Thursday, January 26, 2012

Manhattan: City Hall & Brooklyn Bridge

One of the interesting things about these postcard views of lower Manhattan in the first decade of the 20th century is how familiarly urban and congested the area appears, even though there have been many changes in the past hundred years. The first two of these images overlap; the cupola of city hall and the tall building on the extreme right in the card at top reappear on the left side of the colored card beneath it. I imagine both were shot from one of the skyscrapers on lower Broadway. The low building pointing across the Brooklyn Bridge in the first card is the terminal for the cable cars of the New York and Brooklyn Bridge Railway.

At one time many of the city's major newspapers were published in buildings visible here, although some had moved on by the time these photos were taken. Of the structures I've gotten around to identifying thus far, some, like the New York World building in the center of the top image, are long gone, while others, like the two-towered Park Row building on the right side of the bottom card, remain. The large domed building in front of the latter is the City Hall Post Office and Courthouse, widely regarded as an eyesore and finally demolished in 1939. That's lower Broadway we're looking down on its flank.

(See my earlier post for more about the top card and its recipient, a Philadelphia druggist who was a bit of an expert on the marketing of postcards.)

The image below shows the area just a bit further south and closer to the river. This was fairly rough turf back then; one of the buildings clustered around the base of the bridge housed the famous Water Street Mission, begun by ex-con Jerry McAuley and still in operation a few blocks uptown.

The obelisk-like structure on the right is actually a factory, the Tatham Shot Tower, designed by cast-iron architecture pioneer James Bogardus and no longer standing; see my earlier post for more.

Postscript: Below is a close-up of the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge.

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