Posts Tagged ‘vintage New York postcards’

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.

What New York Harbor looked like in 1905

August 5, 2013

What the harbor looked like on October 4, 1905, to be precise, with several ships pumping gray smoke into the sky.

Newyorkharborpostcard

There’s the Statue of Liberty—less than 20 years old—in the distance, and what looks like Staten Island far off on the left.

A Hudson River yacht club gets the boot

May 30, 2013

The clubhouse for the Columbia Yacht Club, on the Hudson River at 86th Street since the 1870s, looks like a breezy little summertime spot for boating and dining by the water in this penny postcard from about 1910.

Columbiayachtclub

I especially like the old-timey bridge that goes over the railroad tracks to the clubhouse.

The club’s days were numbered though. In 1934, park commissioner Robert Moses abruptly notified members that they were getting the boot because the premises were in the way of “West Side improvement.”

They left after a legal battle, relocating first to Riverdale and then to a site off Long Island Sound.

Madison Square before the Met Life Tower

May 6, 2013

Before the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company tower went up in 1909, Met Life had a smaller headquarters at East 23rd Street and Madison Avenue.

MadisonSquareMetLifepostcard

It’s the stately building on the corner in this October 1906 postcard, which notes the “New and Old Parkhurst Churches” next door.

Charles Henry Parkhurst was a Presbyterian minister and social reformer who gained fame in 1892 when he railed against corruption at Tammany Hall from his pulpit. His efforts led to housecleaning and reform inside the Democratic political machine.

The churches, the then-brand new one at the far left and the old Gothic-style church next to it, long ago got the heave ho.


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