Posts Tagged ‘Lower East Side Street’

The 1940s Lower East Side salvage collectors

January 13, 2014

Charles Cushman was a statistician, not a professional photographer.

But he clearly had an eye for the enchanting and poetic. As he traveled the country from the 1930s to the 1960s, he took photos—many in color, bringing scenes we’re used to seeing in stark black and white in gorgeous, enchanting hues.

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Many of his color photos capture ordinary street scenes in New York in the early 1940s. Here, some salvage collectors on a Lower East Side street in October 1941 recycle the old-fashioned way.

Secret signage of defunct New York hospitals

April 8, 2013

GouverneurhospitalFDRdriveEver found yourself on the FDR Drive near the South Street Seaport staring at this kind of spooky structure?

It’s set amid 1970s-era apartment buildings and housing projects, making its rounded wings and red brick exterior stand out considerably.

There’s an interesting history behind it. This is the back of Gouverneur Hospital, founded in the late 19th century to serve the crowded immigrant communities of the Lower East Side.

This particular building was constructed in 1897, and it’s marked by a lovely terra cotta sign and ornate carved front entrance at 621 Water Street.

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As for its curious rounded design, it served a health purpose. “[It] was believed that tuberculosis bacilli hid in corners, so the shape was an early attempt at preventive medicine,” explains this New York Times piece.

Gouverneur Hospital still exists in a more modern facility nearby on Madison Street. The 1897 building, though, now provides housing for New Yorkers living with HIV and mental illness.

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I love the lettering on this sign for Union Hospital of the Bronx, opened here in 1922. It’s not easy to see beneath the contemporary signage for Union Community Health Care, a facility that took over this space on 188th Street in the Bronx.

Here are a few more old city hospitals that have been repurposed into—what else?—high-end apartments.

A photographer’s poetic, playful Lower East Side

January 2, 2013

Born in a Hester Street flat to Russian immigrant parents, Rebecca Lepkoff came of age during the Depression—and became a keen observer of street life in her Lower East Side neighborhood.

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“I really enjoyed all the people and what they were doing. I was into loving the streets,” she told the Daily News in an interview last March. “Everyone was outside: the mothers with their baby carriages, and the men just hanging out. The apartment houses were too small to stay inside.”

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A member of the New York Photo League, a photographer’s cooperative, Lepkoff gained a rep for her tender glimpses of mid-century life between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges: a world of El trains and corner stores, of pushcart vendors and laundry lines.

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Her portraits of children entertaining themselves on front stairs and sidewalks capture something lost in contemporary New York: a freedom kids used to have to create and explore without being watched by adults.

“The kids played in the street,’” she told the Daily News. “They didn’t stay home. There weren’t many playgrounds. So they made up their own games, and they’d find sticks and whatever.”

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Lepkoff still takes pictures, and her work is enjoying more notoriety, thanks to recent exhibits at the Tenement Museum and the Jewish Museum.

Through January 4, some of her work can be seen at the Lower East Side Jewish Conservatory‘s exhibit “On the Cusp of Change: The LES, 1935-1975.”

[Photos copyright Rebecca Lepkoff]

The cross streets carved into tenement corners

December 3, 2012

Hiding in plain sight in the city’s tenement districts are the names of streets that intersect at certain corners.

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Chiseled into a cement plate, they’re the 19th and early 20th century solution to figuring out where you were a 100 or so years before the GPS on your phone could do it for you.

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Not always in the best condition, like this East Harlem example above, these corner carvings are charming and fun to come across.

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The best neighborhoods to find them: the Lower East Side, East Village, Hell’s Kitchen, East Harlem, and the brownstone enclaves of Brooklyn.

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Sometimes you only find one street name—Like Mott Street here at Broome Street, with a tiny T that looks like it was added by hand!

The banker called the “East Side J.P. Morgan”

June 14, 2012

The Lower East Side was already a growing Eastern European neighborhood by the time Alexander “Sender” Jarmulowsky arrived in 1873.

Those immigrants needed a bank they could trust, one with connections to their homelands.

So Jarmulowsky, formerly a Talmudic scholar from Russia and now the wealthy owner of a shipping business, started one.

His eponymous bank, at Canal and Orchard Streets, was a huge success.

Jarmulowsky earned a rep as an honest businessman nicknamed the “East Side J.P. Morgan” who paid 100 percent on the dollar during the occasional bank run.

States the Museum at Eldridge Street: “As one Yiddish newspaper described him, ‘Jarmu-lowsky was living proof that in America one can be a rich businessman but also be a true, pious Jew.’”

The 12-story bank building at Canal and Orchard Streets he built in 1912 still stands today. Unfortunately Jarmulowsky never got to see it; he died that year. His sons took over, but they were more Bernie Madoff than J.P. Morgan.

When customers went to withdraw their money to send to relatives abroad during World War I, they found out their savings were gone.

The Jarmulowsky building was sold for $36 million earlier this year—way too late to benefit any of the account holders who lost their savings.

More cross streets carved into tenement corners

October 27, 2011

Before you could Google-map your location on your smart phone, and even before every corner of the city had accurate signs, these chiseled street names came in pretty handy, letting you know where you were.

Mostly you see them in tenement-heavy neighborhoods like the East Village, East Harlem, and the Lower East Side.

Brownstone and tenement Brooklyn have plenty too, like this faded old carving at Underhill Avenue and Bergen Street in Prospect Heights.

Not all cross street carvings are in neighborhoods once poor or working-class. One of the loveliest of all is at University Place and “Twelfth Street East,” done up Beaux-Arts style.

Plans for New York that never came to pass

October 14, 2011

Developers are always coming up with shiny new proposals for a smarter, better, more future-focused city.

Thanks to the city’s bureaucracy, financial downturns, as well as the sheer ridiculousness of some of these ideas, most never seem to get past the sketch stage.

But it’s fun to see what could have been—like this 130-story telescope-looking structure, one of 11 proposals received by the city in 1985 to redevelop the site of the Coliseum at Columbus Circle.

Popular Science‘s very cool PopSci blog has a great writeup on it, based on their original 1985 article about the tower.

Of course, the Coliseum did get the boot, replaced by the less rocketship-like Time Warner Center in 2003.

I really like the look of this Art Deco cityscape sketch. But for the Lower East Side? I’m glad it didn’t happen.

This was the original design of the Chrystie-Forsyth Parkway, a four-lane sunken drive between Chrystie and Forsyth Streets from Houston Street to the Manhattan Bridge.

Bridges built over the parkway would accommodate traffic. Skyscrapers and high-rises would replace tenements.

Dreamed up in 1931, Mayor Jimmy Walker disregarded it and opened Sara Roosevelt Park here instead.

The Lower East Side ghetto on market day

July 20, 2011

I don’t know exactly when this postcard was created or even what street it depicts. Rivington or Stanton are my guesses.

What’s remarkable is that the Lower East Side of the turn of the last century was commonly known as “The Ghetto”—a term that today sounds so loaded and inflammatory, though back then may have simply described the heavily Jewish part of any large American or European city.


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