Posts Tagged ‘William H. Schenck’

There’s a lot going on outside the Third Avenue Railroad Depot in this 1859 painting

October 18, 2021

Sometimes a painting has so much rich detail, it just knocks you out. That was my reaction to this magnificent scene of the Third Avenue Railroad Depot between 65th and 66th Streets, painted two years after the depot opened in 1857.

Amazingly, the painter of this “precise representation” of the depot, William H. Schenck, was also the company’s superintendent, according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which owns the work.

In 1859, this stretch of what would become the Upper East Side (near the Treadwell Farm Historic District) was mostly untouched by developers, though some wood houses are off in the distance. Street lamps stand on corners, however, and the road looks paved.

The streetcars pulled by horses follow the rails in and out of the depot. People are scattered about; some are on horseback, and one man steers a wagon full of goods. A hot air balloon sails through the sky, what’s that about?

“In addition to highlighting the contemporary popularity of the horse-drawn streetcar, Schenck also included a hot-air balloon in the sky, identified in tiny letters as the Atlantic,” the Met states. “The balloon’s owners, John Wise and John LaMountain, hoped to fly it across the Atlantic Ocean to initiate an entirely new form of transportation, but they never succeeded.”

Sadly, the Third Avenue Railroad Depot was destroyed by fire four years later.

Where was the Third Avenue Railroad Depot?

December 4, 2008

William H. Schenck painted this lovely red-brick structure in 1860; it’s part of the Met’s Edward W.C. Arnold Collection of New York Prints, Maps, and Pictures.

But where exactly was the Third Avenue Railroad Depot? A New York Times art review from 1999 suggests it stood between 65th and 66th Streets, where the massive Manhattan House condo-in-transition has been since 1950. On the other hand, an 1881 Times article mentions a Third Avenue Railroad Depot at 130th Street. 

railroaddepot

Wherever it stood, the depot was the site of some bizarre accidents, such as this one written up in the Times on October 19, 1871:

“Robert Bannon, thirty-five years of age, died at St. Luke’s Hospital, yesterday, by injuries he received from a roller falling on his head from the roof of the Third Avenue Railroad Depot.”

And then, on February 18, 1881:

“A serious affray occurred yesterday afternoon in the neighborhood of the Third-Avenue Railroad Depot at One Hundred and Thirtieth Street, during which one man was shot and the other was struck on the head by a stone and dangerously, if not fatally, injured.”

Yep, they were drunk at the time.