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Starlight Park: 1921

Starlight Park: 1921

June 1921. Eleanor Tierney at Starlight Park on the Bronx River at 177th Street. Eleanor, a Broadway chorus girl, married a banker and ended up in Larchmont. 5x7 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection. View full size.


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I wonder how they took care of keeping a pool of this size clean in 1921. I don't think they had Olin's HTH product at the time.

Beach hair

Yes, it appears that Eleanor is both confident and fun-loving! It also appears that (by the look of her carefree 'beached-out' tresses) she has been SWIMMING this lovely day. This makes me very happy! I imagine that not too many women of the day would purposely submerge their HEAD in the salt water, much less consent afterwards to having their portrait made. That said, I have no doubt that for stage and most all other social appearances, Eleanor made diligent use of hair straightening rods, pin curlers, scented hair oils, etc. How do I know this? I (and all the other women in my family) have Eleanor's hair.

More Starlight Pix

I first became aware of Starlight Park from a photo in Roger Arcara's "Westchester's Forgotten Railway" (1960). Now, the Internet and this web page have opened a whole new box of nostalgic pleasures. I have uploaded more Starlight Park pix here.

Eleanor in Color

When this photo originally appeared on Shorpy last year, I decide it was a good experiment for hand-coloring. I did this in Adobe Illustrator CS2, not a traditional photo-manipulation program. With the recent mania for colorizing, I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon. Fire away, philistines!

[The system deleted your attachment because it was wider than 490 pixels. Please read and follow the posting instructions! - Dave]

Starlight Park in my Life

I admire the candid of Ms. Tierney, but the background is most interesting. I knew Starlight Park more than a quarter century later. By then there were no remnants of roller coasters or the like. The arena had been converted to a bus barn by Third Avenue Transit( taken over and operated now by the government transit op.) Many of the stucco buildings with red tile roofs were either destroyed,falling down or abandoned playgrounds for kids. That pool she is standing beside had a large sandy beach area and was of monumental proportions. It was the length of a football field, oriented east-west. At the west end, beyond the paved promenade, was a retaining wall and the land fell off sharply to the Bronx River. When this photo was taken this was largely an area that was undeveloped.

The 180th Street Crosstown trolley (X route) went by and there was the West Farms junction of several trolley routes (after 1948 all buses) about a quarter mile away. The White Plains Road IRT elevated line with a Bronx Zoo destination had a stop another few blocks further west.

In the 1940s when I frequented the place, it was because I accompanied my father, who was a soccer buff, when he went there on Sundays to doubleheaders of the German-American Soccer league. Not withstanding the leagues moniker; the NY Hungarians, Praha, Savoia, Hakoah, Eintracht, Brooklyn Wanderers, Bronx Scots, my old man's former team the NY Corinthians, and a plethora of teams with non-teutonic associations made up the league. There were professional leagues that had a larger territorial range, but almost all of the players in those days were either immigrants, or their first generation progeny. The GA was the MISL of that time. There was no real money to pay living wages to soccer players so either industrial teams, like the Uhrich Truckers in St. Louis, or semi pros - like those from the G-A league were the source of the best players in the country. Yogi Berra, and Joe Garagiola who grew up on "The Hill" in St. Louis, were part of a similar world and played soccer for local Italo-American sides there as children and teens.

I know this seems strange, when the American goalie Brad Fridl pulls down 5 million bucks from Aston Villa in Birmingham in the UK Premier League, but until the Spaniards and Italians started offering whatever wages they would to get the best players, the British paid washers to professional soccer players. Ten pounds a week was the fixed rate in the forties for UK soccer players. Liverpool offered a NYPD sergeant named Miller, who was the G-A all star teams goalie, a contract. He would have had to have taken a substantial pay cut to have gone there. Foreign wage pressures, and the fixing of games by underpaid players has changed that forever. The Post War would change everything, but meanwhile the German-American League was the best we had.

In the early 1950s, I was at Randall's Island Stadium when the G-A League All Stars beat Kaiserslauten , the German Bundesliga champions, 2-0. So Starlight Park's large playing field, north of the pool site ruins, was, along with Sterling Oval, and a field across the road from Con Edison in the south Bronx, were the places where the best soccer in the US was being played.

As a young kid, I and the sons and daughters of the immigrants tore around the ruins playing games, built fires to roast spuds and marshmallows and the like, while our parents watched the games and relived their own athletic youths. Unfortunately, it wasn't all a halcyon time in the ruins for us. Charley, a 12-year-old acquaintance, was murdered by a sexual pervert there after swimming in the Bronx River.

I never knew the place in its heyday, and I wish I had been there to ride the roller coaster and swim in such an immense pool. Still, it provided a different set of experiences and meaning to another generation.

Peter J.

Chubby? Slightly Pregnant??!!

Honestly, get a clue. She just happens to have internal organs. Gee,if only they could come up with plastic surgery to remove them.

Eleanor Tierney

According to census records and the NY Times archives, Eleanor married John A. Van Zelm. He died of pneumonia on August 1, 1937. Eleanor died on June 22, 1948.


Something about the way she is standing and the look on her faces tells me that Eleanor might have been that girl who knew how to have a good time. Love the photo.

Why this photo?

DO you know why this photo was taken? Was it a private photo? Or was it taken as publicity for the show she is appearing in at the time (being a chorus girl) or for the park itself? It has all the hallmarks of a professional photo due to the angle and her stance.

[The Bain News Service photos were all professional. - Dave]

Re: Show Boat

She's a chorus girl, too? Can she GET any more awesome?

Can this be back in style?

I absolutely love her bathing suit. I may need to get to work on one not made out of wool...


That is some hairdo! Very pretty woman.


Eleanor, gee I think you're swell, and you really do me well, you're my pride and joy, etcetera... ©the Turtles

...this beauty can model for me any time.

My Two Cents

Not to belabor the point regarding women's curves, I can only think of the classic artists whose magnificent paintings of beautiful, fleshed-out female forms are unintentionally so much more interesting (as in erotic) than would be bone-thin, shapeless females exhibiting a dearth of both feminine hormones and sex appeal. Take for example Venus, September Morn, the entire works of Rubens, Botticelli and hundreds of other artists and paintings that celebrate the true nature of the female form. Of course, then we have Botero, who makes all his figures very short and very stocky, but they are such great fun to look at. I can't imagine the great painters even desiring to paint the anorexic girls on the runways today. Just had to add my humble opinion to the mix. Thank you for not only the fascinating photos but also the stimulating discussions they inspire.

The Boyish Look

Setting aside the fact that had the current fashion for anorexic actresses been in place fifty or sixty years ago we would have been robbed of the pleasure of watching Marilyn Monroe, the boyish look of the '20s was quite common, and would later come to be thoroughly misunderstood. If you've ever seen a not very good movie called "Getting Straight" which starred Elliott Gould and Candice Bergen, you may recall a scene in which Gould's character is defending his thesis on his favourite book "The Great Gatsby." One of the professors insists that Fitzgerald's description of Daisy is distinctly boyish and points to this as proof of Gatsby's (and maybe even Fitzgerald's - it's been a long time since I've seen the film) suppressed homosexuality. I at least see it as being as much a product of the fashions of the times as the descriptions of blacks in other novels of the period.

Flat-Chested Flappers

Odd that so many readers view thinness as a purely modern fashion phenomenon, although our rail-thin models are a record-setting extreme. By the mid-1920s the ideal beauty was "boyish," with very slim hips, long legs, a flat chest and very short hair. This was the culmination of a revolutionary fashion trend that began during World War I with "mannish" dresses that suppressed the hourglass body shapes of the 1890-1910 period. In the 1920s John Held's covers for Life and Judge magazines featured girls with barely noticeable breasts and no waistline. This is the basis for the joke in "Some Like It Hot," when Marilyn Monroe envies Jack Lemmon's figure (in drag). She says that his beaded necklace hangs straight, and complains that hers just go all over the place.

Real Women

Once again, Shorpy proves why it is my daily online morning ritual. Cup of coffee in hand, I have to peruse the jewels set up for daily display.

As a woman who would have been described a "sweater girl" back in the good old days, I have always been amazed and a bit irritated how normal, healthy women in pictures such as this are berated in the comments on Shorpy for their weight when they have the curves and lovely meat a woman is supposed to have.

I'm very glad I resemble Mae West rather than Twiggy, and I know not a few men who are as well.

The Hepburn Factor

Twiggy was a latecomer in the thin-is-stylish sweepstakes. It actually dates back to Audrey Hepburn, the quintessential high-fashion template of the 50s. On a related note, let's not forget that of Katharine Hepburn (no relation), Spencer Tracy said, "Not much meat on her, but what there is is cherce." YMMV, of course.

Almost Nekkid!

For its moment, ca. 1920, this is a mild news service cheesecake photo produced for one of New York's many illustrated dailies. Eleanor Tierney's two-piece wool jersey bathing suit is acceptable in 1920 but a bit risque in its lack of a skirt. Many women continued to wear corsets under their bathing suits until the mid-teens at least, and one-piece bathing suits for women would remain illegal on many American beaches until the early 1930s. Many viewers at the time would have considered her "almost nekkid." With her casually proud stance and short hair, Eleanor is expressing modernity and liberation from older values, embodying social changes that were exciting, controversial and hotly debated throughout the country.


"It's also true that men like me knew lots and lots of unshaven European and American girls in the '60s and '70s. Natural and feminine women can be devastatingly attractive."

Heck, yes. That's a reason I keep coming back to this site.

Twiggy Go Home

To answer the SwingMan's question: It's that darn Twiggy in the early 1970's. I wish she had quickly crawled back into the golf hole from whence she came.

Who wants plastic anorexia?

I'm a relatively young man myself (37) and it's all the starved carpenter's dreams walking around these days that makes me really appreciate the beauty of this photo. Nothing fake or plastic here - to paraphrase, "it's all her, baby!" - and that's how I personally prefer women, inside as well as outside.

Since we're on the subject of "modern" women vs. the extremely appealing jazz babies I've seen here thus far, my question is, why on God's green earth have hips and real busts been outlawed the last 3 decades or so?

Dave, I can't tell you what a wonderful job and service you're doing. The streetscapes - as well as the jazz babies, among the many other things here - are exceptional!!!

Where it was...

If I'm reading my Yahoo! Map correctly, Starlight Park in the Bronx was just about where the northern terminus of Sheridan Parkway feeds off to East 177th Street, very close to East Tremont Avenue. The Bronx River is basically clean where in runs through the NY Botanical Garden, but I don't think I'd want to take a swim it it today where Starlight Park used to be.

More New York City photos requested...

More photos of people and places in New York City that are no longer "there" would sure be welcomed here, a la' the vast file of DC scenes you've published to date.

[We have more than 400 NYC photos on the site. - Dave]


According to

Show Boat [Broadway]
Original Broadway Production, 1927
Lady of the Ensemble

Real women, indeed

I agree that normal women are shaped like this young lady, if they're lucky; she was indeed a beautiful girl.

As a guy in his 60s, I would point out that the rage for anorexics is a fairly recent one, and I think that even young men would largely prefer a healthy woman to one who is obsessed with her weight. It seems to me that this is something that women have brought on themselves in the last 25 years or so. Maybe not.

It's also true that men like me knew lots and lots of unshaven European and American girls in the '60s and '70s. Natural and feminine women can be devastatingly attractive.

She's all that

...and she knows it! Here's a woman with a healthy confidence and outlook!

Starlight Park

From what little I can find about Starlight Park, it was at 177th and Devoe and closed around 1940. The site is now occupied by a city bus barn.

From other writings, Eleanor was apparently standing on a "beach" at the edge of a large wave pool on the park grounds.

The chin-up pose is striking. Eleanor had confidence.

Concrete beach?

What is she standing on?

[Concrete paving. - Dave]

I like her attitude.

I would seriously like to go back in time and hang out with this girl.

Comment criteria?

I find it interesting that every comment I've submitted to this site -- which have had to do with artistic decisions in photographs or societal conditions at the time the photos were taken -- has not appeared in the threads, and yet comments about the hair on this woman's legs or that say she looks "slightly pregnant" (please, calling her "a little chubby" is absolutely ridiculous) pass muster. This is a private blog, of course, and you may post comments or not as you please, but this thread is a bit annoying.

[Indeed. - Dave]

A real woman

*sigh* every chorus girl's dream: to marry a banker and move to Larchmont....

RE: "Chubby," Seems that some men today are too used to the hyper airbrushed "perfect 10's" they see in the media. As apparent in comments seen here and elsewhere on Shorpy. Someone always seems to pipe up about weight.

Most women share a shape similar to Eleanor's. Not fat, not skinny, not hard-bodied, not total slobs--just real and healthy.

That being said, most of us do shave our legs nowadays.

Grooming Notes

Wow, I guess women of the 20s were not too worried about shaving their legs. Of other interest, it appears that there is more material on the men's bathing suits of the day than on Eleanor's!

A Little Chubby

A lot of those 1920 bathing beauties seem to be slightly pregnant I guess they weren't into washboard abs or heroin chic.

The suit

Was this bathing suit considered risque at the time? I wonder, only because so-called "modesty suits" which are marketed to (mostly extremist) religious women these days (i.e. ) offer significantly more coverage than this item from nearly 90 years ago.

[It's not unusual for a 1920 bathing suit. - Dave]

Hairy gams

She has more hair on her legs than some of those Confederate soldiers had on their chins. I bet it's a good thing her arms aren't raised.


You could almost think this was a recent photo. She has a very modern look.

Itchy & Scratchy

That suit looks mighty itchy... Is it wool?

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