Fifth Avenue from 42nd Street, New York City

Looking north up Fifth Avenue from the corner of 42nd Street, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

923_1900-1910 loc

Fifth Avenue in 2016:

Unlike sections of Fifth Avenue to the south of here, this then and now scene shows no discernible landmarks left from the first photo. The area in this view, from 42nd Street north to Central Park, has some of the most valuable commercial real estate in the world, so over the years most of the low-rise structures from the early 1900s have been replaced with more modern buildings. One such building is to the left of center in the 2016 photo, at the corner of 43nd Street. Built in 1954 as the home of the Manufacturers Trust Company, this glass and aluminum building was an early example of modern architecture in the United States, and it is now designated as a New York City landmark.

The first photo was taken sometime before automobiles became the dominant form of transportation in the city, as most of the vehicles in this scene are horse-drawn carriages. However, one particularly interesting vehicle is the double-decker bus on the left side, which was operated by the Fifth Avenue Coach Company. Unlike all of the other numbered avenues in Manhattan, Fifth Avenue never had a trolley line, as its wealthy residents did not want tracks and trolleys running down their street. Instead, it was served by buses such as the one in the photo, which carries a Bull Durham Chewing Tobacco advertisement on the side of it. This has continued to the present-day, with several bus lines running along the surface of Fifth Avenue instead of a subway underneath it.

Leave a Comment