Flatiron Building from Madison Square Park, New York City

View of the Flatiron Building around 1903. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The same view in 2014:


Built in 1902 on a triangular plot of land between Broadway and Fifth Avenue at Madison Square, the Flatiron Building remains one of New York’s most distinctive skyscraper.  At the time of its completion, it was one of the first skyscrapers outside of the downtown area, and the first north of 14th Street, which set the stage for subsequent skyscrapers that now dominate the midtown skyline.

Cab Stand, Madison Square Park, New York City

Looking south on Fifth Avenue, with Madison Square Park on the left and waiting cabs on the right, around 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The same scene in 2014:


I was hoping to be able to get some cabs in the present-day photo, but this section of Broadway at Madison Square is closed to vehicular traffic.  Still, there are a couple cabs visible in the difference, which contrast with the line of horse-drawn cabs of over a century ago.  Otherwise, though, the scene doesn’t seem all that different; Madison Square is still a busy intersection, although internal combustion engines have replaced draft animals, and fashion styles have changed a bit.  Some of the buildings are still there, including the red-brick building just beyond the building on the far-right of the 2014 photo, although the Flatiron Building (barely visible, obscured by trees in the 2014 photo) didn’t exist yet, if the 1900 date for the first one is accurate.  It doesn’t appear to be visible in the photo, but the trees could hide some of the construction work.

Cafe Martin, New York City

Cafe Martin, at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 26th Street, New York City, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The scene in 2014:


The building in the first photo was the site of the famed Delmonico’s restaurant from 1876 until 1899. Located directly across Madison Square from Madison Square Garden, it was one of several locations owned by the Delmonico family, and was considered one of the best fine dining restaurants in the country.  This building was sold in 1901, and became the Hotel Martin.  I don’t know what became of this business, but the building obviously no longer exists; based on the architecture of the current building, this was probably sometime by the 1920s.  However, most of the surrounding buildings in the 1908 photo still exist, including the building immediately to the left, which looks looks out of place in the first photo, but blends in well in the present-day photo, now that it is no longer three stories taller than its neighbors.

Detroit Publishing Company, New York City

The Detroit Publishing Company offices at 229 Fifth Avenue in New York City, between 1900 and 1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The location in 2014:


The Detroit Publishing Company has been the source of the majority of the “then” photos that I have used on this blog, so I figured it would be interesting to re-create the site of their New York offices at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 27th Street.  The company photographed all across the country, but especially in the northeast, and many of their images were published as postcards.  The company was liquidated in 1932, and their archives were donated to the Library of Congress in 1949.  Today, the images are in the public domain, and are available via the Library of Congress website.

I am not sure whether or not this is the same building; they have similar architectural features, but there are enough differences to suggest the building was either demolished or very heavily renovated.  As for the three billboards on the left-hand side of the building, I don’t know what ever became of Amolin Powder, but both Benedictine and Lea & Perrins are still around over 100 years later.

Looking north on Fifth Avenue from 27th Street, New York City

The view looking up Fifth Avenue from 27th Street after a snowstorm, around 1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The view in 2014:


Taken a block south of and across the street from this view, these two photos show a very different Fifth Avenue over the past century.  Most of the buildings in the 1905 view are around four stories high, all of which have since been replaced with modern high-rises.  The only building left from both photos is the one in the center, at the corner of Fifth and 28th.  In the first photo, it has a clearly defined tower, but the pyramid-shaped cap at the top is no longer there.  In 1905, it was fairly prominent among the rest of the buildings, but today it is one of the shortest in view.