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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

Clam Chowder Today: 1905

Clam Chowder Today: 1905

New York City circa 1905. "Exterior of tenement." The longer you look at this, the more you'll see. 8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Co. View full size.

 

Do You Suppose

the Sicilian Asphalt Company also offered a line of concrete shoes?

What am I missing?

Just wondering how "swein" determined that this was E. 40th; might I be enlightened on this "1915 directory"? I'm half-cringing in anticipation of a "duh" moment but I've looked over the pic & the comments -- and I'm not getting it.

[Swein consulted the 1915 Manhattan City Directory for Wm. Inwood, Grocer, and found a listing that matched the 308 address in the window. - Dave]

I now live on this spot

Or possibly right next to it. I live in the Churchill, a 33-story apartment building at 300 East 40th Street - it takes up the entire block between 39th and 40th Street, and 2nd Avenue and Tunnel Entrance Street. 308 was either torn down to make room for the Churchill (built 1968) or possibly during the building of the Midtown tunnel and its approaches (1936-40).

Holy horse dung!

Having lived in Manhattan for 12 (yes, only 12) years and having moved away, this photo leaves me speechless.

The detail of the photographic process is amazing and the subtle (and somewhat hidden) joys on view here make me wanna head back for any chowder--even the famous Gowanus Canal Chow. All the sights, smells and sounds of the greatest city on earth come back to me. Many thanks.

I LEARN so much from the comments!

This is one of my favorite sites for resting my weary eyes during work breaks. And while I certainly savor the photos, so many layers are added by the comments. Thank you, everyone, for sharing your knowledge.

Almost "Norman Rockwell"

Imagine a 5000-piece picture puzzle with this photo as the topic!

Francie is gazing out the window

It could be Francie. It could. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn was my favorite book as a young adult and this detailed photograph brings a better understanding of the novel.

Lace Curtain Irish

If this is chowda, it must be Friday. When I was a kid, every Friday was meatless and during that era, the better-off Irish were referred to as titled. Likewise the Polish people who were "comfortable" were "silk stocking Poles" and my father used to call us cotton stocking Poles. Both ethnicities were Catholic and Friday always meant seafood, (Irish were also referred to as "mackerel snappers) and odors of frying fish, tuna salad and chowda permeated the neighborhoods. My mom made three kinds of chowda, New England with a creamy, white base, Manhattan with a tomato base and lots of vegetables and Rhode Island which was a lighter version of the N.E. kind but with added broth. I love them all but also miss the smell of everybody's tuna and onion sandwiches at school lunch and fish frying aromas wafting through our town at supper time. I do remember that fresh mackerel was ten cents a pound and almost everyone could afford it. Thanks for the great nostalgic picture, the despairing lady in the window seems trapped and scared, there has to be a story there.

Windowsill garden

I love the window with all the plants in it! Hard to tell what they are, though it looks like one may be an orchid. I wonder if they were purely ornamental or if some were herbs for cooking. Either way, you've got to cram as many as you can into your available sunny spaces!

Where'd the cart go?

There are two other photos of this tenement in the Library of Congress collection. They look much more inhabited and show how this image might have been manipulated for effect -- the other images show the address number (curiously missing here), the awning down, and a cart of produce in front of the building, a much more inviting view.

[Nothing was "manipulated." You can't see the address numbers because they're on the front doors, which are both open in this view. - Dave]

Elmer's Gantry

On the wall above the cellar stairs, there's a triangular rig for hoisting stuff up out of the basement.

George B. McClellan Jr

Mayor of New York 1904-1909. Born in Dresden, Germany, and son of Gen. McClellan of Civil War blundering.

Once, tenements were even respectable

Lovely curtains, with lace or bobbles or fringe, at every window. No broken glass. Well-kept and middle-class.

Jacob Riis had shown New York tenements as nothing but degrading slums. "How The Other Half Lives" was only 15 years old when this photograph was made. But there was always a strong sense of middle-class values that resided in the people who lived in the "better" tenements. They embraced the Settlement House movement, strove to present a "decent" face to the world, and certainly didn't want to be tarred with the same label as those dirty, disreputable slum-dwellers downtown.

What an amazing image. There's so much we've forgotten. Thank you for reminding us.

Junior

In spite of the apparent distaste someone in this neighborhood had for George B. McClellan, he won his mayoral campaign. The name sounds familiar, of course, and the man on the poster is the son of Civil War General George B. McClellan. He served as mayor of New York City from 1904 to 1909 (he was elected first for a two-year term, and then for a four-year term).

Apparently he was a little moralistic, and canceled all motion-picture exhibition licenses on Christmas Eve 1908. Perhaps that's why he was not encouraged to run for reelection for the 1910 term.

Graffiti

If you zoom in you can see initials chalked on the bricks.

Morning scrubbing

The lady in at the doorway seems to be scrubbing the floors. You can see the water dripping down the front step.

Fire Escapes

The two "Fire Escapes" I guess are not balconies but have no apparent way to get down to street and away from the conflagration. The only thing I can figure is the NYFD would come and raise a ladder to them. We can't tell how tall the building is but I imagine no more than four or five stories [Actually, seven. - Dave]. The fire escapes for the floors above must be on the sides and rear of the building. I am having trouble identifying the metal bracket affixed to the wall between the tailor shop window and it's door. It looks like it could have held a hanging sign but appears to be too low.

It's a gas!

I see that H. Kino the Tailor still uses gaslights (in the front window) -- but seeing as how this building was a "tenement," I suppose electrification was a low priority.

Gaslight

The lamplighter would lean his ladder against those arms.

Tenement?

In New York City a "tenement" is considered to be a small (under five story with no elevator) overcrowded run-down building. The houses on the Lower East Side in the early 1900s were tenements. 308 East 40th Street does not fit that description.

[Meanings change over time. Strictly speaking, a tenement is any tenanted building, i.e. apartment house. Below, NYC real-estate listings from 1905. - Dave]

Tudor City

308 East 40th Street in Manhattan is just off Second Avenue on the south side of the street and just a few doors away from the Tudor City apartment and park complex. Back in the 1980's, there were some terrific restaurants in that immediate area.

Thank you!

Clicking on these photos to get the full-size view is like opening gifts! I'm thrilled every time. Thank you.

I just figured it out

Why do vintage street lamps always those two arms sticking out? To support a ladder for maintenance!

Chillin at the window

I count two windowsill milk bottles. Plus some paper-wrapped packages, maybe meat or butter.

It does not survive.

308 East 40th Street (courtesy of the 1915 city directory).


View Larger Map

Give the man a steak to go with the beer!

The brickwork is fantastic. Look at the fancy work above the second floor windows and the double diamondwork up the walls. I have never seen diamondwork in brick before.

Maybe not

I was thinking of swiping something out of that tool chest, then I read the label!

Loafer Deterrent

Those sharp triangles on the top of the railings look to be very effective at keeping people from sitting on them.

[Also effective for loafing pigeons -- note that they're also on the lower rung. - Dave]

Down in flames

Hmmm, fire escapes that go nowhere.

Scared the bejesus out of me!

The shadowy lady in the doorway! And the pensive woman in the window looks so lost in thought. The people in this photo are the best part!

Deep

I think I lost a truck in that pothole.

Haunting

Best face-in-a-window shot in a long time. Looks like a painting, and speaks of timeless solitude across a century.

Trading stamps

That S&H Green Stamp sign would be quite a collectible now. Sperry & Hutchinson began in 1896. They're still around, just virtual.

S&H Green Stamps

And here I thought they were a product of the 1950s, or earlier.

["Earlier" would seem to be correct. - Dave]

Time for some road repair

Wow, that's a nasty bit of road in front of that building.

I wanna buy that mason a beer!

Those are the coolest headers I've ever seen! There's probably a term for that style, for all I know.

The cobblestones on the street are another story. No doubt a mosquito plague after every rain.

Pop. 2

So far I see two people in this photo. Not counting George McClellan.

308

Who'll be the first to post a Street View?

 
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