Archive for the ‘Out-of-date guidebooks’ Category

Three centuries at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue

February 24, 2014

“The pace was leisurely, with bicycles, horsecars, broughams, and hansom cabs comprising traffic,” states the caption to this 1898 photo looking north on Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street. It’s from New York Then and Now.

42ndfifth1898

The twin lamppost makes a nice contrast to the twin Moorish-style towers of Temple Emanu-El, built in 1868 and a mainstay of this section of Fifth Avenue until 1927.

The building on the northwest corner at 42nd is the circa-1875 Hotel Bristol. See the stone wall with a low fence on the far left? There’s no New York Public Library Building yet.

The year this photo was taken, the Croton Reservoir would be torn down—the wall looks like part of the reservoir structure.

42ndfifth1974

What a difference 76 years make. Fifth Avenue’s residential era is long over; it’s now the city’s commercial heart.

The temple, lampposts, and Hotel Bristol are gone, but the six-story building from 1870 on the far right still exists, with a Russell Stover candy store at the ground floor.

5thave42ndstreet2014

Thirty-eight years later, in 2014, Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street is still a crowded commercial corner, with one church steeple still in view.

What happened to the six-story building at the far right? It was swallowed up by H&M!

A short history of tipping waiters in New York

February 24, 2014

Any current city guidebook gives the same advice: the proper tip to a server in New York stands at 20 percent of the total bill. It wasn’t always so.

Delmonicosadmiraldewey1906

“The waiter who hands you the check . . . should get 15 per cent (as should a waitress in a tearoom); in a night club, 20 percent,” wrote Lawton Mackall in his 1949 New York dining guide Knife and Fork in New York.

ChurchillsNYPL1914Fifteen percent 65 years ago was pretty good, considering that decades earlier, the question was whether to tip at all.

“In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when the professional middle class, the public restaurant, and the tip were relatively new, the debate was not over how much to tip, but whether tipping itself was so destructive to democracy that it could not be allowed to continue,” wrote Andrew P. Halley in Turning the Tables.

Not everyone was on board with this practice imported from Europe—tipping was seen by some as “morally wrong.”

Tipexcerpt“When the waiter rushes forward to take your coat, hang it up, drag out your chair . . . when he flies to fulfill your order as if wings had been applied to his heels . . . for this wonderful galvanization of the waiter, what does it mean? Merely that he considers it probable, nay certain, that some of the silver change in your pocket will be transferred to his,” stated The New York Times in 1877.

Blossomrestaurantbereniceabbott1935

“By tipping him in this way you are corrupting his honesty, and harming his manliness, for he will be sure in the end to keep his good serving for those who pay, and turn a cold shoulder to the economical.”

Turn of the century labor leader Samuel Gompers came out against tipping any service worker. There was even talk of introducing no-tipping laws in the city, which had been passed in other jurisdictions.

3menwalkingpastlunchroomnyc

In 1907, a waiter wrote in to the Times to protest. “No doubt within a short time some of our politicians will introduce  an anti-tipping bill, as other states have done. . . .

Boweryrestaurantwalkerevans3334“An anti-tipping law would mean hardship and misery to the waiters, and it would be not long before they would organize and demand better pay and shorter hours, and the patrons would have to pay for it.”

Eventually, the anti-tipping laws were struck down before any were enacted in New York . . . and tipping servers working in one of the city’s almost 8,000 restaurants, whether a luxe establishment or lunch counter, became customary.

[Top photo: Delmonico's restaurant dinner for Admiral Dewey, 1906; Churchill's ad, NYPL; Blossom restaurant photo by Berenice Abbott, 1935; Three Men Walking Past Lunchroom, New York City, by Rudy Burckholdt, 1939; Walker Evans photo of Peoples Restaurant on the Bowery, 1933-1934]

The front page of the Sunday paper in 1896

February 3, 2014

At 40 pages with a color cover, the Sunday Journal in the late 19th century was quite impressive.

Sundayjournalfrontpage

What I love about it, besides the cyclist in her winter riding outfit, are the headlines: “The Death Traps of New York,” “Smallest Baby in the World,” something about a millionaire’s house—it’s the same sensationalist copy peddled in print and online these days.

The 10-page pullout from the Patriarch’s Ball rounds it out. The Patriarch’s Ball was an annual party for the cream of the crop of New York’s social scene . . . the same kind of celebrity event given wall to wall media coverage today.

One century and three views of East 23rd Street

January 13, 2014

The area surrounding Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street was ultra-trendy in post–Civil War New York, first as a residential enclave and then an entertainment and shopping district.

Fifthave23rdstreet1911

By 1911, when this photo was taken (it comes from New York Then and Now, published in 1976), the area was less fashionable.

But it had its landmarks and haunts—Madison Square Park on the left, commercial loft and walkup buildings, and out of view on the right, the 1902 Flatiron Building. and look, no traffic lights!

Fifthave23rdstreet19741

“The eight-story Hotel Bartholdi, built in 1885 at the southeast corner of Broadway and East 23rd Street, was named after the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty,” states the caption. “It was home for many sportsmen attending events at nearby Madison Square Garden.”

By 1974, this corner was forlorn and dingy. The Bartholdi Hotel was torn down after a 1970 fire; buildings on its left that had housed art galleries were destroyed in a terrible 1966 blaze that killed 12 firefighters. “The demolition of the four buildings  created a large parking lot,” the book states.

East23rdstreet2014

In 2014, this corner—now part of the buzzy new NoMad neighborhood—is hot once again. Surrounding lovely Madison Square Park are apartment buildings and new and reconfigured co-ops.

There’s no room for a parking lot in this incarnation of Madison Square. Broadway south of 23rd Street has been pedestrian plaza-ized.

One small thing remains: a few old-school wood water towers.

East 14th Street: three centuries, three views

November 25, 2013

“By 1893, New York’s entertainment world had moved up to the Herald Square area, but East 14th Street, once the city’s operatic, musical, and theatrical center, still maintained a score of attractions,” states the caption to his photo published in New York Then and Now, from 1976.

East14thstreet1893

The view is of East 14th Street looking west toward Irving Place in 1893. At the right is Tammany Hall, with Tony Pastor’s vaudeville house on the ground floor—the venue that gave Lillian Russell and other Gilded Age celebrities their start.

The Academy of Music is next door. Once the city’s leading opera house and a favorite of Old New York money families, it would be upstaged by the new Metropolitan Opera and closed in 1887.

The photo has wonderful small details: a sign for oysters on the left, street lights that appear small by today’s standards in front of Tammany Hall, and a glimpse of the still-unfinished Lincoln Building at the corner of 14th Street and University Place.

East14thstreet1975

By 1974, the same view is very different. The Lincoln Building is finished, but Tammany Hall is gone—relocated to Union Square East. Does 14th Street looks like it’s been widened? Hard to tell.

Con Edison’s headquarters took over the site. The Irving Hotel, visible in the 1883 photo, is now a rooming house. A Horn & Hardart automat exists, as does a bar called Clancy’s.

East14thstreet2013

In 2013, Con Ed still looms large. The automat, Clancy’s, Irving Hotel, and other small businesses are gone, replaced by luxury residence Zeckendorf Towers in 1988.

99 years at Seventh Avenue and 23rd Street

September 19, 2013

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.

A new co-op reveals a bit of old Hudson Street

June 24, 2013

For a few years, scaffolding had obscured the facade of what was once the Village Nursing Home, a faux-colonial, six-story residence on the corner of Hudson and West 12th Streets.

Lauraspelmanhall

Now the scaffolding has been removed. And the entrance to the building—newly converted into a luxury co-op called the Abingdon—displays a clue to its illustrious past.

“Laura Spelman Hall” is carved above the doorway. It’s the formal name of the building from 1920 to the 1950s, when 607 Hudson Street was a women’s residence run by the YWCA.

Trowmartinn1906Named after the wife of a Rockefeller, Laura Spelman Hall functioned as a home for “working girls,” as any unmarried woman who had a job was called in 1920.

To score a room there, a woman could earn no more than $30 a week. The cost: “$8.65 to $12.65 a week with two meals weekdays and three on Sunday,” reports this old city guidebook.

Not a bad deal . . . and a lot cheaper than the going rate for a place there now. One of the penthouse apartments sold for $22 million!

607 Hudson Street actually started out as a working woman’s home even before the YWCA took it over.

Called the Trowmart Inn, it was built by a businessman who hoped to prevent women from becoming spinsters by offering them a pleasant place to be courted by potential husbands.

[1906 photo: Museum of the City of New York]

Three different ways of seeing Hudson Street

April 10, 2013

It looks like the automobile age has barely arrived to this shabby but not chic corner at Hudson and Barrow Streets.

The photo dates to 1925, but notice the horse-drawn wagons and the store sign advertising harnesses across the street.

Barrowandhudson1925

That’s P.S. 3 on the corner of Grove Street, with the flagpole on the mansard roof. And trolley tracks run up the center of the street, notes the caption to the photo, both published in 1976′s New York Then and Now.

The little Federal-style houses are long-gone by 1975, the year the second photo was taken, and a tall postwar apartment building looms in the distance.

Barrowandhudsonst1975

P.S. 3 is still there, its flagpole moved to the front entrance. A deli and photography shop are the only businesses visible. Too bad the trolley tracks and the lovely bishop’s crook lampposts have disappeared.

Barrowandhudsonst2013

Hudson Street at Barrow hasn’t changed much since 1975.

And though they’re out of view in the above photo, the Belgian blocks on Barrow still poke through the pavement opposite local dive Barrow Pub.

Gentrification comes to the east side’s Dutch Hill

March 11, 2013

Mid-19th century Manhattan was dotted by lots of small villages. But few were as poor and wretched as Dutch Hill, centered around 42nd Street near the East River.

“Shantytown, this was called, a dismal collection of shacks and hovels inhabited by day-laborers, their families, and their pigs,” wrote Lloyd Morris in Incredible New York.

Secondavenue1861

Adds Kenneth Jackson in The Encyclopedia of New York City: “Like most squatter settlements of the time, it was situated north of the built-up area of the city. The inhabitants were predominantly German and Irish immigrants. Many worked at the nearby Voorhis and Mott quarries.”

But it wouldn’t exist much longer. The city was moving north, and genteel residents—like the couple and little boy strolling up Second Avenue in this 1861 illustration—were moving to this area of scattered home and rock piles.

“By the end of the Civil War the growth and northward movement of population made real estate in the area valuable, and the squatters were displaced,” writes Jackson.

A Brooklyn housing project praised by architects

February 28, 2013

WilliamsburghousesaerialPublic housing complexes rarely get any love—especially for their design.

But it’s a different story with the Williamsburg Houses.

This group of 20 buildings on a sprawling site on Bushwick Avenue earned big props for its Modernist touches, designed in part by Swiss architect William Lescaze.

“When the complex opened in 1938, its design was revolutionary,” wrote The New York Times in 2003.

Williamsburghouses2013

“Rather than follow the emerging public housing pattern of large red-brick apartment houses scattered across lawns, the development was four stories tall, clad in tan brick with decorative blue panels and European Modernist features like doorways sheltered by aluminum marquees.”

WilliamsburghousesLOC2“The buildings were set at a rakish 15-degree angle to the street grid, a feature designed to sweep fresh air into the courtyards and spill sunlight into the windows of the 1,622 apartments.”

In their 1939 guide to New York City, the Federal Writers’ Project added that the 25-acre location was once home to 12 slum blocks.

“All apartments—two to five rooms—are equipped with electric stoves, refrigerators, and modern plumbing, and supplied with steam heat, hot and cold water.”

Williamsburghousesstore2013Oh, and the 6,000 working-class New Yorkers who moved in were charged rents between $4.45 and $7.20 per week.

After a long post-war decline, the Williamsburg Houses underwent a restoration in the mid-1990s.

That turned up a hidden treasure: WPA murals by pioneering abstract artists. They’d been neglected for years and hidden behind coats of paint in community rooms.

The Brooklyn Museum has the restored murals on view now.

The development earned landmark status in 2003, the third public housing project in the city to do so.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,421 other followers