Posts Tagged ‘Turn of the century New York City’

A packed city beach on a hot summer day

April 9, 2012

Call it the other South Beach—not the one in Miami notorious for its topless bathers but the less posh South Beach on the eastern shore of Staten Island, featuring bathers sporting wool suits in this 1920-ish (?) postcard.

Back then, it was a jam-packed resort with hotels, an amusement park, beer gardens, bathing pavillions, and a general Coney Island-like vibe.

A century later, it’s a quieter place renamed Franklin D. Roosevelt Beach with a much thinner crowd and a view of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (not seen here, as it won’t be completed until 1964).

A rural-looking Fifth Avenue at 44th Street

August 18, 2011

Ye Olde Willow Cottage, the wood-frame building with the shutters and porch in this 1902 New-York Historical Society photo, looks like the kind of tavern you’d find in an upstate hamlet, not the center of New York City.

But there it is next to another small-town kind of shop, Tyson’s Fifth Avenue Market.

Strangely, this is Fifth Avenue and 44th Street—at the time lined with mansions and other designations of contemporary luxury yet containing pockets that “still looked almost rural,” notes New York: A Guide to the Metropolis, which published the photo.

When the Eden Musee thrilled 23rd Street

June 22, 2011

The Eden Musee opened at 55 West 23rd Street in 1884—and New York had never seen anything like it.

Imagine an entertainment mecca that featured grisly and gaudy wax displays: think Queen Victoria, President Arthur, and an imagined scene from the Spanish Inquisition.

There was also a “winter garden” concert hall and periodic bookings of notable people at the time, such as Sitting Bull.

And don’t forget the robot named Ajeeb who challenged customers to a game of chess (a real human chess champion was hidden inside).

All this could be experienced for just 50 cents. No wonder New Yorkers packed the French Renaissance building off Sixth Avenue in the newly chic Madison Square area.

As the years went on, the Eden Musee “resort” had to up the ante. They held an annual orchid show, hosted vaudeville acts, even showed the first motion pictures.

Movies turned out to be its downfall. Audiences no longer wanted to see wax figures and live shows; they craved film.

A June 8, 1915 New York Times headline put it this way: “Eden Musee Faces Bankruptcy Court: Northward Movement of Stores and Moving Picture Craze Hurts Wax Works.”

But for more than 30 years, the place had a good run.

Turn of the century Cooper Square

November 12, 2009

A web of elevated train tracks is flanked by sloped-roof buildings on the right and lovely Cooper Union—described in this postcard as “the Cooper Institute”—on the left.


Looks like some really sweet buildings have long since disappeared.