99 years at Seventh Avenue and 23rd Street

The intersection of Seventh Avenue and 23rd Street, with its unremarkable mix of mostly low-rise tenements and a few new loft buildings, looks like so many other city corners in 1914.

That’s the year the photo was taken; it’s from the wonderful 1976 book New York Then and Now.

Seventhave23rdstreet1914

Yet it still tells us a lot about the New York City of 99 years ago. The subway won’t arrive until 1918, and street car tracks criss-cross the roads. A lone policeman stands in an island, waiting for traffic.

A sign for a clothing store is on the left. On the right we can see signs for laundry, a “lunch room,” and Bergin’s, a corner saloon “which provides customers with easy entrance and exit by three entrances with swinging doors as well as by the family entrance on the side,” the caption states.

Seventhavenue23rdstreet1974

By 1974, traffic lights have been installed and the saloon and clothing store are gone, but the tenements that housed them are still standing.

Seventhavenue23rdstreet2013

In the third image, it’s 2013. Traffic islands are up, the corner tenements are hanging on (the one on the left is a clothing store again), flanked by new apartment buildings.

The tall loft building on the left in all three photos is the Mercantile Building, constructed in 1912 . . . and today a celebrity filled condo with a Whole Foods on the ground floor.

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21 Responses to “99 years at Seventh Avenue and 23rd Street”

  1. Ok Says:

    Thanks — we love these and my folks do too!

  2. Chris Kearin Says:

    Here’s a postcard view of the same street, looking west from 3rd Avenue c. 1905:

    Is your top picture looking west or looking east?

  3. Frank M Says:

    All three photos are looking north along Seventh Avenue from 23rd Street. Third Avenue is actually about a mile east of this location.

  4. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Right, this is looking north on Seventh Avenue. Though that postcard view is pretty neat!

  5. Frank M Says:

    Just as a bit of trivia, the high-rise on the right-hand side of Seventh Avenue (not really visible in the third image) had an automobile (Oldsmobile or Buick?) dealership on the first floor at the 24th Street corner for many years.

  6. vastlycurious.com Says:

    Love your blog !

  7. chas1133 Says:

    my favorite neighborhood…love the area…lots of history left there….

  8. chas1133 Says:

    Richard Howe has some great modern shots of this intersection (23rd & 7th Ave) in his “Manhattan Street Corners” …and the rest of Manhattan as well!

  9. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    I’ll have to check it out! I have a soft spot for this unglamorous corner of Manhattan too.

  10. Frank M Says:

    I’m not 100% positive, but I believe that 23rd and Seventh was the scene of one of the worst accidents during construction of the Seventh Avenue IRT.

    • Joe R Says:

      I have a book titled “Under the Sidewalks of New York”, which is a history of the subways. In it is a photo showing what you mentioned. It happened in 1915 and right in front of that tall building in the first photo. The street collapsed during construction and a streetcar and beer wagon fell in, killing several people.

  11. Dan Says:

    Just spent last week at this very intersection, at the Chelsea Savoy hotel, on the Southwest corner. Every day I walked over to the Starbucks and even ate a quick snack at the Papaya place, shown on the right. The guys in there are very friendly. It was another GREAT trip to NYC.

  12. chas1133 Says:

    decent guitarist usually on that corner as well…! The Savoy is an old dive but the area can’t be beat…the comedy club, Jakes Salon, Chelsea Guitars and of course the famous Chelsea Hotel that’s been land marked…what a great street!

  13. chas1133 Says:

    OK…Jakes Saloon…whatever…

  14. David Palladino Says:

    Love the horse drawn wagon and the street sweeper dealing with the manure. My maternal grandfather was a Brooklyn teamster. I have a bill of sale from 1907 for the $100 he paid for a horse.

  15. hi chelsea (@hichelseablog) Says:

    These are great photos. I got to this page when I was searching for a blog post (can’t remember which site) about how some buildings on the west side of 23rd st on 7th will be torn down to make room for a new condo. I think they’re the buildings next to the existing condo at the corner of 7th and 23rd st – one had an ice cream/magazine shop in it’s commercial space. There was a mockup of the building on the site. If anyone comes across it, please post it!

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