The relics on tenements at a Lenox Hill corner

On the east side of First Avenue at 69th Street are two tidy tenements—and each one has a curious remnant of old New York on its facade.

The tenement on the north side has the cross streets carved into it at the corner. Look up to the second story, and you’ll see “1st Ave 69th St.”

These cross street carvings used to be very common in tenement neighborhoods, and many can still be found, if mostly faded and crumbled.

Perhaps they functioned as streets signs on poorer blocks that didn’t have actual signs in the early 20th century, when the tenements went up.

I’d heard that some of these signs were meant to tell elevated train riders where they were—but that’s not the case with these, since First Avenue never had an elevated train.

The cross street signs on the tenement across the corner is more unusual.

This one has two handmade “69st” signs etched in, as if finger-painted on the plaster.

More tenements with cross streets on them can be found in Manhattan and Brooklyn—especially in older neighborhoods like Williamsburg, downtown Brooklyn, the East Village, and the Lower East Side.

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3 Responses to “The relics on tenements at a Lenox Hill corner”

  1. Zoé Says:

    I never noticed these before until you pointed them out Ephemeral!

    The one in the plaster *is* really interesting. It looks like some previous molding – & probably the earlier sign – came off & the landlord or maintenance felt compelled to write it in the plaster or cement (?). I wonder if there was some minor law requiring it then & that was why.

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    I think you’re right about the molding coming down, and then some maintenance person or contractor had a little fun and wrote in the streets number!

  3. David H Lippman Says:

    Look carefully and you can find these all over New York, Hoboken, and even Newark.

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