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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 • TAKE A KODAK, c. 1930s

Winter Wonderland: 1908

Winter Wonderland: 1908

"Union Square from a skyscraper." Winter in New York 100 years ago. A little moldy but full of interesting details like the "Automatic Vaudeville" penny arcade and Brill Bros. store. 5x7 glass negative, George Grantham Bain. View full size.

 

Dead Man's Curve!

The Southwest corner of Union Square, so well documented in the photograph, was in the 1890s the scene of many pedestrian accidents as the street railways, then cable cars, would whip around the fast curves in order to maintain momentum through these curves and not become stranded. This fast maneuver was the cause of the accidents and this busy corner became known as Dead Man's Curve, long before Jan and Dean raced that XKE to disaster in their Stingray.

Re: Park Benches

The park benches in Union Square Park (which I assume are not the benches pictured here) are very much in the same winding pattern along the walkways. There are even little semicircular nooks of benches where people (myself included) can chill out with a larger group and have a nice chat.

Union Square

This view is of the west side of the park from 15th street to 16th street. I believe one or two of the center building are still there although their facades have been changed. The photo was probably taken from a turn of the century building opposite on the east side of Union Square which is still standing.

[Not quite. The view is of the south (14th Street) side of the park, with Broadway on the left and University Place on the right. - Dave]

Union Square Condos

There is massive construction of condominium residences occurring right now on Union Square West between 14th & 17th Streets. Their timing is a little off, but don't feel too sorry for them. Anything in Manhattan that overlooks parks, landmarks or rivers will always be in demand.

Union Square Revisited

Oops, of course this is Union Square South. The other three sides of Union Square remain largely unchanged since the late 19th century, but much of the southern border of the square is new.

14th Street and University Place

It appears to be a view looking south along University Place. Here is a great page from the 1911 New York Times.

14th Street

Re the Abbott photo, it is of a different street -- Barnes & Noble is on 17th (Union Square North). The Automatic Vaudeville Building (the Bain photo) was at 46 East 14th Street (Union Square South), next door to a Whole Foods market now. The only microbrewery that I know of in this area, Heartland Brewery, is on Union Square West. The Bain photo shows Union Square South (14th Street). The Automatic Vaudeville company, started by Adolph Zucker, founder of Paramount Pictures, was taken over by Marcus Loew. This was the start of the movie industry as we know it.

Some things don't really change

This part of New York has changed very little. Almost every building visible in this photo remains. I believe that the tall one to the right is a Barnes & Noble and the "Automatic Vaudeville" is now a microbrewery.

Berenice Abbott took a famous photo of these buildings from street level in the 1938.

Perhaps some day team Shorpy will provide a better version for us.

[They all look different to me. Plus there are seven buildings across in the Bain photo, and six across in Berenice's. - Dave]

Park benches

You don't see park benches strung along pathways anymore. These days they plop them down so they are separated by as much space as possible. It was much more communal back then.

Childs Restaurant

The Childs Restaurant on the south side of East 14th Street brings back some fond memories of the one on the north side of East 42nd between Madison and Vanderbilt. My family always stopped there for a meal after coming down on the NY Central train from Beacon. My grandmother's much younger half-brother was a close friend of the Childs family, who maintained a large country place in rural northern New Jersey back in the first third of the 20th century. He also spent some time back then working as a kitchen chef for one of their NY City restaurants.

Metronome

Isn't this the location of the Metronome art installation and the Virgin store? I used to work 6 blocks south and walked by here every morning on my commute. Wish it still had corset stores instead of disturbingly fugly public art.

[The Metronome would be in the top left of the 1908 photo. - Dave]

Lesen Sie Deutsch?

Lots of German and Jewish names on the signs here -- Gross, Brill, Strauss, Lapidus, Spang, Gottlieb, Heller, Nyburg, Stern, Mayer, Emrich, Schorsch, Spingler, Isaac ... did I miss any?

 
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