Has any of Manhattan’s avenues changed as much over the past 100 years as Park Avenue? Known as Fourth Avenue until the late 19th century, it was cut with railroad tracks, as evident in this 1905 photo looking south from 56th Street.
“Because of increased traffic, smoke and noise, the city eventually required the railroad to lower its tracks into an open cut or tunnel from 46th to 96th Streets,” according to New York Then and Now, published in 1976.
“Here we see seven tracks, of which three are temporary, while new tracks are being laid preparatory to electrification. A retaining wall is being built on each side of the cut to allow additional space for an enlarged station approach.”
On the left before the bridge at 54th Street is a Steinway piano factory, in front of the Schaefer Brewery, with the cupola, which once stood at 51st Street.
By 1975, when the second photo was taken, Park Avenue in midtown had become a posh canyon of office towers and a few luxury apartment houses.
The center structure is the New York Central building (now the Helmsley Building), right in front of the Pan Am Building, which opened in 1963.
Today, this juncture resembles its 1975 incarnation—except the trees planted on the mall have grown taller, and the Pan Am Building is the Met Life Building, purchased from Pan Am in 1981.
[Top two photos from New York Then and Now, Dover]