History

More Freshness

by Don Friedman on February 22, 2018


To continue yesterday’s train of thought, here’s the Chrysler Building in 1930, roughly a year after completion. Again, if you want a very high-resolution copy, click here.

We’re looking northwest to the Chrysler, at 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue. The tall, vertically-striped building on the right is the Daily News building at 42nd and Second; the tall building on the left is the Chanin Building at 42nd and Lexington; and the New York Central building is just visible past Chrysler on its right. All of those buildings are still there, basically unchanged. The two-winged building left of Chrysler, with the tall chimney, is the Commodore Hotel, altered in the late 70s with a glass curtain wall.

The vast majority of other buildings in this photo are gone. They are rowhouses and tenements on side streets in the east 30s and 40s, an area that gradually turned into an extension of the midtown office district. Some are still there, and some were replaced by more modern apartments, but most were replaced by tall office buildings. The low-rise gothic building just west (left) of Daily News is the old PS 27, which has since been replaced by a hotel built in 1980. Obviously, as a neighborhood changes from residential to commercial, buildings that house functions related to residential use – like schools and churches – tend to change use or be replaced.

But the main point, as I discussed yesterday, is how foreign Chrysler, Daily News, and Chanin are relative to the older built environment of the city. Chrysler is sui generis and would look alien in almost any context, but it’s hard to place as a piece of the same city as those tenements in the foreground. In 1930, after forty years of steel-skeleton skyscrapers, they still looked like a foreign intrusion in the city. It was only when the context of the older city was replaced by more skyscrapers that the extreme contrast seen above faded away.

Looking With Fresh Eyes

February 21, 2018

That’s the Singer Tower as seen from Liberty Street, just east of Nassau Street, in 1910. If you’d like to download a ridiculously high-resolution copy, click here and wait a while. This picture emphasizes something that’s easy to forget in 2018, and that’s how alien the early skyscrapers were compared to the cityscape around them. […]

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Before “Presidents Day”

February 19, 2018
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A Cell in an Abandoned Jail

February 3, 2018

The scars on the far wall, below the graffiti, are where a sink and toilet were once mounted. The bed was on the right. The entire cell is roughly 3 feet by 7 feet. Not all historic structures need to be remembered fondly.

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A Review of a Review

January 28, 2018

The Happy Pontist certainly makes History of the Modern Suspension Bridge by Tadaki Kawada sound like a great read. Another book on my todo list…

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Relative Time

January 27, 2018

I was fooling around with the OldNYC index to the NYPL Digital Collections when I stumbled over the attached photos and caption. The intersection of Kissena Boulevard and Sanford Avenue is right in the heart of downtown Flushing, and a place I must have walked by 8 or 9000 times in the seventeen years I […]

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More Vestiges

January 22, 2018

This is an interesting article by Sarah Bean Apmann for the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation: The Lasting Imprint of Stuyvesant Street. Ms. Apmann is focussed on one of Greenwich Village’s many peculiarities in street layout, but there’s more to discuss in a larger context. First, oddly, Stuyvesant Street does not quite run true east-west. That’s […]

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A New Publication

January 8, 2018

Gabriel Pardo Redondo of OSE and Berta de Miguel Alcalá of Vertical Access‘s – not coincidently, a married couple – have a new paper out in Loggia on preservation engineering in New York. Somehow my name ended up on it, even though Gabi and Berta did about 98 percent of the work. If you go to […]

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The Title Tells It All

January 1, 2018

The caption for this photo at the Library of Congress is “New York, New York. Blowing horns on Bleeker Street on New Year’s Day”. It’s dated 1943. Good enough for me.

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It’s a Date

December 31, 2017

The current 726 Broadway was built in 1917. The Colonnade either moved or disappeared some time earlier, as in 1910 the site was a vacant lot surrounded by a fence covered with ads:

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