A traveler’s 1971 snapshot below Herald Square

The taxi-choked traffic hasn’t changed much in the 48 years since a Dutch traveler named Hans Ketel snapped this photo while on a road trip across the United States.

But 32nd Street and Sixth Avenue, just south of Herald Square, is a very different place than it was in summer 1971—and not just because coconut oil (and billboards featuring women in bikinis selling it) have fallen out of favor.

For starters, 32nd Street is now Koreatown. Gimbels, a major department store in New York before going bankrupt in 1987, would have been on the right. J.C. Penney is there now.

The area is no longer the upper reaches of what used to be known as the Photo District, vestiges of which can still be found on some Flatiron side streets. (See the Olden Camera building in the center and Camera Barn to the left.)

Notice the French Renaissance building to the left? It’s the Hotel Martinique (you can just make out the old red vertical sign on the facade), built in 1898 as an apartment house before being turned into a high-class hotel.

By 1971, the Hotel Martinique’s glory days were long over. Two years after this photo was taken, it would become a welfare hotel until 1988—a place so notorious and dangerous, former residents are still posting stories of survival there on an Ephemeral New York post from 2008.

These days, it’s a spiffy Radisson.

[Photo copyright © Hans Ketel]

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13 Responses to “A traveler’s 1971 snapshot below Herald Square”

  1. Mike Says:

    Great photo but this is sixth ave

  2. petey Says:

    that little park in the middle is still there. i know this because i can now take the Q from the east side to penn station, and the stop is on that corner.

    i think that it’s all one-way now.

  3. Bill Wolfe Says:

    Anyone know the building a couple of blocks away on the left with the dark mansard roof? It looks interesting. Also, I think that little tan car might be a Corvair!

  4. Kevin Says:

    So is that two-way traffic on Sixth Ave then? Or am I looking at the pic wrong?

  5. A Different Kevin Says:

    Since you mentioned Herald Square, The little park between 32 & 33rd bound by 6th & Broadway is known as Greeley Square. Both Squares being Triangles!

  6. Tom B Says:

    And why do some residents of NYC pine for those days back in the 60’s, 70’s & 80’s? Shame on Rudy for cleaning up the City (sarcasm).

  7. Walk About New York Says:

    The patch of green beyond the Broadway sign is now Greeley Square, one of the stops on our Five Squares and a Circle Tour [http://walkaboutny.com/the-tours/five-squares-and-a-circle-tour/].

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