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Manhattan: 1932

Manhattan: 1932

1932. "New York City views, skyline." Front-and-center is our old friend the Flatiron Building. 4x5 nitrate negative by Arnold Genthe. View full size.


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New view

More than likely a shot from the newly constructed Empire State Building (1931). Cool picture!

Home, Sweet Home!

My dad was born in 1919 on 39th Steet and 11th Avenue (then, as now, called "Hell's Kitchen") in this wonderful city.

My grandparents (all four of them) came through Ellis Island, and settled first in Manhattan, then eventually to the "outer borough" of Queens, in areas like Astoria (where I was born).

OTY: your comments are so eloquent and nostalgic! You captured the essence of the photo and the era completely! Excellent piece of writing.


That air over lower Manhattan looks like it would really stick to your ribs!

If buildings could talk

I would ask them to show me exactly where my ancestors disembarked from their ships onto American soil for the first time, I would request a look at my great Uncle's "free lunch with beer" bar where my mom was a kitchen helper and that one fateful day she served a sandwich to the 20 yr. old (construction worker) man she would marry that same year (1932). I'd attend the church where they tied the knot, just the two of them and a priest. I'd want to see the exact third floor walk-up flat on the lower east side that was their first dwelling, the streets and stores they shopped in, the hospital where my older siblings were born and the beaches at Coney Island and other amusement parks where they spent long, fun-filled summer Sundays. I'd have them show me the 1939 World's Fair buildings where my Uncle John was on police duty walking the beat every day and yes, even the avenue where my seven-year old cousin Stephen was tragically killed by a speeding car. I'm sure there are a million other stories for a million other people who would like to see the actual locations where their loved ones might have had various New York experiences in which these buildings played a part. I've never had the privilege of actually residing in NYC. As the family grew, my parents moved out to a small town in Conn. where I was born and even though I always wanted to be a "New Yorker", I never actually was. I'm pretty certain though that their ten yrs. in N.Y. were really the happiest and most exciting time in their lives. The fog hanging over the city seems to represent the Great Depression since they were in the throes of it at this time but even though my parents had no money and lots of kids, it was their time to be young and they were always optimistic there. With a skyline like that and those thousands of wonderful buildings, where one can get anything from anywhere in the world, hope springs eternal.

Union Square construction

The big construction site on the left of the picture is Union Square Park, which although almost 100 years old at the time of the photo had been torn up in 1928 to build the subway concourses that are still underneath it. Reconstruction was complete by 1934.

The mounted statue of George Washington by Henry Kirke Brown, which dates back to 1856, is visible near the far end of the park.


4x5 negative! I'd have guessed a slow 35mm film pushed to 3200 with underdiluted D76.

[A lot of that is because haze and because Photoshop. Also because film -- generally speaking, Genthe's work on glass negatives is much smoother looking. Unadjusted image below. Click to enlarge. - Dave]


This is a surprisingly low quality image from the well-known photographer. Selecting a gloomy day, and using what we used to refer to as the bottom of a milk bottle for a lens, it is a wonder this shot was actually saved.

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