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Old New York: 1913

Old New York: 1913

Summer 1913. "Bird's eye view of N.Y.C. from roof of Consolidated Gas Building." 5x7 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection. View full size.


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Quaker Oats location?

Can anyone tell me approximately where that Quaker Oats sign was located?

The "CLOTHES" sign, lower left

What is the sign that apparently displays 10:15 above the "CLOTHES" vertical sign toward the lower left of the photo? It couldn't be a digital clock, right?

If it isn't a digital clock, I wonder what the 10:15 stood for. October 15th?

[The sign says "10-15-25¢" And nothing about "clothes." - Dave]

Thanks for replying! Sorry, I meant the sign on the photographer's side of the elevated train station that reads "CLOTHES," descending from the top. It looks a lot like the Jefferson Theatre's sign.

What Bridge?

What bridge is in the it still standing? (I don't think so....but?)

[That's the Williamsburg Bridge. Still very much there. - Dave]

Con Ed

My dad worked briefly for Con Ed in that building on the NE corner of 14th and Irving Place for a few months back in 1921-22. It's still there, just a few blocks south of Pete's Tavern on Irving Place, one of my old favorite pubs in that neighborhood.

Water Tanks

The most amazing thing is that new water tanks are constructed virtually the same as the wooden tanks shown in this photo. The base is supported by parallel wooden joists sitting on a structural steel framework. A wooden floor is laid across the joists. Once in place, the floor is cut into to size of the tank's diameter. Then enough vertical staves are secured in place to permit some of the steel bands to be put in place. Once complete, the tank is pumped full of water. The staves and the wooden floor swell enough after a few days immersed in water that the tank no longer leaks. Most tanks have open tops - some have an additional weather enclosure around them. Wooden tanks like these last about 20 years. A replacement tank of this size can be made on site in less than a day's time.

Water Tanks

Today, water pressure in NYC will only take the water supply up six stories, at best. To go higher, it needs a boost to pump it to individual units or to a tank where it can supply by gravity.

In the past several years, the designers of some new quick and nasty condo buildings in Brooklyn were not aware of that. Hello!

Water tanks

All buildings six stories and higher in New York City are required to have water tanks. The best, cheapest, way to keep water pressure up in tall buildings.

Up on the Roof

All those lovely roofs and no one up there tending a garden or reading or having a smoke.


There's an amazing amount of cisterns on the roofs. Bad pressure or poor main lines?

[Those aren't cisterns. (Cisterns, usually underground, hold rainwater. How would you fill a cistern on a roof?) Penthouse tanks tanks fed by the municipal water supply are common even today in big cities on buildings of more than a few stories. - Dave]

Painless Dentistry?

In 1913, anything but, surely!

[Local anesthesia (Novocain, procaine, etc.) was well established by 1913. - Dave]

Quaker Oats Sign

Lots of interesting signage including Quaker Oats.

Also to the right, a church steeple under construction.


Is that temperature atop the Jefferson sign showing 25 degrees F? The pedestrians don't appear to be dressed very warmly.

[The sign says 10-15-25 cents. - Dave]

The East Village

I used to live in the area a couple of years ago on East 12th between Avenues A & B. Can't quite make that building out in this shot, but there are some noticeable landmarks there. First is Tompkins Square Park (just left of center toward the top, which occupies the area between Avenue A & B on the east and west, and 10th street & 7th streets to the north and south), looking toward the Manhattan Bridge.

The two steeples peeking up over the park, I think, are St. Brigid's Church on Avenue B across from the park. The shorter, broader steeple on this side of the park probably is St. Nicholas of Myra Church (1883) on the corner of Avenue A and 10th Street. Moving farther right across the picture, below where the bridge begins to fade off, is the steeple of St. Stanislaus Church (1872) on 7th Street, between Avenue A and First Avenue. Moving a little more to the right, closer to the photographer, is the steeple of St. Marks in the Bowery (its stark contrast jumps out at you) on the corner of 10th Street & 2nd Avenue.

"The Bowery" was Dutch governor Peter Stuyvesant's farm, and his private chapel used to stand there, making this the oldest site of continuous worship in Manhattan. This church was erected 1795-99, with a Greek Revival steeple added 1828 and an Italianate portico completing the structure in 1854. The graveyard here has some of the oldest burials in Manhattan, including Stuyvesant himself.

I see a handful of other steeples in there, but I need the time to identify those, these were the "easy" ones for me.

Con Ed

Here we go again, another picture that is going to have my attention for many days. This one, taken from the Consolidated Gas Building, now the Con Ed (Consolidated Edison) Building is at 4 Irving place. I Guess the shot was taken looking southeast across 3rd Ave (the El is there). The Jefferson Theatre was a major vaudeville house at 214 East 14 St, which puts it between 2nd & 3rd Avenues and on the south side of the street. This places the photographer 1 block away from Union Square Park, the site of some previous, amazing Shorpy pictures. Today that block, houses among others, a high-rise NYU dorm and a very active Trader Joe's. It is an extremely busy street populated mainly by the college kids.

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