Posts Tagged ‘Croton reservoir’

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

The lovely bronze lampposts guarding Bryant Park

November 28, 2013

Bryantparklamppost1Bryant Park—known as Reservoir Square in the 19th century, thanks to the massive distributing reservoir that was once on the site of the New York Public Library Building—has lots of contemporary attractions: an ice rink, holiday shopping kiosks, and a sweet carousel too.

If you find yourself there, take a look at the heavy bronze lampposts that light all the park’s entrances.

They’re pretty impressive, no? These are old-school park lampposts that make it clear you’re about to enter an enchanting little pocket of green amid Midtown’s skyscrapers and office towers.

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The ornamentation, the four ram heads, and the clawed feet at the base are unique to Bryant Park. I’m not aware of any other city park has a lamppost quite like it.

Manhole covers that have something to say

April 7, 2010

You walk and ride over them constantly—but have you ever stopped to read the inscriptions on city manhole covers? Some are pretty unique.

Like this one that reads “Croton Aqueduct DPT 1862.” It’s in Jefferson Park on First Avenue and 112th Street and refers to the engineering marvel that brought fresh water from upstate to Manhattan.

The water was stored in a massive reservoir at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, where the New York Public Library is today.

This next cover is a bit of a mystery. It seems to read “Sewer B of B” for borough of Brooklyn or borough of the Bronx. Except I found it in Harlem near 125th Street.

Another personalized manhole cover is in West Chelsea, marking the lovely General Theological Seminary on Tenth Avenue.

A 1940s view outside the Public Library

March 15, 2010

This postcard was mailed in 1943. But a typical day at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street doesn’t look much different in 2010.

Here’s a look at what occupied this corner before 1911, when the building opened.

When New York’s water came from 42nd Street

June 14, 2009

This photo, of what looks like a pretty ordinary day in 1875, captures the corner of  Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. Hey, what happened to the main branch of the New York Public Library?

Before that Beaux-Arts gem was built, the city’s first distributing reservoir took up the site. This reservoir held New York City’s first fresh, clean supply of water, which originated in Westchester’s Croton River.

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The reservoir, built in 1842, is pretty impressive. Walls 50 feet high and 25 feet thick were topped by a promenade; it could hold 20,000,000 gallons.

Once the Croton River became a dam, the city didn’t need a reservoir on 42nd Street anymore. It was demolished in 1899 to make way for the iconic library building that greets New Yorkers today.