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Under the El: 1942

September 1942. "New York. Third Avenue elevated railway at 18th Street." The Shorpy Pub Crawl starts at Flynn's! Medium format negative by Marjory Collins for the Office of War Information. View full size.

September 1942. "New York. Third Avenue elevated railway at 18th Street." The Shorpy Pub Crawl starts at Flynn's! Medium format negative by Marjory Collins for the Office of War Information. View full size.


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Below is the same perspective from September of 2014.

Just Made It

When I was eight years old in 1954 my grandmother married a retired New York City policeman and moved to the Bronx. I got to ride the 3rd Avenue El in its last year. I was fascinated by the fact that the stations were just old fashioned train depots on stilts. They still had potbelly stoves.

What's that guy doing?

Does anyone know what the guy in the center of the picture is doing? It looks like he's at a machine of some sort & maybe putting something (a coin) into a slot.

[He's mailing a letter. -tterrace]

Some buildings still there

I went to high school on 16th street between 3rd and 2nd aves. Much has changed, but this was great to see. I've often tried to picture what the area would have been like with a train rumbling overhead -- the place always seemed slightly sleepy because it was so far from a north-south subway.

It seems this view is looking north from 18th street and a very few buildings remain, mainly on the west corner of 19th (the three low buildings and the taller building on the far corner):

The Lost Weekend

The photo reminds me of Ray Milland in the “Lost Weekend” walking along Third Avenue trying to hock his typewriter. Alas, it was a Jewish holiday and the pawn shops were closed.

A short beer ?

A short beer twenty-five in 1942! I don’ think so. Eight ounce beers were 10 cents in the New York City neighborhood taverns at that time. A jukebox recording but five cents and it was still the cost until the early 1950s. A short beer was usually included as a chaser in the price of a shot of your favorite whiskey. The minimum wage in many industries was forty cents an hour. "Put another nickel in..." (Teresa Brewer 1950) .


The elevated railway really did create some extraordinary urban landscapes. Glad I didn't have to live with it though.

Last Ride

On the very last day the 3rd Ave EL ran I cut high school and rode it from the Bowery to Gun Hill Road and back. It was really cool and almost no one else was on it. Figured it was my last chance to ride that historic train. Sigh.

Cast iron

Fire box and postal drop box.

New Yorkers losing their "El"

The elevated or "El" system had a long run in New York City, predating by over 30 years the opening of the first subway line. But with the demolition of the last of the old El lines in Manhattan in 1955, the word "El" itself began to slip out of the everyday lexicon of New Yorkers.

There are still several long sections of NYC's rail transit system that run above city streets, particularly in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, but few New Yorkers today would know what you were talking about if you referred to them as the "El." All lines are now referred to universally as "the subway," even if they rather incongruously run above-ground.

Swiss miss

Solo is right. In the book about Berenice Abbott's great work "Changing New York", a Mr. Courtright is mentioned as executive engineer of the EL project in the 1860-70s. He was the one who engaged a Swiss constructional engineer who designed the chalet-style stations. Unfortunately, the book forgets to mention the man's name. Anyone?

Flynn's has flown

You'd have a tough time buying a drink* at Flynn's Tavern these days. Its building has been gone for decades, replaced in 1973 by a 31-story apartment house known as Park Towers. The building on the other side of 18th Street, with the "Butcher" sign, is also long gone. Since 1964 the 21-story Gramercy Park Towers has occupied the site.

On the left of the picture, above the truck, there is a building with distinctive horizontal light stripes in its brickwork. This building is known as 226 Third Avenue and is still around, in fact it turned 100 last year. Also still around today are the buildings at far left, on the west side of Third between 18th and 19th, though the street levels have been so heavily renovated as to be unrecognizable today.

* = my reasoned guess is that the most popular drink at Flynn's was the "short beer," a 25-cent draft beer of about eight ounces served in a stemmed glass. Back in the day they were the staple drink of New York workingmen.

Riveting -

just riveting.

A Note of Whimsy

I always thought that the El's stations, perhaps inspired by some architect's impression of a Swiss chalet, added an amusing note to what was otherwise an aesthetic excrescence on the body metropolitan.

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