Posts Tagged ‘42nd Street photo’

Three centuries at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue

February 24, 2014

“The pace was leisurely, with bicycles, horsecars, broughams, and hansom cabs comprising traffic,” states the caption to this 1898 photo looking north on Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street. It’s from New York Then and Now.


The twin lamppost makes a nice contrast to the twin Moorish-style towers of Temple Emanu-El, built in 1868 and a mainstay of this section of Fifth Avenue until 1927.

The building on the northwest corner at 42nd is the circa-1875 Hotel Bristol. See the stone wall with a low fence on the far left? There’s no New York Public Library Building yet.

The year this photo was taken, the Croton Reservoir would be torn down—the wall looks like part of the reservoir structure.


What a difference 76 years make. Fifth Avenue’s residential era is long over; it’s now the city’s commercial heart.

The temple, lampposts, and Hotel Bristol are gone, but the six-story building from 1870 on the far right still exists, with a Russell Stover candy store at the ground floor.


Thirty-eight years later, in 2014, Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street is still a crowded commercial corner, with one church steeple still in view.

What happened to the six-story building at the far right? It was swallowed up by H&M!

Pershing Square: the little park that never was

September 30, 2013

PershingsquaresignIf you stand in front of Grand Central Terminal on 42nd Street, you’ll see lovely vintage signs for Pershing Square affixed to the Park Avenue viaduct.

Thing is, there’s really not much of a square to be found. The viaduct appears to cut into it, creating two slivers of car-free pavement crowded by sidewalk cafe tables.

What happened to it? A century ago, the city had great plans to turn this lot, formerly the Grand Union Hotel at 100 East 42nd Street at Park Avenue, into a victorious pedestrian plaza.


The hotel was razed in 1914, and the yet-to-be-developed square was named for World War I General John J. Pershing, commander of the U.S. forces.

Pershingsquare2013But it wasn’t meant to be. “The plot sat empty until 1920 when the city fathers sold it to a developer who built a twenty-four-story building there and named it the Pershing Square Building,” wrote Bill Harris in Five Hundred Buildings of New York.

Unless you count the afterthought of asphalt there now, Pershing Square basically ceased to exist after six years.

Here’s what it looked like from 1914 to 1920. At least the unusual signs remain!