Three ways of looking at East 86th Street

Few city neighborhoods have changed in the past 100 years as much as Yorkville, the center of German immigrant life through much of the 20th century. This new Kleindeutschland was a hub for German food, culture, and politics for decades.

This photo shows the main drag, 86th Street, looking east from Lexington Avenue; it was published in the wonderful book New York Then and Now.

The book tells us that the six-story building on the right, behind the middle of the second car on the Third Avenue El, was the Yorkville Casino, a popular social center.

Sixty-one years later, here’s the same view of 86th Street. High-rise apartment buildings have replaced walkups, movie theaters, and the Casino, and street traffic has increased dramatically—no more Third Avenue El to whisk passengers above ground.

Here’s the same view today: fewer tenements, more high-rises, lots of chain stores, same amount of traffic. It’s still called Yorkville on maps, but it’s less of a distinct neighborhood than ever.

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13 Responses to “Three ways of looking at East 86th Street”

  1. Eric Veritas Blair Says:

    That picture of the Bund is the same view from 3rd ave.

  2. Lady G. Says:

    Wow, that’s awesome. It would be so cool to see a coffee table book of the streets in NYC from 3 distinct eras.

  3. petey Says:

    middle picture, just behind that end of that bus, was a little cigarette store that would sell me smokes when i was, er, not quite 18 yet.

    also, my friends and i would play hockey in the garage of the jeffersons’ building when it was going up.

  4. Tom Doody Says:

    thank you from NJ near the Lincoln Tunnel, my wife is a former resident, 88, York y First

  5. Michael Says:

    Do you know the date of the second photo? I grew up in this neighborhood and I believe that the building I grew up in is the large building on the left, trying to confirm.


  6. Ryan Says:

    Most of these New York Then and Now are from the early 20th century in the first photo, the second is usually the mid 1970’s and the third is a present day shot. It’s really current too, that Brookstone on the left is brand new.

  7. wildnewyork Says:

    Right, the second photo is from 1975. The third one is from last Saturday!

  8. Ryan Says:

    Yes, I had assumed that our adventurous website administrator was the one taking these recent shots. I found ephemeral by the way because I googled the Lou Gehrig plaque that is right outside my building, and I’ve been losing productivity at work ever since. Now I notice two-letter phone exchanges, old plaques, and even a piece near my building from J. Marren Iron works formerly located a block from where my office stands today.

  9. Madame Weebles Says:

    I had relatives who lived in this neighborhood back in the 30s and 40s, they’d be stunned to see what it looks like now.

  10. Liza Says:

    I grew up about five blocks south and went to school four blocks north. In the early fifties, when I was little, our parents told us to be wary of 86th street because we were Jewish. But the hand – made marzipan and smells of fresh bologna drew us in. I’m shocked to see it as it is today.

  11. Mara Says:

    I grew up on 87th between York and East End in the 50s and 60s There were German toy stores and book stores, even a shoe store. And as far as I know, only one food store still survives on 86th – Schaller and Weber Meats. I remember the polkas coming out of the German beer halls upstairs, and the women fanning themselves as they cooled down on the stoops.

  12. wildnewyork Says:

    Wouldn’t it be something to walk down 86th Street and hear a polka today?

  13. WYoung Says:

    First time I ever got drunk, St.Pats day, on 86th st. Tuxedo Ballroom. Before there was Google, there was Barnie Googles. I met my wife in the parking lot. Went to St. Monica’s GS on 80th st.

    Picnics in Carl Schultz park, swimming in John Jays park pool. Hanging out at the East side house.

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