Is this the first McDonald’s in New York City?

[Update: Thank you to everyone who ID’d this as Boston, not NYC. My apologies; post will be deleted]

Look closely at the left side of the 1905 postcard photo, and you can see the sign: “McDonald’s Restaurant.”

Hmm, could this humble-looking eatery have any idea that in less than seven decades, a different McDonald’s would start taking over the city?


The first McDonald’s franchise opened at 215 West 125th Street in 1973, reports this New York magazine piece, and now, there are more than 74 just in Manhattan.

72ndstrestaurantcropWhat I’m calling the original first McDonald’s, the one in the 1905 photo, appears to be on Upper Broadway; according to the store owner who sold it to me, it’s 72nd Street and Broadway.

But the kiosk looks so different. Can anyone positively ID it?

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28 Responses to “Is this the first McDonald’s in New York City?”

  1. Frank M Says:

    The numbers “131” and “132” look as if they should be an address, but I can’t think of any place in the city where a building would have both odd and even numbers. If the street running lower left toward upper right in the top photo is Broadway, I’d say this view should be toward the northwest. Broadway south of 72nd Street has a much more dramatic curve to the southeast than is shown here.

    If either building number is actually an address, it would place the building on 72nd between Amsterdam and Columbus and would not be this close to the IRT station. It could not be a Broadway address since 131 or 132 Broadway would be in the vicinity of Liberty Street (give or take).

    Noting that the numerals appear to be much brighter and somewhat larger than the letters (in the second photo) I wonder whether they may have been retouched.

  2. Steve Says:

    I think that this isn’t NY but actually Boston.

  3. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Oh no, really? I was assured this was New York. It doesn’t identify the location but was made by the Rotograph Company, NYC.

  4. michael falsia Says:

    I question the 1973 date as the first Mcdonalds? I am quite sure that as a youth I ate at one in the Bronx during the summer of 72 after attending a Yankee game on Bainbridge ave..

  5. Richard Says:

    I have to agree with Steve: these kiosks look identical to the entrances to the Park Street station on Tremont Street as they would appear from Boston Common. This is hardly conclusive as the kiosks could well have been built in the same style; I’m just saying I recognized the spot instantly from Boston and can’t place a similar one in New York.

  6. Manhattan Past (@ManhattanPast) Says:

    I don’t think that’s 72nd Street, at any rate (not sure if it’s Boston or not) – the old control house that still stands there is the original from 1904 when the station opened, I believe.

  7. Matthew Grreenbaum Says:

    I can say fairly definitively that it’s Broadway and 72nd St. I’ve been in the building with the “paleo”McDonalds many times. The kiosks are for the IRT express and local (or, in modern English, the #1, 2 and 3); they kiosks were only torn down and rebuilt in the last 15 years.

  8. Steve Says:

    Definitely not 72nd street. Looks like Park St in Boston.

  9. drij Says:

    Yeah, I hate to say it but those are definitely the old Tremont Street subway kiosks in Boston. Possibly Park St or Boylston. (ref. )

  10. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thanks for all the input. I’m sorry about the error.

  11. Frank M Says:

    Don’t be sorry! Be a real New Yorker! Set up a picket line outside the store where you bought it, start a boycot and initiate a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the owner.

  12. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    The guy I bought it from is at least 90 years old! He’s an old-school New York character and must have made an honest mistake.

  13. Frank M Says:

    I was kidding, by the way.

  14. McDonald’s opens restaurant beside Nam Van Lake | Bonus Republic Says:

    […] Is this the first McDonald’s in New York City? […]

  15. JB Says:

    The Rotograph Co., which copyrighted this picture, did many scenes of American cities, including Boston. Their history can be found at:

    A Google image search for “Boston subway kiosks” reveals several streets that look similar, including Park Street, mentioned above.

  16. Says:

    I wish I had found your Blog sooner. Love the information and spirit! The McDonalds may be original indeed although most of NY was founded on the backs of the Irish !


    yes i can identify it.It’s “OLD MCDONALDS “HE HAD A FARM EI EI O





  20. Pinball29 Says:

    Please dont delete the entry. Its an honest mistake on a great blog. You cant get it right all the time and getting it wrong is just as informative!

  21. Richard Says:

    What Pinball29 said! If anything, preserving an entry with a corrected error shows readers how conscientious and attentive to detail this blog has always been and continues to be.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Thank you both! Maybe I’ll leave it up for a bit. I’ll see if I can find a photo of the real first McDonald’s too.

  22. JB Says:

    Don’t delete the post – it’s the gateway to a new challenge:

    Now that we’ve seen Boston’s, can anyone find the oldest McDonald’s restaurant in New York?

  23. Marc Says:

    The actual McDonalds fast food chain got its start in the 1940 as a drive in restaurant in southern california by the McDonald brothers. This 1905 McDonalds couldnt be of the same famous worldwide chain. Obviously just a restaurant coincidentally with the same name with no connection to the McDonalds company we know today.

    • JB Says:

      Marc, Lighten up and read the blog post again. This is a blog about New York in the good old days (mostly before chain restaurants populated the street corners). The post says clearly: “could this humble-looking eatery have any idea that in less than seven decades, a different McDonald’s would start taking over the city?”

      McDonald is a common name; many readers will be amused to discover the first eponymous restaurant in the city with no connection to the fast food chain.

  24. Mark O'Brien Says:

    This is the Park Street subway Kiosks at Park Street and Tremont Street in Boston. You are looking down Tremont Street. Saint Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral is visible, designed in the Greek Revival style by Alexander Parris. It is the third building from the left (across the street) with the gable facing Tremont Street, and the last structure above the subway kiosk. The two subwat kiosks still exist and are made of granite. The kiosks and St. Paul’s are the only buildings to survive to this day.

  25. rbrown Says:

    Thought it was Park St. too but the positioning of the two kiosks leads me to believe it’s actually the Boylston station one stop South (still a very cool photo, regardless if they got the city wrong!). There’s now a Loews movie complex where the buildings on the left are, with the Ansin Building (now part of Emerson College) and the Free Mason headquarters occupying the rest of the block as far as Boylston St. Ironically, were this Park St., there’d be a very real McDonald’s not far from where this “original” McDonald’s restaurant sits, not to mention a Burger King up the block for all of you with a more sophisticated pallet. Then, of course, there’s also the McDonald’s on 71st & Broadway…

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