The intersection of Seventh Avenue and 23rd Street, with its unremarkable mix of mostly low-rise tenements and a few new loft buildings, looks like so many other city corners in 1914.
That’s the year the photo was taken; it’s from the wonderful 1976 book New York Then and Now.
Yet it still tells us a lot about the New York City of 99 years ago. The subway won’t arrive until 1918, and street car tracks criss-cross the roads. A lone policeman stands in an island, waiting for traffic.
A sign for a clothing store is on the left. On the right we can see signs for laundry, a “lunch room,” and Bergin’s, a corner saloon “which provides customers with easy entrance and exit by three entrances with swinging doors as well as by the family entrance on the side,” the caption states.
By 1974, traffic lights have been installed and the saloon and clothing store are gone, but the tenements that housed them are still standing.
In the third image, it’s 2013. Traffic islands are up, the corner tenements are hanging on (the one on the left is a clothing store again), flanked by new apartment buildings.
The tall loft building on the left in all three photos is the Mercantile Building, constructed in 1912 . . . and today a celebrity filled condo with a Whole Foods on the ground floor.