Posts Tagged ‘Vintage postcards New York City’

The “pleasure seekers” of Broadway at night

June 5, 2014

Looking at this postcard, you can almost feel the heat from the colorful lights of theater marquees and restaurants, and hear the whirling of the cable cars as they rush down Broadway.

Times Square night

“This view, in the centre of the theatre district, shows the usual crowd of pleasure seekers, who nightly throng the famous ‘Great White Way,'” the back of the card reads.

New York City’s other Washington Bridge

March 31, 2014

There’s no scandal surrounding this lovely, smaller-scale steel-arch bridge, which links Washington Heights to the Bronx.

This postcard is undated, but it depicts a very sleepy Upper Manhattan.

Washingtonbridgepostcard

The Washington Bridge isn’t very well known and gets little love by New York residents.

But it should. It opened to pedestrians in 1888 and vehicles in 1889, making it older than its similarly named, much bigger counterpart by a good 40-odd years!

The WWII servicemen’s hangout at Grand Central

February 20, 2014

ServicemensloungeWartime New York City was a very hospitable place for the thousands of enlisted men (and women) going off to fight in World War II or returning home on furlough.

Take Grand Central Terminal, for example. During the war, the East Balcony was turned into a “Service Men’s Lounge” by the New York Central and New Haven Railroads.

According to the back of this postcard, the lounge was “equipped with ping pong and pool tables, library, piano, easy chairs, lunch counter, etc.”

Servicemensloungepostcard

The lounge was “a meeting room for men of all nations,” wrote John Belle in Grand Central: Gateway to a Million Lives. “On any given day, it was not unusual to see a kilted Highlander at the coffee bar learning from an American soldier how to dunk a doughnut.”

In 1943, Life ran this warning about the lounge to travelers: “Busiest on weekends when thousands travel on furlough. To give them more room on weekend trains, plan trips you must make for mid-week.”

The sheep pen turned restaurant in Central Park

January 30, 2014

From 1934 to 2010, Tavern on the Green was the kind of touristy New York restaurant that a lot of city residents shunned.

Tavernonthegreen

But the place had surprising roots in post–Civil War New York.

The gabled Victorian building where diners once feasted and danced (in the 1950s, at least, according to the back of this postcard) was constructed as sheepfold for a flock of sheep that grazed, yep, today’s Sheep Meadow.

Sheepfoldcentralpark

Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the park’s designers, created a pastoral landscape—and 200 or so sheep hanging around and keeping the grass clipped certainly gave the park the feel of a retreat from urban life.

In 1934, the sheep got the boot by Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, who had other ideas about how Central Park should serve the city.

Sheepcentralpark1910

Plus, on a more gruesome note, apparently there were fears that the hungry, desperate men who built a Depression-era Hooverville in the park would kill and eat the flock!

[Bottom photo: sheep grazing and cutting the lawn, about 1910]

The simple loveliness of New York’s City Hall

January 27, 2014

When City Hall opened in 1812, some New Yorkers feared it was too far north; after all, the city at the time was centered at the southern tip of Manhattan.

Cityhallpostcard

But the city quickly marched northward and this French-inspired Federal structure (the two designers who built it won $350 for their efforts) has been in use continually for more than 200 years.

Surrounded by stately city buildings and offices and often the site of riots and demonstrations, it maintains a simple elegance.

Fifth Avenue’s heroic Civil War monument

November 14, 2013

A vintage postcard depicts the equestrian statue of William Tecumseh Sherman and Winged Victory at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street at Central Park.

In 1906, and Fifth Avenue is still a millionaire’s row lined with great Gilded Age mansions.

Generalshermanmonument

“The sculpture of General William Tecumseh Sherman is one of the finest sculptures by the talented American sculptor and New York City resident Augustus St.Gaudens,” notes the Central Park Conservatory website.

“In 1892 St. Gaudens modeled a bust of the general who lived in New York after the Civil War. He then created the equestrian sculpture in Paris, France, completing it in 1903.”

Here is another postcard view of the corner, at the entrance to the park.

The low-rise city that surrounded Grand Central

September 12, 2013

Today, Grand Central Terminal is a Beaux-Arts beauty lodged among massive office towers and formidable skyscrapers.

Grandcentralterminalpostcard

Which makes it so hard to imagine that when it opened in 1913, the buildings around it were lilliputian compared to what is there today.

“This doesn’t look much like the old Grand Central, does it?” the postcard’s sender writes to the recipient. It sure doesn’t—this was the Grand Central (with grazing cows nearby!) that came before it.

New York Harbor under a magical full moon

August 26, 2013

“New York Harbor by Moonlight” states the caption of this postcard, which probably dates to about 1900, when the harbor was all about industry and commerce.

Newyorkharbormoonlight

The boats working the harbor are reminders of that—see the smokestack pumping out white smoke. But that moon sure casts a romantic, enchanting glow.

The Tombs: New York’s notoriously named prison

May 2, 2013

Can you imagine if the city of today sold postcards of Rikers Island?

At the turn of the last century, however, it apparently was no big deal to put an image of New York’s house of detention on penny postcards and sell them to tourists.

Thetombspostcard

This city jail was built in 1902, taking its nickname from the infamous penitentiary that had occupied the same site since 1838.

That first Tombs had been modeled on an Egyptian mausoleum. The ungainly building, where accused men and women lived while awaiting trial, occupied an entire block on Centre Street. Unfortunately constructed on swampy, stinky land over the polluted Collect Pond, it immediately began to sink into the ground.

“What is this dismal fronted pile of bastard Egyptian, like an enchanter’s palace in a melodrama?”, Charles Dickens reportedly wrote in his 1842 book chronicling his trip to the U.S., American Notes.

That’s the Bridge of Sighs connecting the jail to the courts building—named after the original Bridge of Sighs in Venice.

When the city dined at the Times Square Automat

March 7, 2013

“You should have seen this Automat,” reminisced the elderly man who sold me this postcard. “You could sit for hours with a cup of coffee and look out onto Times Square through those huge picture windows.”

It must have been something. At their peak of popularity, New York had at least 50 Automats, filled with little slots containing sandwiches, mac and cheese, pie, and other foods, each to be had for just a coin or two. The one below was at Broadway between 46th and 47th Streets.

Timessquareautomat

William Grimes sums up the appeal of the Automat in his entertaining 2009 book Appetite City: A Culinary History of New York.

“As the Automat worked itself into the fabric of the city, it came to represent a particular kind of American experience,” writes Grimes. “It was ostentatiously democratic, for one thing. Lacking the gatekeepers associated with traditional restaurants, it attracted diners from every social level.”

“A bit of verse in the Sun, printed in the Depression year of 1933, caught the spirit precisely:

‘Said the technocrat
To the Plutocrat
To the autocrat
And the Democrat—
Let’s all go eat at the Automat!'”

Here’s a similar postcard, and a memory from Patti Smith, about getting hit on by Allen Ginsberg at a downtown Automat in the 1970s.


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