Vintage Photographs of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, from Fifth Avenue to the East River, between East 61st Street and East 124th Street.
Looking North along Fifth Avenue from just south of East 65th Street, we see two horse carts pass in front of 840 Fifth Avenue, the Astor Mansion. Designed in 1893 by architect Richard Morris Hunt to be the twin residences of John Jacob Astor and his family and his mother, Caroline Astor. After the elder Mrs. Astor died in 1907, John Jacob had the house renovated into single residence, making it one of the largest mansions in Gilded Age New York.
This black and white photo, taken on May 19, 1935 from what was then Welfare Island, shows the East River and New York Hospital. Since then, both the island and the hospital have been renamed. Welfare Island was renamed Roosevelt Island after Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1973, and New York Hospital was renamed New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in 1998 after merging with Columbia Presbyterian and receiving a substantial endowment from Sanford Weill. The East River retains its name.
Germantown doesn't exist anymore. Even Yorkville is an unfamiliar term to present-day Upper East Siders. But until as recently as the 1990s, East 86th Street hosted many German restaurants, butcher shops, and pastry shops, and at the time of this photograph in the late 1940s, East 86th Street was known as the German Broadway. Nowadays, Oktoberfest is an excuse for Yuppies to go on a pub crawl and puke in the street, but as this photo attests, the finer elements of the tradition have been lost.
In this black and white photo from the winter of 1930, we see an almost traffic-free Lexington Avenue. A streetcar rolls past St. Vincent Ferrer Church, a taxi idles on the corner of 65th Street, and a couple of women saunter past Allison's Drug Store.
It could be a scene out of a Fitzgerald novel. Seven showgirls in furs, one of them toting balloons, dance the Charleston down Fifth Avenue, while pedestrians watch. The dance was popularized by the Broadway show, Runnin' Wild, which ran from October 1923 through June 1924. Although the show ran only briefly, the dance continued to gain popularity and even today brings to mind Flappers and the Roaring Twenties.
Late April, 1929, and Park Avenue, looking south from East 85th, doesn't seem remarkably different from today. The street had yet to be widened, and clusters of brownstones still peppered the avenue, but the luxury highrises were already the order of the day. According to the sign in the lower right, 1021 Park Avenue was being constructed as a "100% Cooperative Apartment."
This aerial photograph, taken in the late 1920s, offers a view of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Lower Reservoir in Central Park, and the skyline of Central Park West. The Lower Reservoir was drained in 1930, having become redundant some years before, and was filled in to create the Great Lawn. During the early years of the Depression, the site became a Hooverville, until Robert Moses ushered the project along in the mid-1930s.
A light dusting of snow has fallen on Carl Schurz Park. Gracie Mansion overlooks Hell Gate from the north end of the park. The mayor did not reside here in 1940. At this point the mansion was simply a historic house, which most recently had been the Museum of City of New York. Only in 1942, at the urging of Robert Moses, did Mayor Fiorello La Guardia appropriate the house as the mayoral residence.
It's a beautiful summer day in 1940, and from where you stand in Central Park, you can see two of the most luxurious hotels in the world, the Sherry Netherland and the Plaza. The Plaza is perhaps the better known of the two, but sadly will eventually become a luxurious residence. The Sherry Netherland, however, will remain the pinnacle of New York City luxury for some time to come.