Posts Tagged ‘Park Avenue South’

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]

The bronze wizard clock on Park Avenue South

October 28, 2010

It’s temporarily shielded by scaffolding. But the bronze clock sticking out from a building at 32nd Street is still a curious sight.

It features a silkworm and leaves motif is topped by a wizard with a wand and a blacksmith hammering a sword.

What story is the clock telling? Called the Silk Clock, it depicts a scene from King Arthur, according to a 1996 New York Times article.

On the hour, the wizard’s wand hits the blacksmith’s head. Then, another figure, The Lady on the Lake, briefly emerges.

The 1936 clock was built by the building’s original owner, Schwarzbock Looms—hence the silk in the name.

The faces on 23rd Street and “Fourth Avenue”

May 27, 2009

A couple of buildings at this completely ordinary East Side intersection have some extraordinarily lovely figures carved into their facades.

Dollonbuilding1The sixth floor of the structure at the southeast corner features reliefs that look like dolls or babies, like this one at right. It appears to be an old factory building, so I wonder why it’s decorated with little ones in wreaths?

The twin goddesses below guard the entrance to a building a few doors up from 23rd Street on Park Avenue South.

Interestingly, the address above that doorway reads “303 Fourth Avenue,” a reminder that this stretch of Park Avenue South between 32nd Street and Union Square was called Fourth Avenue until 1959.


Where Fourth Avenue was wiped off the map

June 23, 2008

Manhattan’s Fourth Avenue currently runs from Cooper Square in the East Village to Union Square, where it becomes the more sylvan-sounding Park Avenue South until 32nd Street.

But this valley of office buildings and manufacturing space wasn’t always so abbreviated. In the 1800s, Fourth Avenue stretched all the way to 42nd Street. In 1860, the road between 42nd and 32nd was renamed Park Avenue, so it would no longer be associated with the Fourth Avenue rail line that had just been diverted underground. It wasn’t until 1959 when the city council gave 32nd to 17th Streets the Park Avenue South moniker.

A few remnants of the old street name remain, such as this address on the corner of 23rd:

There’s also the Fourth Avenue Building, on East 27th Street, built in 1910: