Archive for the ‘Random signage’ Category

A close-up look down Cortlandt Street in 1908

April 27, 2015

“Cortlandt Street, New York, showing the Singer Building,” reads the caption of this postcard.

Cortlandtstreetpostcard1

What a time capsule we’re looking at from what appears to be West Street. Not only is there no more Singer Building (brand new in 1908, demolished in 1968), but the small-scale walkups on the right were obliterated to make way for the World Trade Center in the early 1970s.

Cortlandt Street at this time had not yet earned its wonderful nickname, “Radio Row.”

Cortlandtstreet1908bandw

That’s the platform for the Ninth Avenue El, which ran up Greenwich Street. Compare the postcard to the actual photo it comes from.

Shorpy has the enlarged image here, so you can gaze at old New York in incredible detail.

The shadowy corners of a city street in 1930

April 20, 2015

“Corner Shadows,” by printmaker Martin Lewis, depicts a Depression-era city of lamp light, back streets, and regular New Yorkers absorbed in their own thoughts, even in a crowd.

Martinlewiscornershadows

It’s not clear what corner of the city we’re on, but the drugstore across the way hints that it’s ordinary and nondescript, a working class neighborhood perhaps.

Look close, and you can see ads for Ex-Lax, soda, and seltzer, plus a counter occupied by a few lonely souls.

Much of Lewis’ extraordinary drypoint prints give us a similar New York noir . . . sometimes with a bit of playfulness.

Is this really the shortest street in Manhattan?

April 6, 2015

EdgarstreetsignManhattan has no shortage of dead-end alleys and one-block streets.

But at 63 feet long, Edgar Street, way down beside Battery Park City off of Greenwich Street, just might hold the title of the borough’s shortest thoroughfare.

It’s named after a shipping magnate whose mansion fronted Greenwich Street around the turn of the 19th century, when lower Greenwich was the Millionaire’s Row of the era.

Edgarstreet

Edgar Street’s title come from an insightful post from the folks at Curbed, who relied on data from Property Shark. The Street Book, which explains the origins of all of Manhattan’s street names, also cites Edgar Street as the shortest.

weehawkenstreetsignThing is, other sources have it that Mill Lane should get shortest-street honors.

“[T]iny Mill Lane in the financial district appears to be the shortest of them all, coming in a few feet shorter than Edgar Street,” stated Michele and James Nevius, authors of Inside the Apple, in a New York Times Q and A.

EdgarstreetoldOver in the West Village, an ancient sign nailed to a wall on slender Weehawken Street names this one-block lane between West 10th and Christopher Streets as Manhattan’s smallest (above left).

Gay Street, Moore Street, Jones Street, and St. John’s Lane are also contenders for the title.

So which is really the shortest street?

Since Mill Lane doesn’t appear to allow traffic through it anymore, I’m going with Edgar (right, in an undated NYPL photo . . . is that the Ninth Avenue El overhead?).

Easter menus from New York’s restaurant past

March 30, 2015

EasterdinnermenufrontwindsorEaster dinner was a feast at the luxurious Hotel Windsor in 1893, once on Fifth Avenue and 46th Street.

Judging by the cover of the menu (left), the day’s religious significance was front and center.

Starting with “Easter eggs,” this Gilded Age menu details more than seven hefty courses, ending with a delicious strawberries and cream option.

Mutton kidneys and frizzled beef, on the other hand, sound less than appetizing.

Easterdinnerwindsor1893

Fast-forward to 1955. We’re at the Park Lane Hotel (located on Park Avenue and 48th Street until 1971), and Easter Dinner is now Easter Sunday Brunch, its religious significance not referenced.

The menu is a lot smaller and features brunch favorites New Yorkers indulge in today, such as Eggs Benedict and pancakes (okay, wheat cakes) and sausage.

Easterbrunchhotelparklane1955

Looks like only hot buns, filet of sole, and sausage appear on both menus, which are part of the New York Public Library’s fantastic Buttolph Collection of American menus.

If the Park Lane Hotel still hosts an Easter Brunch, I bet it’s no longer $4.50 a person!

What remains of the East River’s long-gone slips

March 16, 2015

 Slipold2015Old maps of Lower Manhattan (like the one below, from 1842) list them: the many slips created along the East River to facilitate ship transportation in a city dependent on maritime trade.

 From Gouverneur Street to Whitehall Street, 12 slips offered “access to the shoreline by small craft such as ferries and farmers’ market boats,” states oldstreets.com. “There were markets at most of the slips at one time or another.”

Slipsmap1842

Today, some exist in name only. Eleven were gone by the middle of the 19th century, early victims of the city’s valuable real estate. The last one disappeared by 1900.

Slipmarket2015“It was the need for additional land that caused the passing of New York’s historic slips,” states a 1924 New York Times article.

“Those alleyways of water were two blocks long and as many wide, flanked about by rocking wharves at which tied up the small boats belonging to mother vessels further out, or the mother vessels themselves if not too large.”

“And with the passing of these slips passed also the romance of the clippers, our country’s first sailing vessels.”

What wonderful names they had! Some were derived from prominent Dutch-born landowners, like Coenradt and Antjie Ten Eyck (Coentje—later Coenties—Slip).

Slipsnyt1924

Others were named for the businesses nearby, like Coffee House Slip, once at the end of Wall Street where several coffee houses had popped up in the late 18th century (above, in a New York Times sketch).

Slipburling2015

There was also Fly Market Slip, a corruption of the Dutch vly, meaning valley, according to oldstreets.com.

The rest were Gouverneur, Rutgers, Pike, Market, Catherine, James, Peck, Burling, and finally, Old Slip.

Neglected subway signage from another New York

February 23, 2015

OldsubwaysignagechamberscloseupIt’s been decades since the MTA introduced the spiffy white-on-black subway station signs on platforms that clearly spell out the name of each station.

But they didn’t get rid of all the scruffy signage from decades past. Some 1970s-era examples can be found in some of the grungier corners of subterranean New York City.

Exhibit A: these long-neglected old-school signs at the Chambers Street 1, 2, and 3 train station.

Oldsubwaysignagechamberstreet

I guess someone made a half-hearted attempt to cover up the old “Chmb’rs” sign, then gave up after coating half of it in the blue paint used for the rest of the wall.

Oldsubwaysignstorplace

At Astor Place, it looks like someone souvenir-hunting tore off the newer Astor Place or Cooper Union signs, revealing this unglamorous one-word sign below.

A Times Square neon sign through the years

January 19, 2015

Bondtimessquare1950sFans of old-school New York neon know the Bond Clothes billboard and sign, the enormous and spectacular signage that lit up Broadway and 45th Street in different forms from the 1940s to the 1980s.

Captured in countless photos (at left, on New Year’s Eve 1950), the sign that stood from the late 1940s to the mid-1950s—with a clock in the O of the Bond name—has become an emblem of Times Square’s postwar glory years.

“This sign was 50 feet tall and 200 feet wide, spanned two streets, and featured a 50,000 gallon waterfall,” states this page from the Sign and Billboard Blog.

Bondsignnighttime

“Surrounding this waterfall were two classical-style figures of a man and woman who were nude during the day, but clothed in neon togas and dresses at night.” (Electric lights turned on at night gave the impression the figures were wearing clothes.)

Bondtimessquare1979By the late 1950s, Bond began leasing the billboard space to other brands, like Pepsi, which turned the two human statues into giant soda bottles.

As Times Square slid into decay (above, in 1979), part of the Bond sign continued to live on—even after the store went out of business in 1977.

Bondclashposter

The venue became the Bond’s International Casino, a nod to the International Casino, a 1930s-era nightclub that existed on the site.

Bond’s was a short-lived disco and rock venue that featured dancing and live acts, most famously the Clash.

Bondeyewitnessnews2

The Clash played 17 shows in 15 nights there in 1981 (opening acts: Grandmaster Flash and the Dead Kennedys, among others).

This made the news because concert promoters oversold tickets, which led to the fire department getting involved, as Channel 7 reported live from the scene the night of one of the planned shows.

Today the site is the location of the restaurant Bond 45, which continues the neon sign tradition. (Second photo: Wikipedia; third photo: Bow Tie Partners)

The 1913 Lincoln Highway began in Times Square

December 15, 2014

LincolnhighwaytimessquareIn 1913, before Times Square became the crossroads of the world, its streets were known for another milestone: the starting point for the nation’s first coast-to-coast highway.

Called the Lincoln Highway, this 3,389-mile interstate linking New York and San Francisco has been mostly forgotten.

But its eastern terminus was Broadway and 42nd Street (below, in a 1914 postcard). “The route proceeded west for one mile along 42nd Street to a ferry that took travelers across the Hudson River to New Jersey,” states the website of the Lincoln Highway Association.

Timessquarepostcard1914

From there, the highway went through New Jersey, crossed the Delaware into Pennsylvania, and wound its way through nine more states before reaching California.

This was a pretty big deal at the dawn of the automobile age, when most roads were unlikely to be paved.

Lincolnhighwayheadlinenytimes

Traveling by train was the only way to get from one city to another, until Carl Fisher (below), an Indianapolis businessman who made a fortune producing carbide-gas headlights, had an idea.

He convinced the heads of car companies to donate money to build a transcontinental road crossing the United States, deciding on the Lincoln moniker to give it a patriotic flair.

CarlfisherlincolnhighwayThe Lincoln highway was dedicated on October 31, 1913. At the time, highway officials figured that a trip from New York to California would take 20 to 30 days . . . at 18 miles per hour!

The highway’s glory days were over after World War II, with parts of it absorbed into other interstates.

But in 2009, amid a wave of Lincoln Highway nostalgia, a contemporary street sign marking the highway’s New York beginning went up at Broadway and 42nd Street.

[Images: Wikipedia; Times Square postcard stamped 1914, from the NYPL Digital Gallery; New York Times headline, 1913; Carl Fisher]

A 30th Street memorial to a martyred president

November 27, 2014

LincolnplaquecornersignNinth Avenue at 30th Street is a noisy corner, thanks to recent High Line–inspired construction and idling tunnel traffic.

But on the facade of the hulking Morgan Postal Facility on the southwest corner is a little piece of history, a hard-to-see plaque that traces the trail of a martyred president.

The plaque marks the spot as the former site of the Hudson Railroad Depot, where Abraham Lincoln arrived when he visited the city in February 1861 en route to his inauguration as president.

Lincolnplaque2It was also the place of his final departure from New York, on April 25, 1865.

That’s when Lincoln’s casket was lifted into the special car of what was termed his funeral train. This followed 24 hours of public viewing of his open casket at City Hall, and then a solemn funeral procession up Broadway to Union Square.

The day before, on April 24, Lincoln’s body arrived in New York via a ferry from New Jersey to Desbrosses Street.

A crowd of thousands greeted his casket as it was loaded onto a horse-drawn carriage to City Hall.

The next day, as this illustration shows, another crowd sent his casket off by rail, where it would travel to Albany, then cities in Ohio and Indiana before stopping in Chicago and finally Springfield, Illinois for burial.

HRrailroaddepotillustration

Perhaps this is how the Lincoln Tunnel was named, thanks to its proximity to the depot torn down in 1931? A quick check of Lincoln Tunnel historical sites doesn’t mention anything about it though.

An old subway sign points the way to New Jersey

November 17, 2014

Downtown’s Cortlandt Street R train station has a surprising old New York secret: mosaic tablets telling riders how to get to the Hudson Tubes—one of the early 1900s name for today’s PATH train tunnels.

Cortlandtstreethudsontubes

Until the late 1960s, the Hudson Terminal, which took riders through the Hudson Tubes to points in Hoboken and beyond, was located above ground near Cortlandt Street.

CortlandtstreetsubwaysignHudson Tubes signage still exists in other stations too, like at Sixth Avenue and 14th Street.

There the tiles point the way to the H&M Railroad, for Hudson and Manhattan, the line that used the Hudson Tubes.

It’s a much more illustrious name than PATH, no?


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,160 other followers