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Infrastructure: 1905

Infrastructure: 1905

New York City circa 1905. "Where the subway is an elevated." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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This is a terrific view looking north up Broadway as it crossed Manhattan Street, the signature street of Manhattanville, a once-vibrant town that is now a less distinct section of West Harlem. Except for the magnificent Manhattan Street Station seen in the photo (note the name on the wall of the masonry structure below the tracks), whose name changed in 1921, 17 years after opening.

The Belasco sign on the right is the NE corner of the cross streets. The apartment building under construction is still there, as are most of the surrounding 5- and 6-story apartment buildings that went up in 1905 and 1906 as part of the "Manhattanville Building Boom" (NY Herald) that was a direct result of the new rapid transit line.

The buildings beyond the "Sinbad" sign to the extreme left were at the juncture of West 129th Street and Manhattan Street (now called St. Clair Place and West 125th Street, respectively). Unfortunately, Columbia University just demolished them last year (2010) in the course of expanding its campus into Manhattanville.

This impressive subway structure was considered "worthy of Eiffel" when it opened in 1904. It, and the unseen Riverside Drive Viaduct, are centerpieces of the historic old New York neighborhood I discuss in my book "Manhattanville: Old Heart of West Harlem."

-- Eric K. Washington

My old neighborhood!

This is old home week for me, both my birthplace (Brooklyn Navy Yard) and childhood nabe show up on Shorpy. We lived at 552 Riverside Drive from 1947 till 1955. Our building was right up the hill from this spot. This stop had great old wooden escalators in the early 50's, and big heavy wooden turnstiles that made a very satisfying KA CHUNK sound when you put your 15 cent token in and pushed through. And it had a wonderful woody smell, as well. It's all efficient stainless steel and plastic now.

When I lived there there was a Daitch Shopwell supermarket where the McDonald's now stands. And right under the escalator, on the corner of Broadway and Tieman Place, was Claremont Chemists, which I'm happy to say is still there (without its soda fountain).

And there were still trolleys on Broadway, and 125th St led down to the Ferry to New Jersey. And there was a horse drawn vegetable wagon on Broadway as well. Oh, my, the memories are pouring out!


Partially obscured at the lower left of the photo is a theater poster for the show Sinbad. A quick look-up at Proquest reveals that the show opened March 13 for a week's engagement at the Windsor theater. This was after a run at the Murray Hill theater that says was 2/27/1905 - 3/4/1905.

An amusing court case emerged from that run in which a chorus girl was said to have attacked a midget in the cast, after he pointed a stage cannon at her. He objected to being dandled by members of the chorus.

Why it's elevated

West 125th Street actually follows a fault line. It's at a lower elevation than the streets to its north or south, so keeping the subway underground as it crosses 125th would have required a massive amount of tunneling. The result is the only elevated subway line in Manhattan, except for a short segment of the 1 Train in the very northern end of the island.

Found it!

The building between the frame is gone, but 125th and Broadway seems to be the right spot indeed. The condition of the steel today looks rather bad, I must say.

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Manhattan Street

This is definitely the 125th street viaduct. We're looking downtown along Broadway. The cross street, Manhattan Street, is present-day 125th Street (the name changed in 1920). There's now a McDonald's on the property where the Belasco Theatre sign is located.

Does anyone know

Why and when was the brick head house torn down?

Date of photo

I'm curious about the 1905 date, as the Belasco Theater, advertised here, was built in 1907. Perhaps this photo was a few years later?

[The 1905 date is correct. The original Belasco Theatre opened in 1902. Below: Ad from September 1902. - Dave]

125th and Broadway

I do believe this 125th and Broadway on the IRT line. Bedrock in North Manhattan was to dangerous and labor intensive to blast, so an extremely high elevated was the course of action. Spent many a day working there on the signaling during the 1980s. Impressive structure.

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