attraction of the area. No other skyscrapers have been built yet. The other buildings seen here are all seven stories or less. The New York Dramatic Mirror Building on the right (north side) at 121 West 42nd Street is a prime example of a “taller” building in the area.
The traffic on the street is still predominantly horse powered. The other vehicles on 42nd Street are electric trolleys. As it still does now, traffic flows (probably faster than today) both east and west. One thing to note is how narrow the Belgian block roadway is compared to the wide sidewalks.
We can see the sun casting short shadows. It must have been a warm day as the drivers of the closest eastbound horse drawn cart have a large umbrella shading them.
In the foreground a woman is walking around the construction shed of D. Mitchell. Apparently, the sidewalk in front of a real estate office needed some work and Donald Mitchell’s firm got the job. Slightly further down the street is an antique store, advertised by its street level sign.
The leisurely pace of 42nd would be transformed dramatically over the next twenty years. A building frenzy in and adjacent to Times Square pushed real estate prices to new highs.
If a person in this photograph were to come back today and survey this same street scene they would not recognize anything. Every building seen in this photograph has been demolished- except the New York Times Tower Building. Even that would not be recognized because the Times Tower has been horribly mutilated and turned into an electronic billboard.