Posts Tagged ‘George Bain Collection’

The penthouse dwellers of early 1900s New York

March 18, 2019

Living in a New York penthouse is synonymous with wealth and luxury. But it wasn’t always that way.

In the early 20th century, well-heeled New Yorkers began giving up their single-family mansions in favor of apartment living. But no one wanted to reside on or near the building roof, where smoke belched from chimneys and unsightly water tanks were constructed.

Instead, rooms and shack-like houses near or on the roof were given to servants, like these two New Yorkers, happily posing for photographer George Bain on top of an unidentified “skyscraper” apartment residence that city resident today would kill for.

When penthouses were rebranded for the elite in the 1920s, rooms for building staffers and servants were relocated to the lower floors.

Four ways New Yorkers kept cool in summer

July 11, 2013

Licking blocks of ice. Taking a daytime nap under a tree in the park. Diving into a public water fountain with your pals.

These are just a few of the ways scorched city residents without money or means cooled off when temperatures soared, as documented by photojournalist George Bain more than 100 years ago.


Bain took lots of pictures around the city those days, chronicling other ways New York’s masses handled heat waves—things we don’t resort to anymore, thanks mostly to air conditioning.

Like buying some scraped ice, as these street boys (and some grown men) are doing. How much could a shaving of ice go for back then?


If ice didn’t quench your thirst, you could head to the milk house, a city-sponsored place to get cold, fresh milk rather than the swill milk often sold. This one is at Tompkins Square Park.


Moms with babies could sit on a bench in a local park and stay as still as possible. If that carriage is metal, it must be hot!


Once the kids got a little older, you could ditch them on a shaded corner of the sidewalk, put a towel down, and let them sweat it out—like these city girls are learning to do.