Fifth Avenue

The New York Public Library, Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, 1911

The New York Public Library, Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, 1911

This view of the New York Public Library, taken in 1911 from the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, shows the entranceway of the newly constructed building before the famous lions were installed. Streetcars, horsecars, and numerous pedestrians can be seen in the foreground.

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Fifth Avenue and East 65th Street, c. 1902

Fifth Avenue and East 65th Street, 1902

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.

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Fifth Avenue and Washington Square North, 1930

Fifth Avenue and Washington Square North, 1930

To photograph this street scene from the winter of 1930, the photographer stood in Fifth Avenue, his back to Washington Square Park, and aimed his camera north. From his point of view, it was probably an unremarkable winter morning. Traffic flowed in both directions, pedestrians went about their business, and off in the distance the 14th Street Traffic Tower ensured that everyone kept moving along. For us, however, this photograph is a remarkable moment in time. The cars, the style of dress, and the Traffic Tower itself are all artifacts of a New York City that is no more.

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Empire State Building Under Construction, Late 1930

Empire State Building Under Construction, Late 1930

The Empire State Building may no longer be the tallest building in the world, but it is easily one of the most recognizable. It holds a place in pop culture that few man-made structures ever attain, most probably thanks to a giant fictional gorilla. In this black and white photograph, King Kong's exploits are still a couple of years off. The building is incomplete, its dirigible dock is still under construction.

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Flatiron Building Seen from 26th Street, 1907

Flatiron Building Seen from 26th Street, 1907

The Flatiron District doesn't look terribly different today, with the iconic Flatiron Building cutting like a ship's prow through the combined traffic of Fifth Avenue and Broadway. It's the nature of the traffic that's changed. Here we see horses, carriages, and streetcars, rather than the cars, taxis, and buses of today. Oh, and maybe there are a few more tall buildings. But really, with the Flatiron in view, who notices them?

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Showgirls Charleston Down Fifth Avenue, c. 1924

Showgirls Charleston Down Fifth Avenue, c. 1924

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.

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East 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue, 1901

East 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue, 1901

In 1901, the great crossroads of 23rd Street, Fifth Avenue, and Broadway had not yet taken its final form. The Flatiron Building, also known as the Fuller Building, was just beginning construction. In this black and white turn of the century image, the only sign of the iconic skyscraper is the fence around the construction site. The Heinz 57 ad on the side of the Cumberland Hotel was about to be hidden forever.

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Photographing New York City, 1905

Photographing New York City, 1905

In this black and white photograph taken in 1905, a man with a camera perches on a steel girder at East 19th Street and Fifth Avenue. The viewer looks north, towards the Flatiron Building, while photographer shoots west. Lord & Taylor can be seen between the girder and the photographer's dangling leg. Lord & Taylor, which is the oldest upscale retail department store in the United States, moved to the Ladies' Mile location you see here in 1870, more than three decades before the construction of the Flatiron Building three blocks north.

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The Flatiron Building after a Snow Storm, 1906

The Flatiron Building after a Snow Storm, 1906

In this view south from East 26th Street and Fifth Avenue, the Flatiron Building looks like it is plowing through the snow. It looks like a substantial amount of fresh snow has blanketed the city, all of which has been shoveled by hand. The streets are as clear as they are likely to get until the hooves of the horses tramp it into slush. But luckily for us, some anonymous photographer captured the clean beauty of this moment forever.

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Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1909

Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1909
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