Posts Tagged ‘vintage New York City postcards’

What Bowling Green looked like in 1907

October 5, 2011

Or close to 1907; that’s the date stamped on the back of this penny postcard.

The red Queen Anne beauty on the left at One Broadway is the 1885 Washington Building; it was remodeled in 1921 in the Beaux-Arts fashion and still stands today.

Teardrop-shaped Bowling Green has a fascinating history. In the 17th century it was a Dutch colonial cattle market and parade ground before becoming the city’s first public park in 1733, leased to nearby landowners who promised to pretty it up for “one peppercorn a year.”

The landowners added trees, a fence, and of course, an eponymous bowling green for the then-popular sport of lawn bowling.

When Woolworth’s was on Fifth Avenue

September 18, 2011

Fifth Avenue around 39th Street is a fancy location, anchored then and now by Lord & Taylor.

Yet back in the 1940s, a Woolworth’s—once famous for their red and white cheapo lunch counters, plus bin after bin of household junk for sale—managed to stake a claim to the corner.

This postcard depicts a Fifth Avenue that is surprisingly calm. Traffic goes two ways, and I don’t see any street lights or traffic signals.

Artistic license, or perhaps it was a quieter place then?

The 23rd Street “shopping district” by night

August 29, 2011

Judging by where the Flatiron Building is on the left of this vintage postcard, this looks like 23rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.

On this block, venerable department stores like Stern’s have been replaced by Home Depot and a shoe store named . . . Shoegasm.

The Fall River Line pier: Fulton and West Streets?

August 8, 2011

Did Fulton Street once run all the way to the Hudson River?

It must have, based on information gleaned from this undated postcard of the lower Manhattan skyline.

The Fall River Line, a steamboat between New York and Massachusetts, ran until 1937. Pier 14 was located at the foot of Fulton and West Streets, according to this 1938 Berenice Abbott photo of the street side of the pier.

And a check of an early 1960s Manhattan map confirms it: Fulton Street’s western end must have been demolished later that decade to build the World Trade Center.

The chariot race sign in a young Herald Square

April 24, 2011

This enchanting postcard features a moonlit Herald Square looking up Broadway, with the elevated tracks and tall office buildings and stores glowing from within.

And then there’s an image of a Roman Chariot race in the background, all lit up majestically in the night.

A gigantic display of light that went up in 1910, it was used by a variety of advertisers over the years, according to the American Sign Museum:

“In 1910, the great chariot race sign in New York City was one of the most famous electrical displays in the world. Erected on the roof of a seven-story building overlooking Herald Square, it featured a Roman chariot race and the sign was composed of 20,000 bulbs of different colors, 70,000 connections and 2,750 switches.

“The simulated movement of horses, drivers and whips was accomplished by 2,500 flashes per minute and the sign attracted crowds every night for years. The erection of an intervening building ended its period of use by a series of advertisers.”

A shipment of sea lions at the Central Park Zoo

February 22, 2011

I’m not sure if this is the exact sea lion pool currently at the Central Park Zoo. But these funny creatures were clearly as big a hit with zoo-goers a century ago as they are today.

They may be the same sea lions described in a June 1891 New York Times article, about an “unexpected” addition of 23 adult and one infant sea lion, captured in California and then seized en route to Buffalo from a railroad car at 60th Street.

“The animals remained shut up in the tight box car all night without food or water,” reported the Times.

“Streams of water were turned upon the survivors, and two wagonloads of fish were fed them. They were carted in three stock-yard express wagons to the Menagerie.”

A peek at the long-shuttered City Hall station

January 19, 2011

Shut down and decommissioned in 1945, the glorious City Hall subway station—the first station to open in 1904—is occasionally accessible to the public via MTA tours.

An Ephemeral reader descended beneath City Hall last month and took some lovely shots of the elegant subwaytechture: gorgeous tiles, arches, curves, and skylights.

The ghostly platform and tubes of today look pretty much the same as they did in this vintage postcard.

Well, except for the hulking token booth–looking structure in the corner….

Central Park’s magical Vine Arch Bridge

October 15, 2010

We know it today as the Gapstow Bridge, an icon of Central Park, spanning the pond at the southeast end of the park. Built in 1896, it replaced the original wooden Gapstow Bridge from 1874.

In person, it looks even more enchanting.

Frontier town—or Flatbush, Brooklyn?

September 8, 2010

This gorgeous postcard, stamped 1913, claims to be the “business section” of Flatbush.

The trolley tracks seem very Brooklyn, but otherwise, it could be any town or small city in the country circa 1900.

So what stretch of Flatbush is this? A search of the Brooklyn Eagle archives turned up a “to let” listing for a Kodaks (see store sign at left) at 202 Flatbush Avenue.

That would put this image at about Flatbush and Bergen Streets.

“Panorama from the Produce Exchange”

June 18, 2010

There’s something poetic about the phrase on this postcard. It matches the expansive, enchanting depiction of New York Harbor, with all those little boats bobbing toward Staten Island.

The postmark on the back reads 1909.

The Produce Exchange was a Victorian building with a tower at 2 Broadway from 1884 to the 1950s. It was replaced by a skyscraper.