One century and three views of East 23rd Street

The area surrounding Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street was ultra-trendy in post–Civil War New York, first as a residential enclave and then an entertainment and shopping district.


By 1911, when this photo was taken (it comes from New York Then and Now, published in 1976), the area was less fashionable.

But it had its landmarks and haunts—Madison Square Park on the left, commercial loft and walkup buildings, and out of view on the right, the 1902 Flatiron Building. and look, no traffic lights!


“The eight-story Hotel Bartholdi, built in 1885 at the southeast corner of Broadway and East 23rd Street, was named after the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty,” states the caption. “It was home for many sportsmen attending events at nearby Madison Square Garden.”

By 1974, this corner was forlorn and dingy. The Bartholdi Hotel was torn down after a 1970 fire; buildings on its left that had housed art galleries were destroyed in a terrible 1966 blaze that killed 12 firefighters. “The demolition of the four buildings  created a large parking lot,” the book states.


In 2014, this corner—now part of the buzzy new NoMad neighborhood—is hot once again. Surrounding lovely Madison Square Park are apartment buildings and new and reconfigured co-ops.

There’s no room for a parking lot in this incarnation of Madison Square. Broadway south of 23rd Street has been pedestrian plaza-ized.

One small thing remains: a few old-school wood water towers.

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9 Responses to “One century and three views of East 23rd Street”

  1. Lisa Says:

    I lived on that block for over a decade and it changed a lot during my time there. It is a beautiful area. I have a picture of it from the late 1800s, complete with horse drawn carriages up front. Despite all the changes, you can still recognize it as the same place. (Love your site, by the way! Thanks so much for doing it!)

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thank you! It has changed so much in a decade, but then so has so much of Manhattan.

  3. Jim S. Says:

    I attended Baruch College on East 23rd in the late sixties. One day my friend and his girlfriend were sitting in Madison Square Park when they noticed a guy circling their bench and so they put her purse in between them. Just then a guy in a trench coat came running up, opened his coat and pulled out a cavalry saber and started chasing the wannabe robber across the park screaming war whoops at him. My friends said they were MUCH more scared of saber guy than robber guy. It was a lot more….colorful…. there back then!

  4. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    At the bottom of the Hotel Bartholdi was a pool hall and as a kid I used to play there quite a bit. No one asked to see your ID or what you were doing out of school, unlike Julian’s on 14th Street which seemed to attract truant cops. 23rd Street was nice, you always had the ‘gay’ park across the street, though it wasn’t thought of ‘gay’ at the time, and it was always easy to get picked up there. I very much liked the area.

    • mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

      Oh yeah, on the park side of 23rd St near Madison Ave, is a stairway leasing down, it’s used by the park employees to keep their supplies but years ago in the 1960-50s was a men’s bathroom. Would be interesting to see what it looking like now, if any old structures remain, urinals, toilet bowls, sinks or whatnot.

      • Jim S. Says:

        For sure the Parks Department employees kept at least one toilet and sink for their own use!

  5. FRANK M Says:

    I’m surprised that you didn’t mention the horrendous 50-some-odd story monstrosity the was built several years ago on the south side of 23rd Street at the foot of Madison Avenue and has stood mostly empty because of the developers’ bankruptcy (hoorah!!!) and other financial troubles. Additionally, the Metropolitan Life tower has, last I heard, been turned into (what else) either luxury condos or luxury co-ops (at least the structure wasn’t razed). And why, oh why, do you use the term “NoMad”? That’s hardly any less aggravating than “The Flatiron District.” It’s Madison Square, just like Union Square, Times Square, Verdi Square etc despite what the developers and landlords want anyone buying in to believe. Several years ago, when the area around one of Manhattan’s other monstrosities – the Highline – started to be over-developed (and, for at least the short-term, destroyed any hope of bringing industry and real skilled and un-skilled jobs back into the neighborhood), the developers tried to pin the appellation “Chelsea Heights” on the area. That one, thankfully, got laughed right of existence although “Far West Chelsea” came into the lexicon.

  6. Over a Century Ago, Caught in Snow « Big Apple Dayze Says:

    […] One century and three views of East 23rd Street […]

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