NYC Grid is a photo blog dedicated to exploring New York block-by-block and corner-by-corner. Each post covers a new street or feature with a focus on the mundane and ephemeral.

  

Wednesday
Aug212013

Before & After - Gramercy Park West

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The above photo is interactive. Drag the yellow handle in the middle to reveal more or less of the before or after image.

When Gramercy Park was first laid out in the early 19th Century, it was mostly a swamp within a larger plot of farmland. Over the next century some of the most consistently expensive buildings in Manhattan would begin to pop-up. The private park – one of only two in the city, the other being Sunnyside Gardens in Queens – is small enough that you can easily see all the way across it from the outside. The park is also the raison d'être for both Lexington Avenue and Irving Place. Samuel B. Ruggles the man responsible for the park and its surrounding plots sought the creation of the new north-south avenues in order to increase accessability to the park.

Today's photo shows #3 and #4 Gramercy Park West and as seems to be the case with most of these Before & After pictures, the story of what's changed is mostly obscured by unchecked tree growth. Still, the 150+ year old buildings look to be in great shape


Photo source:  Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HABS.

Monday
Aug192013

Before & After - Union Square West

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The above photo is interactive. Drag the yellow handle in the middle to reveal more or less of the before or after image.

For over 100 years, the northwest corner of Union Square has stood out thanks to its block of six narrow buildings. Appearing not unlike a bar graph, each building rises to a unique height, ranging from one flight up to sixteen. The most storied tower is perhaps The Decker Building - the second from the left in the photo above. Built in the late 19th Century, The Decker originally had a minaret crowning the top. I can't find any firm date, but most sources indicate that it "disappeared" sometime before World War II. "Disappeared" is a strange word for something that must have been documented and observed as being removed. This building was the site of the 1968 shooting of Andy Warhol, which he just barely survived.

The tallest building of the block is Bank of the Metropolis, which is the best superhero name a building could possibly have. Completed in 1903, Bank of the Metropolis passed the Decker Building as the tallest building in Union Square and featured far more classical styling when compared to the eclectic details of Decker.

One building I can't find too much information on is 37 Union Square West - which is the 3rd from the right. It appears to be the same building in both photos, just renovated with an ugly stick, but I can't be entirely sure.

Unfortunately I was unable to correctly replicate the exact angle of the original photo above due to the Union Square farmers market.


Photo source:  Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.

Friday
Aug162013

Before & After - Manhattan Bridge Archway & Colonnade

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The above photo is interactive. Drag the yellow handle in the middle to reveal more or less of the before or after image.

Built a few years after the completion of the Manhattan Bridge, the arch and colonnade that sit majestically at the end of Canal Street represent a type of architecture the city rarely sees. The arch is part of the awkwardly-named City Beautiful movement in which structures were built "to create moral and civic virtue among urban populations". For many years during the 20th Century the structure was neglected and by the time restoration began in the 1990's, it was covered in decades of grime and graffiti. The arch was designated a landmark in 1975, much to the chagrin of traffic engineers who would have a much easier job moving cars on and off the span if it weren't for that giant stone wall in their way.


Photo source:  Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Bain Collection.

Wednesday
Aug142013

Before & After - 23 Wall Street

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The above photo is interactive. Drag the yellow handle in the middle to reveal more or less of the before or after image.

If you're going to build something directly across from both the New York Stock Exchange and Federal Hall, you better make sure it can hold its own architecturally. At 100 years old this year, I don't think anyone would argue that 23 Wall St - The House of Morgan – is anything less than a staple of the Financial District. A bombing in 1920 left the limestone facade pockmarked from shrapnel. In recent years the classic building and its neighbor have been converted into a condo development.


Photo source:  Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.

Monday
Aug122013

Before & After - Bowling Green

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The above photo is interactive. Drag the yellow handle in the middle to reveal more or less of the before or after image.

It may not be the most impressive, but at nearly 300 years old Bowling Green is the oldest public park in the City. Sitting at the southern-most tip of Broadway, the park offers little more than some benches, a fountain and some history. The park and the fence surrounding it are both on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. 

I thought I would be able to get a good photo that matched the angle of the original 1907 image by standing on the steps of the Custom House. Unfortunately from what I can tell, the original image was shot much further to the left than I was able to get.

Photo source:  Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.

Friday
Aug092013

Before & After - New York Savings Bank on 14th Street & 8th Avenue

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The above photos are interactive. Drag the yellow handle in the middle to reveal more or less of the before or after image.

When the 8th Avenue/14th Street subway station first opened in 1931, the New York Savings Bank building had already been inhabiting that corner for nearly 35 years. Walking up and out of the northwest stairwell, subway riders are presented with the imposing south facade of the neoclassical structure. Eventually the bank would abandon this location and a series of unimpressive tenants took over. Occupied by a carpet store in the 80's and Balducci's food market in the 2000's, the most recent business to totally not deserve the space is CVS Pharmacy whose aisles of cosmetics and peanut M&M's took up residence in the cavernous hall in 2010.


Photo source:  Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection: 1, 2.

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