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9/11: 1933

9/11: 1933

September 11, 1933. "New York City views. Looking north from the Empire State Building." 5x7 safety negative by Gottscho-Schleisner. View full size.


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Stork Club

My dad was born somewhere down there, exactly one month later that same year. I'll have to show this to him. He'll get a kick out of it, since he's only been back to the city once -- in 1988.

New Yorker here

I used to work in the Empire State Building. There may be air conditioning in individual offices, but it is also possible to open the windows. The story goes that if you jump out of them the updrafts will blow you back into another open window. Supposedly this happened once.

It's a lovely building and everyone who worked there was proud to be there. I noted the office of F. Lee Bailey just down the hall from the T shirt company I was working for. "Yes, you can hire him if we don't pay your bill," they joked.

Still Standing

Although the New York skyline has changed much in the past 76 years many of these buildings are still standing and still prominent. On one level there are the monumental buildings such as the Public Library, St. Patricks, Grand Central Station, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. All built with a confidence in permanence and hisory. And all horizontal. The later buildings seen here reach for the sky. Conceived in the boom of the Twenties they withstood the Depression (when this photograph was taken) and still stand tall; not too far from where we are today. A quick blink in time. Let's wait for the picture from 2085.

Babe Ruth Record

In his last pitching appearance on 1 October 1933, Ruth tallied 10 winning seasons in 10 years as a pitcher, a record unmatched until 2004.

Yankee Stadium

Foreshortening at the top of the photo makes it very hard to see. Follow Fifth Avenue (on the right side of Central Park) up to the end. The stadium appears as a low, wide structure positioned just to the left and just past the end of Fifth. It seems to be partially blocked by something but I can't make out what the something is. Or that might be reflected sunlight from the southern facade of the stadium, given the angle of the sun in the photo.

Break the number 7 into two pieces, a horizontal and a vertical : -I
Yankee Stadium is the horizontal, 5th Ave is the vertical.

Enhance! Enhance!

Crystal clear

Amazing that you can't see the air.

Ford Factory

On the Jersey side, south of the bridge. The large multi- story building on the bank of the river. I believe it to be the Edgewater Ford assembly plant whose output was mostly export.

HouseThat Ruth Built

My guess is that the Stadium is about here:

Twenty days after this picture was taken, the Babe did something notable here. Any takers?

Similar view from 2000

Here's a shot I took in October 2000 from roughly the same place looking roughly the same direction (with an Epson 850Z 2MP digital camera). I've sized and distorted it to roughly match the Gottscho.

Have fun!

Air conditioning

This was pre-air conditioning, it must have been sweltering in those offices. Probably the days when windows could be opened though. When was air conditioning in office towers introduced?

[Generally speaking, the 1930s. Individual room coolers at first. - Dave]

Knox Knowledge

Lots about the Knox Hats guy (extreme foreground, right) here:,9171,927954-2,00.html

Yankee Where?

I can't see the ten-year old Yankee Stadium! Any idea?

A few details

Just in front of the GW Bridge, the tower sticking up is Riverside Church, completed in 1930, to the right of that you can sort of make out the side of the Cathedral of St John the Divine. To the left of Bryant Park is the 6th Avenue El, which was torn down in the 1950's. The low buildings along the left side of 6th Ave all got knocked down at the same time to make the new Avenue of the Americas (which New Yorkers still call 6th Avenue), and the long line of the 50-plus-story office buildings spawned by Rockefeller Center.

Right behind and between the towers of the Waldorf Astoria is the tower of the old GE Building, one of the most gorgeous Deco spires ever built. In front of Bryant Park the dark tower is the Radiator Building, made famous by Georgia O'Keeffe. Just below Central Park, and just below the roofed tower of the Essex House, you can see the dome of what eventually became the New York City Center.

Oh, and in the upper right corner the grand old Hellgate Bridge, the only object in this picture ever reproduced by the Lionel Train company.


What a wonderful photo!
Thank you for sharing it.


By 1933 the reservoir had been drained, giving rise to a "Hooverville" (shantytown named after then-President Herbert Hoover). What you see are the walls of the former reservoir -- the Great Lawn wasn't completed until 1936.

No Triboro Bridge yet, just the Hellgate rail bridge (top right).

Where's my desk?

If you look west across from 30 Rock (RCA/GE) Buidling, across Sixth Avenue, you see many low rise structures that are now occupied by the XYZ buildings built in the late 60's early 70's (Rock Centre West.) From 52nd street down to 47th street on 6th Ave.; 1271 6th, 1251 6th, 1221 6th & 1211 6th (where I'm sitting as I write this.) As a matter of fact, 6th Avenue has been so dramatically changed from those days with hi-rise office buildings lining the avenue fromCentral Park down to Bryant Park.

And another note about the windows... these buildings have much more character than the sleek glass towers. These buildings define a cityscape.


Funny the poster who mentioned that there were a lot of windows (and disliked it). When I first looked at it I marvelled at all the wonderful windows - how human it looks - unlike the cold blank modern walls of glass.

My grandparents and my father and mother could be walking along one of those streets even as this picture was taken. In fact since my grandfather was a mailman, he probably was!

Let's Start At The Bottom of the Picture

This is one busy shot. I'll be looking at it for weeks trying to identify the buildings still standing. I'll start now with the Lord and Taylor Flagship Store that occupies the block from 38th to 39th Streets on the west side of Fifth Avenue. The Empire State Building, the location from which the photo was made, is on 5th Ave. also on the west side of the street from 33rd to 34th Sts. In the case of the Lord and Taylor store, the building itself is probably worth more than the store. Rumors persist that they were about to develop the existing building into condos. The building was declared a landmark in 2007 so they can't tear it down, but they probably can build above it. The Ovington Store, to the right of Lord and Taylor in the picture, sold Fine China. That building has been replaced by a 55 story Condo known as 425 5th Ave., completed about 5 years ago.

Keep the Gottscho coming!

I could stare at this for hours.

Check out Bryant Park, which appears to be in the middle of its Robert Moses-led reconstruction, and the Sixth Ave. El station at the park's northwest corner.

In Central Park, just peeking out from behind the RCA Building, is what I believe to be the old Croton Lower Reservoir. Within a year or two from this photo, it would be filled in to create the Great Lawn.

See how comparatively un-built-up the island is beyond Central Park, especially around Morningside.

You can easily make out the Bronx County Courthouse, and that horizontal feature just to the right must be the 10-year-old Yankee Stadium. The GW Bridge pictured here has been open less than two years.

What's most tantalizing to me is the scene at upper left, where the Hudson curves away to lose the northern Westchester shoreline in the mist and pixels. That's where I grew up, and this photo shows it 35 years before I was born... except it really doesn't. Makes me wish I were on one of those TV shows where you can just stand in front of the computer and say "Enhance... enhance... enhance."

What a fantastic photo!

Note how then then-new Waldorf Astoria and the original RCA building (which became the NY HQ for General Electric so after this time) just behind it stand out in this photo, looking to the northeast. 30 years later, that area along Park and Lexington Avenues became filled with tall buildings. Also it looks like Bryant Park was being rehabilitated at that time.

What a sight

This is an incredible far as the eye can see. I would love to see the same scene today!

Infant Bridge

The nearly two year old George Washington Bridge is in the background to the upper left.


That's a lot of windows. The city really is kind of a mess when viewed that way. It's as if somebody put together a jigsaw puzzle with their eyes closed. As much as some people complain about the coldness of modern glass and steel structures, they really do make for a better looking city when viewed as a whole.


Is that the spectre of Death haunting the roof of the building in the center foreground?

Names and Addresses

Okay, New Yorkers, fill us in on some details!

On a clear day.... can see Central Park! Nowadays, the view is blocked by skyscrapers. (A nice view of the park can still be had from The Top Of The Rock -- 30 Rockefeller Plaza.)

Bryant Park looks like a sand pit, which it sort of was in 1933-34, according to Wikipedia:

I'm fascinated by what looks like a huge clearing on the Upper West Side -- west and slightly north of what I'm guessing is The Lake in Central Park. The clearing appears to start at Columbus Avenue, and extend all the way to Broadway.

Good Morning Manhattan

Another gorgeous Gottscho image, thanks. If I had the time, I would love to spend the day pinpointing which buildings are gone and which remain. New Jersey, as well as the east and west 90s and up, seem almost rural, though the newly-constructed George Washington Bridge is visible in the distance. Being the first here to state the obvious, I would wager that no one in that Manhattan of 1933 could possibly imagine the evil events that would occur on that day 68 years later, or, for that matter, the architectural extremes that the events would target. While many of these buildings in this absurd and wonderful city remain, our relative sense of innocence does not.

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