Posts Tagged ‘New York in the 1970s’

1970s city store signs that burst with color

March 24, 2014

Treat yourself to a Monday morning explosion of old-school color—courtesy of these New York store signs that give off a very 1970s vibe.

Acepumpsign

Ace Pump got its start in 1936, and still deals in engineering supplies on superluxe 21st Street in Chelsea.

20thcenturygaragesign

I’ve always loved the 20th Century Garage sign, as well as its name, which must have sounded very modern at one time. It’s near Tudor City on East 48th Street. It looks like it was made before the 1970s, no?

Jeromefloristsign

Jerome Florist, on 96th Street and Madison Avenue, has been selling arrangements to Upper East Siders (and the area’s abundance of hospitals) since 1929.

Capitalelectronicssign

Once known as Capital Audio & Electronics, this Duane Street shop took the electronics out of its name, perhaps to sound less 1970s-ish.

Vernonavepharmacysign

Pharmacy signs like this one in Queens—no-frills, no brand names, with a neighborhood vibe—have mostly disappeared from city streets.

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.

Spending Christmas 1971 at the Continental Baths

December 23, 2013

I wonder how many people actually spent December 25, 1970 taking in the scene inside the Upper West Side’s infamous Continental Baths?

Contintentalbathsad122371

According to this Village Voice ad from December 23, “the world’s most liberated club” was hosting a special Christmas show (ladies admitted at 11:15!), and then a New Years’ celebration as well.

AnsoniahotelOpened in 1968 in the basement of the then-faded Ansonia Hotel (right) on West 74th Street, the Continental Baths was a “sexual Xanadu”—a place where gay men in towels could dance, socialize, and be entertained by not-yet-famous Bette Midler (and her piano player, Barry Manilow), Nell Carter, and Melba Moore.

The Baths operated until the mid-1970s, when it was rebranded as swingers’ paradise Plato’s Retreat. Perhaps they too had a Christmas Day special?

This New York magazine article from 1973 offers a detailed look inside “New York’s most Weimarian nightspot.”

A cool old laundromat sign on Ninth Avenue

August 22, 2013

Walking around Chelsea is a little like stepping into a way-back machine these days.

Recently, some vintage signs near Eighth Avenue have returned into view, serving as unexpected glimpses of this once not-so-hot neighborhood’s small-business past.

Cleanerssignninthave

Now another emerges: the worn signage from a laundromat and dry cleaning shop on Ninth Avenue and 22nd Street.

Any guesses on how old these letters are? I detect a 1970s vibe.

Thanks to JS for sending ENY the pic!

A Harlem faded ad keeps 1970s radio alive

May 23, 2013

The 1970s Top-40 music scene lives on thanks to this almost perfectly preserved ad, on the side of a building at 145th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue.

77radiofadedad

I’m guessing it went up in the disco era, when radios all across the metro area were set to 77 AM, then a hugely popular station.

WABC is all talk today—it’s been that way since 1982.

A leftover relic of 1970s art on Mercer Street

March 13, 2013

Taniapaintingmercerst

Ever notice the 13-story geometric abstract painted on the side of a prewar loft building on West 3rd Street between Mercer Street and Broadway?

It looks like something straight out of the 1970s city, when this part of the Village was a warren of underused loft structures, and landlords didn’t know—or care—what was painted on them.

Here’s the backstory of this curious relic of a less restrictive city. Created in 1970, it was commissioned by a artists’ group called City Walls, Inc. and painted by a cofounder of the group known as Tania.

City Walls apparently went around the city looking for facades to paint, and when they found one, they simply asked the landlord for permission.

GatewaytosohoOf her “three-dimensional” painting of overlapping pyramid shapes, Tania had this to say in a 1971 New York Times article:

“I want to take art out of the museums and galleries. . . . A wall belongs to everybody; it can’t be traded on the art market.”

Could an arts group paint a public wall today? Probably not without paying a hefty fee for the privilege.

City Walls was also responsible for this mural a few blocks south on Houston Street, titled “Gateway to Soho.”

[Photo, right, by Beyond My Ken]

A street photographer captures the city in motion

November 6, 2012

Rudy Burckhardt arrived in New York in 1935. He was 21, born and raised in Switzerland, a medical school dropout determined to be an artist.

Though he painted and made short films, he’s known for his street photography: black and white shots of mid-century New Yorkers in motion amid a swirl of crowds and buildings, yet strangely alone in the modern urban landscape.

At right, he photographed friend and dance critic Edwin Denby on the roof of their apartment at 145 West 21st Street.

“[His] best artworks are the New York images from the ’40s, strange angled photographs shot from the tops of skyscrapers, or movements in the streets of Manhattan taken from the knees down,” wrote Valery Oisteanu on Artnet.com, for a retrospective of Burckhardt’s work exhibited in 2004 at the Tibor de Nagy gallery.

“He didn’t indulge in expressionist distortion, or depict grotesque sideshow freaks, but rather captured the melancholia of the metropolis,” wrote Oisteanu.

“The pedestrians in his snapshots execute a hectic choreography in navigating New York’s streets. It took the eye of a Swiss born New Yorker to sense the city’s pulse and its dramatic flair.”

Burckhardt, who served as the unofficial “house photographer” for New York School artists in the 1930s and who poet John Ashbery once called a “subterranean monument,” died in 1999 in Maine.

Near his home there, he committed suicide by drowning in a lake.

“Moments of a vanished time” in Hell’s Kitchen

August 23, 2012

Inspired by the 1972 Helen Levitt photo “Kids With Laundry” that was posted here last week, Ephemeral reader Paul Mones sent me these snapshots he took in the early spring of 1973.

Born in the Bronx, Mones was a college student then; the photos were part of an essay for an urban sociology class he took at SUNY Buffalo.

They chronicle some seemingly ordinary street scenes from 33rd Street to 50th Street or so: the merchants, shoppers, pedestrians, and storefronts of a typical stretch of Manhattan in the early 1970s.

I imagine that Mones didn’t think he captured anything remarkable when he developed the film. But he did: They’re lovely, unposed glimpses into little moments of a vanished time, as he put it.

Check out the hand-painted bar signage, pre-Korean deli vegetable dealer, metal garbage can, and messy bargain bins outside a discount store that’s now probably the home of a fusion restaurant or upscale cocktail lounge.

And a shoeshine stand/umbrella repair place! So many relics of another era.

[All photos copyright Paul Mones]

Three centuries on Fifth Avenue and 14th Street

July 23, 2012

This 1899 photo of ladies decked out in their elaborate hats and bustles for a day of shopping are wonderful.

But I also love the street sign, lamps, mailbox, and fire hydrant (across 14th Street), published in New York Then and Now in 1976.

“The corner building was originally the William M. Halstead residence, built in the 1830s,” the caption to the photo tells us.

“One of the earliest mansions on the avenue, it was later altered and became, successively, the Old Guard Armory, Midget Hall and Brewster’s Hall; it eventually was occupied by the Gregg Furniture Co.”

The scene is very different in 1974. The tall buildings replaced smaller-scale mansions in the early 1900s, and a white-brick apartment residence occupies the northeast corner.

The lovely signage and lamps are gone . . . as is the shopping traffic.

Today, the streetscape looks the same as it did in 1974, with a few exceptions: more foot and vehicular traffic, thanks to lower Fifth Avenue’s resurgence as a retail district.

Also, there’s new traffic lights . . . and bank branches on both corners.

The 1970 murder of an Upper West Side teacher

November 7, 2011

After graduating from Smith College in 1970, 22-year-old Patrice Leary did what thousands of other new grads do: She moved to New York City.

Patrice sublet a brownstone apartment at 310 West 73rd Street—then a sketchy block, but one that was likely affordable on a teacher’s salary.

She took a job teaching second grade at the posh Brearley School. She dated. She hung out with her roommate.

She worried about crime as well, “installing an extra lock on her steel door,” according to a New York Times article.

Weeks later, on October 29, friends noticed her apartment door was ajar. “Inside they saw her body, mutilated and bloody, clothed in a bra and underpants, lying on the floor,” noted the Times.

Investigators later determined that Patrice had been stabbed in the heart, a phone cord wrapped around her neck. Her head was also bashed in with a hammer.

Neighbors reported seeing a tall white man running out of the brownstone about the time Patrice had been murdered. But no suspect was ever named.

Police took the case hard. “This was no trollop or junkie,” said a lieutenant.

“This wasn’t someone who’s been pushing for trouble. This was a fine, decent girl, the kind of person you want to help and protect.”

The Times even pointed out that the Medical Examiner determined Patrice was still a virgin when she died, a detail I don’t think you’ll ever find in a newspaper today.

Even after a $1500 reward was offered for any information leading to an arrest, Patrice’s killer was never found.

[Photo: West 73rd Street between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive. where Patrice was killed, from Trulia]


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