Archive for the ‘Transit’ Category

The slow fade of Brooklyn’s Times Plaza district

November 9, 2015

Today the name only remains on the Times Plaza Station, a post office built in 1925 on Atlantic Avenue between Third and Fourth Avenues.


But the area once known as Times Plaza—with aspirations to be as fabled as Manhattan’s Times Square, perhaps—was a bustling triangle amid the crossroads of the borough’s busiest thoroughfares.

Timesplazaeaglead1917Times Plaza had a handsome hotel as well as its own subway entrance, a gorgeous jewel box originally called the Times Plaza Control House after it opened in 1908. (Today, it’s the restored Heins & LaFarge kiosk with “Atlantic Avenue” on the facade.)

This transit hub also had shops and offices for the Brooklyn Daily Times, the newspaper that officially lent its name to the area in 1917.

Timesplazaskyscraper“Times Plaza: the triangular space bounded by Flatbush, Atlantic, and Fourth Avenues, recently so named by resolution of the Board of Aldermen,” this Brooklyn Daily Eagle ad proclaims excitedly.

In the 1920s, Times Plaza gained a polished, towering neighbor: the 37-story Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower, across Atlantic Avenue.

When the Times Plaza designation fell out of favor is a mystery.

The newspaper folded into the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1937; the hotel hung on at least through the 1950s. It’s now the Muhlenberg Residence, for formerly homeless men.


Like Ponkiesberg, Greenfield, South Brooklyn, and countless other vanished villages and towns in Kings County, Times Plaza is another no-longer-there enclave swallowed up by an always-changing borough.

[Hotel postcard:]

Trying to cross bustling Herald Square in 1902

October 19, 2015

Pedestrians, streetcars, horse-drawn wagons, elevated trains . . . getting from one side of Sixth Avenue to the other appears to be tricky at Herald Square just after the turn of the century.


I’m not sure if it’s exactly 1902. That’s the year Macy’s, in the upper left obscured by the Saks building in the center, moved from 14th Street to Herald Square.

And it’s probably not yet 1910, when automobiles began appearing more frequently, and mustaches like the one the man in the gray suit sports were on their way out of style.

Grand Central Station like you’ve never seen it

October 5, 2015

Looking strangely out of place on 42nd Street, this is Grand Central Station (formerly Terminal) in the early 1900s, after a renovation of the original 1871 structure—which had become too small for the growing metropolis.


Grandcentralterminal1871Cornelius Vanderbilt’s red brick terminal with its towering cupolas underwent a French Renaissance remodeling, which added three stories.

In the distance is the Queensboro Bridge, built in 1909. This version of Grand Central wouldn’t last long; it would be knocked down and replaced by the current Beaux-Arts beauty by 1913.

A rainy September evening at Madison Square

September 21, 2015

It’s just after the turn of the century in this enchanting postcard of the Fifth Avenue side of Madison Square Park.


The Flatiron Building is there, so it must be at least 1902. But carriages and drivers still line the street opposite the park, likely waiting for the city’s wealthy and powerful to emerge from the Fifth Avenue Hotel, demolished in 1908.

The postcard itself is postmarked 1910, and the writer has scribbled, “I am loving New York and having a great time.”

The whispering gallery in Grand Central Terminal

September 7, 2015

Among the loveliness inside Grand Central Terminal—the starry-skied ceiling, the clocks, the chandeliers—are some wonderful architectural mysteries.


One that appears to have been an accident of design is the whispering gallery. It’s on the lower level outside the Oyster Bar, under beautiful original Gustavino tiles on a low domed ceiling.

Face the wall and whisper, and your words can be clearly heard on other side of the 50-foot space—thanks to the way sound waves travel across the vaulted ceiling.


No evidence exists that the whispering gallery was anything more than a “happy coincidence,” says one of the architects who helped restore Grand Central in the 1990s, states this New York Times piece.

But other sources say it must have been intentional.


Rafael Gustavino and his son designed this part of the terminal “based on architectural principles that have been used for centuries worldwide—from St. Paul’s Cathedral in London to the Temple of Heaven in Beijing to the Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur, India,” according to New York Curiosities.

[Second image: postcard of the Whispering Gallery before the Oyster Bar was added; New York Times]

Faded ad reveals an old Brooklyn phone exchange

September 3, 2015

It’s hard to tell how old this Realty Corp. faded ad is. But it could date as far back as 1930. That’s when the Midwood phone exchange was created, usually abbreviated MI.


Construction off Kings Highway and East 16th Street brought the ad—and vintage graffiti—back into view. The best vantage point: from the Q train platform at the Avenue P Kings Highway subway station.


Phone exchange spotting is always fun, and there’s plenty of signs and ads still left in the city that have them. Just keep your eyes peeled!

Art Deco beauty of an East Side subway entrance

September 3, 2015

Art Deco skyscrapers stand proud like shiny monuments across the Manhattan skyline. But Art Deco subway stations? Those are harder to find.


The lucky commuters who take the E or 6 train at Lexington Avenue and 51st Street get to pass this stylized Art Deco subway entrance.

Thanks to the sleek design and surrounding buildings, it’s always the end of the Jazz Age.


The sign is right outside the General Electric Building (formerly the RCA Victor Building) a 1931 Art Deco beauty, with its decorative bursts along the facade meant to represent the awesome power of radio waves and electricity.

And that wonderful clock, with forearms that stretch time!

Something beautiful hiding under City Hall

June 22, 2015

No turnstiles, no token or MetroCard machines, no posters or maps—just a lovely vaulted-ceiling platform with an oak ticket booth at City Hall.


This City Hall station, with its chandeliers and skylights, had a short life span, from 1904 to 1945. You can catch a glimpse of it if you stay on the 6 train as it uses the City Hall station to loop back uptown again.

The ticket booth is long gone, but the station itself remains, sometimes open for tours, as seen in these recent photos.

The magic of the Queensboro Bridge at night

June 15, 2015

The Queensboro bridge was only one year old when Impressionist painter Julian Alden Weir depicted it and the surrounding cityscape in muted blue, green, and gold tones in “The Bridge: Nocturne.”


It’s not clear what street is lit so bright here, but it hardly matters.

The bridge is like a mountain poking out of the fog, looking down on the rest of the city, which appears miniaturized. Few pedestrians go about their way on the rain-slicked pavement, and random lights from store signs and office windows glow in the nighttime sky.

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.


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.”


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.


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