Strange carriages on an unpaved, unknown stretch of Seventh Avenue

There’s a lot to unravel in this postcard of Seventh Avenue around 1900. First, what stretch of Seventh are we looking at? This doesn’t look like downtown, where Seventh Avenue would be lined with a mishmash of older walkup buildings.

This Seventh Avenue doesn’t look like the section below Central Park, which at the time had transformed into a luxury apartment house district.

Could the view be of Seventh Avenue above the park in Harlem, where rapid residential development at the end of the 19th century would explain the more uniform rows of apartment buildings? It could account for the yet-to-be-paved road as well.

Then there are the unusual vehicles with just a driver’s seat and four small wheels. They’re too small to be considered carriages or coaches, and the formation of them on the road suggests a race of some kind—with crowds on the sidewalk eagerly watching.

[MCNY: x2011.34.385]

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25 Responses to “Strange carriages on an unpaved, unknown stretch of Seventh Avenue”

  1. countrypaul Says:

    Are there any contemporary photos with which to compare it? Or perhaps this was a “proposed” concept….

  2. Joe R Says:

    I think you’re right about it being uptown. A little “walk” on Google Maps up 7th Avenue (AKA Adam Clayton Powell Blvd in Harlem) I see a pretty good match of the buildings flanking 112th Street.

    • Greg Says:

      It’s too bad naming conventions have gotten so unorthodox. Powell Blvd, Douglas Blvd, those sound nice. James Madison Jr Avenue sounds weird.

      • countrypaul Says:

        James Madison Jr. Avenue would join Avenue of the Americas on the list of “thanks but no thanks” names. (How many people say Mario Cuomo Bridge instead of Tappan Zee? Few, based on my experience. : coming up I-287 to the state line, the New Jersey signs say “Tappan Zee” but cross the line and it says “Mario Cuomo.” A non-local would be lost….)

  3. nycal99 Says:

    It’s the stretch of Seventh Avenue that belongs to the postcard manufacturer who says to himself, “Not a single person who gets a postcard labeled “Seventh Avenue, NYC” will have a clues what Seventh Avenue in NYC looks like, so I’ll just label a random photo of Toronto as Seventh Avenue NYC. “

    >

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Toronto? I definitely think this is NYC, and the road is quite wide, as Seventh Avenue is. Postcards showing off the beauty of New York’s avenues were produced en masse in the early 1900s penny postcard era…I just wish this one came with a more precise location.

      • Mykola Mick Dementiuk Says:

        How about 7th Avenue in Brooklyn? When I was kid, a few times I wandered through those tall buildings, but as a kid all buildings were tall. I just thought this was Brooklyn.

      • Greg Says:

        @Mykola Mick Dementiuk the buildings in Park Slope you are thinking of are all on 8th Ave. This is definitely 7th Avenue in the 140s, it matches perfectly.

      • ephemeralnewyork Says:

        Hi Mick, I thought of Seventh Ave in Brooklyn too, but it just didn’t line up.

    • Greg Says:

      On the contrary, I’ve looked at thousands of postcards from this era and I’ve never seen them do any such thing. They made postcards out of obscure small towns and relatively insignificant buildings (such as this one) in larger cities. They are a priceless treasure trove of information to us now.

  4. Ty Says:

    Looks like in the 140s. Could be an extension of a Harlem River Drive event which was called a speedway literally for diving horses. That one horse shay pictured was like the sports car of the era.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      A shay, thanks Ty. I was racking my brain for a more precise word to describe the little one-seaters in the postcard.

  5. ForceTubeAvenue Says:

    Hi – I find it strange that the card is dated 1939, likely many years after the actual event. It’s possible that the label itself is incorrect.

  6. Toni Rorapaugh Says:

    I believe those vehicles are sulkies, and it looks more like a parade than a race. Looks like an authority of some kind on horseback in the left background.

  7. velovixen Says:

    My vote is with what is now called AC Powell Jr. Blvd, somewhere in the vicinity of 110th to 116th Streets.

  8. tetshill Says:

    The commercial building on the right-hand side is now the New Ebony Hotel and is at the corner of West 112nd Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.

  9. 7th Avenue – The Harlem Neighborhood Block Association Says:

    […] Ephemeral New York highlighted a postcard recently that featured a broad, earthen boulevard, stately apartment buildings, and horses and carriages. […]

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