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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • SYPHILIS ... SIX OUT OF TEN CURED, 1941

Park Avenue Hotel: 1905

Park Avenue Hotel: 1905

        This Second Empire edifice opened in April 1878 as the Working-Women's Hotel, only to close eight weeks later due to an acute case of insolvency. Reopened as the Park Avenue Hotel, the cast-iron marvel at 34th Street lasted until 1924, when it was replaced by an office tower.

New York Circa 1905. "Park Avenue Hotel, Fourth Avenue entrance." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

 

Today's View

This view is from my office window, looking north up Park Avenue. The building directly across from my window is the current One Park Avenue, which replaced the Park Avenue Hotel. It was quite a jolt to see the hotel photo on my computer screen and realize I was actually looking out the window at it's replacement!

Still Fourth Avenue

To many of us older New Yorkers (even if we no longer live there) it is Fourth Avenoo, not Park Avenue South; just like it is Sixth Avenoo, not Avenue of the Americas.

Upon a closer look

It appears that the carriage drivers are being professionally stoic. The buildings architecture is quite beautiful.

Vehicles

At least one of the fancy carriages appears to be an omnibus, a public conveyance, and may have a regular run from the hotel to a ferry slip or railway stop. The other two may be for hire as well. Of course, for those inclined to save a penny or ten, there's always that convenient subway kiosk.

Re: Focused

Think "f/64"!

There were very good, rectilinear lenses, and with perspective control in the camera, architectural photos could give a true representation of the lines, but to get such clear focus across the plane, it takes a small aperture, and either long exposure or lots of light.

Those hatches?

Who can identify the purpose of the two propped-open hatches along the side of the building? I first thought they were coal chutes but that didn't seem plausible (wouldn't the building be steam heated from a central supply? And they're too far from the curb)

Ventilators? Maybe... any ideas?

Picture in picture

These photographs are amazing, but the real jewels are contained within. Zooming in on the main entrance gives you a glimpse of life in 1905, with the guests arriving and departing in their fancy carriages and the baggage handlers on call to the left. Click to enlarge.

Focused

The lens used for this must have been the best lens in the world in 1905, tack sharp from corner to corner! Better than most people get even now.

Fourth Avenue

Fourth Avenue is one of Manhattan's shorter avenues today, extending only to 14th Street. It stops a mile short of where this hotel once stood. Way back when, however, it ran much of the length of Manhattan and into the Bronx. Starting in the 1850s, the city began renaming the sections north of 34th Street "Park Avenue," the much grander moniker by which it's still known today.

Being located between 32nd and 33rd streets, the Park Avenue Hotel wasn't actually on Park Avenue at all, as at the time the roadway south of 34th was still called Fourth Avenue. One would have to assume that the hotel's owners were eager to latch onto the cachet that even then was associated with Park Avenue. In 1924, the builder of the office building that replaced the hotel got the city to agree to extend the Park Avenue name two blocks farther south, to 32nd Street, so the building would get the vanity address of One Park Avenue. It's still around today and still has that address.

In 1959 the city cut back the Fourth Avenue name still further, renaming the stretch between 17th and 32nd "Park Avenue South." It is Union Square East between 14th and 17th.

Much more about Fourth Avenue here.

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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