When trolleys cut through Union Square

Judging from the lack of automobile traffic on 14th Street, Broadway, and University Place—as well as the streetcar trolleys and horse and carriages—I’d guess this photo is from just about the turn of the 20th century.


It’s a great picture. There’s a statue at the southwest corner of Union Square, but it certainly isn’t Ghandi, who occupies that spot now.

Instead of Whole Foods we’ve got Automatic Vaudeville, a penny arcade offering a basement shooting gallery, peep shows, and phonographs in individual listening booths—kind of what the Virgin Megastore had for customers who wanted to sample music before they closed up shop last month.

And in place of Forever 21 is Brill Brothers, a men’s clothing store.

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10 Responses to “When trolleys cut through Union Square”

  1. Mykola (Mick) Dementiuk Says:

    Wow! What a great picture, looks more alive than it does today, nothing but boring cliches. Times were certainly interesting.

  2. Gary Nargi Says:

    That bend in the trolley like was the notorious “dead man’s curve” which ws the site of quite a few pedestrian deaths.

  3. Ian Schoenherr Says:

    It’s H. K. Browne’s Abraham Lincoln statue which was later moved into the park.

  4. miss10016 Says:

    Actually that’s a picture of 17th St. between Broadway and 4th Ave.

  5. PizzaBagel Says:

    First building, just above the third floor: “EDWARD GROSS PICTURES”

    Next one (Automatic Vaudeville Building), appears to have a sign at its top reading “Garibaldi.”

    The third one says “Comedy Theatre” above its entrance.

    If, as miss10016 indicates, the photo is looking to the north of Union Square, then the thoroughfare at the right would be Fourth Avenue (now known as Park Avenue South). But — and I could be wrong — it appears to be much narrower than it is today. And there are no “islands” up its length, from what I can see. So if the shot is towards the south, as Wildnewyork contends, it would be University Place. Again, I’m no expert, so I’m willing to agree with miss10016. Either way, it’s another gem of a post!

  6. Ian Schoenherr Says:

    Brill Brothers was located at 44 East 14th and Automatic Vaudeville at 48 East 14th.

  7. wildnewyork Says:

    Before posting, I looked up the addresses of Brill Brothers and Automatic Vaudeville to find out which street the photo depicts. 14th it is.

    It does look a lot like 17th Street because similar old buildings still exist there. On the 14th Street side, they were knocked down and in its place went a couple of big box-type stores occupied over the years by May’s, Bradlee’s, and other discount chains.

  8. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    And before May’s was Lane’s Department Store. Older but no different.

  9. A lovely view of Union Square, 1905 « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] the dance halls and cheap theaters lining Broadway did brisk business the night […]

  10. swarovski Says:


    When trolleys cut through Union Square « Ephemeral New York…

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