“A bit of the old Sixth Avenue El…”

Sixth Avenue must have been awfully dark and grimy back in the days of the hulking El. This photo is from 1938. The Jefferson Market clock building and Bigelow’s are still there, of course. But the hideous Women’s House of Detention met the wrecking ball in 1974. 

The Sixth Avenue El was dismantled in 1939 and sold as scrap metal to the Japanese, who supposedly melted it into ammo during World War II. Hence the great e.e. cummings anti-war line, “It took a nipponized bit of the old Sixth Avenue El, in the top of his head, to tell him.” The full poem is here.

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8 Responses to ““A bit of the old Sixth Avenue El…””

  1. A Village kid’s library card « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] See an earlier post with a 1940 photo of Jefferson Market here. […]

  2. John Sloan and the Sixth Avenue El « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] The El ran from 59th Street and Sixth Avenue, abruptly turned down West Third Street to West Broadway, then snaked down to Rector Street. It was torn down in the 1930s.  […]

  3. anon Says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IRT_Sixth_Avenue_Line says:

    “Stanley M. Isaacs, the Manhattan Borough President, said, “at my insistence the contract provided that not one ounce of that steel could be exported to Japan or to any one else.”[4] Isaacs said that the contractor was prohibited from exporting the steel from the El, and carried out his obligation to the letter.[5]”

  4. no one Says:


  5. sam Says:

    plato told

    him:he couldn’t
    believe it(jesus

    told him;he
    wouldn’t believe

    certainly told
    him,and general

    and even
    (believe it

    told him:i told
    him;we told him
    (he didn’t believe it,no

    sir)it took
    a nipponized bit of
    the old sixth

    el;in the top of his head:to tell


  6. An “almost accurate” map of the Village in 1925 | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Romany Marie’s, the (Bruno’s) Garret, and the Crumperie on Washington Place are in history’s dustbin. So is the speakeasy Club Fronton and the Sixth Avenue El, memorialized by John Sloan and e.e. cummings. […]

  7. An ode to the original Second Avenue subway | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] the Sixth Avenue El, which was memorialized by poets and depicted by painters, the Second Avenue line didn’t get much […]

  8. The toy-size el train in the nocturnal 1930s city | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] this lithograph was made by Leonard Pytlak in 1935, Manhattan’s elevated train lines were still screeching and lurching up and down the city’s major […]

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