Posts Tagged ‘New York street’

Manhattan’s lonely little holdout buildings

May 31, 2014

These walkups were once the sought-after modern buildings of the block.

Now, they’re the holdouts—sometimes well-kept, often shabby reminders of an earlier New York that refuse to bow to the wrecking ball.

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Without these low-rise survivors, many more city streets would be a boring canyon of uniform buildings.

The two tenement holdouts in the top photo, on West 36th Street, have had their side exteriors raked over by developers. Yet these 19th century stalwarts refuse to go.

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Nestled between two limestone apartment houses is this Upper Fifth Avenue beauty, holding its own across the street from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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On Eighth Avenue at 39th Street is this blue former townhouse, now a commercial building. It makes the block resemble a gap-tooth smile.

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This three-story sliver on lower Seventh Avenue in Chelsea is a bit of a mystery. It’s architecturally the same as the building next door, which houses the Rubin Museum.

Yet it’s painted the same color as the former Loehmann’s store on the other side, being renovated into Barneys once again.

Check out more holdout buildings here, and of course, the most famous of all the holdouts—the one in the middle of Macy’s.

Getting evicted in turn of the century New York

June 13, 2013

George Grantham Bain was an early news photographer who founded his own photojournalist service in 1898.

He left an incredible collection of more than 40,000 negatives, now housed in the Library of Congress and digitized.

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His photos mostly span the late 19th century through the 00s and teens, and he had a special interest in New York City, chronicling news events as well as day-to-day life among the unheralded and unfamous.

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These three photos appear to capture three different apartment evictions. The first is simply “Eviction.” The second is titled “East Side Eviciton.”

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And the third has no title, but it’s categorized as an eviction by the Library of Congress. I wish we knew the circumstances and how these families fared.

The horsecars and gas lamps of West 42nd Street

May 20, 2013

Fabled 42nd Street has long epitomized New York’s bright lights, glamour, and energy.

But not the 42nd Street at the turn of the last century, as this circa-1900 photo, from New York Then and Now, demonstrates.

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That year, the midtown block of 42nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues was a still-residential stretch of muddy Belgian blocks, a single gas lamp, and horse-pulled streetcars.

“The horsecars were run by the 42nd Street, Manhattanville and St. Nicholas Avenue Railway as a crosstown line between the Weehawken ferries at the west terminal and the Hunters Point Ferry to Long Island City at the east end,” the caption tells us.

The church on the right is the West Presbyterian Church, and the el tracks on the left won’t be torn down until the 1930s.

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By 1974, almost nothing remains, and West 42nd Street looks much more familiar to contemporary eyes.

“The building with the curved front is the Grace Building, built 1970-1972 on the site of Stern Brothers Department Store, which stood here from 1913 to 1969, having previously operated on West 34th Street for 36 years,” reads the caption.

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Today, 42nd Street looking toward Sixth Avenue reveals more glass office buildings, a replica of an old street lamp, plus many of the same buildings from 1974—such as the Grace Building and the Gothic-like entrance to 11 West 42nd Street.

It’s not in the photo, but I imagine Bryant Park, which would be on the left, looks very different—this park had a bad reputation until the 1980s.

No one was taking there lunch break or watching movies on the lawn then!

Madison Square Garden moves to Eighth Avenue

March 4, 2013

This 1930ish postcard shows what was then the “new” Madison Square Garden on Eighth Avenue and 49th Street.

It’s the third incarnation of New York’s iconic arena, and the first one located no where near Madison Square.

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It moved here in 1925, and for the next four decades hosted boxing matches, circuses, rodeos, Billy Graham revivals, ice shows, and of course the Rangers and the Knicks.

Was this a good place to watch a game? It looks awfully cramped and crowded from outside.

In 1968 the Garden moved again, this time to its current home at 33rd Street and Seventh Avenue. In its place we have the office tower Worldwide Plaza, which looks strangely similar to the old MSG.

Some great old photos of the Garden and its very cool marquee can be found at Wired New York.

Street cleaning in the turn of the century city

February 25, 2013

Turn of the 20th century, that is. Before sweeper trucks came along, New York’s roads were cleaned with a contraption like this: a flimsy, horse-pulled cart with a water sprayer, squeegee, and roller at the rear.

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This photo, from the New York City municipal archives collection, is undated . . . and there’s almost no description of where it was taken.

It’s just another random moment in the early 20th century city no one could imagine would be of interest 100 years down the line.

Spooky outlines of long-gone Manhattan buildings

February 9, 2013

New and old New York collide on the sides of buildings all over the city. Sometimes the faded pattern of a dormer window or chimney is visible for years, other times just a days before developers cover these remnants forever.

The building that once stood here on the corner of Greenwich and Vestry Streets in Tribeca, below, doesn’t look fancy. It was probably just a regular walk-up with six or eight apartments in what had been a neighborhood of light industry for most of the 20th century.

But it sure left a formidable impression.

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I love the sloping roof on this long-gone building on Washington Place in the Meatpacking District, below. Was it a garage? Warehouse? Meat packager?

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I have no idea when it went down, but it’s being obliterated forever in favor of another restaurant or boutique or luxury hotel.

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On 31st Street near Fifth Avenue is the imprint of a sturdy chimney and a roof on a slight incline. A coat of paint almost covers most of it up, but a sliver remains of what was once someone’s home.

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The best thing about this bulldozed building on East 29th Street? The phantom smoke coming out of the pattern of a chimney!

Sleet and snowy stoops on a West Side street

February 4, 2013

Australian-born Martin Lewis’ “Stoops in the Snow” dates to 1930—and it perfectly balances the still beauty of a New York snowfall with the miserable struggle that ensues while trying to navigate it.

This scene could depict almost any residential New York block, with its uniform brownstone steps and elevated train platform in the distance.

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Luckily Lewis’ original title for the etching, “Stoops in the Snow, West 40s,” narrows down the neighborhood for us.

Lewis tends to keep the locations of his etchings vague, as he did with this piece depicting a busy workday morning somewhere in the city.

These building corner street signs are fading fast

January 25, 2013

I love spotting these on random New York corners. But I’ve never seen one designed like the sign carved into a brick walkup at Hudson Street and St. Luke’s Place, with house numbers in the mix.

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East Harlem has lots of century-old tenements—and lots of corner carvings. Too bad “109th Street” was obliterated from this one at Third Avenue.

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A corner sign in Chelsea features stately lettering. It’s at Ninth Avenue and 19th Street and is in bad shape, but still doing its job of letting passersby know where they are—at least in part.

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An East Side farm gives way to lovely row houses

January 2, 2013

62ndstreettreadwell2Two centuries ago, a wealthy New Yorker named Adam Treadwell bought a 24-acre farm on Manhattan’s East Side, about where the East 60s are today.

When he died in 1852, his heirs inherited the property. Soon they began selling off small parcels to individual owners.

These new owners did something smart: they set up an agreement stipulating the height and width of the buildings they planned to put up, and they barred certain businesses from opening up there.

TreadwelldistrictTheir foresight leaves us with two breathtaking blocks mostly of four-story row houses built between 1868 to 1876, according to the document designating East 61st and 62nd Streets between Second and Third Avenues the Treadwell Farm Historic District.

The row houses were built in the French Second Empire and Italianate styles popular at the time.

“Today, the district is appreciated for the way it reveals the design aesthetic of the 1910s and 1920s,” explains the website for the Friends of the Treadwell Farm Historic District.

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“During those years, most of the buildings were ‘modernized,’ i.e., stoops removed, and projecting detail stripped resulting in simplified elegance.”

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There’s no river view or doormen standing by, but these two tree-lined blocks rank as among the loveliest in Manhattan, a tiny, little-known oasis of calm and beauty amid the crowds and traffic of East Midtown.

Take a peek inside one, recently for sale, via this Curbed listing. Price: just 7.9 million!

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]


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