Tag Archives: 42nd Street

New York City’s Famous Drake’s Restaurant 1900-1937

Drake’s Restaurant Was Open 24 Hours A Day For 37 Years Until Labor Troubles Set In

In our previous story we briefly told the story of Jack’s a famous New York restaurant that never closed. There was another “never closed” restaurant which was a New York institution for 37 years.

Drake’s was located at 111 West 42nd Street near Broadway. The restaurant was founded in 1900 as Rigg’s as part of the Rigg’s chain. Continue reading

1858 NYC Real Estate Sales Literature – For Sale 5th Avenue & 42nd Street

Selling 5th Avenue & 42nd Street In 1858 For “Moderate Terms”

From Its Windows One Could See The Hudson and East Rivers, Staten Island, Long Island, The Palisades and Westchester!

Fifth Avenue dwellings for sale 1858

This Gothic style structure stood on the southeast corner of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. The view is from an 1858 real estate advertising broadside print. On the southwest corner you can see a portion of the retaining wall of the massive Croton Distributing Reservoir which supplied New York’s drinking water. The main branch of the New York Public Library now occupies the site of the reservoir.

5th Ave and 42nd St. 1855 before construction of The House of Mansions. Croton Distributing Reservoir is on the right.

Though the structure appears to be one large building, it is actually 11 separate buildings. It was nicknamed The House of Mansions.

The buildings were designed by famed architect Alexander Jackson Davis and built by merchant George Higgins in 1856 as a speculative real estate investment. The buildings boasted  amazing views of distant vistas including Long Island, the Palisades and Westchester. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #126 – Times Square 1906

Times Square 1906  – The New Hotel Astor, Olympia Theatre & Surroundings

Times Square New Astor HotelThis stereoview image of Times Square was taken by the H.C. White Company in 1906. Before The New York Times moved their headquarters here it was called Long Acre Square.

The view is titled, “New Astor Hotel and 20 story Times Building.” We are looking south from 46th Street towards the New York Times Tower. The flatiron-style building opened in 1905. The building was mutilated in 1965 when purchased by Allied Chemical. Today it is unrecognizable after it was altered again in the twenty first century to become a giant garish billboard.

Hotel Astor

On the right is the 500 room Hotel Astor comprising 14 city lots from 44th to 45th Street where Broadway and Seventh Avenue intersect. The 10-story Hotel Astor cost owner William Waldorf Astor over $7 million to build and furnish. The land was purchased decades earlier as farmland  by his great-grandfather John Jacob Astor for $100 an acre. The Grand Ballroom was a baroque masterpiece.

Hotel Astor Grand Ballroom interior 1904

After some labor related delays Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #113 – 42nd Street Looking West 1906

42nd Street Looking West From Sixth Avenue c. 1906

42nd Street c 1906 Keystone-Mast Collection, UCR/California Museum of Photography, University of California at RiversideOur photograph of 42nd Street is from the Keystone-Mast Collection, UCR/California Museum of Photography. Keystone was one of the leading providers of stereoviews at the turn of the century.

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. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #111 – Grand Central Depot 1875

The Original Grand Central Depot 1875

Grand Central Depot 1875 Our 1875 view is looking north on Fourth Avenue to 42nd Street. The street is packed with activity including horse drawn omnibuses, delivery wagons and pedestrians.

This albertype photograph prominently shows the first Grand Central built by railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt. Designed in the Second Empire style by architect John B. Snook, the depot was built between 1869 and 1871.

Continue reading

Book Review – The Finest Building In America The New York Crystal Palace

The New York Crystal Palace Gave Americans A Building To Be Proud Of

burrows finest building in americaOn the site of the future Bryant Park on 42nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues stood The New York Crystal Palace. It was only there for a little more than five years. Built of cast iron, timber and glass the building was unlike anything previously built in America.

Edwin G. Burrows book, “The Finest Building in America The New York Crystal Palace 1853-1858” Oxford; (2018), is a short, entertaining account of the impact the building and the wonders displayed inside, had on the city. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #97 – Long Acre Square 1908 & How Times Square Got Its Name

Long Acre Square 1908 aka Times Square And The Man Who Named It

Times Square Long Acre Square 1908 photo Library of Congress

Fashionable ladies, trolleys, horse drawn vehicles and turn-of-the-century buildings abound in this picture of Long Acre Square otherwise known as Times Square.

This photograph looking south down Broadway from 45th Street is identified by the Library of Congress as Long Acre Square circa 1911. The date is close, only off by three years. At the end of the story we have a cropped high resolution version of the same scene and every detail is crystal clear.

Taking a closer look at the left side of the photograph we can see an ad for Richard Carle (1871-1941) in the musical comedy Mary’s Lamb in front of The New York Theatre. The show played from May 25 – September 5, 1908. Richard Carle not only starred, produced and staged Mary’s Lamb but wrote the book, music and lyrics!  The amazing Carle would later appear in motion pictures acting in 45 films including Ninotchka, The Great McGinty and The Devil and Miss Jones

Next to the Mary’s Lamb advertising sign, is an advertisement for The Ziegfeld Follies, obviously of 1908, at the Jardin de Paris which ran from June 15 until September 4, 1908.

The Jardin De Paris, was part of the Olympia Theatre entertainment complex located at 1514-16 Broadway at 44th Street (opened November 25, 1895, demolished 1935).  The Jardin de Paris was located on the roof of The New York Theatre.

Roof garden’s were popular around New York City at the turn of the century. There was no air conditioning in theaters so roof gardens gave audiences a chance to enjoy a show during the hot summer months out in the open air. The roof garden of The New York Theatre underwent many name changes depending on who was the manager of the theater. It was showman Florenz Ziegfeld who in 1907 renamed the space Jardin de Paris when he gave the evening’s entertainment a French atmosphere.

There is a small poster only visible in the high resolution photo, advertising Hattie Williams at The Criterion Theatre, also part of the Olympia complex. The Williams musical, Fluffy Ruffles, ran from September 7 – October 17, 1908.

Therefore this photo was taken in the summer of 1908.

On the corner of Broadway and 43rd Street we can see the signage and two buildings of the world famous Rector’s restaurant. Adjacent to Rector’s is the Hotel Cadillac. Behind the Hotel Cadillac, the tallest building visible is the Knickerbocker Hotel on 42nd Street. Much further in the distance almost looking like it is blocking Broadway’s continuation is Macy’s.

At the extreme right of the photo we can see a sliver of the New York Times Tower Building which gave Times Square the name it’s known by today.

Long Acre Square?

Previous to being called Times Square this area was known as Long Acre or Longacre Square. In London, Long Acre was the name of the area where the horse and carriage businesses were located. In the 1870s New York’s carriage trade had settled in the 42nd – 47th street area and  New Yorkers began calling the area Long Acre Square after the London counterpart. The first mention of Long Acre Square found in print is an 1883 New York Sun advertisement for Barrett House a hotel, at 42nd Street and Broadway.

Besides the obvious: the New York Times moving to the area and building their headquarters there, how did Long Acre Square become Times Square?  Continue reading

Aerial View of West 42nd Street – 1927

West 42nd Street Looking East Towards Times Square

1927 42nd Street aerial view

This postcard view taken by Irving Underhill is undated, but a little detective work led to the date of 1927. Along 42nd Street is a billboard for the movie King of Kings. Further down the block a movie marquee advertises the film 7th Heaven, both released in 1927

In this photograph of West 42nd Street the tallest structure visible is the Paramount Building on the left also completed in 1927. The building once housed the Paramount Theatre.

Continue reading

What Were The Best New York City Restaurants In 1929?

Brooklyn Daily Eagle Columnist Rian James Shares His Picks For The Best Restaurants in New York City in 1929

Rian James (1899-1953) may not be a well known name today, but back in the 1920s and 30s, he was a widely read journalist and  “man about town.”

In 1933 James took a stab at writing for the movies. He wrote the screenplay for 42nd Street, one of the most successful and popular films of the 1930s. James would go on to write over three dozen screenplays.

As a columnist for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from 1928-1935, James rambled all around New York City. Along the way James hobnobbed with everyone: the well-to-do, the hoi-polloi, actors,  and bohemians, in the process, hitting all the night spots. The stories James gathered made for a widely read column about the city he loved.

Four times a year the Eagle published a small guide Going Places With Rian James casting his top picks in New York City food and entertainment.

For the Summer 1929 Going Places, a good portion of  James’ 32 page booklet is devoted to dining. Unlike the modern Zagat restaurant guides or Yelp, consensus was not considered. The only thing that mattered was James’ opinion. James knew all the “in” places, the haunts of celebs, the exclusive, the ribald and the popular.

Proving he’s no snob, the best New York restaurant according to James is not at a high class hotel or Madison Avenue establishment. It’s Feltman’s, originator of the hotdog, in Coney Island that wins the prize.  James writes, “The best all-round food in all New York, excluding no place.”

This is a New York booklet written for New Yorkers.

James offers a unique slice of the New York dining scene just prior to the October 1929 stock market crash and the onset of the Great Depression. The good times were to end soon after.

While there were a ton of contemporary guidebooks published about New York City, very few delved into the restaurant scene. James’ punchy one line descriptions tell you a lot more than many a detailed review.

The writing has some jazz age jargon such as “Beeway” for Broadway and “black and tan” for an establishment that has race mingling between Blacks and Caucasians. Sometimes there’s an “inside”, long forgotten, or even a risque reference such as this one:

BARNEY’S – 85 W. 3rd St.
The best bet for whoopee in the Village.

In other words, where you have the best chance of hooking up.

James later wrote several full length books about New York City: a full guidebook All About New York An Intimate Guide; John Day (1931) and another not surprisingly titled, Dining in New York; John Day (1934).

While you peruse this list, you may recognize some names long gone from New York’s glorious culinary past. Other eateries you never heard of just sound like they would have been a blast to visit.

What is stunning in the transient world of dining, is that there are a small number of restaurants that are still in business nearly 90 years later.

We have left Rian James’ spelling, grammar and punctuation as it is written in the booklet.

So with that, here is Rian James’ New York City’s restaurant recommendations for the summer of 1929, divided into his appropriate section headings in bold.

Restaurants of All Nations

Name      Address       Cuisine Type

L’AIGLON – 55th, E. of Fifth Ave. French
Complete French Cuisine.LUCHOWS – 110 E. 14th St. German
Complete German Cuisine. Try the German Rye Bread. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #93 – Police Parade With The Old “Broadway Squad” 1930

New York City’s Finest On Parade With The Broadway Squad Of The Police Department Dressed In Their Old Uniforms

Though these officers bear a resemblance to Mack Sennett’s Keystone Cops, they are actually old-timers of the New York City Police Department’s Broadway Squad dressed in their uniforms of days past.

The slug for this photograph reads:

Little Bit of Old New York

New York City – One of the features of the annual New York Police Department Parade, which was held in New York today, was the appearance in the ranks of the surviving members of the old Broadway Squad, who twenty years or more ago, directed the traffic and the peace of New York’s “Great White Way.” –  4/26/1930 credit: Wide World Photos

Stationed all along Broadway from the Battery to 42nd Street were the Broadway Squad. They were specially selected officers who were all over six feet tall. While that might seem like nothing special, at the turn-of-the-century anyone over six feet in height was considered quite large.

In 1898 the Broadway Squad was described as “ninety of the tallest, best proportioned and finest looking men on the police force.” Continue reading