Grand Central Terminal Suburban Concourse, New York City

The lower concourse at Grand Central Terminal, showing the ramp to the upper level, around 1913-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2016:

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Grand Central Terminal is best known for its spacious Main Concourse, but when the station first opened in 1913 the upper level was only used for inter-city trains. Commuters to the outer suburbs departed from this significantly less breathtaking concourse located on the lower level, directly underneath the Main Concourse. The first photo was probably taken around the time that the station opened, but over the years its function has changed. As explained in the previous post, the station is no longer split between long-distance and suburban trains; instead, Amtrak uses nearby Penn Station along with the Long Island Railroad and New Jersey Transit commuter lines, while Grand Central is exclusively a commuter rail station, used by the Metro-North Railroad.

Today, the lower concourse is significantly more crowded today than it was in the first photo. The lower tracks are still in use, but the concourse has taken on a second role as the station’s food court, with Shake Shack and other restaurants occupying the space on the left side where the ticket office windows were located in the first photo. Despite this, though, the underlying architecture has not changed much, and the station would still be recognizable to a commuter from the early 20th century.

Grand Central Terminal Ramp, New York City

The ramp to the lower concourse at Grand Central Terminal, around 1913-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same location in 2016:

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New York’s Grand Central Terminal is the world’s largest train station in terms of number of platforms, and in order to save space in crowded midtown Manhattan, it was built with two levels of tracks. The first photo was taken shortly after the station opened in 1913, showing the ramp to the lower platforms. At the time, the Main Concourse, located just on the other side of the columns on the left, served inter-city passengers, while the lower tracks were for suburban commuter trains.

By the mid-1900s, passenger travel had significantly declined, and the station was subject to a major alteration that would have destroyed most of the original interior. However, it survived and was subsequently restored, and today the only real difference in these two photos is the appearance of the walkway above the ramp. Amtrak no longer uses the station, though, so today all of the platforms on both the upper and lower levels are used by Metro-North Railroad commuter trains.

McGraw Rotunda, New York Public Library, New York City

The McGraw Rotunda on the third floor of the New York Public Library Main Branch, around 1911-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2016:New York Public LibraryN

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The main branch of the New York Public Library, located at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, was completed in 1911, and the first photo was probably taken soon after, as it is part of a series of photos that the Detroit Publishing Company took to show the interior of the new building. The rotunda includes walnut paneling and a valuted ceiling, and the present-day photo also shows the murals that were added after the first photo was taken. Located on the walls and on the ceiling, the murals are entitled “The Story of the Recorded Word,” and were painted in 1937 by Edward Laning. One of them depicts Johannes Gutenberg holding a page from his famous Bible, which was the first book to have been printed using movable type. Appropriately, the McGraw Rotunda is also home to the New York Public Library’s copy of the Gutenberg Bible, which can be seen in the center of the 2016 photo. It was the first Gutenberg Bible in the United States, when James Lenox brought it here in 1847, and today it is one of only 49 existing copies in the world.

Lost New England Goes West: Main Cell Block, Alcatraz, San Francisco

Alcatraz guard Carl T. Perrin, on duty on March 21, 1963, the last day of the prison’s operation. Photo taken by Keith Dennison, courtesy of the National Park Service.

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The scene in 2015:

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The corridors between the cell blocks at Alcatraz were named after major streets; this particular one was known as Broadway, and it was the central corridor in the facility, separating blocks B and C. The block had three levels of cells, and most of the inmates were kept in either B or C blocks, with the more isolated D block being used for isolation and punishment, like solitary confinement.

Because Alcatraz was intended for the nation’s most problematic federal prisoners, the prison enforced many strict regulations. Each cell housed only one person, and conversations between inmates were strictly limited to discourage them from coordinating escapes. “Lights out” was at 9:30 P.M., and, unless they worked a prison job, the inmates spent nearly 23 hours a day in their cells, passing the time by reading, smoking, and occasionally playing musical instruments or making artwork. Images of the interior of the cells can be seen in this earlier post and this one.

This post is part of a series of photos that I took in California this past winter. Click here to see the other posts in the “Lost New England Goes West” series.

Lost New England Goes West: Alcatraz Dining Hall, San Francisco

The dining hall at the Alcatraz Federal Penitentary, sometime between 1933 and 1963. Image courtesy of the National Park Service.

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The dining hall in 2015:

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This dining hall is part of the main prison building at Alcatraz, which first opened in 1912 as a military prison. The first photo, taken during its time as a federal civilian prison, shows the dining hall set up for some sort of holiday dinner. All of the inmates ate their meals here together, and the food was supposedly the best in the entire federal prison system. Meals were 20 minutes long, and inmates could help themselves to as much food as they wanted, provided that they ate it in time and left no waste.

In the distance on the far left of the 2015 photo is the breakfast menu from March 21, 1963, the prison’s last day in operation. The meal consisted of assorted dry cereals, steamed whole wheat, scrambled eggs, milk, stewed fruit. toast, bread, butter, and coffee. Today, the dining hall is one of the stops on the self-guided tour of the island, which is operated by the National Park Service as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

This post is part of a series of photos that I took in California this past winter. Click here to see the other posts in the “Lost New England Goes West” series.

Lost New England Goes West: Clarence Anglin’s Cell, Alcatraz, San Francisco

Cell #152 in Alcatraz, shortly after Clarence Anglin’s attempted escape in June 1962. Image courtesy of the National Park Service.

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The cell in 2015:

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Clarence Anglin and his brother John were convicted bank robbers whowere both incarcerated at Alcatraz. As explained in more detail in the previous post, they participated with their friend Frank Morris in what was possibly the only successful escape attempt from the prison. The first photo was taken in Clarence’s cell shortly after the escape was discovered, and the second one shows the cell as it appears today, complete with a replica of the dummy head that Anglin created to hide their disappearance.

In over 50 years since their disappearance, there have been no confirmed sightings of the three men, nor were their bodies ever discovered, which has led to plenty of speculation and reported sightings ever since. Perhaps the most interesting piece of evidence to surface recently, though, is a 1975 photo that was released last year, which supposedly shows the Anglin brothers in Brazil. Despite the resemblance to the escaped convicts, it remains inconclusive, but it is certainly possible that the men, now in their mid-80s, could still be alive and hiding in South America.

This post is part of a series of photos that I took in California this past winter. Click here to see the other posts in the “Lost New England Goes West” series.