Posts Tagged ‘vintage New York postcards’

Fifth Avenue and the original Waldorf-Astoria

July 17, 2014

In late 19th century New York, Fifth Avenue reigned as Millionaires Row. But by the time this postcard was produced around 1910, the stretch of Fifth Avenue north of 32nd Street was shedding its reputation as a wealthy residential enclave.

The rich were migrating northward. Posh mansions were being razed to make way for commercial buildings, like offices and hotels.

Fifthavenue32ndstpostcard

No hotel was as extravagant as the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, the building on the left with the flag.

Waldorfastoria34thstreetviewBuilt as separate hotels in the early 1890s on the site of two former Astor family mansions, it was combined in 1897.

Times Shutter features a similar postcard, with some info about the hotel (it was the largest in the world, a gathering place for the rich and ostentatious, and the first to allow unchaperoned women!) as well a photo of the same stretch of Fifth today.

Today, the hotel is gone (the Empire State Building took its place two decades later), as is two-way traffic and that lovely streetlight on the left.

Gone too is Fifth Avenue with a quaint, unhurried feel.

[Another view of the Waldorf-Astoria, from 34th Street, right]

Riverside Drive and the lazy Hudson beside it

May 16, 2014

It looks like a pleasant spring or summer day on Riverside Drive and in the park beside it, based on this postcard stamped 1916.

Riversidedrivepostcard1916

We’re at 93rd Street. Grant’s Tomb can be seen over the treetops; open-topped automobiles and a double-decker bus share the road. Pedestrians linger on the sidewalks or on the teardrop-shaped green.

And in the distance, there’s no George Washington Bridge.

What’s the commotion at City Hall Park?

April 24, 2014

Something’s drawn a crowd downtown at the edge of City Hall Park, according to this penny postcard, stamped 1912. A tangle of wagons on the right, and adults and kids swarming the curb in front.

City Hall Park 1912 2

Just another spring or summer day in a park featured in many vintage postcards? Without a caption, we’ll never know.

There’s the kiosk for a City Hall subway stop, and the statue of Nathan Hale, relocated many times in its 120-year history.

Times Square: crossroads of the world in 1910

April 12, 2014

Is this Times Square, or 23rd Street facing the Flatiron Building? It’s clearly 42nd Street, with the card focused on the New York Times building that gave the square its name in 1904.

Timessquarepostcard

But when I first looked at the postcard, I immediately thought Flatiron.

Trolleys, traffic, ladies carrying umbrellas . . . and the Hotel Cadillac is on the left. What stories that building would be able to tell, if only it still existed.

The noisy, gritty Bowery north of Grand Street

February 20, 2014

Imagine the constant, ear-splitting roar of the Third Avenue elevated trains, the grimy shadows cast by steel tracks, the sounds of horse hoofs, wagon wheels, and streetcars traveling up and down the street.

Bowerypostcard

It’s the legendary turn-of-the-century Bowery, the seedy main drag memorialized in the refrain of the 1891 hit “The Bowery”:

“They say such things
And they do strange things
On the Bow’ry!
The Bow’ry!
I’ll never go there any more!”

Strolling and shopping in Union Square in 1908

December 21, 2013

Well-dressed matrons stroll in and out of shops while their chauffeurs wait curbside in carriages in this vintage postcard of a seemingly unchanged Union Square.

Unionsquare1908

Could this be a scene of Christmas shoppers? A sign in the distance seems to read “presents” and it appears to be winter. But there are no holiday decorations.

Old Times Square, blazing in color at night

December 16, 2013

There’s old Times Square—the 1960s and 1970s sleazy version. And then there’s the real old Times Square, in the early decades of the 20th century, when millions of lights illuminated the city’s primary entertainment district until dawn.

Timessquarerealold.jpg

Something about this stretch of New York at this time in history makes it seem exciting, passionate, alive. This Times Square feature streetcars, a Greyhound bus station, cigarette ads . . . and no public pedestrian plaza.

A spooky look at Bethesda Terrace at night

October 7, 2013

It’s one of the most enchanting parts of Central Park: two elegant staircases uniting two levels in the middle of the park, linking the Mall to the Lake and culminating at Bethesda Fountain.

Bethesdaterracepostcard

By day, it’s crowded and lovely. But at night and under a full moon, it sure looks empty, misty, and ghostly—at least judging by this 1908 postcard.

Bethesdaterrace1862Here’s a photo of Bethesda Terrace under construction in 1862. The park has officially opened, but much work still needed to be done.

It was supposed to be called the Water Terrance. That changed when the fountain was put in place, whose name, Bethesda, references the Pool of Bethesda in the New Testament.

Is this the first McDonald’s in New York City?

September 8, 2013

[Update: Thank you to everyone who ID'd this as Boston, not NYC. My apologies; post will be deleted]

Look closely at the left side of the 1905 postcard photo, and you can see the sign: “McDonald’s Restaurant.”

Hmm, could this humble-looking eatery have any idea that in less than seven decades, a different McDonald’s would start taking over the city?

72ndstreetpostcard

The first McDonald’s franchise opened at 215 West 125th Street in 1973, reports this New York magazine piece, and now, there are more than 74 just in Manhattan.

72ndstrestaurantcropWhat I’m calling the original first McDonald’s, the one in the 1905 photo, appears to be on Upper Broadway; according to the store owner who sold it to me, it’s 72nd Street and Broadway.

But the kiosk looks so different. Can anyone positively ID it?

Working girls in a New York office in 1910

September 5, 2013

No, not that kind of working girl. These are the young women who spent their days as clerks more than 100 years ago, filling out forms and filing papers in the new office culture of the 20th century.

Metlifepostcard

They sit at desks instead of cubicles, rely on pens and paper rather than computers, and wear the same tidy outfit and hairstyle. They don’t appear much different than the office workers of today.

This image comes from a postcard of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company actuary office. Perhaps it’s a floor in the lovely tower on 23rd Street that still stands today.


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