Midtown West

Vintage images of iconic Midtown buildings and sights, including Macy’s, the Theater District, the Empire State Building, and the Times Tower. Includes Midtown West, from Fifth Avenue to the Hudson River, between West 30th Street and West 60th Street.

New York Herald Building, West 35th Street and Sixth Avenue, c. 1895

New York Herald Building, West 35th Street and Sixth Avenue, c. 1895

This portrait of the New York Herald Building was taken around 1895 by the H. N. Tiemann Co.  Herald Square was named for the New York Herald, much the same as Times Square was named for rival newspaper, The New York Times.  In this photograph, we can see atop the Herald Building the statue of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, and her owls. A bell and two bellringers stand just below Minerva, ready to toll the hour.

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The Old Met, c. 1885

The Old Met, c. 1885

The original Metropolitan Opera House occupied an entire city block between West 39th and 40th Streets along Broadway. It was built in 1883, and this photograph shows it not long after its opening, before the fire that gutted it in 1892. The building was demolished in 1967, and the Metropolitan Opera Company relocated to its present quarters in Lincoln Center.

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Seventh Avenue and West 29th Street, 1915

Seventh Avenue and West 29th Street, 1915

Streetcars rumble down Seventh Avenue, past horse-drawn carts and seemingly all male pedestrians.  Looking a couple of blocks north, on the west side of the street, one can see the columns of the Pennsylvania Station, which opened in 1910. The buildings look like a mixture of street-level store fronts and upper story residences.

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New York Central Railroad Train on Eleventh Avenue, 1929

New York Central Railroad Train on Eleventh Avenue, 1929

Before the West Side Improvement Project created the High Line, trains ran down Tenth and Eleventh Avenue. Here a New York Central Freight Train heads south on Eleventh. A flagman, or West Side Cowboy, should be preceding the train, but in this shot is out of the frame. The train is passing the George Kern building. Kern was a packing, wholesale, and retail distributor of pork and beef products, which was bought by Adolf Gobel, Inc., in 1927 for $10 million.

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West Side Cowboy, circa 1930

West Side Cowboy, circa 1930

The West Side Cowboy was a common sight on Tenth Avenue for over 80 years. By law, a man on horseback, waving a red flag, had to precede each train that ran down the avenue. Still, so many accidents occurred that Tenth Avenue became known as Death Avenue. In 1929, the city, the state, and the New York Central Railroad agreed on the West Side Improvement Project, which resulted in the creation of the High Line and the elimination of the street level tracks and the flagman on horseback. Here we see the flagman on Tenth Avenue and West 28th Street, alongside Chelsea Park.

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Pennsylvania Station Train Concourse, Clock, and Arch, 1940

Pennsylvania Station Train Concourse, Clock, and Arch, 1940

This clock in Penn Station was often photographed. It cried out for it, hanging as it did just beyond the darkened archway. Here we see it in the summer of 1940, hanging portentously above a crowd largely composed of men in uniform. They all know war is coming, that it is only a matter of time.

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Pennsylvania Station Train Concourse, 1940

Pennsylvania Station Train Concourse, 1940

The great Pennsylvania Railroad station was thirty years old at the time of this photograph, and it had yet to see its greatest traffic. Passenger volume would reach its peak during the war years. Rail travel would diminish in the years following the war as other modes of transportation, most notably air travel, gained popularity. By the 1950s, Penn Station would no longer be profitable, and the Pennsylvania Railroad would sell its air rights as means of offsetting the cost of operating the station. This would result in the eventual demolition of station.

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Midtown Manhattan Overview from West 31st Street, c. 1930

Midtown Manhattan Overview from West 31st Street, c. 1930

In this black and white photo from the early 1930s, the camera looks northwest from West 31st Street, taking in the roof of Penn Station and the high-rises that have grown up around it.

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Train Departure Concourse, Pennsylvania Station, 1938

Train Departure Concourse, Pennsylvania Station, 1938

There was a time, not all that long ago, when railroads were the dominant form of travel in the United States, and the train stations of major cities reflected their importance. Pennsylvania Station in New York City was the grand-daddy of them all. Designed by the firm of McKim, Mead & White in the Beaux-Arts style, Penn Station was the ultimate blend of functionality with monumental grandeur.

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West 34th Street and Eighth Avenue, circa 1950

West 34th Street and Eighth Avenue, circa 1950

It's a wet day in the early 1950s, and the Fashion District is all abustle.  Looking southeast from the corner of Eighth Avenue and West 34th Street, one sees two way traffic on Eighth Avenue, including a "Train Connection" bus heading uptown. A Greyhound Bus heads east along 34th Street. Beyond the low-rise stores along Eighth, one can see the great Beaux Arts edifice of the original Pennsylvania Station.

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