Rainy sidewalks and streetcar tracks in 1945

At Fourth Avenue looking toward Astor Place, Arthur Leipzig took this black and white shot of the street and trolley tracks slick with rain from what looks like a cold, dreary downpour.

The image captures the strange beauty of the city under dark, rainy skies, as well as a provocative moment during an ordinary New York day: pedestrians going on their way, the glow of a single traffic light, parked cars that have accumulated snow.


Leipzig, a wonderful photographer of New York’s moods and moments, passed away last Friday.

The New York Times wrote that “his goal was to capture people ā€” their personalities, problems and potential ā€” at a particular moment in the rush of time; making artfully lighted and carefully rendered portraits was not for him.”

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20 Responses to “Rainy sidewalks and streetcar tracks in 1945”

  1. Matthew Greenbaum Says:

    Isn’t that 4th Ave, looking toward Astor Place?

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    I think you’re right…how did I not recognize that? I only walk by it several times a week!

  3. Robert S Johnson Says:

    Reblogged this on The Quotidian Hudson.

  4. John Lynch Says:

    Either 4th Avenue near Astor Place, or Fulton Street (now roughly Cadmen Plaza) in Brookl;yn

  5. Mykola Mick Dementiuk Says:

    To me it looks like Union Square West and 15th Street. But what’s that statue on 14th St, Gandhi wasn’t up yet in 1945 or maybe planning to be? Haha!

  6. mvschulze Says:

    Really impressive photo. Even looks like one of NY’s finest just right of the pedestrian. Nice!

  7. Newport Carl Says:

    The commentary about the photo is as beautiful as the photo. Thank you

  8. anne c. fullam Says:

    Isn’t that the bull downtown, in the background?

  9. Walk About New York Says:

    This IS Fourth Avenue looking south toward Astor Place. The building on the right with the arched windows is a K Mart today. The subway entrance at the center of the photo has a replica of the original subway entrances.

  10. agardner58 Says:

    I believe John Lynch is might be correct, looks to me that this was taken looking south from what is now Cadman Plaza from approximately Montague Street. The building with the arches is now the NY Sports Club at Court & Remsen, and on the left I can see Brooklyn Borough Hall.

  11. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Wow, thanks, the mystery deepens. Also, many streetcar lines terminated at Cadman Plaza. The tracks in the photo support the possibility that this is Brooklyn, not Astor Place.

  12. Ed Newman Says:

    This is absolutely Downtown Brooklyn–Fulton Street/Court Street/Cadman Plaza looking South toward Borough Hall, with the Brooklyn Municipal building rising behind it. They look the same today. The statue in the center is that of Henry Ward Beecher, subsequently moved to just south of Johnson Street, on the plaza/Columbus Park in front of Kings County Supreme Court. I’ve seen this photo identified as such elsewhere. The buildings on the right/west side, and to the rear, south, are the SAME. The streets have been reconfigured since, and some eliminated, with the elimination of the street car tracks, and the construction of Cadman Plaza, Columbus Park pedestrian plaza and the Kings County Supreme Court building.

  13. Robert R Says:

    At first I thought this was Astor Place as well, due to that building on the right with the three large arched windows. That is not K-mart (the former Wanamakers store) which has many more arches. It is also not the NY Mercantile Building which has only two arches, nor the Carl Fisher building which has five. Besides, where’s Cooper Union? This must be somewhere else!

  14. Force Tube Avenue Says:


    It’s what is now Cadman Plaza, Brooklyn. Brooklyn Borough Hall is in the middle background and the Brooklyn Municipal Building is behind it, at 210 Joralemon Street. The statue near the subway entrance is of Henry Ward Beecher, the 19-century abolitionist preacher at the nearby Plymouth Church. The statue stands today, further north in Cadman Plaza.

    Since Fulton Street was closed off, we can’t see it from the exact corner, but here is a contemporary street view from Court Street, which should clear things up.


  15. Paul Says:

    Manhattan did not have trolley wires above the tracks; electricity was collected from a slot in between the running rails. This is most definitely Boro Hall, Brooklyn.

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