Posts Tagged ‘vintage postcards NYC’

Firefighters racing to a blaze in 1905 New York

November 21, 2016

Their engine is pulled by horses, and the long coats these smoke eaters are wearing look awfully bulky. But that’s how New York’s firefighters did it in 1905, when this postcard image was made.


thegildedageinnewyorkcover-1Amazingly, the city’s fire department had only been professionalized since 1865. Prior to that, various volunteer engine and ladder companies put out New York’s fires, sometimes competing with one another to do so.

Find out more about the rough and tumble early days of the FDNY, when the volunteer companies also served as social and political clubs, in The Gilded Age in New York, 1870-1910.

The three most beautiful bridges in the world

September 19, 2016

They’re like sisters: the oldest, the Brooklyn Bridge, gets all the accolades. The Williamsburg Bridge came next; at the time it opened in 1903, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world.

This steel span has lots of charms, but it was destined to be in the Brooklyn Bridge’s shadow.


Youngest sister the Manhattan Bridge opened in 1909. It once had an approach modeled after a bridge in Paris and the colonnades on the Manhattan side modeled after St. Peter’s in Rome. These days, this workhorse bridge doesn’t get the love its sisters are used to.

1920s skyscrapers towering over Times Square

December 14, 2015

With so many skyscrapers in the city topping out with more than 70, 80, even 100 floors, the tall buildings shown in this photo of Times Square look pretty puny.


But they impressed New Yorkers at the time, and the caption on the back of the card boasts about them. “This aerial photograph of the Times Square section of New York shows many of the skyscraper office buildings located in the heart of New York,” it reads.

“Among the best known are the Times Building, the Bush Terminal Building, recently completed Loew’s State Theatre, and the famous Hotel Astor on Broadway.”

A militia marches on Battery Park in the 1920s

December 1, 2014

In this vintage postcard of lower Manhattan, some uniformed New York state militia members attract a curious crowd.


The back of the card mentions that “state militia marching in Battery Park in accordance with the ‘mobilization orders’ that were issued.”

The card is stamped 1928, and it wasn’t printed much earlier than that. The Standard Oil building, the tall structure behind the Custom House, was completed that year.

Lower Manhattan at night, seen through an arch

August 25, 2014

What a view! We’re looking through one of the arches of the Municipal Building to a Manhattan night sky.


There’s the Woolworth Building, City Hall, City Hall Park, and the Art Deco beauty known as the Transportation Building “raising [its] head in the background,” the caption of this 1940s-era postcard notes.

Too bad the postcard doesn’t offer a glimpse of the enchanting tiles on the vaulted ceiling above the Municipal Building’s arches. They are Gustavino tiles, installed before the building opened in 1914.

The chop suey tea parlor once in Times Square

March 29, 2013

Opened in 1914, the Republic Restaurant had the garish interior of a real old-school New York Chinese restaurant, based on these images on this vintage postcard.


The ad below—it comes from a 1915 guide for sailors in the U.S. Navy—sheds a little light on the menu. Chop suey and tea? Sounds like the kind of faux-authentic Cantonese cuisine New Yorkers at the time were accustomed to.

RepublicrestaurantadWhat happened to the Republic? After 50 years in the heart of Times Square, it was damaged in a fire in 1970 . . . but apparently held on at least a little longer.

A Cue magazine ad from 1973 suggests the shrimp toast and homemade egg rolls, plus the “roast pork won ton soup.”

The Third Avenue El on its way to Cooper Square

October 8, 2012

Take away the el tracks and the rickety carts, and the Bowery looking north from about Grand Street doesn’t look all that different today.

The low-rise tenement buildings on the left are still there, now occupied by lighting shops. Cooper Union looms way in the distance. Casperfelds & Cleveland, the jewelers with two signs on the left, are long gone though.

This color postcard shows the rest of the block out of view, with the Bowery Savings Bank anchoring the corner.

A view of a smaller-scale Fifth Avenue in 1900

September 20, 2012

I’m not sure when this postcard was made, but the postmark is stamped 1906; I think it has to be a bit earlier.

It’s a view of the corner of Fifth and 57th Street, then a luxe address lined with mansions and now a luxe address lined with much taller hotels and grander apartment houses (and a few surviving mansions).

The mansion on the right was owned by the very wealthy Mary Mason Jones. The building in the middle of the block is the former Savoy Hotel, later the site of the Savoy Plaza Hotel and now home to the GM Building, which houses the Apple Store and FAO Schwartz.

Defunct Queens airports you’ve never heard of

October 11, 2010

JFK used to be Idlewild. LaGuardia was North Beach Airport, and before that, Glenn H. Curtiss Airport.

But predating both was little Flushing Airport, just a mile from where LaGuardia would be built (as this 1960s-era Texaco road map reveals).

“Flushing Airport was opened in 1927 as Speed’s Airport (named for former owner Anthony “Speed” Hanzlick),” states “It became the busiest airport in New York City for a time.”

Once LaGuardia hit the scene, four-runway Flushing lost traffic. In the 1960s and 1970s, it was used for blimps. It shut down in 1984.

A similar fate befell Holmes Airport, launched in 1929 by a real estate developer on 220 acres in Jackson Heights.

Holmes was busy—for a time. Eastern scheduled flights to Miami; bizarre promotions offered $1 short flights.

But then ground broke for LaGuardia. Holmes’ owners tried to get a court injunction to stop construction.

It didn’t work. LaGuardia opened in 1939; Holmes closed in 1940. The Bulova Watch Factory was built on the site.

An early view of Victorian Flatbush

August 26, 2010

These gorgeous homes are just as lovely today as they were in 1901, the year stamped on the back of this postcard.

That’s right about when Flatbush was colonized into middle-class neighborhoods of single-family houses.

“No section of Brooklyn has witnessed a more attractive and satisfactory development than the Flatbush section,” reports a New York Times article from 1910, kind of an early “If You’re Thinking of Living in” piece.

“Enjoying good transit facilities, with pleasant surroundings and admirably situated lots, it is not surprising that thousands of residents who wish to be close to the centres of the city’s commercial industries and yet possess the advantages of pleasant suburban homes have chosen Flatbush as a home site.”

I wish I could make out the handwriting at the top left. It looks like “565 East 31st Street.” It must be the address of the sender rather than the cross street in the postcard, since East 31st Street doesn’t cross Ocean Avenue.