Strolling and showing off on Broadway

It may be one of the more grungy parts of Manhattan now. But around 1900, Broadway between 14th Street and Herald Square was one of the centers of the city—a place to stroll, shop, show off, and be seen—lined with fancy hotels and theaters. 

heraldsquarepostcard

The ritual is chronicled in Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie, when the title character, new to New York, visits this part of Broadway with a young female neighbor and is enchanted by what she sees:

“The walk down Broadway, then as now, is one of the remarkable features of the city. There gathered, before the matinee and afterwards, not only all the pretty women who love a showy parade, but the men who love to gaze upon and admire them. It was a very imposing procession of pretty faces and fine clothes.”

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3 Responses to “Strolling and showing off on Broadway”

  1. CelestialCharms Says:

    Such a lovely post, and that real photo colored postcard is brillant.

  2. bryan Says:

    The stretch along the Union Sq theater district was called the “Ladies’ Mile.” I wrote about the old Broadway promenading tradition a couple years ago here.

    I always look fwd to something new on your site! Makes ephemera seem essential.

  3. wildnewyork Says:

    Thanks. Funny we both picked out that passage from Sister Carrie. Dreiser has fallen out of favor but I think it’s a great book. He has a sharp eye on New York City’s unique customs and habits.

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