Tag Archives: New York History

Old New York In Photos #118 – Herald Square At Night

Herald Square At Night – 1912

This beautiful night scene of Herald Square was taken in 1912. The Herald Building between 35th & 36th Street and Broadway and Sixth Avenue is brilliantly illuminated as the presses work to get the next morning’s paper out.

Lining the roof of the McKim, Mead & White designed Herald Building are 20 gilt owl sculptures. Electricity would light up the owl’s green eyes. The two illegible lighted discs in the front of the building are a clock and wind dial.

Bennett Monument drawing sculptor Andrew O'Connor viaNY Times 1918Herald owner James Gordon Bennett Jr., was obsessed with owls. Continue reading

New York Illustrated – As It Was 150 Years Ago – Part II

More New York Illustrations From Around 1870

Part II – Familiar Names – Vanished Sites

New York And Its Institutions book cover 1871We continue our look at New York of 150 years ago from Reverend J.F. Richmond’s New York and Its Institutions 1609-1871 (E.B. Treat; 1871).

The names may be familiar, but possibly not the building or site.

While Central Park has remained a constant presence in New York City for over 160 years, it has constantly changed.

There were always developers looking to infringe upon the park with buildings and schemes. A fair portion of Central Park has managed to keep its original spirit, but many of its early additions have changed or no longer exist.

 Central Park

Children's playground Central Park 1870 playing baseballThe Children’s Playground in Central Park. There was no “Great Lawn” when Central Park was built. The Great Lawn opened in 1937, the result of filling in one of the two receiving reservoirs located within the park. The Central Park Playground seen above is an open field where children can play within its great expanse. This section was located in the southern end of the park, now site of the Heckscher playground and ballfields. Continue reading

New York Illustrated – As It Was 150 Years Ago – Part I

Illustrations Of New York As Seen By Artists Around 1870

Part I – Demolished & Mostly Forgotten

Intersection Fifth Ave and Broadway at 23rd St looking north 1870

Intersection of Broadway and Fifth Avenue looking north towards the Worth Monument with The Fifth Avenue Hotel on the left (c. 1870)

Demolition of anything old  goes on every day without regard for New York’s history. I believe a day will come when all the pre-20th century buildings not given landmark protection will be gone. Demolished in the name of progress. Real estate values rule, not history values. That’s always been the way of New York.

When a historic structure like The St. Denis Hotel is obliterated instead of renovated it is a shame.

I see more and more ordinary tenement and commercial buildings falling at an astonishing rate. So I look around trying to see vestiges of things my great-grandparents might have known and been familiar with.

What did they see?

Recently I took out my copy of Reverend J.F. Richmond’s New York and Its Institutions 1609-1871 (E.B. Treat; 1871) and started to re-read it. I had forgotten how many excellent illustrations were in the book. Belying the name, New York and Its Institutions is not solely focused only upon hospitals, asylum, charity and worship facilities. The book thoroughly covers other important sites and buildings with their respective histories. Though it was not written as a guide book, it essentially is one.

What my ancestors saw were these historic buildings which are now not even memories to most New Yorkers, most having been taken down over a hundred years ago,

Let’s take a look at what New York City looked like around 1871 and take in what the visitor and native New Yorker would have seen.

Part I – Buildings No Longer In Existence

Very few lamented the loss of the old Post Office at the corner of Nassau and Liberty Street – — until they saw what replaced it in 1875.

The modest Police Department headquarters at 300 Mulberry Street was replaced in 1909 by a grand structure on Broome and Centre Streets.

Wilson's industrial school for girls 1870 new york Wilson’s Mission House or Industrial School For Girls at 27-29 Avenue A corner of St. Mark’s Place across from Tompkins Square Park.

Broadway Grand Central Hotel 1870The Grand Central Hotel stood on the west side of Broadway opposite Bond Street between Amity and Bleecker Street. Illegal alterations caused a major collapse of the Broadway facade  on August 3, 1973. Incredibly only four people were killed. The remaining section of the hotel was soon demolished. Continue reading

The “Prince” Who New York’s Prince Street Is Named After

Was New York’s Prince Street’s Name Derived From Royalty?

Prince Street Bromley & Robinson 1879 Atlas of New York

Some of the original names given to the streets of New York when under Dutch and English rule have survived to the present day.

Many streets owe their name to local landmarks or the aristocracy and heroes of 17th and 18th century New York, including Delancey Street, Duane Street and Houston Street named after James De Lancey, James Duane and William Houstoun. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #110 – Bootblacks By City Hall Park During An Historic 1863 Moment

A Group Of New York Bootblacks At City Hall Park – July 1863

Bootblacks and other child workers New York City Hall posters theater advertisements 1863

A group of eight bootblack boys line up near City Hall for this stereoview photograph.

Taken by the pioneering stereoview firm of E. & H.T. Anthony of 501 Broadway, the view is entitled, “Brigade Of De Shoe Black, City Hall Park.” There is no date attached to the photo, yet, the timing of this photograph is of historical significance. How do we know?

The fence behind the boys is covered with broadsheets advertising several theatrical productions.

From the information on the advertisements we can narrow down the date the photo is from. Continue reading

Birds-Eye View Of New York 1870

A Panoramic View of Lower Manhattan Including The Unbuilt Brooklyn Bridge

Lower Manhattan Harper's Weekly 1870 Brooklyn BridgeOur view is from the November 19, 1870 Harper’s Weekly.  Entitled, “Bird’s-eye view of the southern end of New York and Brooklyn showing the projected suspension bridge and East River from the western terminus in printing house square, New York.”

That long title reflects a fairly accurate view of New York, Brooklyn and surrounding area drawn by Theodore R Davis. Marine traffic crowds the river and piers with ferries, paddle-wheelers, steamships, schooners and sloops of all descriptions. The building of the bridge would slightly alleviate this nautical congestion.

Construction on the bridge began on January 2, 1870.  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

New York Holds A Party For George Washington In 1889

 New York Celebrates The Washington Centennial 1889

Washington Centennial 1889 Union Square

Horse drawn floats make their way through Union Square celebrating the Washington Centennial in New York City May 1, 1889 – illustration Harper’s Weekly May 11, 1889

For the first year and a half while President, George  Washington was a New Yorker. Washington took the oath of office in New York City in 1789 and lived at 3 Cherry Street during his Presidency until 1790 when he moved to Philadelphia. Vice -President John Adams lived at 133 Broadway. Congress met in New York and the city was the center of the Federal government. Continue reading

A List Of 59 “Really Interesting” Books About New York City Compiled In 1936

These 59 Books About New York City Were Recommended To Anyone Who Was Considering Working For The City

In 1936 New York librarian Rebecca Rankin was asked to compile a list of books with good stories which have New York as a background by the Municipal Service Commission. Along with Miriam Mayer of the Municipal Library, the two came up with a list of hundreds of good books that they would recommend to anyone considering working for the city. Continue reading