Posts Tagged ‘streetcars in New York City’

There’s a lot going on outside the Third Avenue Railroad Depot in this 1859 painting

October 18, 2021

Sometimes a painting has so much rich detail, it just knocks you out. That was my reaction to this magnificent scene of the Third Avenue Railroad Depot between 65th and 66th Streets, painted two years after the depot opened in 1857.

Amazingly, the painter of this “precise representation” of the depot, William H. Schenck, was also the company’s superintendent, according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which owns the work.

In 1859, this stretch of what would become the Upper East Side (near the Treadwell Farm Historic District) was mostly untouched by developers, though some wood houses are off in the distance. Street lamps stand on corners, however, and the road looks paved.

The streetcars pulled by horses follow the rails in and out of the depot. People are scattered about; some are on horseback, and one man steers a wagon full of goods. A hot air balloon sails through the sky, what’s that about?

“In addition to highlighting the contemporary popularity of the horse-drawn streetcar, Schenck also included a hot-air balloon in the sky, identified in tiny letters as the Atlantic,” the Met states. “The balloon’s owners, John Wise and John LaMountain, hoped to fly it across the Atlantic Ocean to initiate an entirely new form of transportation, but they never succeeded.”

Sadly, the Third Avenue Railroad Depot was destroyed by fire four years later.

Cooper Square, flanked by the el and streetcars

October 21, 2013

No sleek boutique hotels stand out in this vintage postcard view of Cooper Square at the turn of the last century.

Instead, there’s an elevated train on the Third Avenue side, streetcars and horse-drawn carriages on Fourth Avenue, and a little pedestrian activity on the sidewalk.

Coopersquarepostcard

The yellow building on the right, at 61 Cooper Square, is the former Metropolitan Savings Bank, built in 1867. It’s still there—still sporting some of the coolest Victorian windows and roof in the neighborhood.

Is that a horse fountain at the bottom right?