Posts Tagged ‘New York then and now’

Park Avenue South: three centuries, three views

June 21, 2012

In the photo below, taken in 1890, this stretch of Park Avenue South only had its name for two years. Before that, it was known as plain-old Fourth Avenue.

The intersection at 31st Street wasn’t exactly bustling. It featured a market, a laundry, and two very different hotels.

The opulent Park Avenue Hotel was built as a home for working women in 1876 (it failed thanks to its stringent rules). The low-key place next door is the Brandes, a holdout from a more rural city, explains New York Then and Now.

A lot happened in 84 years. Both hotels and the other small-fry businesses are gone, replaced by a canyon of 1920s-era office buildings and apartments (and a few saplings in giant planters in the median).

Today, Park Avenue South and 31st Street is pretty similar to its 1970s counterpart—minus the saplings.

Way in the distance in the center of the photo is the Park Avenue Tunnel, which sends cars underground at 33rd Street.

The tunnel used to carry railroad tracks, then streetcars—you can see them going in and coming out of the tunnel in the top photo.

[Top two photos: from New York Then and Now, Dover publications]

Three ways of looking at East 86th Street

April 23, 2012

Few city neighborhoods have changed in the past 100 years as much as Yorkville, the center of German immigrant life through much of the 20th century. This new Kleindeutschland was a hub for German food, culture, and politics for decades.

This photo shows the main drag, 86th Street, looking east from Lexington Avenue; it was published in the wonderful book New York Then and Now.

The book tells us that the six-story building on the right, behind the middle of the second car on the Third Avenue El, was the Yorkville Casino, a popular social center.

Sixty-one years later, here’s the same view of 86th Street. High-rise apartment buildings have replaced walkups, movie theaters, and the Casino, and street traffic has increased dramatically—no more Third Avenue El to whisk passengers above ground.

Here’s the same view today: fewer tenements, more high-rises, lots of chain stores, same amount of traffic. It’s still called Yorkville on maps, but it’s less of a distinct neighborhood than ever.

Three different ways of looking at 23rd Street

November 13, 2011

“Vine-covered homes and shade trees marked 23rd Street over a century ago,” explains the caption to this 1874 photo of the street, which looks East toward Sixth Avenue.

The photos and captions come from New York Then and Now, published in 1976. “It was not until 1878 that the Sixth Avenue elevated railroad was erected, but the 23rd Street crosstown horsecar line was already a year old.”

Here’s a much less residential 23rd Street and Sixth Avenue, from 1975. “All the buildings visible in the 1874 photo have been demolished,” the caption states, including the Victorian Masonic Temple at the northeast corner, built in 1870.

“The Masonic Temple was torn down in 1910; the present 19-story Masonic Hall Building was erected on the site.”

By 1975, the famed department stores that made 23rd Street synonymous with fashion and shopping at the turn of the century—such as Stern’s and Best’s—were long gone.

The same stretch of 23rd Street today looks very similar to the 1975 version. Except for the Dunkin Donuts, even the stores look similar; the Citibank and Chase on the north side of the street replaced other bank branches.

And the tree on the far right—it looks almost identical to the one on the right in the 1874 photo!

Three different views of Lower Fifth Avenue

September 26, 2011

“Crossing Fifth Avenue at 22nd Street is a finely turned-out brougham carriage with a well-dressed driver and sleek horses,” states the caption to this 1889 photo, from New York Then and Now.

It’s a Gilded Age street: lovely cast-iron lamp posts, a towering tree on the west side of the street, and Victorian-era window shades for an air condition-less city.

Things would change drastically for this part of Lower Fifth, as the 1975 photo, also from New York Then and Now, reveals.

The New York Jockey Club building was bulldozed in 1900, replaced by the Flatiron Building. The Fifth Avenue Hotel on the left corner at 23rd Street is now a 14-story office building.

And of course, the Empire State Building, opened in 1931, towers over everything.

Today, the block looks similar to its 1975 version—but the stores are much more upscale. Lower Fifth has been transformed into a high-end shopping strip crowded with women on weekends.

Broadway at West 42nd Street: 1898 to 2011

August 3, 2011

“Even before the New York entertainment center moved up from Herald Square, the northwest corner of Broadway and 42nd Street featured a giant billboard advertising theatrical attractions,” states the caption for this photo from the fascinating 1976 book New York Then and Now.

I love the street cleaner pushing his barrel over Belgian block streets crisscrossed with streetcar tracks.

Later that year, the nine-story Hotel Pabst went up on the site, and nearby buildings torn down in 1902 to make way for the IRT subway. Theaters were moving in; check out the minstrel show signs at the far left in the 1903 photo above.

The corner kept changing fast. By 1905 The New York Times (at left) building replaced the hotel, and the plot of land, Longacre Square, was renamed Times Square.

The Times didn’t stay long. They moved to another building on West 43rd in 1913. The Times Tower and Square become New York icons of advertising and entertainment—the wholesome and the sleezy variety.

Fast-forward to 2011. Nothing from 1898 remains; the corner is a sea of neon, featuring monuments to commerce—like the big Chase bank.

Three ways of looking at Varick Street

June 6, 2011

Varick Street between West Houston and Clarkson Streets comes across as a sleepy little stretch of the city in this 1921 photo.

A row of early 19th century Federal-style houses cover the entire west side of the block. And a corner cigar store and carpenter/cabinet maker are the only businesses—aside from the horse-drawn ice cream delivery wagon.

Notice the horsecar tracks? “[They’re] those of the Sixth Avenue Ferry line, which ran from the Desbrosses Street Ferry via Varick and Carmine Streets to Sixth Avenue,” states the wonderful New York Then and Now, which published the photo.

“On the extreme left is the entrance to the IRT Broadway-Seventh Avenue line subway, opened beneath Varick Street on July 1, 1918.”

The street didn’t look like this for much longer. In 1924 the 10 houses were demolished, a 12-story light-industry loft structure put in its place, as seen in the 1974 photo above, also from New York Then and Now.

The loft building casts a dark shadow over the block to this day (at right). It’s part of the no man’s land south of the West Village but a little too West for Soho that I believe is called Hudson Square.

Broadway and East 10th Street: 1911 vs. 2011

November 21, 2010

“Here Broadway approaches Union Square from the south, with what is probably the midday crowd on its wide sidewalks,” states the caption of this photo, published in a fascinating book of photos, New York Then and Now.

Sure, the businesses lining this stretch of the city’s longest street have changed in 100 years; see the signs on the left for a few furriers.

The hotel on the left is the fashionable St. Denis, built in 1852 by James Renwick, better known as the architect who designed Grace Church, at right, in the 1840s. (He was also behind St. Patrick’s Cathedral.)

Broadway teems with trolleys going in both ways. It’s like a game of Frogger. No wonder pedestrians were always dodging them—not always with success.

The same view exactly a century later shows that this corner is still prime real estate, and many of the buildings survive, with nail salons, delis, restaurants, and boutiques renting space.

Too bad you can no longer see the Flatiron Building from this vantage point.

Three ways of looking at Times Square

August 12, 2010

West 47th Street and Broadway (looking south) comes off like a frontier town in this 1878 photo. Check out the dirt roads!

At the time, it was the city’s carriage trade district, home to carriage makers and stables. Soon it would be renamed the more elegant-sounding Longacre Square, after the carriage district in London.

Things changed a lot by 1975, when the above photo was taken. Longacre Square became Times Square in 1904, and the northern end was renamed Duffy Square in 1939.

Today, Times Square the pedestrian mall still has a TKTS kiosk. But Florsheim Shoes and Burger King are gone, and gleaming glass office buildings sparkle along Broadway and Seventh Avenue.

[First two photos from New York Then and Now]

Time traveling to Henry and Pike Streets

August 25, 2009

Berenice Abbott took this 1936 photo. What wonderful details: the old street lamp far off on the right, the corner drugstore sign on the left, rubbish (or mud?) beside the curb, and a horse being lead down Madison Street a block away.

And of course, there’s the Manhattan Bridge, looming like an apparition. 

Henryandpikestreets

With the exception of the bridge, this corner looks very different today.

The rickety tenements casting all those noirish shadows have been knocked down, partially replaced by the institution-like Rutgers Houses. Pike Street is much wider and has a few trees. 

Henryandpikestreet2009