Posts Tagged ‘Vintage postcards New York City’

Peeking into the Brooklyn Bridge subway station

August 22, 2014

The opening of the subway was so incredible in the first decade of the 20th century, the new stations were frequently the subject of penny postcards, like this one, with its above ground and inside view.

Brooklynbridgesubwaypostcard

“New York City’s subway system is the most complex of any in the world,” the back of the card reads. “The Brooklyn Bridge Station is the busiest in the world. It is estimated that 2,000,000 pass here daily.”

“The subway consists of four tracks, two for express trains and two for local. During the rush hours the trains run on a minute schedule.”

A treetop view of Washington Square Park

August 11, 2014

Judging by the automobiles entering the park near the Washington Arch, this looks like an early 1920s view of Washington Square.

Washingtonsquareparkpostcard1

So much is different from the park today though: no playground, no fences, no dog run. Just small-scale, landscaped walkways, an unglamorous fountain, and a mysterious little building in the center that could be a comfort station.

The back of the card tells of romance in the park. “Here is one of our little parks, so you can see it is not all business down here,” the presumably male writer says.

“I have often sat in this park with a girl quite a few nights. Not lately though.”

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.


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