Old New York In Postcards #26 – Broadway 1895-1915

Views Along Broadway From Bowling Green To Washington Heights

Broadway and 62nd Street – The Colonial Vaudeville Theater is on the left, 1913

Broadway means New York City. Sure there are other Broadway’s in the United States, but none have the same clout that New York’s Broadway does. It is the longest street in Manhattan and one of the oldest. What the Dutch called De Heere Straat and later De Heere Wegh, became Great George Street under English rule. The street was paved in 1707, but only from Bowling Green to Trinity Church at Wall Street. After the Revolution, New York’s citizens began renaming streets and Great George Street became Broadway.

Here are some postcard views of Broadway dating from 1895 – 1915

Lower Broadway

Looking north from the foot of Broadway in 1906 we see Bowling Green, the oldest public park in New York.

The financial district is always crowded during the week. There’s all sorts of pedestrian and vehicular traffic at Broadway and John Street in this 1895 view by A. Loeffler.

This view of New York’s fabulous Astor House Hotel is from around 1900. The Astor House was built in 1836 between Barclay and Vesey Streets until it was demolished in the early twentieth century.

Looking north towards the east side of Broadway between 13th and 14th Streets, with a horse drawn fire truck in the foreground.

The Star Theatre was demolished in 1901.  The old Morton House Hotel opened in 1850 as the Union Place Hotel. In 1904 the Morton House closed its doors in bankruptcy.  The vacant hostelry became the Hotel Churchill, opening on March 1 1905. Portions of the building survived until the 1990s.

Midtown Broadway

Broadway branching off to the left of the famous Flatiron Building with Fifth Avenue on the right at its 23rd Street intersection.

At the southern end of Greeley Square, Broadway diverges from Sixth Avenue, whose elevated station can be seen on the right. The six story building is the Union Dime Savings Bank. The bank put up their building in 1876 and would stay there until 1910 when they moved up to Sixth Avenue and 40th Street. In 1929 a New York Times reporter wrote “that the upper floors of the building were once the Van Rensselaer Apartments, said to have been the first so-called modern elevator apartments in New York. The outlook from the front windows was then and still is exceptional.”  The building was demolished later that year.

Looking north from 36th Street with the Times Tower Building in the distance in this 1915 view. The red brick building on the left is the Marlborough Hotel.  A billboard sits atop a building on 37th Street advertising Dewar’s White Label Scotch Whisky.

A few blocks further north at 39th Street we can see sidewalks crowded with pedestrians. The postcard highlights the new Hobble Skirt Trolley Cars first put into service in 1914. The central portion of these trolleys were built close to the ground with one door in the center of the car with the steps being only six inches from the ground.

The Kaiser-Hof Cafe / Bar on the northeast corner of 39th Street would change their name to the New York Cafe in 1917 because of anti-German sentiment during World War I.

Confirming the date of this postcard is the advertisement above Kaiser-Hof for the play Too Many Cooks which was running at the 39th Street Theater from February to September 1914. Across the street we can see a portion of the Metropolitan Opera House (1883) with its green marquee over the sidewalk. The Metropolitan was demolished in 1967.

We have to show at least one postcard of the heart of Broadway – Long Acre or Longacre Square at 42nd Street.

The area was renamed Times Square in 1904 after the New York Times built their iconic tower at the crossroads of the world, at 42nd Street where Broadway and Seventh Avenue go their separate ways.

On the left is the Astor Hotel opened in 1904. On the right is the Olympia / Criterion / New York Theater complex.

Upper Broadway

At 120th Street is the Horace Mann School a coeducational experimental and developmental unit of Teachers College at Columbia University. Teachers College purchased land in Riverdale in 1909 and in 1914 Horace Mann School for Boys opened there at 246th Street.The Horace Mann School for Girls remained at the 120th Street building.

Horace Mann School for Boys obtained complete financial and administrative independence from Teachers College in 1946. After 60 years of separate schooling girls were finally admitted to the Horace Mann School in Riverdale in 1975. The 1901 building is still there and in use by Columbia University.

This sparse section of Broadway looking north from 153rd Street shows a bridge connecting two sections of Trinity Cemetery. The pedestrian suspension bridge was designed and constructed by Calvert Vaux & Frederick Withers in 1872 and taken down in 1911.

On the left, the steeple in the distance at 158th Street shows the Church of the Intercession.

Our final view of Broadway shows the wide street looking south from 168th Street. On the right  a portion of Hilltop Park can be seen with its barn-like ticket office. Hilltop Park was the home of the New York Americans baseball club, a.k.a. the New York Yankees from 1903-1912.

Previously the team was called the Highlanders because of the ballpark’s location in Washington Heights. The ballpark was abandoned after the 1912 season. From 1913 – 1922 the Yankees played at The Polo Grounds the home field of the National League’s New York Giants at 155th Street near the Harlem River. In 1923 the Yankees moved into their own ballpark in the Bronx, Yankee Stadium. The site is now occupied by Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center.

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