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Night Light: 1913

Night Light: 1913

New York noir circa 1913. "The Woolworth Building at night." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

This is, for all intents and purposes, a "new" image for anyone alive today -- a muddy-looking print of it has been available for years in the Library of Congress archive, but it wasn't until last year that the glass negative was imaged and put online. As far as I know this is its Interwebs debut, apart from the LOC website. We did a lot of work to adjust the contrast and get it cleaned up.


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Even though this is credited to the Detroit Publishing Company, it's interesting that the photo shows the offices of Irving Underhill Photographer (on Broadway across from the Woolworth Building)who was also known for his cityscapes.

Post office tube

Almost certainly the tube coming out of the post office was part of the extensive pneumatic mail tubing network that was extensively utilized at the turn of the century. Miles of tubing existed under the city to help expedite mail delivery in the city.

What's that pipe?

The elevated pipeline running towards the back of the old Post Office? Anyone know?

BTW the old Post Office was torn down in the mid-1930s. Part of the cities preparation for the 1939 NYWF.

Have Dave, as long as you were tidying the place up

couldn't you turn on the lights?

Great work!

Thanks for your efforts, Dave. It is beautiful.

Imagine it in color

Well, you don't have to. Look at that elegant color combination.

The city was quiet

A slight fog had crept up from the battery to cloak the streets with mist, that was just enough to diffuse the bright lights. Out on the river boats left long thin traceries of light illumining their passages to and fro.

The tall building stood out from the rest of the city simply by the bright lights on every floor that made it shine in the darkness ...


So atmospheric. A great shot.

That structure

I don't think the structure crossing the road has to do with the Post Office. The construction in the corner of the park is for the Broadway subway tunnels (I was able to find information about the history of this construction but have since been unable to find the site... never fails!). Presumably, the pipes carry air or power to the underground facilities under construction. Here's a daytime photo shot from an angle that gives a better view. And here is a history of the park.

Here's an image from the NY Transit Museum's "The Streets Beneath Us". It shows the construction at Murray and Broadway, March 13, 1915, Relocating utility lines for BMT Broadway Subway construction. This would be one block up across the street from the site seen in the above photo.

Interestingly, this is right across the street from New York's first subway, the Beach Pneumatic Subway, running between Murray and Warren Streets, along Broadway, a distance of... one block.

We'll leave a light on for you

Woolworth must have commissioned the photo and left all (almost all) of the lights on to capture this dramatic sight. Love it!

The Cathedral of Commerce

As beautiful then as it is now. One of New York's truly gorgeous skyscrapers. They don't build 'em like that anymore unfortunately.

Some slackers up there

Note the only dark windows in the whole building.

"To offices on all floors: Please leave all lights on tonight"

Apparently the 23rd floor didn't get the memo.


Like a city you are floating towards just as you begin to dream.

Mullett's Monstrosity

The Woolworth Building is gorgeous, of course, but this may be the finest picture I've ever seen of Alfred Mullett's City Hall Post Office and Courthouse, along with its dirty loading dock facing City Hall Park.

I wonder what that structure is crossing the street to the small structure in the park. Pneumatic tubes for sorting, perhaps?

Thanks Mr. Edison

This view would not be as magnificent lit by gas or oil lantern lights.

Statuesque Beauty

I liken the Woolworth building in this shot to the luminously beautiful girl who arrives at the dance a little late, and everyone stops and stares.

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