Posts Tagged ‘Vintage NYC postcards’

The 1940s tourist attractions of the “Penn Zone”

October 29, 2012

If you think the streets around Penn Station are crowded with out-of-towners now, imagine how jammed they must have been in the 1940s.

Back then, this was the “Penn Zone,” according to this vintage postcard, a stretch of Midtown brimming with massive hotels and must-see sites for tourists.


Some are still here, of course, such as the Empire State Building and Macy’s (number 8). But the original Penn Station (2) bit the dust in 1963, and the Hotel McAlpin (4) is now called Herald Towers and is a rental apartment building.

Gimbel’s (10) and Sak’s 34th Street (9) are ghosts. The Hotel New Yorker (6) keeps packing them in, while the Hotel Martinique (3) endured a tortured history as a 1980s welfare hotel before reopening as a Radisson.

The Manhattan entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge

July 12, 2012

No, not the confusing crosswalk thing going on down around City Hall Park these days.

This was the Park Row Terminal, a transit hub that provided access to railroads and street cars that took passengers to the Brooklyn side.

Street cars disappeared from the bridge in 1950. I don’t know when the terminal bit the dust, but I like the open view of the bridge we have today.

The Fifth Avenue entrance to Central Park

April 5, 2012

I love the decorative street lamps and lack of traffic signs (as well as street furniture like newspaper boxes and garbage cans) in this undated postcard, which depicts the corner of Fifth Avenue and 59th Street.

The General Sherman statue is there, so it must be at least 1903, when the monument went up. “When the civil war ended, Sherman moved to New York City and rode his horse and carriage through Central Park daily,” states centralparknyc.com.

The Plaza Hotel is across the street. But is it the Plaza hotel that’s there today, the beauty that completed in 1907, or the first Plaza Hotel, which opened its doors in 1890 and demolished 15 years later?

If only a postmark existed so we could know for sure.

What happened to Central Park’s Swan Bridge?

November 7, 2011

This vintage postcard, stamped July 1928, shows off a really breathtaking part of Central Park, with boaters and swans on the lake and people sitting along benches.

But wait, isn’t that Bow Bridge—the one the postcard calls Swan Bridge? As far as I can tell, there’s never been a Swan Bridge or Swan Island in the park.

Bow Bridge was always the name for the 60-foot cast-iron bridge that gets its moniker from its gentle bow shape, reminiscent of the bow of an archer or violinist, explains centralparknyc.org.

A shipment of sea lions at the Central Park Zoo

February 22, 2011

I’m not sure if this is the exact sea lion pool currently at the Central Park Zoo. But these funny creatures were clearly as big a hit with zoo-goers a century ago as they are today.

They may be the same sea lions described in a June 1891 New York Times article, about an “unexpected” addition of 23 adult and one infant sea lion, captured in California and then seized en route to Buffalo from a railroad car at 60th Street.

“The animals remained shut up in the tight box car all night without food or water,” reported the Times.

“Streams of water were turned upon the survivors, and two wagonloads of fish were fed them. They were carted in three stock-yard express wagons to the Menagerie.”

Progress made building the “great cathedral”

January 5, 2011

“The great cathedral on Morningside Heights is nearing completion faster than most of us imagine,” states the opening sentence of this New York Times article from November 28, 1909.

Well, not exactly—the Cathedral of St. John the Divine is still unfinished more than a century later.

The cornerstone was laid in 1892, and workers instantly encountered problems.

First, geological snags had to be fixed before the foundation could be poured.

In 1905, controversy erupted when it was discovered that sculptor Gutzon Borglam had created female angels in one of the chapels. Four years later, the Byzantine-Romanesque design was shelved in favor of a Gothic look.

Some of the seven planned chapels were completed, as was the crypt and nave, by the 1930s. Then World War II halted construction, postwar efforts to get things going occurred in fits and starts, and a fire in 2001 destroyed part of the northern end.

But even at only three-fifths complete, it’s still breathtaking and beautiful.

A Chelsea hotel room for just $2.25 a night

November 24, 2010

“Modern accommodations at moderate rates” proclaims the back of this colorful postcard, circa the 1940s or 1950s.”One stop from Penn Station.”

It’s an ad for the Hotel Cornish Arms, on 23rd Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues.

I can’t find much on the hotel, but a reader comment from an earlier post explained that the hotel really did welcome new Cornish arrivals.

It certainly didn’t have the architectural charm and boho appeal of another hotel down 23rd Street, the Chelsea.

Here’s an older view of the Cornish Arms, from 1933, with the gorgeous but long-gone Grand Opera House on the corner. Today the building still stands; it’s now the Broadmoor Apartments.

City Hall Park and the rise of Newspaper Row

November 21, 2010

It’s no surprise that in the 19th century, all the big New York newspapers made sure they had office space as close to City Hall as possible. That’s where all the action was.

Which is how a small length of Park Row opposite City Hall earned its nickname.

On the left with the dome at the top is the New York World/Pulitzer Building. Next is the headquarters for the New York Tribune.

The one at right housed the The New York Times, before they moved uptown to Longacre—renamed Times–Square.

City Hall Park has a neat history. Adjacent to the old Collect Pond, it started as a 17th century commons where colonists took their livestock for water.

It’s been the site of rioting for 300 years now—and writer Jack London’s temporary home in the first decade of the 20th century.

New York’s Gilded Age flower vendors

November 8, 2010

“Flower vendor’s display” this postcard states in the lower left corner.

Could this be Sixth Avenue in the 20s, then—and now—the site of the city’s flower district?

The flower district is dwindling fast; it’s mostly confined to 28th Street between Seventh Avenue and Broadway these days.

A 1940s view outside the Public Library

March 15, 2010

This postcard was mailed in 1943. But a typical day at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street doesn’t look much different in 2010.

Here’s a look at what occupied this corner before 1911, when the building opened.


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