Tag Archives: Wurts Bros.

Street clocks – how New Yorkers kept time on the go.

Street clocks once dominated the sidewalks of New York City. First introduced in the 1860s, the clocks quickly became popular with businesses looking for novel ways to advertise and with the general public who appreciated the convenience.

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). Broadway - Southwest Corner of 32nd Street Looking North. 1898. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.17118

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). Broadway – Southwest Corner of 32nd Street Looking North. 1898. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.17118

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). Theatre, American, 42nd Street Between 7th & 8th Aves. ca. 1900. Museum of the City of New York. 29.100.1180

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). Theatre, American, 42nd Street Between 7th & 8th Aves. ca. 1900. Museum of the City of New York. 29.100.1180

Few of these clocks exist today, however. Some became casualties of accidents as automobiles proliferated in the 20th century. Others gave way to the digital timepieces that predominate today.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). The Corn Exchange Bank. West 42nd St. Branch. 303 West 42nd Street. 1927. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.15338

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). The Corn Exchange Bank. West 42nd St. Branch. 303 West 42nd Street. 1927. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.15338

Sensing this unfortunate trend, in 1981 the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated eight sidewalk clocks still standing as landmarks, including the one below.

Berenice Abbott. Tempo of the City I. 1938. Museum of the City of New York. 40.140.249

Berenice Abbott. Tempo of the City I. 1938. Museum of the City of New York. 40.140.249

This double faced cast-iron clock at 522 Fifth Avenue on the southwest corner of 44th Street was manufactured in 1907 by the Seth Thomas Company.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). Sidewalk clock and Guaranty Trust Company building. ca. 1939. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.17786

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). Sidewalk clock and Guaranty Trust Company building. ca. 1939. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.17786

It originally stood one block south on Fifth Avenue and 43rd Street in front of the American Trust Company, but was moved to its current location in the 1930s when the American Trust Company merged with the Guaranty Trust Company.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). 513 5th Avenue and 43rd Street. Postal Life Building, detail of lower stories. ca. 1917. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.2106

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). 513 5th Avenue and 43rd Street. Postal Life Building, detail of lower stories. ca. 1917. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.2106

Now it stands proudly as a reminder of a not too distant past.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). Sidewalk clock and Guaranty Trust Company building. ca. 1939. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.17827

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). Sidewalk clock and Guaranty Trust Company building. ca. 1939. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.17827

What skating rink is that? Who lived in that house? Solving mysteries in the collection.

From time to time, the Collections Department receives inquiries from the public about the information associated with images we’ve cataloged online.   The data in the catalog records is pulled from inscriptions on photographs, and from photographers’ logs, notes, and shot lists that were acquired along with many of the Museum’s major photographic collections, such the Wurts Brothers  or Byron Company.  When we notice something that seems incorrect, we conduct further research, but generally, we consider these materials primary sources, and with collections numbering in the tens of thousands of images, must trust that the photographers kept accurate records.   Nobody’s perfect of course, and from time to time a researcher, or just someone browsing images on the Collections Portal, comes across an image they feel has been misidentified and reaches out to us, often through the research@mcny.org email (to learn more about our collections research services, check out the research page on the Museum’s newly redesigned website!)

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) 5 West 51st Street. 1932. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.14118

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) Old Carnegie Residence. 5 West 51st Street. 1932. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.14118

One such situation occurred when we were contacted by a researcher from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, which resides in the former Andrew Carnegie family residence on Fifth Avenue and East 90th Street.  The Cooper-Hewitt had, in turn, been contacted by a preservationist, who was seeking to confirm the address of an even earlier Carnegie residence.  That researcher referenced the photograph to the right from our collection, which at the time was identified on the Collections Portal as “Old Carnegie Residence. 15 West 51st Street.”  That description came directly from one of the Wurts Brothers photography logs, shown below. If you enlarge the image of the log book, you’ll see on the bottom right corner of the right page the description of the photograph: “Aug 19 1932. Fred R. King. [...] Photo Old Carnegie Residence. 15 West 51 St.” Or does it actually say 5 West 51 St.? It’s hard to tell.

Wurts Bros. log book.

Wurts Bros. log book.

Detlef Lienau, Design for George Mosle Residence, 5 West 51st Street, N.Y., 1879. Courtesy of Detlef Lienau architectural drawings and papers, Department of Drawings and Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library.

Detlef Lienau, Design for George Mosle Residence, 5 West 51st Street, N.Y., 1879. Courtesy of Detlef Lienau architectural drawings and papers, Department of Drawings and Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library.

The preservationist who contacted the Cooper-Hewitt wasn’t even interested in the Carnegie Mansion, she was interested in 15 West 51st Street, in relation to a preservation project her firm had underway.  The Cooper-Hewitt confirmed that the Carnegies lived at 5 West 51st, not 15 West 51st, but they then looped us into the conversation to determine the actual address of the residence pictured above.  The Cooper-Hewitt had been seeking an image of the house at 5 West 51st Street, to no avail; all they had found was the elevation to the left, created when the house was originally built in 1879 for George Mosle by Detlef Lienau, which they supplied to us.

We  zoomed in on the photograph in question (you can do this too – clicking the photograph will take you directly to our Collections Portal, where you can use the magnifying glass icon to  see the details.) There was no address visible on the building, but there was a sign indicating that the structure had recently been sold. Going back to the log book, the name Fred R. King was associated with the address. Frederic Rhinelander King (1887-1972) was an architect; notably, he designed the Women’s National Republican Club at 3 West 51st Street, built from 1933-1934.  The Wurts Brothers probably took the photograph for King just before construction of the clubhouse.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). 7 West 51st Street. Graves House. ca. 1905. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.796

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). 7 West 51st Street. Graves House. ca. 1905. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.796

With over 125,000 images available online, our Collections Portal is often the best source for identifying discrepancies in catalog records. We found the image to the right, then identified as “[Perhaps] West 51st St. #7. Graves House.” It looks much the same as in the first photograph, and to the right of it is the original building in question. At this point we were confident in identifying the original image as 5 West 51st Street, and the image to the right as 7 West 51st Street.  When we looked back at the elevation supplied by the Cooper-Hewitt and compared it to the photograph, certain common architectural details – such as the balustrade under the third story windows – began to emerge, affirming that in fact we’d identified the early Carnegie Residence, 5 West 51st Street.  Good news for the Cooper-Hewitt; not so much help for for the preservation planner.

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). St. Nicholas Rink. 1898. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.10826

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). St. Nicholas Rink. 1898. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.10826

Pictured to the left is another misidentified image brought to our attention by a researcher. The photograph was originally described by its creator Byron Company as “Rinks, Iceland Skating Rink, B’way 53rd Street & 7th Ave.” The date given was 1898. But as the researcher pointed out, Iceland skating rink did not open until 1916. We weren’t certain if the title, the date, or both were incorrect. We zoomed in on the image. This revealed a group of people sitting on the sidelines to the left. Their attire led us to believe that the given date of the photograph, 1898, was indeed correct. So now we knew that the photograph wasn’t of Iceland skating rink – but what was it? We looked at rinks on the Collections Portal, but nothing matched the image. We wondered if it could possibly be St. Nicholas Rink, before it became a full-time boxing arena.

St. Nicholas Rink opened in 1896 on 66th Street and Columbus Avenue and was one of the first enclosed ice skating rinks to take advantage of refrigeration technology. The facility has an entry in Wikipedia with an accompanying image. The image on the Wikipedia page gave us hope that the Museum’s photograph was of St. Nicholas Rink. In the Streetscapes column published February 6, 2005 in the New York Times, Christopher Gray writes that the building was “a broad, industrial-like structure with a procession of high brick arches in neo-Classical style…” After reading this description and seeing the photograph of the rink’s exterior published with the article, we believed that the Byron image showed St. Nicholas Rink.

We are grateful when someone points out questionable information on the portal, and continue to invite comments. If you have insight into an image on the portal, email us at portal@mcny.org.  In addition, the Museum shares a “Friday Mystery Image,” every week on our Facebook page.  Check in around lunchtime each Friday if you’d like to help us identify unknown images in our collection.

The Central Park Casino

It’s 1929 in an Art Deco ballroom. Dancers glide around, dimly reflected in the black glass ceiling while outside on the terrace, the sound of champagne corks popping intersperses with conversations, laughter, and jazz, all  floating through the night air. Surrounded by Central Park, the Central Park Casino was the place for rich, fabulous, and socially and politically connected citizens of the late 1920s and early 1930s who wanted to party together and ignore the troublesome 18th Amendment. Yet by 1935, the party was over. How did a political rivalry end the revelry at one of the most exclusive Jazz Age nightclubs?

The Central Park Casino began in 1864 as the Ladies’ Refreshment Salon, a quaint Victorian two-room stone cottage designed by Calvert Vaux on East Drive and 72nd Street. Unaccompanied ladies could relax during their excursions around the park and enjoy refreshments at decent prices, free of any threat to their propriety.

Twenty years later, the salon had morphed into a far pricier destination, called The Casino, and was open to both sexes. The name was used to invoke the Italian translation of “little house” rather than denoting a gambling joint. Locals and tourists flocked to the restaurant, where one could get a sirloin steak for 75 cents (just under 20 dollars in today’s money) and choose from an extensive wine list. Because it was in the park and had the then rare attraction of outdoor seating, it was the place to see and be seen.

X2011.34.4545 Charles F. Flower and Raphael Tuck & Sons. Central Park, New York. ca. 1905. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.34.4545

Charles F. Flower and Raphael Tuck & Sons. Central Park, New York. ca. 1905. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.34.4545.

Unknown. Casino Cafe in Central Park. ca. 1885. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.11.1206

Unknown. Casino Cafe in Central Park. ca. 1885. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.11.1206.

Yet after decades of feeding and refreshing wealthy and hungry park-goers, the Casino fell onto hard times and according to an article from the New Yorker from September 20, 1941 by the early 1920’s  it was being managed in “a somewhat dumpy nite-club style.”

In 1926 New York City was swept up in the Jazz Age.  Speakeasies, dancing, and just a general pursuit of good times engulfed the city. To go with this fun-loving era, New York City elected a new mayor, James “Gentleman Jimmy” or “Beau Jim” Walker, who personified this spirit. Walker was a successful songwriter with the 1905 hit “Will You Still Love Me in December as You do in May?” and was generally much more enthusiastic about the excesses of the Roaring Twenties than being the mayor of New York. This worked out well since Tammany Hall was quite content to manage the city while Walker functioned as its dashing figurehead. Walker reportedly never made it to City Hall before noon and when he did and wasn’t feeling up to the task, he had a private “hangover room,” complete with a bed and an exercise bike (the bike was reportedly never used). (New York Times)

Unknown. Mayor Jimmy Walker walking down a street. ca. 1925-1935. Museum of the City of New York. F2012.58.866.

Unknown. Mayor Jimmy Walker walking down a street. ca. 1925-1935. Museum of the City of New York. F2012.58.866.

This is not to say that Walker was a bad mayor. His constituents loved him because he vowed to keep subway ride prices at a nickel, allowed baseball games to be played on Sundays, and promised to improve the parks. Mobsters loved him too since he was such a fan of the nightlife that they ran. On top of that, Walker was a gifted speaker, always ready with a quip, wisecrack or some delightful repartee.  He was New York City’s master of ceremonies.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the next incarnation of the Central Park Casino started with a favor. Sidney Solomon, a noted hotelier,  had introduced Walker to his personal tailor and that, to the always snazzily dressed mayor, was worth quite a bit.  So when Solomon asked to take over the Casino to make it into an “outstanding restaurant instead of the shanty it is now,” Walker (through a series of somewhat sketchy maneuvers) made it happen. After a $500,000 renovation, the Casino added a tulip pavilion, orange terrace, a silver conservatory and, most importantly, a black-glass Art Deco ballroom. There were tables to seat 600 and a parking lot for 300 cars.  Solomon said, very humbly, “it is not just a renovation. It’s something that has never before existed so perfectly in the world.” On the night of June 25, 1929, every seat was taken as the Casino opened to select guests, the so-called “fashionable and fastidious” to whom the restaurant now catered to. It was called “Walker’s Versailles,” where the bandleader would immediately start playing “Will You Still Love Me in December as You do in May?” as soon as Walker and his mistress, the actress Betty Compton, walked in the door.

For the next few months, parties regularly lasted until 3 A.M., with Tammany hotshots mingling with Ziegfeld Follies’ showgirls. To get around the pesky Prohibition laws, patrons would leave their Rolls-Royces stocked with bootleg champagne parked outside. The maître d kept an eye on the drinks at the wealthiest tables and when they ran low, he would signal their chauffeur, standing near the doorway, to restock the alcohol from the stash in the car. It was the most exclusive playground for the most exclusive set.

In the fall of 1929, Walker easily defeated Fiorello La Guardia for a second term as mayor.  While the Casino was still dazzling its well-heeled guests, some people saw it as the epitome of all that was wrong in New York.  After the
October 1929 Stock Market Crash the critics roared louder. Why was it fair that the rich could gorge themselves at an expensive restaurant in the midst of a public park while the poor could barely feed their families? The loudest critic? Robert Moses, Parks Commissioner.

Unknown. Robert Moses in front of a map of New York City. ca. 1925-1940. Museum of the City of New York. F2012.58.960

Unknown. Robert Moses in front of a map of New York City. ca. 1925-1940. Museum of the City of New York. F2012.58.960

To be fair, Moses did have a pretty solid point. When he and three friends visited to the Casino, their bill was a staggering $27 (around $475 today). Moses contended that the Casino’s prices were far more expensive than the Plaza Hotel and thus the Casino was inappropriate in a public park. But like all good stories, there was another layer to Moses’s hatred of Walker’s Versailles; Moses’s hatred of Walker himself. This mostly one-sided rivalry began when Walker insulted former Governor Al Smith, who had mentored both men. Moses wanted all physical traces of Walker’s legacy erased, but Walker was doing a fine job of that himself. Walker’s free-wheeling ways had finally caught up with him. Before Walker could be removed from office by Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt on corruption charges, he resigned and sailed to Paris with Betty Compton.

But that wasn’t enough for Moses. In an act of sheer vindictiveness, Moses refused to let Solomon make any changes like lowering the prices to make the Casino accessible to a wider range of patrons.  Instead, Moses began to make  plans to raze the building for a children’s playground. Despite protests from those who saw the historic value of the building, the Appellate Court decided that Moses had the right to demolish the building. On May 6, 1936, just 24 hours after Moses received court permission to tear down the Casino, wrecking crews were at the site.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). [Destruction of the Central Park Casino.] 1936. Museum of the City of New York, X2010.7.1.16818

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). [Destruction of the Central Park Casino.] 1936. Museum of the City of New York, X2010.7.1.16818.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). Destruction of the Central Park Casino. 1936. Museum of the City of New York.  X2010.7.1.16820.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). Destruction of the Central Park Casino. 1936. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.16820.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). Destruction of the Central Park Casino. 1936. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.16817.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). Destruction of the Central Park Casino. 1936. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.16817.

In 1937, the Rumsey Playground was built on the same spot as the Casino, but it was never a big success. In the 1980’s the site was razed again and converted into Rumsey Playfield where SummerStage events are now held.  So next time you’re at a performance at SummerStage, close your eyes and imagine yourself among the politicos and showgirls, sipping champagne and dancing to “Will You Still Love Me in December as You do in May?”  in the ballroom at the lost Central Park Casino.

For a collection of New York Times articles about the Casino and the Rumsey Playfield, download this PDF.

The Apartment That Wasn’t

John Williams Campbell was born in Brooklyn in 1880 into a well-to-do family. His father was treasurer of the Credit Clearing House, a credit bureau for merchandise wholesalers. At the age of 18, Campbell joined his father at the firm and moved up the ranks, becoming a senior executive seven years later. By the 1920s Campbell was making millions as president of the Credit Clearing House and served on the board of the New York Central Railroad. In 1923 he focused his attention on building a private office, one that would showcase his position and wealth. To that end, he hired architect Augustus N. Allen to design the space. Campbell’s choice of location – a 60-foot long, 30-foot wide single room on the ground floor of Grand Central Terminal – was a departure from the typical skyscraper suite.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) 15 Vanderbilt Avenue. Credit Clearing House. Office of John W. Campbell. ca. 1923. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.24894

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) 15 Vanderbilt Avenue. Credit Clearing House. Office of John W. Campbell. ca. 1923. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.24894

The office boasted a butler, a pipe organ, and a piano, as well as Campbell’s private art collection.  A mahogany musician’s gallery with carved quatrefoils was installed. After hours, Campbell’s office doubled as a private recital hall, where guests could relax on 19th century Italian seating furniture (masquerading as 13th century) and listen to famous musicians play.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) 15 Vanderbilt Avenue. Credit Clearing House. Office of John W. Campbell. ca. 1923. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.21631

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) 15 Vanderbilt Avenue. Credit Clearing House. Office of John W. Campbell. ca. 1923. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.21631

Hand-painted wooden beams adorned the 25-foot ceiling. The large stone fireplace behind Campbell’s desk housed a steel safe. Perhaps the most notable feature of all was the hand-woven Persian rug that covered almost the entire floor. It was rumored to have cost $300,000, nearly $4 million in today’s dollars.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) 15 Vanderbilt Avenue. Credit Clearing House. Office of John W. Campbell. ca. 1923. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.24893

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) 15 Vanderbilt Avenue. Credit Clearing House. Office of John W. Campbell. ca. 1923. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.24893

Perhaps because of all its amenities, the office was dubbed “Campbell’s Apartment,” but there is no evidence that he or anybody else lived there. After Campbell’s death in 1957, the space became a signalman’s office. It was later used by the Metro-North Railroad police, as gun storage and then as a jail. During these years, it seemed to follow the fate of its mother building Grand Central in neglect and decline: the leaded glass windows were covered with plywood board, the timbered ceiling was concealed unceremoniously with a dropped ceiling, and the beautiful furnishings gradually disappeared (current whereabouts are unknown). Luckily, the restoration of Grand Central that began in 1993 saved Campbell’s office from a fluorescent-lighted fate. Two costly renovations in 1999 and again in 2007 ($1.5 million and $350,000, respectively) restored the office to its former glory and transformed it into a luxury cocktail bar and lounge with the purposely adopted misnomer, Campbell Apartment.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) 15 Vanderbilt Avenue. Credit Clearing House. Office of John W. Campbell. ca. 1923. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.24895

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.) 15 Vanderbilt Avenue. Credit Clearing House. Office of John W. Campbell. ca. 1923. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.24895

Mott Haven Historic District

The neighborhood of Mott Haven is located in the South Bronx, and is situated on a portion of land historically referred to as Morrisania, named after the powerful Morris family who held possession of it for centuries.    Richard and Lewis Morris, merchants from Barbados, purchased the land from Jonas Bronck in 1670.  Alexander Avenue, which extends through the heart of the Mott Haven Historic District, is reputed to have been named after Alexander Bathgate, the overseer of the Morris manor.

J. L. Mott Ironworks, 1897. in the Bills Collection. Museum of the City of New York. 97.199.1

In 1828, Jordan L. Mott, an inventor and industrialist, purchased land from the Morris family to establish a foundry for his ironworks on the Harlem River at 134th Street.   By the 1840s he’d purchased a second tract of land with the idea of building the village of Mott Haven.  By 1850, Mott had drawn up plans for the lower part of the Mott Haven Canal, which, once completed, allowed canal boats to travel as far north as 138th Street.

Map of Mott Haven Canal Docks and other Property of W. E. Rider and T. H. Conkling, ca. 1880, In the Map Collection. Museum of the City of New York, 29.100.3142A.

Mott was viewed with a certain amount of resentment, as his ironworks and canal were the forerunners of a wave of unwelcome industrialization through what had previously been pastoral countryside.   If you look along the canal in the map above, you’ll see the Mott Ironworks located where the canal meets the Harlem River, and several other industrial buildings as you move up the canal.  The neighborhood that forms the Mott Haven Historic District is a residential pocket in the greater industrial neighborhood of Mott Haven, contributing to it’s uniqueness.

Arthur Rothstein (1915-1985) and Frank Bauman, for LOOK Magazine. Changing New York: A building and a firehouse being demolished, 1957. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.7552-57.175

The Mott Haven Historic District is roughly situated along Alexander Avenue, bounded by East 137th Street to the south, and East 141st Street to the north.  This stretch has been known throughout its history both as “The Irish Fifth Avenue” and “Politician’s Row.” The Mott Haven Historical District was the first area in the Bronx to receive the designation from the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, in 1969, shortly following the first historic district designation in 1965 of Brooklyn Heights.   Following the construction of major highways in the South Bronx in the 1950s, primarily the Cross-Bronx Expressway, the displacement of vast swathes of residents led to poverty and decay in the South Bronx.  Images such at the one above, picturing demolition along the Harlem River at the Park Avenue Bridge (just southwest of the Mott Haven Historic District), became commonplace by the 1960s.

Wurts Brothers. East 137th Street and Alexander Avenue. St. Jerome’s Roman Catholic Church, interior, ca. 1905. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.10472.

Scenes such as the one  captured by Rothstein and Bauman illustrate the timeliness of the historic district designation for Mott Haven.  Among some of the architectural landmarks in the Mott Haven Historic District is St. Jerome’s Roman Catholic Church, at the corner of Alexander Avenue and 138th Street, pictured to the right.   The district also boasts several examples of historic residential architecture from the early 1860s – 1920s, with interiors custom designed for their owners, and important civic structures, including: the Tercera Iglesia Bautista (Third Baptist Church) and its parsonage; the Mott Haven Branch of the Public Library, which was the first public library in the Bronx, and constructed with funds from Andrew Carnegie’s grant; and the 40th Precinct Police Station.  While the historical designation of Mott Haven was a step in the right direction for preserving the unique architectural landscape of the South Bronx, no other neighborhoods received the designation until Longwood did, in 1980.

Susan Lorkid Katz. SKIPPED, 1977. Museum of the City of New York. 84.203.101

In the decade in between,  decay continued to spread through the borough, and numerous building fires sprung up on a daily basis, leading to the coining of the phrase, “The Bronx is burning,” attributed to Howard Cosell as he commented on a fire in the neighborhood surrounding the stadium during a New York Yankees game.  The events of the 1970s brought national attention to the South Bronx, including the notice of President Jimmy Carter, and by the early 1980s parts of the borough were beginning to experience an urban renewal.  In addition to Longwood, three other neighborhoods received the historic designation in the 1980s, and four in the 1990s.

Click here to view more images of Mott Haven from the collection, including structures which no longer exist, such as the 138th Street Grand Central Railroad Station and the 3rd Avenue “L”.

During the month of May, we’ll be posting more entries on historic preservation in the city. The Museum of the City of New York is competing for a $250,000 grant from Partners in Preservation, a joint program sponsored by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The winner is determined by popular vote, and individuals may vote once a day through May 21st. Please help us by going to http://www.helpmcny.com/ and voting today.

New York Streetside

New York has seen its share of interesting, humorous, or just plain odd signs. In addition to being entertaining, the signs tell us a lot about how the city has changed over the years.

Around 1895, a dubious claim made by Painless Parker, a Brooklyn dentist:

Byron Company. Dentist: Painless Parker about 1895 124 Flatbush Ave. Brooklyn. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.18393

In 1910, a fireworks company within city limits:

Wurts Bros. Woolworth Building, lower section of 12 Park Place showing Pain's Fireworks. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.3705

Purchasing a gun was much easier in 1937 than it is today:

Berenice Abbott. Federal Art Project. Gunsmith (Variant). 6 Centre Market Place between Broome and Grand Streets. Museum of the City of New York. 43.131.1.356

Berenice Abbott. Federal Art Project. Gunsmith and Police Department Headquarters. 6 Centre Market Place and 240 Centre Street. Museum of the City of New York. 43.131.1.357

Around 1940, the James Slip Gospel Mission did not gloss over its message to the world:

Roy Perry. "Your Sin Will Find You Out," James Slip. Museum of the City of New York. 80.102.123

A 1954 Planters Peanuts advertisement in Long Island City, Queens:

Wurts Bros. 32nd Street and Hunters Point Avenue. Planters Peanut warehouse and garage, front elevation to garage on Hunters Point Avenue. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.9988

Taken in 1979, when tobacco advertisements were much less controversial:

Andreas Feininger. Winston Lights, 6th Ave. in the 30s. Museum of the City of New York. 90.40.53

This photograph of an advertisement for Budweiser was taken in 1981:

Andreas Feininger. Times Square. Museum of the City of New York. 90.40.13

A message from the Lyric Theatre in 1995:

Andrea Sperling. The Lyric Theatre - Marquee with Jenny Holzer Aphorism. Museum of the City of New York. 96.172.5

No need to wonder what lies behind these doors:

Edwin Martin. Butcher and Cow (10th Ave.), 1997, New York. Museum of the City of New York. 01.63.1

Christmas in New York City

New York has been the setting for many Christmas stories, fables, and traditions. In 1897, eight-year-old Virginia Hanson of 115 West 95th Street wrote to the editor of The Sun, asking if Santa Claus was real. The movie Miracle on 34th Street featured a man named Kris Kringle who began working as Santa Claus during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Department stores such as Bergdorf Goodman, Lord & Taylor, Barneys New York, Bloomingdales, Macy’s, and Saks Fifth Avenue attract countless New Yorkers and visitors with their engaging holiday window displays. Here we take a look back at some of the many ways New York has celebrated Christmas.

This picture shows teachers and students gathered around a Christmas tree in a tenement house run by a chapter of the International Order of The King’s Daughters and Sons. Margaret Bottome founded this charitable organization in her New York City home in 1886. The photo was taken around 1897.

Chicago Albumen Works. Jacob A. Riis. King's Daughters Tenement Chapter, Christmas tree in Gotham Court. Museum of the City of New York. 90.13.4.228

Jacob Riis took this photo around 1900. Riis, a first generation immigrant from Denmark, sought to improve the living conditions of impoverished New Yorkers by photographing their living conditions.

Jacob A. (Jacob Augustus) Riis. Christmas gifts at 48 Henry Street. Museum of the City of New York. 90.13.1.386

Although this photo was taken about 100 years ago, the hustle and bustle of New York’s streets during the holiday shopping season remains the same.

Thomas H. McAllister. Christmas shoppers. Museum of the City of New York Photo Archives. X2010.11.8795

The Salvation Army began using red kettles in 1891 to collect money during the holiday season. In 1901, contributions to the red kettles in New York City provided the poor with a massive sit-down dinner in Madison Square Garden.  This 1906 photo shows a scene familiar to New Yorkers even today.

Byron Company. Charities, Salvation Army Christmas Dinner Kettle. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.17268

The Union Settlement House was founded in 1895 to serve the people of East Harlem. By 1900, more than 3,000 people relied on its services. This photo of caroling children was taken around 1940.

Roy Perry. Union Settlement House, Neighborhood Children Rehearsing Christmas Carols. Museum of the City of New York. 80.102.73

The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is lit every year after Thanksgiving. This tradition began in 1933.

New York times. Christmas tree, Radio City. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.11.8800

Edward Ratcliff. Rockefeller Center at Christmas. Museum of the City of New York Photo Archives. X2010.11.8801

The Manhattan Savings Bank took a particularly festive approach to Christmas. These photos show the bank’s holiday spirit during the 1960s.

Wurts Bros. 45th Street and Vanderbilt Avenue. Manhattan Savings Bank, new branch, front view from east showing Christmas decorations. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.10288

Wurts Bros. 47th Street. Manhattan Savings Bank, Christmas show, ice skaters in. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.10208

Wurts Bros. 47th Street. Manhattan Savings Bank, general view of lobby looking N.E. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.10210

Wurts Bros. 45th Street and Vanderbilt Avenue. Manhattan Savings Bank, Christmas carolers. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.13752