The brick and mortar ghosts all over Manhattan

The history of New York City is written on its walls—the walls of apartment houses and commercial buildings still standing, bearing the faded outline of those that met the bulldozer long ago.


These phantom buildings are on every block (above, Fourth Avenue and 1oth Street), especially in today’s city with its constant renovation and rebuilding—what Walt Whitman called “knock down and pull over again spirit.”


The roofs of these faded ghosts are often slanted and peaked—hints that a Federal-style house or stable once existed there. I’m guessing this outline on 11th Avenue in the west 20s, above, was a stable.


Many of the outlines resemble the shells of tenements. This phantom at Rector Street, above, is likely all that remains of an anonymous tenement where generations of New Yorkers lived and raised families.


The ghost building on Great Jones Street near Lafayette Street above, with what appears to be the outline of three chimneys, looks too short to be a tenement. Probably just a walk-up with a couple of flats per floor.


The painted-white outline here on Third Avenue in Gramercy could have been a single family home, similar to the one on the left side of the photo hidden behind scaffolding.


On West 57th Street a lonely tenement bears the remains of its neighbor, which had what looks like a central chimney or rooftop exit door.


Is this the ghost of another stable or carriage house? It’s on the far West Side around 42nd Street, where the city’s last remaining working stables are.

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10 Responses to “The brick and mortar ghosts all over Manhattan”

  1. voluntariopr Says:

    What is the name of the red brick building with the mansard roof in the Laffayete Street photo?

  2. Keith V. Says:

    I read this blog with great interest as I have a love of history (especially NYC history) as well. Like you, I see the shadows and wonder, “What used to be there?”

    To help answer the above, I’d like to pass along the following to you in hopes that it helps to identify the kind of lost building each “shadow” represents.

    The above is described as “…a Google Street View map for New York City for the late 1800s and early 1900s.” While it does not offer the 2D and 3D imagery of the Real McCoy, it could help with lost structure identification in some instances.

    Again, yours is an excellent blog and I look forward to seeing “more of what’s not there anymore.”

    Keith W. Viverette, Sr.

  3. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thank you Keith! A terrific resource.

  4. Jack Says:

    Isn’t that first photo 10th and Fourth Ave?

    As always, great post! Much obliged for all the work and enlightening posts. Enjoying the book as well.

  5. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thank you Jack! I’ll change the address.

  6. trilby1895 Says:

    Mourning as I do every old, even undistinguished, building in Manhattan and Brooklyn, I fantasize myself coming into an unimaginably enormous fortune, so enormous that I could purchase every single old building, even nondescript tenements, in New York. I would maintain every one of them and congratulate myself for preventing greedy, small-minded developers from obliterating even one more brick of our irreplaceable heritage. Of course, this is a fantasy, and selfish, but it is what I would do.

    • Gloria Pitre Says:

      What a great idea. I, too, mourn the Manhattan I grew up in (1953). Chelsea, 25th street between 7th and 8th Avenues, was my home. I miss it so very much.

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