Archive for August, 2010

“View of New York From Brooklyn Heights”

August 29, 2010

It’s strange to see this view without the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges spanning the East River and so many massive office buildings towering over lower Manhattan.

But this painting, from the New York Public Library digital collection, depicts a view of New York in 1849.

The East River is crowded with commercial and ferry traffic, and the most towering structures in Manhattan are church steeples.

Brooklyn is still a separate city; it won’t join the City of New York for almost 50 years. Brooklyn Heights is just coming into its own as New York’s first suburb.

Old phone exchanges spotted around the city

August 29, 2010

It’s a little worrisome that so many elevator alarm bells list a phone number with a pre-1960s exchange. Will someone really answer the call?

Exeter was a Long Island City exchange—from a warehouse building in Chelsea.

I couldn’t find any listing for Super B Drug, but luckily this colorful sign survives on Canal Street near Broadway. The CA exchange—CAnal, of course.

Keith Haring for David Dinkins in 1989

August 29, 2010

Was this Keith Haring-designed campaign button created for David Dinkins’ 1989 mayoral run—or his second bid in 1993? 

I’d guess 1989.

For one thing, Haring—whose graffiti-inspired images and designs are icons of the 1980s downtown art world—had already died of AIDS-related complications by 1993.

But also, Dinkins’ first term as mayor didn’t exactly reflect the racial healing he campaigned on in 1989, largely thanks to the Crown Heights riots of 1991. 

It seems unlikely he would have campaigned on that same theme again two years later, when his opponent was once again former prosecutor Rudy Guiliani.

An early view of Victorian Flatbush

August 26, 2010

These gorgeous homes are just as lovely today as they were in 1901, the year stamped on the back of this postcard.

That’s right about when Flatbush was colonized into middle-class neighborhoods of single-family houses.

“No section of Brooklyn has witnessed a more attractive and satisfactory development than the Flatbush section,” reports a New York Times article from 1910, kind of an early “If You’re Thinking of Living in” piece.

“Enjoying good transit facilities, with pleasant surroundings and admirably situated lots, it is not surprising that thousands of residents who wish to be close to the centres of the city’s commercial industries and yet possess the advantages of pleasant suburban homes have chosen Flatbush as a home site.”

I wish I could make out the handwriting at the top left. It looks like “565 East 31st Street.” It must be the address of the sender rather than the cross street in the postcard, since East 31st Street doesn’t cross Ocean Avenue. 

Defunct strip clubs of 1980s East Midtown

August 26, 2010

Of course Times Square in the 40s and 5os was a notorious adult entertainment mecca. But apparently there was some x-rated spillover into the quieter, much more residential east 40s. 

These ads for two now-defunct strip clubs appeared in a December 1980 New York Post (in the sports section, of course). 

141 East 45th Street, the site of Adam & Eve, is a smushed-in brownstone that doesn’t look like it could fit 25 hostess-dancers. Same with the former home of The Living Room at 151 East 49th Street.

I wonder what “Dalia” the China Doll is doing now?

Portraits of nameless Gilded Age New Yorkers

August 26, 2010

You can purchase their photos for a few bucks each at any flea market or junk shop in the city.

But who are these middle- and upper-class New Yorkers, and who did they give their portraits to?


      This well-dressed young woman with the fascinating bustle poses shyly with a houseplant. The photo studio is at 98 Sixth Avenue.

I’m guessing this is a communion photo on the right. I love this boy’s little suit jacket, knickers, and stockings.

The photo studio is at 920 Third Avenue in the East 50s.

19th century business cards for long-gone shops

August 24, 2010

I wonder what it was like to be a kid living near Frank J. Barker’s Confectionery 100 years ago, about when this card was printed. Just imagine that wonderful fresh baked bread smell and store counters teeming with cakes and pies.

And Charlotte Russes. Old-time New Yorkers still rave about this sweet treat.

327 Fifth Avenue—South Brooklyn until about 30 years ago, Park Slope now—currently houses a wine shop.

Madame Robson’s millinery goods must have been popular. She had two Brooklyn locations.

The three gores of Brooklyn

August 24, 2010

Brooklyn always does things a little differently. In this case, it’s the only borough to feature gores—small triangular parks—and use that word on park signs. Three still exist.

The word, the Parks Department tells us, is derived from “gara,” an Old English term for corner.

True to its name, Cuyler Gore is a little triangle of green at Fulton and Cumberland Streets and Greene Avenue in Fort Greene.

At Bedford Avenue and Bergen Street in Crown Heights is Grant Gore, featuring a giant statue of General Grant.

And East Williamsburg’s Memorial Gore, honoring World War I soldiers, lies at the junction of Maspeth, Bushwick, and Metropolitan Avenues.

Addresses carved into East Village corners

August 24, 2010

Tenements on street corners all over New York City have the cross streets carved into the facade.

But it seems like the East Village, particularly First and Second Avenues, has more of these carvings than any other neighborhood. 

I love the typeface of the one above, on Seventh and Second.

First and Ninth is ex-elementary school, now performance space P.S. 122.

Second Avenue and Sixth Street: a solid block featuring the century-old Block’s Drugstore.

The East Village may be filled with these address carvings. But I still think the loveliest one in all of New York is this, in Tribeca.

The star athletes of Brooklyn’s Boys High School

August 20, 2010

Class of January 1934, that is—back then, when Boys High in Bed-Stuy was a top high school, graduations took place in January and June.

If these kids were 18 in 1934, they’d be 94 now. They got their diplomas during the Depression and were young enough to serve in World War II.

We don’t know what their lives were like. But the Boys High yearbook, where this photo comes from, reveals a bit about their personalities and plans. 

Isidore Friedenthal was voted Best All-Around Man and Best Athlete. Sidney Firestone snagged Best Speaker and Class Salutorian. 

Thomas Walsh was Most Popular and headed to Holy Cross for engineering school. Enoch Stolder got into Syracuse dental. And August Bartoli was planning on “New York University School of Commerce.”