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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • THE NEW ZEALAND FOREST, c. 1950

The Shopping Center: 1952

The Shopping Center: 1952

April 30, 1952. "Great Neck Shopping Center, Great Neck, Long Island. Lathrop Douglass, architect." Graveyard of forgotten brands: Hudson, Studebaker, Wanamaker. Seen here earlier. Gottscho-Schleisner photo. View full size.

 

Expensive car...

The Hudson convertible down the row is a high-dollar car these days. Restored drop-tops regularly trade in six-figures.

A Hudson Family

I always take notice when I see a late '40s or early '50s Hudson, because members of my family were probably involved in building it. My grandfather was a body panel die setter for Hudson during that entire period, and my father was working his way through high school and college swinging Hudson engine blocks.

Oh, and my grandmother worked for many years behind the cosmetics counter at the Hudson's department store in downtown Detroit. The store's founder, Joseph L. Hudson, also provided the car company with its seed capital, thereby becoming the namesake of those unique, low-slung, vehicles.

What a joy

to look at this parking lot and see these wonderful cars that were all different. Very different. Consider the late 40s Studebaker and early 50s Hudson. Would anyone confuse one for the other? Or could anyone confuse a 50s or 60s Buick, Cadillac or Ford with anything else? I can’t imagine local car shows 50 years from now featuring the wierd (think Pontiac Aztec), uninspired stuff served to us today. True, modern cars are light years ahead functionally, but is that the measure of what "motoring" is all about? For my money I would prefer the Hudson Hollywood convertible on a crisp fall day with an endless source of two lane country road, accompanied by a pretty woman all bundled up in a wool blanket, and a thermos of coffee. Would not need an MP3 or disc player as conversation with a lovely companion is infinitely better.

Different perspective

We're looking almost due east in this photo. The church peeking above the shopping plaza at the center of the photo was a Methodist (I think) church, which for the last 20 or so years has been known as "the Global Harmony House," the U.S. headquarters of the India-based spiritual organization Brahma Kumaris.

The apartment buildings on the left are in a triangle formed by South Middle Neck Road, Station Plaza, and Barstow Road, immediately the south of the Great Neck station on the Long Island Rail Road. All of them were built in the late 1920's, in the last burst of significant private-sector construction prior to the Great Depression and World War II. Real estate agents in the New York area typically call apartment buildings from that era "pre-war." It's an important selling point, as pre-war buildings often are more spacious and soundly built than their post-war counterparts. Today these buildings are cooperatives, a type of housing ownership very popular in the New York area but rather uncommon elsewhere.

Speaking of the Long Island Rail Road (*never* Railroad), a main reason why Great Neck became a popular upscale suburb is the fact that it's a reasonably quick train ride from Penn Station. It is on the Port Washington line, which unlike the LIRR's other routes does not go through the delay-prone transfer station at Jamaica, and therefore is more reliable than the others.

It's hard to tell from this angle, but the stores at the far left, past the two-story drugstore (today TD Bank) are not part of the Garden of Great Neck plaza, but are on the opposite side of South Middle Neck Road. The buildings housing these stores are still around, but like the plaza itself have been greatly renovated over the decades.

Short Life

Wanamaker's didn't stay there very long, they closed in mid-1955. Stern Brothers replaced them and they bit the dust in 1961, followed by a branch of the Jamaica, NY, based Gertz Department store which lasted until 1979. If my memory serves me correctly I believe there was an Abraham & Strauss store at that same location. In any case I could only track two more tenants, both Supermarkets, Edwards and later Waldbaums.

The Good Old Days!

When you could leave your car window open, and nothing would be missing when you returned.

When you could leave your bike ouside a store without it being chained to anything, and finding it right where you left it when you returned.

BTW - there appears to be a lighting fixture attached to the tree; nice touch....

Almost same spot today

Wanamaker's is behind the tree and in now a grocery called Waldbaums.


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