Three centuries at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue

“The pace was leisurely, with bicycles, horsecars, broughams, and hansom cabs comprising traffic,” states the caption to this 1898 photo looking north on Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street. It’s from New York Then and Now.


The twin lamppost makes a nice contrast to the twin Moorish-style towers of Temple Emanu-El, built in 1868 and a mainstay of this section of Fifth Avenue until 1927.

The building on the northwest corner at 42nd is the circa-1875 Hotel Bristol. See the stone wall with a low fence on the far left? There’s no New York Public Library Building yet.

The year this photo was taken, the Croton Reservoir would be torn down—the wall looks like part of the reservoir structure.


What a difference 76 years make. Fifth Avenue’s residential era is long over; it’s now the city’s commercial heart.

The temple, lampposts, and Hotel Bristol are gone, but the six-story building from 1870 on the far right still exists, with a Russell Stover candy store at the ground floor.


Thirty-eight years later, in 2014, Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street is still a crowded commercial corner, with one church steeple still in view.

What happened to the six-story building at the far right? It was swallowed up by H&M!

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5 Responses to “Three centuries at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue”

  1. crumpet212 Says:

    and on the left in the 1898 view, a lone cyclist rides downtown!

  2. Tom B Says:

    Is that steeple St. Patrick’s Cathedral?

  3. Staying at Midtown’s Hotel Bristol in the 1940s | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] to the Bristol Plaza Hotel in the East 60s today—or if it’s a larger version of the six-story Bristol Hotel at the corner of 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue in the late 19th […]

  4. JP Says:

    In the 1970’s picture, you can barely make out the “Record Hunter” which was a 2 story record shop located at 507 5th Avenue. Great spot

  5. pdesoiza Says:

    My dad was the building super for 503 505 and 507 from the 50’s until 1980’s

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