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Fifth Avenue: 1908

New York circa 1908. "Fifth Avenue hotels north from 51st Street." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

New York circa 1908. "Fifth Avenue hotels north from 51st Street." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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660 Fifth Avenue

The French Chateauesque mansion second block on the left is the William K. Vanderbilt house, designed by Richard Morris Hunt. I seem to remember from an episode of A&E's America's Castles that the statue was relocated to a still existing Vanderbilt house on Long Island.

St. Thomas Church at 53rd

There are actually two churches visible on the left side of Fifth Avenue - the first of which is the tower of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, at the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street. The Church burned in early August 1905, but the tower reportedly survived. From this angle, in fact, it's difficult to see any fire damage; the facade of the front door of the church seems intact.
Between 1907 and 1909, the City widened Fifth Avenue between 23rd and 47th Streets, by taking 7 1/2 feet from sidewalks on each side, but by July 1909 that project had not yet reached further north, to this area.

Re: That church

That's the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church which still stands at 55th Street.

Flue with a view

Please tell me that that's a brave sweep taking in the view on his lunch break, and not a boring piece of statuary (to the left of the very Cinderella-looking turret)!

Houses of the Vanderbilts

On the left side of the avenue, we can see several houses belonging to the Vanderbilt family: First is a part of the double house (actually 3 houses) covering the whole block between 51st and 52nd Streets, built for William Henry Vanderbilt (son of the Commodore) and his two married daughters. These houses were designed by the decorating firm of Herter Brothers and built between 1879 and 1882. Next, at the northwest corner of 52nd Street, is the house designed by Richard Morris Hunt for William K. Vanderbilt (one of the Commodore's grandsons) and built in 1879-1882. This landmark of old New York was also known as the "Petit Chateau." I'm fairly certain that the smaller house right next to it was also built for a Vanderbilt, but I can't remember which one (!) The very last building visible on this side of the street, between 57th and 58th Streets, would be the Cornelius Vanderbilt II House, designed by George B. Post for another grandson of the Commodore. This last house was built in two phases, the first in 1881-1882 and the second in 1892-1894.

So sad, bye bye

I'm always a little shocked and saddened by the changes made by "progress" but this all really takes the cake. Everything appears to be gone and it all looked beautiful to my untrained eye. I've noticed that whenever I see cupolas or turrets in an old photo, you can almost bet that building will be gone. Speaking of which, my favorite building, the one just to the left with the very pointed peak, has two interesting items that I don't quite understand. One, the windows all look open, but way too "open" for this construction if you get my drift. And two, whats with the guy on the chimney?

Vanderbilt Row

In the foreground on the left is the Vanderbilt double mansion built by William H. Vanderbilt at 640 Fifth Avenue for himself and two daughters. In 1908, Henry Clay Frick was in his third year of living there at a reported annual rental of $50,000.

You can see the surviving half of the house in 1933 surrounded by much taller neighbors in this classic Shorpy photo, next to what will become Rockefeller Center. It finally bit the dust in 1947.

And right across 52d Street is the celebrated home of his second son William K Vanderbilt, which made it to the 1920s.

A high point in Central Park

If you look in the distance at Central Park, it looks like there is a small mountain there. Was there a hill that was excavated in the forming of the park?

That church

Any one know which church that is on the left. At first I thought it was St. Patrick's but St. Pats is behind to the right.


It just looks to me as though life was so much richer and dignified then. I think a nation's architecture speaks a lot about the mindset of the people.

1906 Fifth Avenue Postcard

This postcard in my family collection shows a similar, but earlier view of Fifth Avenue.

That vehicle in the center

looks like an armored car.

[It's an electric taxicab. - Dave]


Below is the same view from April of 2006.

Ivy-covered walls at 51st and Fifth!

That's Central Park up ahead, where the Plaza Hotel and Apple's all-night store now stand face to face.

It looked so much nicer a century ago.

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