Posts Tagged ‘New York street’

Faded outlines of phantom Manhattan buildings

August 6, 2012

Many of these ghost buildings, remnants from an older New York, are visible for just a short period of time—between the bulldozing of the old structure and the construction of a new one.

One that’s been viewable for at least a couple of years now is this sloped-roof house on Eighth Avenue in the 40s.

The best part is the faded ad above it, actually one ad for a cheap hotel superimposed over an older one advertising cigars.

Here’s another, with construction boards in place, near East 50th Street.

The painted rooms where people once lived their lives and the staircase they went up and down thousands of times are eerily outlined.

What kind of home was here once, on Riverside Drive around 100th Street? Maybe a stable or two-story house, with a little chimney sticking up.

This building near the South Street Seaport reveals a phantom outline, plus ghostly 18th-century looking windows and a tall ghost chimney.

A 1930s painter’s stark, austere New York City

August 2, 2012

“I attempt to capture the layers and depth of the city’s environment, not paint it brick by brick,” stated painter Francis Criss.

The cleanness of his work is in stark contrast to Depression-era New York’s poverty and uncertainty.

Both City Landscape (1934), above, and Astor Place (1932), below, have the sharply defined geometric forms and austere, almost sanitized look characteristic of the Precisionist painters.

The Precisionists emerged in the 1920s and 1930s, and they focused on the urban landscapes of a growing, industrialized nation.

His style won’t resonate with everyone. But his New York street scenes—one of two nuns standing in front of today’s Kmart, the other of the Port Authority Building rising on lower Eighth Avenue—are instantly recognizable 80 years later.

Faded restaurant ads on Manhattan buildings

August 2, 2012

“Lunch Soda Lounge” reads this ghostly old signage on 35th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.

I imagine the place had a long, skinny luncheonette counter and metal swiveling seats.

Beef? Beer? I’m not sure what the vertical word is under this coffee shop ad on East 23rd Street, nor do I have any idea when it dates to.

“Coffee Shop” itself is a lost term. It’s too anonymous, not descriptive and unique enough for today’s specialty coffee culture.

Three centuries on Fifth Avenue and 14th Street

July 23, 2012

This 1899 photo of ladies decked out in their elaborate hats and bustles for a day of shopping are wonderful.

But I also love the street sign, lamps, mailbox, and fire hydrant (across 14th Street), published in New York Then and Now in 1976.

“The corner building was originally the William M. Halstead residence, built in the 1830s,” the caption to the photo tells us.

“One of the earliest mansions on the avenue, it was later altered and became, successively, the Old Guard Armory, Midget Hall and Brewster’s Hall; it eventually was occupied by the Gregg Furniture Co.”

The scene is very different in 1974. The tall buildings replaced smaller-scale mansions in the early 1900s, and a white-brick apartment residence occupies the northeast corner.

The lovely signage and lamps are gone . . . as is the shopping traffic.

Today, the streetscape looks the same as it did in 1974, with a few exceptions: more foot and vehicular traffic, thanks to lower Fifth Avenue’s resurgence as a retail district.

Also, there’s new traffic lights . . . and bank branches on both corners.

A brownstone encased in concrete on 64th Street

July 18, 2012

East 64th Street between Park and Lexington is a sweet brownstone block.

But one home sticks out: number 130, which has been strangely hiding behind a concrete grill for much of the past 50 years.

It’s an interesting story. The brownstone went up in 1878 and was bought by architect Edward Durell Stone in 1956.

Stone was an early proponent of modernism; he designed the Museum of Modern Art, the GM Building, and the Gallery of Modern Art at 2 Columbus Circle (redone in 2006, but looking a lot like the 64th Street brownstone in the 1960s).

Stone remodeled his new home, adding the concrete screen and putting in plate glass windows behind it.

It was supposed to offer privacy and create a romantic, latticework effect.

Instead, it garnered a lot of criticism. Over the years, the grill collected dirt and deteriorated.

Stone’s widow removed the facade in the late 1980s, then was fined by the Landmarks Preservation Commission because the home was now part of the Upper East Side Historic District.

The grill went back up in the 1990s, a framework of bisected circles rising four stories—exciting or enraging passersby who either love it or hate it.

How city kids cooled off in the heat wave of 1953

July 12, 2012

A 10-day heat wave left the city blistering in late summer 1953, with record temperatures in the triple digits scalding the streets.

Luckily these city kids living in the vicinity of today’s Nolita (see the ad for 276 Bowery) knew how to keep cool: They opened a fire hydrant.

Life magazine photographer Peter Stackpole captured these wonderful images: the spray coming out high into the Belgian Block street, then a boy aiming a flood of water at his buddy.

The next shots show other kids joining in, with no street traffic getting in their way. And then a policeman apparently puts a stop to it.

It looked like a lot of fun while it lasted. Amazingly, almost every kid is wearing long pants!

A deadly riot rocks Eighth Avenue in 1871

July 9, 2012

The first round of violence happened on July 12, 1870.

That’s when Irish Protestants called the Orangemen paraded up Eighth Avenue from their headquarters on 29th Street to 92nd Street.

They were celebrating the anniversary of the of the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland in 1690, when Protestants regained control of the country.

Not everyone in the city’s huge Irish immigrant community felt like celebrating. At the park, hundreds of Irish Catholics heckled and attacked the marchers, killing eight men.

Tensions simmered all year long, and when the Orangemen got the go ahead to hold their parade one year later, they were protected by a thousand cops plus several National Guard regiments.

On July 12, 1871, they marched—south this time—from Eighth Avenue and 29th Street.

A hostile crowd of Irish Catholics lined the sidewalks, and at 25th Street (above), a shot was fired from a tenement.

“A scene of mad confusion ensued, during which the soldiers of the escort, deploying around the paraders whom they were protecting, lifted their rifles and poured a volley into the crowds,” recalls a 1921 New York Times article.

“On the instant Eighth Avenue was strewn with dead and dying and wounded persons, while hundreds of others dashed into door ways or down side streets in an attempt to escape the bullets flying in all directions.”

The parade made it to 23rd Street, where it reached Fifth Avenue and a friendlier reception. It continued to Cooper Union, were another hostile crowd made it impossible to move forward.

Sixty people were killed, mostly Irish Catholic laborers. Thanks to what became known as the Orange Riot, the parade was never held again.

What Times Square looked like in 1911

July 2, 2012

That’s when it was still known as Longacre Square, though the name was officially changed in 1904 when The New York Times built its new headquarters there.

Looks so small-town, doesn’t it?

Tracking defunct Fitzroy Road through Chelsea

July 2, 2012

Most of the city is rectangular now, but New York used to be crossed by bending roads that followed the natural landscape.

Few survived after the street grid was established in 1811.

That includes Fitzroy Road, named for Charles Fitzroy, a British lieutenant who married the daughter of local landowner Sir Peter Warren.

Fitzroy Road, closed in the 1830s, once led from Greenwich Village to Chelsea and then met with Bloomingdale Road.

A 1920 New York Times article says it began on today’s 14th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues.

From there, it ran north to 20th Street, where it turned northwest across present-day Eighth Avenue, then back along Eighth Avenue to 23rd Street. That’s where it started veering back and forth from the east to west side of Eighth Avenue until 42nd Street.

At first, it doesn’t seem like any remnant of Fitzroy Road survives. But the same 1920 Times article notes that up until a few years ago—meaning the early 1900s—some vestiges existed.

And perhaps they still do. There’s an unnamed alley running in interrupted spurts between pre-1900 buildings from 15th Street (below, inaccessible thanks to a door and brick wall) and 21st Street (above, behind a gate) just east of Eighth Avenue.

Could these alleys be pieces of former horse paths—or perhaps they’re the last bits of colonial-era Fitzroy Road?

The lovely draped ladies of 542 Broadway

June 25, 2012

I love spotting faces and figures on the city’s older buildings—like these lovely caryatids on a loft building between Prince and Spring Streets on Broadway, built in 1884.

Lower Broadway has its share of elaborately carved ladies. Two more women are part of the facade of the Cable Building, building just up the street on Broadway and Houston.