Posts Tagged ‘vintage New York photos’

Getting evicted in turn of the century New York

June 13, 2013

George Grantham Bain was an early news photographer who founded his own photojournalist service in 1898.

He left an incredible collection of more than 40,000 negatives, now housed in the Library of Congress and digitized.

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His photos mostly span the late 19th century through the 00s and teens, and he had a special interest in New York City, chronicling news events as well as day-to-day life among the unheralded and unfamous.

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These three photos appear to capture three different apartment evictions. The first is simply “Eviction.” The second is titled “East Side Eviciton.”

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And the third has no title, but it’s categorized as an eviction by the Library of Congress. I wish we knew the circumstances and how these families fared.

A municipal photographer’s city on the move

March 18, 2013

He was just an anonymous staff photographer for New York’s Department of Bridges, a 40something descendant of a French noble family who moved to New York from New England and found a job chronicling the changing infrastructure of the 20th century city.

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The man did his job diligently, leaving behind 20,000 photographs taken between 1906 to 1934. After his death in 1943, his work and identity remained unheralded—until the late 1990s.

[Above: painters on the Brooklyn Bridge in 1914; Below, opening day of the Queensboro Bridge, 1909]

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“In 1999, Michael Lorenzini, the senior photographer for the New York City Municipal Archives, was spooling through microfilm of the city’s vast Department of Bridges photography collection when he realized that many of the images shared a distinct and sophisticated aesthetic,” writes Carolyn Kleiner Butler in the September 2007 issue of Smithsonian.

“They also had numbers scratched into the negatives. ‘It just kind of hit me: this is one guy; this is a great photographer,’ Lorenzini says.”

[Below: Newsies on Delancey Street, 1906]

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After pouring over records, the man’s name emerged: Eugene de Salignac. Little is known about his back story or if he had any formal training. No one even knows what he looked like.

But his images of New York’s bridges, roadways, subways and the workers who maintained them reveal a playfulness and artistic eye. They capture the hardware of the city with a sense of tenderness and beauty.

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[Above: under the Brooklyn Bridge, 1918]

De Salignac has been steadily getting his due as an artist. The Museum of the City of New York exhibited his images in a 2007 show. His work was also collected in New York Rises: Photographs by Eugene de Salignac.

More examples of his work can be found in the vast, fascinating collection of the Municipal Archives.

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.

Three ways of looking at Varick Street

June 6, 2011

Varick Street between West Houston and Clarkson Streets comes across as a sleepy little stretch of the city in this 1921 photo.

A row of early 19th century Federal-style houses cover the entire west side of the block. And a corner cigar store and carpenter/cabinet maker are the only businesses—aside from the horse-drawn ice cream delivery wagon.

Notice the horsecar tracks? “[They’re] those of the Sixth Avenue Ferry line, which ran from the Desbrosses Street Ferry via Varick and Carmine Streets to Sixth Avenue,” states the wonderful New York Then and Now, which published the photo.

“On the extreme left is the entrance to the IRT Broadway-Seventh Avenue line subway, opened beneath Varick Street on July 1, 1918.”

The street didn’t look like this for much longer. In 1924 the 10 houses were demolished, a 12-story light-industry loft structure put in its place, as seen in the 1974 photo above, also from New York Then and Now.

The loft building casts a dark shadow over the block to this day (at right). It’s part of the no man’s land south of the West Village but a little too West for Soho that I believe is called Hudson Square.