Posts Tagged ‘vintage New York City postcards’

The Ninth Avenue El curving by Morningside Park

September 18, 2017

These are the tracks of the Ninth Avenue Elevated making an S curve beside Morningside Park—which is what this 1908 postcards says.

To my eyes, it’s difficult to recognize the park of 2017, which is one of the city’s least appreciated but most beautiful. (The bear and fawn statue, the rock formations, the turtles….sigh.)

Here’s a photo very similar to the image in the postcard. RIP Ninth Avenue El, which ceased operation in 1940.

A rainy September evening at Madison Square

September 21, 2015

It’s just after the turn of the century in this enchanting postcard of the Fifth Avenue side of Madison Square Park.

Madisonsquaredriverpostcard

The Flatiron Building is there, so it must be at least 1902. But carriages and drivers still line the street opposite the park, likely waiting for the city’s wealthy and powerful to emerge from the Fifth Avenue Hotel, demolished in 1908.

The postcard itself is postmarked 1910, and the writer has scribbled, “I am loving New York and having a great time.”

Car-free Greeley Square and the Sixth Avenue El

November 10, 2014

Cars have yet to clog up Broadway in the 30s in this vintage, post-1912 postcard depicting Greeley Square and Broadway, crossed by the Sixth Avenue el tracks.

Greeleysquarepostcard

“A view of Broadway from Greeley Square to Times Square showing the upper end of the most important retail district in the world,” reads the caption. “The McAlpin Hotel, largest in the world, is shown in the foreground.”

That’s the building on the right next to the 1912 Wilson Building. Today, stripped of its once-famous murals, it’s an apartment tower.

Magic and motion of 1920s Broadway at night

July 28, 2014

It’s an enchanting night in Times Square in this colorful postcard, and the Paramount Building, with the Paramount Theatre at street level, takes center stage.

Opened in 1926 in an era of grand movie palaces, the Paramount captured the city’s attention and imagination.

Paramounttheaterpostcard

The lobby “was modeled after the Paris Opera House with white marble columns, balustrades, and an opening arms grand staircase,” explains Cinema Treasures. “The ceilings were fresco and gilt. . . . in the main lobby there was an enormous crystal chandelier.”

During World War II, the globe and clock were painted black, so potential enemy invaders couldn’t see.

The Paramount Theatre bit the dust in 1964, and the building is now used for offices. Here’s a much more sedate daytime version of the same stretch of Broadway just a decade earlier.

An airplane view of Washington Square, 1925

June 27, 2013

“One of the most interesting sights to be seen during a flight over New York City is the historically interesting Washington Square,” states the back of this penny postcard.

I’m placing it in the early to mid-1920s, because One Fifth Avenue, the Art Deco landmark that should be on the right end of Fifth Avenue before the arch, hasn’t been built yet (it would be completed in 1927).

Washingtonsquarepostcard

“At the left of Washington Square is the well-known Greenwich Village section, the location of studios of many artists and  of the homes of some of New York’s oldest aristocracy.”

The card must be referring to the homes on Washington Square North, the most fashionable stretch of the city in the mid-1800s.

What’s on the menu at the Brighton Beach Hotel?

September 6, 2012

At the turn of the last century, the sprawling Brighton Beach Hotel served as a more upscale seaside resort than its neighbor, Coney Island.

And if you were wrapping up your summer vacation there in 1906, you’d probably make dinner plans at the hotel restaurant.

So what kind of food and drink would be available to you?

We’re talking about a mind-boggling array of seafood (clear green turtle soup! fried eels!), poultry, caviar, steak, chops, pastries, and ice cream, not to mention a pretty big wine and drink list.

The entire hotel restaurant menu from that year (the front cover is at left) has been preserved as part of the New York Public Library’s menu collection.

It’s a fantastic reference that gives us a peek at the city’s culinary preferences over the years.

The massive menu selection can be viewed here. But for just the seafood, check out this excerpt from it above. I wonder what exactly was in clam chowder Brighton?

A 1906 postcard of the lovely and genteel Brighton Beach Hotel, once at the foot of Coney Island Avenue. Thanks to Kevin P. for suggesting this menu.

Crossing Riverside Drive on a beautiful day

March 1, 2012

“Everything is fine and dandy so far,” someone scrawled in cursive on the back of this postcard, stamped March 11, 1912—almost 100 years ago to the day.

“Jake met us at the station. Was very nice. We are having a fun time.” It’s signed “F & M.” Father and mother? I wonder who they were.

Does anyone know exactly where this stretch of Riverside Drive is? My guess is the upper 80s.

The celebrated chimp that ruled the Bronx Zoo

December 5, 2011

I don’t think New York has ever had an official animal mascot. But between 1907 and 1914, a top contender would have been Baldy the chimp.

Caught wild in the Congo at age four, clever and cheeky Baldy was a star attraction at the Monkey House in the then eight-year-old Bronx Zoo.

[Baldy and his keeper, copyright the Wildlife Conservation Society]

Though all of this would be totally frowned on by today’s standards, newspapers at the time reported that he adopted human habits, such as washing his face and hands, eating with a knife and fork at a table, and learning to rollerskate at the behest of his keepers.

Baldy was so famous, he shook hands with President Taft, who visited the zoo in 1911 and specifically asked to meet him, reported The New York Times.

Behind the scenes and the Monkey House, however, Baldy may not have been as friendly as everyone thought.

A zoo publication noted in 1914 that he “is now quite matured and so savage at times that it is difficult to enter his cage.”

Later that year, his death by tuberculosis was reported by The Times.

[Baldy in a promotional zoo postcard]

The secret tragedies of a defunct midtown hotel

December 1, 2011

Ever hear of the Hotel Chesterfield? Probably not; it was a massive, unspectacular midcentury tourist and show folk favorite at 130 West 49th Street.

Built in the 1920s, it outlived its heyday and was demolished after the early 1960s. A sparkling office tower occupies its old location.

What major and minor tragedies occurred in each of the Chesterfield’s 900 rooms over the decades? A quick search through newspaper archives offers a glimpse.

First, a deadly fall out a window. In 1929, a young actress was sitting on her seventh floor window sill, waiting for her husband to come home so she could tell him about a job she’d landed.

When he arrived, she jumped up, only to lose her balance and plunge to an awning below.

A couple of French opera singers had their room robbed in 1947. While out at the theater one night, they returned to find the place ransacked. Items missing included a silver fox cape, jewelry, a portable radio, and two bottles of anti-seasickness pills.

And of course, suicide. In 1933 a 68-year-old retired salesman from Scranton shot and killed himself in his 10th-floor room. He had come to  New York, a brief article says, to visit his son.

The elegant hotel that helped make Times Square

October 31, 2011

Before 1904, the year the Hotel Astor opened its doors on Broadway and 44th Street, Times Square hasn’t been invented yet; this was still Longacre Square, the center of the carriage trade.

The theater district was concentrated many blocks south. And electric lights had yet to give the area its signature glow.

Change was in the air. Within the decade, the newly renamed Times Square was on its way to becoming New York’s premier entertainment district.

And the Beaux-Arts Hotel Astor—with its 11 floors and several ballrooms—quickly earned a rep as the most fashionable place to go for dinner, drinks, dancing, or to catch a rooftop breeze in the summer before air conditioning came along.

But tastes change. The Astor was sold to Sheraton in the 1950s; a fire ripped through its grand ballroom (right, in 1910) in 1964.

On the site now is a 54-story office tower called One Astor Plaza—the Astor name is its only link to the glitz and glamour of pre-World War II Times Square.