Park Avenue South: three centuries, three views

In the photo below, taken in 1890, this stretch of Park Avenue South only had its name for two years. Before that, it was known as plain-old Fourth Avenue.

The intersection at 31st Street wasn’t exactly bustling. It featured a market, a laundry, and two very different hotels.

The opulent Park Avenue Hotel was built as a home for working women in 1876 (it failed thanks to its stringent rules). The low-key place next door is the Brandes, a holdout from a more rural city, explains New York Then and Now.

A lot happened in 84 years. Both hotels and the other small-fry businesses are gone, replaced by a canyon of 1920s-era office buildings and apartments (and a few saplings in giant planters in the median).

Today, Park Avenue South and 31st Street is pretty similar to its 1970s counterpart—minus the saplings.

Way in the distance in the center of the photo is the Park Avenue Tunnel, which sends cars underground at 33rd Street.

The tunnel used to carry railroad tracks, then streetcars—you can see them going in and coming out of the tunnel in the top photo.

[Top two photos: from New York Then and Now, Dover publications]

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