Posts Tagged ‘vintage New York postcards’

A close-up look down Cortlandt Street in 1908

April 27, 2015

“Cortlandt Street, New York, showing the Singer Building,” reads the caption of this postcard.

Cortlandtstreetpostcard1

What a time capsule we’re looking at from what appears to be West Street. Not only is there no more Singer Building (brand new in 1908, demolished in 1968), but the small-scale walkups on the right were obliterated to make way for the World Trade Center in the early 1970s.

Cortlandt Street at this time had not yet earned its wonderful nickname, “Radio Row.”

Cortlandtstreet1908bandw

That’s the platform for the Ninth Avenue El, which ran up Greenwich Street. Compare the postcard to the actual photo it comes from.

Shorpy has the enlarged image here, so you can gaze at old New York in incredible detail.

What the Fifth Avenue bus looked like in 1920

March 2, 2015

The bus is the red-headed stepchild of New York City transportation options. While yellow taxis and gritty subways have earned iconic status, city buses slog along, functional but unloved.

Fifthavenuebuspostcard

Which is why it’s great to see a vintage postcard celebrating one bus line. Here’s a rickety-looking vehicle (is that a Mercedes logo?) stopped at the corner of 42nd Street, beside the then-new New York Public Library.

It appears to be part of the fleet of the Fifth Avenue Coach Company, which charged 10 cents to ride. In 1921, Mayor Hylan was committed to running city buses with a fare of only five cents—a rare public transit price cut!

The Gilded Age elite strolling old Fifth Avenue

February 23, 2015

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a sea of elite New Yorkers dressed in their Sunday best, drivers of carriages delicately navigating the crowds, and look at those lovely lampposts with the quaint street sign!

Sundaymorningfifthavenue

This gorgeous Gilded Age postcard of New York’s most famous avenue needs no explanation.

The Commodore: “New York’s Newest Hotel”

December 15, 2014

Recognize this stately building? Probably not, though it still stands today, a commanding presence next to Grand Central Terminal on 42nd Street.

Commodorehotelpostcard

Opened in 1919, it’s the Commodore, billed on the back of this postcard as “New York’s newest and most up-to-date hotel . . . containing 2,000 rooms with baths and circulating ice water in every room.”

CommodorehotelmcnyAfter the hotel’s owner (the New York Central Railroad, owner of Grand Central too) went bust in the late 1970s, Donald Trump came along.

He remodeled the exterior in reflective glass and gave it a more contemporary name, the Grand Hyatt—erasing the reference to Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt, railroad tycoon and owner of the original Grand Central Depot.

It’s been the Grand Hyatt since reopening in 1980. Here’s another view of it and the rest of what became of Pershing Square.

[Left: The Commodore in 1926, from the MCNY Digital Gallery]

Fifth Avenue and the original Waldorf-Astoria

July 17, 2014

In late 19th century New York, Fifth Avenue reigned as Millionaires Row. But by the time this postcard was produced around 1910, the stretch of Fifth Avenue north of 32nd Street was shedding its reputation as a wealthy residential enclave.

The rich were migrating northward. Posh mansions were being razed to make way for commercial buildings, like offices and hotels.

Fifthavenue32ndstpostcard

No hotel was as extravagant as the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, the building on the left with the flag.

Waldorfastoria34thstreetviewBuilt as separate hotels in the early 1890s on the site of two former Astor family mansions, it was combined in 1897.

Times Shutter features a similar postcard, with some info about the hotel (it was the largest in the world, a gathering place for the rich and ostentatious, and the first to allow unchaperoned women!) as well a photo of the same stretch of Fifth today.

Today, the hotel is gone (the Empire State Building took its place two decades later), as is two-way traffic and that lovely streetlight on the left.

Gone too is Fifth Avenue with a quaint, unhurried feel.

[Another view of the Waldorf-Astoria, from 34th Street, right]

Riverside Drive and the lazy Hudson beside it

May 16, 2014

It looks like a pleasant spring or summer day on Riverside Drive and in the park beside it, based on this postcard stamped 1916.

Riversidedrivepostcard1916

We’re at 93rd Street. Grant’s Tomb can be seen over the treetops; open-topped automobiles and a double-decker bus share the road. Pedestrians linger on the sidewalks or on the teardrop-shaped green.

And in the distance, there’s no George Washington Bridge.

What’s the commotion at City Hall Park?

April 24, 2014

Something’s drawn a crowd downtown at the edge of City Hall Park, according to this penny postcard, stamped 1912. A tangle of wagons on the right, and adults and kids swarming the curb in front.

City Hall Park 1912 2

Just another spring or summer day in a park featured in many vintage postcards? Without a caption, we’ll never know.

There’s the kiosk for a City Hall subway stop, and the statue of Nathan Hale, relocated many times in its 120-year history.

Times Square: crossroads of the world in 1910

April 12, 2014

Is this Times Square, or 23rd Street facing the Flatiron Building? It’s clearly 42nd Street, with the card focused on the New York Times building that gave the square its name in 1904.

Timessquarepostcard

But when I first looked at the postcard, I immediately thought Flatiron.

Trolleys, traffic, ladies carrying umbrellas . . . and the Hotel Cadillac is on the left. What stories that building would be able to tell, if only it still existed.

The noisy, gritty Bowery north of Grand Street

February 20, 2014

Imagine the constant, ear-splitting roar of the Third Avenue elevated trains, the grimy shadows cast by steel tracks, the sounds of horse hoofs, wagon wheels, and streetcars traveling up and down the street.

Bowerypostcard

It’s the legendary turn-of-the-century Bowery, the seedy main drag memorialized in the refrain of the 1891 hit “The Bowery”:

“They say such things
And they do strange things
On the Bow’ry!
The Bow’ry!
I’ll never go there any more!”

Strolling and shopping in Union Square in 1908

December 21, 2013

Well-dressed matrons stroll in and out of shops while their chauffeurs wait curbside in carriages in this vintage postcard of a seemingly unchanged Union Square.

Unionsquare1908

Could this be a scene of Christmas shoppers? A sign in the distance seems to read “presents” and it appears to be winter. But there are no holiday decorations.


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