Archive for the ‘Upper West Side/Morningside Hts’ Category

Is this the first McDonald’s in New York City?

September 8, 2013

[Update: Thank you to everyone who ID'd this as Boston, not NYC. My apologies; post will be deleted]

Look closely at the left side of the 1905 postcard photo, and you can see the sign: “McDonald’s Restaurant.”

Hmm, could this humble-looking eatery have any idea that in less than seven decades, a different McDonald’s would start taking over the city?

72ndstreetpostcard

The first McDonald’s franchise opened at 215 West 125th Street in 1973, reports this New York magazine piece, and now, there are more than 74 just in Manhattan.

72ndstrestaurantcropWhat I’m calling the original first McDonald’s, the one in the 1905 photo, appears to be on Upper Broadway; according to the store owner who sold it to me, it’s 72nd Street and Broadway.

But the kiosk looks so different. Can anyone positively ID it?

The dates on New York’s buildings and signs

September 2, 2013

I love looking up at old signs and facades and seeing the date the building or business opened. Sometimes the numbers are more functional than architecturally beautiful, but it’s always worth knowing how long a store or service has been around.

Northerndispensarysign

The sign for Northern Dispensary, kind of a walk-in health clinic for Greenwich Villagers in the early 19th century, has one of the oldest dates I’ve seen: 1827.

Treissbuilding

By comparison, the Treiss Building, on Atlantic Avenue on the Cobble Hill-Brooklyn Heights border since 1872, is practically a newbie.

1894datefirehouse

Ornamentation like this, from the facade of a city firehouse established in 1894 in the Flatiron District, is always a treat. And the AD is a nice touch.

Thomasdrugs1904

I’d love to go back in time and see what Thomas Drugs, on Columbus Avenue on the Upper West Side, looked like in 1904.

Yonahshimmelsign

Judging from its shabby-chic faded look, the sign for Yonah Shimmel Knishes, on Houston Street, just might actually have been painted in 1910.

Left behind street signage of an older Manhattan

August 5, 2013

Readers of this site know that street signs are a favorite here, especially the old-fashioned kind carved into a building’s facade—like the one below at Sixth Avenue and 24th Street.

Doesn’t the lettering transport you to an entirely different New York? In fancy type it tells us that we’re at The Corner.

Thecornersign

“Built in 1879, it was called ‘The Corner’ and was the beer hall annex to Koster & Bial’s Vaudeville Theater/Concert Hall, where Victor Herbert conducted his 40-piece orchestra,” explains a 1995 New York Times piece.

102ndstreetsign

At the time, this was the center of an area called the Tenderloin (also referred to illustriously as Satan’s Circus), the late 19th century sin district filled with dance halls, gambling dens, and brothels.

This corner sign for 102nd Street and Broadway is also wonderfully decorative. I’m not sure when it went up, but it looks very turn of the 20th century. (Thanks to Ephemeral reader IA for pointing it out.)

Doyersstreetsign

This one on Doyers Street in Chinatown might be the oldest actual Manhattan street sign—meaning a sign affixed to a pole or side of a building, rather than a plaque or engraving.

Grimy and hard to read after decades stuck to this building, it harkens back to a more down and dirty Chinatown of tong wars, when Doyers Street went by the infamous nickname the Bloody Angle.

An apartment house called the “Harlem Dakota”

July 18, 2013

Grahamcourt1900sThe Dakota, the Apthorp, and the Astor regularly top the list of the most incredible apartment houses on the Upper West Side.

A bit farther north on West 116th Street is a lesser-known building that belongs in that group: Graham Court.

It’s a box-like eight-story structure containing 100 apartments that spans the block to 117th Street at Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard.

Grahamcourtcloseup

Designed by the men behind the Apthorp and Astor, Graham Court opened in 1901 and was considered Harlem’s first luxury apartment house, thanks to its limestone facade, Gustavino tiles, and servants’ quarters on the top floor.

Grahamcourtarchway(Though I doubt 116th Street counts as Harlem today, apparently it did 100 years ago.)

“Graham Court’s residents, all of whom were rich and white, entered the building through a gracious arch that led into a grand inner courtyard built over an underground stable,” wrote Jonathan Gill in Harlem: The Four Hundred Year History From Dutch Village to Capital of Black America.

Like a lot of developers who rushed to cash in on the growth of Harlem at the turn of the century, the people behind Graham Court probably thought it would remain rich and white forever.

Grahamcourt2013But a 1904 real-estate crash left blocks of empty buildings. African-American New Yorkers began relocating uptown, filling those buildings. In 1928, the first black resident moved into Graham Court, according to a New York Times article.

Graham Court hit hard times in the 1960s and 1970s. But the facade was landmarked in 1984, and though I don’t know what the apartments inside look like, from the street this remnant of Gilded Age New York appears to be well cared for.

A drama student left to die on a West Side roof

July 15, 2013

CarolineisenbergJust as so many other young adults have done, Caroline Isenberg (right), 23, came to the city to be an actress.

A Harvard grad who scored a small role in a TV movie during college, Isenberg enrolled in drama school and moved into an apartment at 929 West End Avenue, near 106th Street.

Today this Morningside Heights neighborhood looks safe. But in 1984, when she signed a lease, it had rougher edges. Reportedly, the building’s front door lock was frequently broken.

Early in the morning on December 2, 1984, Isenberg returned home by herself after seeing a Broadway play.

929westendavenueAs she entered her building, someone accosted her, forced her into the elevator, and took her to the roof, cops later determined.

There, she resisted her attacker’s sexual advances and robbery attempt and was stabbed nine times.

Her assailant locked the rooftop door and fled, leaving her dying on the rooftop and screaming for help.

“Her cries awakened the neighborhood and neighbors rushed to help her,” The New York Times reported.

Isenberg was brought to St. Luke’s Hospital. Remarkably, she was able to talk to police officers and doctors and give a quick description of her attacker before her life ended on the operating table hours later.

Emmanueltorresapphoto“All this for $12,” she told the doctors trying to save her. “I should have given him the money. I should have let him do it.”

It didn’t take long for police to arrest Emmanuel Torres (right), son of the building’s super.

Detectives reportedly said that Torres, 22, didn’t target Isenberg. But he’d planned to mug someone—and that mugging escalated into attempted rape, then murder.

Found guilty of murder in 1985, he was sentenced to life in prison.

Isenberg’s murder was big news at the time, and it prompted the 1980s band The Alarm to pen a (pretty terrible) song about her.

[Bottom photo: AP]

New York’s Italian food stores are fading fast

July 11, 2013

As New York’s Italian-Amerian neighborhoods continue to shrink, more and more of the grocery stores, butchers, and bakeries that made the city’s many Little Italys so unique have packed it in.

Courtpastryshopsign

Joe’s Dairy, the tiny cheese store on Sullivan Street (ah, the mozzarella!) was the latest old-school Italian shop to bite the dust.

Mastellonehouseofmeatsign

But some of these little mom and pops continue to hang in there, brightening streets with their typically red, green, and white signs and 1970s-esque typefaces.

MIlanositaliansausagesign

Court Pastry Shop and Mastellone Italian Deli, both on Court Street in Brooklyn, are still holding on. Home made Spumoni!

Zingonebrossign

Milano’s Italian Sausage is on the outskirts of the Meatpacking District. What a list of delicacies! I wonder how much longer it will stay.

Was Columbus Avenue in the 80s once an Italian enclave? If so, I think the Zingone Brothers shop is the last survivor. The family-owned grocery has been in business since 1927.

Albanesemeatsign

 Albanese Meats & Poultry has stuck it out on Elizabeth Street since 1923, when this was a Sicilian block with  half a dozen butcher shops. It’s a wonderful holdout—but I’m not even sure it’s actually still open.

Before the Majestic went up on Central Park West

July 4, 2013

Central Park West is lined with incredible apartment buildings with Art Deco touches. One of the loveliest and most renowned is the Majestic, the 29-story, circa-1931 residence at 72nd Street.

Hotelmajestic

But before that Majestic blew New Yorkers away with its style, another Majestic occupied the site: the equally as sumptuous Hotel Majestic.

Themajestic1931Built in 1894 when Central Park West was still a low-rise thoroughfare dominated by the Dakota up the block, the Hotel Majestic “had private bowling alleys, a grand lobby, horse-drawn carriages out front, and a rooftop garden,” writes Kevin C. Fitzpatrick in A Journey Into Dorothy Parker’s New York.

Parker lived there with her widowed father as a teenager—along with Gustav Mahler, Edna Ferber, and other celebs of the Gilded Age.

Luxury goes in and out of style, and by the 1920s, the first Hotel Majestic just wasn’t cutting it.

Old signs left behind on defunct city streets

June 24, 2013

If you have no idea where Manhattan’s College Place once was, you’re not alone.

This stretch of modern-day West Broadway between Barclay and Murray Streets was given the name in 1831, a likely nod to Columbia University, which once existed nearby.

Collegeplace

Columbia moved uptown, and eventually the name fell out of use. A remnant of the old moniker is carved into a red-brick building at Warren Street.

75thand9thave

Meet me at the corner of 75th Street and Ninth Avenue? It sounds odd to our ears, but it wasn’t until 1896, when Ninth Avenue was renamed Columbus Avenue.

The tenement building with the address chiseled into it predates the name change.

Mysterious male names over tenement doorways

May 13, 2013

Ever notice that when a tenement building has a name, it tends to be female? Bertha, Florence, Rose, Sylvia—names popular at the turn of the last century, when so many tenements were built, are etched above doorways all over the city.

But a handful of tenements buck the trend and appear to be named for a man. Is it the developer himself, or just a random name that happen to appeal to circa-1900 ears?

Jerometenementname

I wonder if that’s the case with Jerome. It’s the name of a tenement in Morningside Heights, perhaps a nod to Leonard Jerome, a flashy 19th century financier whose name still graces a park and thoroughfare in the Bronx? He’s also the grandfather of Winston Churchill.

Theodoretenementname

Theodore, on the Upper East Side, could be a tribute to Theodore Roosevelt. Or the builder’s son or brother?

Rogertenementname

The Roger, on 160th Street and Edgecombe Avenue in Washington Heights, is named for Roger Morris, a British army colonel who fought in the French and Indian War.

In the 1760s, he retired to an Upper Manhattan estate (now known as the Morris-Jumel Mansion) that still stands today.

Edgarcourttenementname

I don’t know who Edgar was or why a tenement on West 125th Street was named for him. But instead of the name being carved above the door, it’s laid in tile on the floor.

Cool old-school store signs found all over the city

May 4, 2013

You don’t see too many delis with a Te-Amo Imported Cigars sign anymore. This one was spotted above a bodega on Graham Avenue in East Williamsburg.

Teamocigarsignbrooklyn

Did neighborhood delis used to offer shoeshines, as the other end of the sign implies?

Manhattanflowershopsign

I don’t know what was covering up this Manhattan Flower Shop sign, on Manhattan Avenue in Morningside Heights. But I’m glad it’s visible again. The hand-drawn lettering is so charming.

Joejuniorsignthirdave

Is this Joe Junior diner, on Third Avenue in the teens, owned by the same people who ran the late, great Joe Junior on Sixth Avenue and 11th Street? I love a restaurant that spells seafood with two words.

Johnsshoerepairsign

“Factory Methods Used” may have been great advertising in the 1970s. But in today’s artisanal, DIY world, John’s Shoe Repair, on Irving Place, would have to instead boast that they rebuilt shoes by hand.

Salernosurgicalsuppliessign

Salerno Surgical Supplies is also on Graham Avenue in East Williamsburg. Its presence here might shed some light on the average age of neighborhood residents.


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