Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Another BEFORE IT IS GONE Situation

What is cheaper than a billboard to show your wares?  The side of a building.  This is 8th Avenue and 46th street early in March of 2014.  I was standing on the south west corner when I saw this.  What was on this corner, I am already not recalling, which is kind of scary. Or does it mean that I have taken things for granted for too long?

There are 2 ads here; one is for a cigar and the other is for a hotel of some kind. The hotel or rooming house offers the conveniences of steam heat, hot and cold water and housekeeping.  Is this hotel the building to which the sign is applied or is it elsewhere? I will venture that advertised digs is now called the New York Inn. As for the cigar, I could not make it out when I was there or even now.

What is also very cool is the mark, almost a tan line, of the structure that was on the south side of the now New York Inn. Sometimes a demolition peels back a layer as I do not recall seeing the sign on the building, or the tan line, prior to the demise of the tenement on the corner  and the small building in between.  The small building in between having been torn down first has left it's mark, a reminder that it was there. For how long we will be reminded?

This is from the map of 1911. The Henrietta was the tenement that has been demolished and the little yellow structure is the wooden building that left it's mark.  The Lane that is coming through the Henrietta is Verdant Lane and it runs all the way from the river between 49th and 50th streets.  It takes a turn along the way to bring it down to 47th street. More on that lane later.

This is an enhanced version of the first picture. Enhanced but I still can't make out the name.  Better get there soon as something, I am sure a fine visual addition to an avenue trying to reinvent itself, will forever block this view.

Friday, March 28, 2014


How many times have you walked the block on 102nd street between Broadway and Amsterdam and noticed 202 West 102nd and the odd angle it takes.  If you stand on the north side of the street and look straight into the lobby of the building, you are facing real south, not downtown.  Conversely, if you are coming out of the building you would be heading due north as you promenaded through the lobby.  So why?

 This building is at such an angle that it almost looks like a flat. The eastern wall in this garage follows the same contours that this building does.

   This is the 1867 map and what appears to be Broadway is not, it is the Bloomingdale Road.  The footprint of Broadway is visible to the west, or left, of the Road.  As the Road takes a turn to head due north it is cutting, at an angle, through 102nd street.  Today, where the road took that turn is in between Broadway and Amsterdam.  At the top of the map where it says "Ward School" is the site of the playground outside P.S. 145. and is the first of what will eventually be 3 school buildings on the site.

 This the 1885 map and The Boulevard is in place and it appears that The Road has been rendered obsolete. There are undeveloped lots now in the footprint of The Road and for some reason the lots on the south side follow the contours of the road.  There is nothing on either side and still the abandoned Bloomingdale Road is dictating the shape of things to come.

 This is the map from 1911 indicating the current 202 West 102nd street.  Broadway is there in it's current location and the Road has been reduced to dotted lines with a blue tint and a building at an angle.  The Hotel Clendining is there at 103rd and Amsterdam and the 442 seat Rose Theater east of Amsterdam showed movies until it closed around 1942. But was it showing movies in 1911?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Watt's House on 139th Street

This looks like small town anywhere U.S.A.  Once upon a time, a good deal of Manhattan could pass for a place where you could expect Andy Hardy to come bouncing down the streets.  Good thing there are some records of Manhattan's bucolic past.
This is called, in the caption of the photo, the "old Watts Mansion".  It once stood on West 139th Street just east of 7th Avenue. The picture was taken in 1915, long after the neighborhood had changed from an area known for it's Victorian Gentility to a "convenient residential suburb".  Once the 9th Avenue El snaked it's way up 9th Avenue then over to 8th Avenue and past 139th street (there were stations at 129th and 145th street) the vestiges of the country life began to disappear.  The neighborhood in a sense under went  three evolutions.  From rural to Victorian Gentility to Suburban to Urban, each resulting in it's own style and denser population.

This is the map from 1868 and clearly there is something just east of the corner of 139th street and 7th Avenue.  The name "Watt" appears next to a structure closer to 8th Avenue.

The house is there in 1885 and the name across the property, whose property lines are the same from the 1868 map, has the name Cadwallader across it.  That is the name of the family that had owned the land back even before the revolution.  The patriarch of the family Colden Cadwallader, a former Colonial Governor of the New York Provence and avid scientist / botanist.  Although he did have a friendly relationship with Benjamin Franklin, he was on the wrong side of the Revolution.
His grandson  Colden D. Cadwallader made up for his grandfathers leanings by becoming a colonel of volunteers in the war 0f 1812.  He was eventually appointed Mayor of New York City by Governor DeWitt Clinton in 1818.  A staunch supporter of a national canal system and a major abolitionist, Colden D. died in Jersey City in 1834.  His remains were moved to Trinity Cemetery in 1845 to a prominent spot in the cemetery's east side so his grave could overlook the then rural intersection of the Bloomingdale Road at West 153rd Street. By 1869, preparations to widen the Bloomingdale Road into the new Broadway, Colden had to be moved again to another plot when the new road cut through the cemetery,  this time to an inconspicuous plot in the cemetery's west side.

 This is the 1897 map and there has been a good deal of development. In 1891 David H.King Jr. created 4 rows of row houses that will one day be a large piece of the Saint Nicholas Historic District.  After buying the land from the Watt estate,  King commissions 4 of New York's star architecture firms Clarance Luce, Bruce Price, James Brown Lord and McKim Mead & White.  The Watt family must have been putting land together to form a larger estate once upon a time.  This map indicates conveyances of ownership, with out the dates but with the names of the former owner.  "C.D. Colden to 'A. Watt'".  The Saint Nicholas Historic District landmarking report states that the King had purchased the land from W. A. Watt. 

 There is the house on the 1897 map and the Watt House stands alone.  The old Watt house survived maybe due to the fact it was east of 7th Avenue but probably the large outcropping of rock that once rose up between the corner and the house as seen in the top picture had something to do with it.

  This view is from 1925 and we are looking north west. The apartment building in the left background was built on the vacant lot (see the 1897 maps) at the south west corner of 140th and 7th Avenue.  I am guessing that the house, not long for this world (is there a demolished house heaven?) is being used as a multiple unit dwelling as there is what appears to be an emergency escape staircase on the left side of the house.  Tenements are now filling the lots on 141rst street and in the center of this picture there is a sign in the vacant lot east of the house. What is being heralded? Perhaps the forthcoming apartment building soon to rise on the lot that will also absorb the old Watt Mansion.  As one era begins, another must end.

Friday, March 21, 2014


Once upon a time, in the 1980's, the ubiquitous corner market reared its head and became the thing we all dreaded when an older business with roots in the neighborhood and was replaced by the over priced fruit stand with dubious produce.  Over time we have endured the proliferation of Duane Reades, banks, Starbucks and wireless stores along Broadway to the point where New York would start to look like the background in a Flintstones cartoon.  The new business to over do it is the "Urgent Care" medical stores.  If all human life were to disappear in flash, and aliens were to visit the empty earth, they would think that we were a bunch of coffee drinking, cell phone using money hoarders who where accident prone.  This one is the straw that broke the my camel's back as it is going into the space once occupied by the late Great Shanghai. 

This is the former home of the Great Shanghai. Soon it will be, by judging the pictures, a place for all those happy sick people.
The first listing of this culinary palace was in the New York Times. Jane Nickerson reviewed  on August 1, 1956.  How many Christmas Day dinners did you have there growing up, in what would become a staple for too many upper west side families from the 1960's through the late 70's?

"Away from Midtown and off the beaten track" Ms. Nickerson wrote while calling it a "roomy place".  Owned by Shelia Chang who likes to help diners unfamiliar with Shanghai Cuisine make menu selections.  When the place opened it had 3 menus - one Shanghai, one Cantonese and one American. The costs were approximated at  $4 - $5 per person, not including drinks.  There was a bar when you came in, along the right wall.  The bartender was an older Caucasian man, as were the flies sitting at the bar.  Once upon a time the space was a night club and I always wondered if this bartender was a holdover.

This is the Hotel Marseilles at some point in the 1920's.  Designed by New York born and educated (Columbia School of Mines) Henry Allan Jacobs went to France after graduating in 1894 and attended (like too many other American architects did) the Ecole des Beaux- Arts.  However he did very well while in attendance and was awarded the Prix de Rome.  An early example of his work is the 1904 Seville Hotel at Madison Avenue and 29th Street. The entrance in the pictures above is visible on the right of this vintage postcard.

This is the hotel as photographed by Irving Underhill in 1919.  In the Business Records section of the New York Times on September 14th 1950 there was, among the Bankruptcy notices, reference to this night club. Nicholas Varadinoff, trading as the Dennis Restaurant and Bar, had finalized the bankruptcy of the business. Ironic - same last name, no relation. The hotel was sold numerous times, according to the Business Records sections of the times throughout the 1930's through 1946.  After World War II, the hotel was used a refuge for displaced persons, survivors of the Holocaust.  After that, as the tide turned in the area north of 96th, the hotel began it's downward slide into the 20th century equivalent of the legendary Old Brewery of the 5 Points.  It was on this block that not only Humphrey Bogart became Humphrey Bogart, but also were William Burroughs bought heroin.  It was in the hotel that Sarah Delano Roosevelt lived (but the neighborhood had become to Old - Testamenty for her old New York blue blood), it is where the writer Cornel Woolrich, the man who gave us Black Angel, The Bride Wore Black and what would become Rear Window lived (with his mother) from 1933 until 1957 (his last neighbors were one one side a prostitute and a junkie on the other). And it was probably in the restaurant  / nightclub that a deal was hatched to spring a guy from Dannemora.  

This is an ad for the fastest slice of Art Deco ever to cross the Atlantic, the Normandie.  It was the ocean liner of all ocean liners.  One of the most beautiful ships ever built, a product of the Roaring 20's if there ever was one. It attracted stars of the screen, stage, literary, artistic and financial worlds as the way to get to Europe.


This is the main dining room.  It is sort of an art deco interpretation of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.  Fortunately it was not in it's home port when France fell in 1940.  It became a possesion of the United States and was going to become the USS Lafayette.

 On February 9th, 1942 work was proceeding on the Lafayette at pier 88 on the West Side.  Some how a pile of life perservers caught fire and burnt the ship so badly and completely.

 The fire was so bad that the 1000 foot long ship capsized under the weight of the water iused to suppress the fire. 

 Anything of value, anything that indicated the former
use of this ship had been removed. There were no art treasures lost.  What was lost was a badly needed troopship and almost immediatly sabotage was suspected - union or otherwise.
In 1916 German saboteurs had plotted to blow up the Ansonia Hotel but that did not work out.  What they did do was to blow up a rail yard in what is now Liberty State Park that was full of boxcars that were full of ammunition waiting to be loaded onto boats to be shipped to England during World War I.  The arm holding the torch of the Statue of Liberty was shifted forward 4 feet and and the original plaster ceiling in the Great Hall of Ellis Island's immigration station fell (not the roof, just the interior ceiling).  The result was the torch being closed off and a new ceiling in the Great Hall (made out of Gustivino Tiles.  It also made Naval Intelligence wary of possible German sabotage here during the war years. But who could they turn to?

This guy. This is Salvatore Lucania, better known as Charles "Lucky" Luciano who had risen from the streets of lower Manhattan and became one of the most powerful men in organized criminal history, one of the creators of Las Vegas and the creator of the "5 Families" in New York.  That division of labor solidified the the power of what he called "this thing of ours". Unfortunately on June 7, 1936, Luciano was convicted on 62 counts of compulsory prostitution (the only thing they could get him with?) and on July 18, 1936, Luciano was sentenced to 30 to 50 years in state prison.
He was still running the show from his suite at the Maximum Security facility known as Dannemora by passing instructions to his underboss Vito Genovese.  He was powerful outside but also inside. Through his efforts the only free standing church structure in the entire New York State prison system is at Dannemora, now known as Clinton Correction Facility.  The Navy, the State of New York and Luciano's lawyers eventually concluded a deal. In exchange for a commutation of his sentence, Luciano promised his complete assistance even providing the U.S. military with mafia contacts in Sicily when the allied invaded in 1943.  The deal was hammered out over a few meetings but at least one of those meetings took place in what was to become The Great Shanghai.  After the deal was done, there was never a dockworker strike or another diabolical act of sabotage during the war.  After the war Lucky was deported back to Sicily.  He was a citizen of New York, but never an American citizen. I do not think he saw the difference.

These are part of the doors to the main dining room on the Normandie.  They were originally 20 feet tall.  They are  medallions are now  the of Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Cathedral in Brooklyn.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Loew's 83rd - not 84th - a lost Thomas Lamb treasure on the Upper Westside

Opening in September 1921, the 2633 seat 83rd Street Theatre was part of built at the same time as Loew’s State in Times Square.  Built for MGM product and vaudeville, I would venture to say that it was the premier Loew’s house north of Times Square until the opening of the larger (by a 811 seats yet) Loew’s 175th Street Wonder Theater in February of 1930.  The State and Loew’s Capital were the flagship uber-houses.  The State was in the in the building that was home to Loew’s corporate headquarters which in turn was the parent company of MGM.  Until 1946 the big studios owned a significant interest in theaters that bore their name. The Parmounts, Fox’s and Warners of the world are examples of what became an anti-trust suit that was finally settled after W.W. II and the studios were forced to divest.  In the case of Loew’s, it was the other way around.  Exhibition had to divest production as opposed to everyone else, production divesting their exhibition interests.  Don’t get me wrong, there where loopholes and shenanigans to exploit.

The house has been referred to as plain. It was built just before the real golden age of movie palace construction, which began around 1925 and came to a crashing halt by 1930.  It is nowhere near as ornate as other Lamb houses of the “golden era” but it was beautiful.  Although my memories of the theater have severely faded, I do remember the stained glass lighting fixtures flush with the overhang of the balcony. 

However plain it might have been, Loew's did spring for new seats, as noted in this 1939 ad and the benefits of sponge foam.  If I am remembering this right, there was a chandelier over the inner lobby that had to be original.  Many a time I had to wait for a date who had gone into the ladies room but I had a view of that chandelier and the lobby below from the balcony outside the restrooms.  

Some of us remember the "matrons", older woman who had been hired during W.W.II to monitor the kids in the theaters.  Children who came to these theaters by themselves had to sit in a special section. In the case of Loew's 83rd, the house right section of the orchestra (house left was for smoking). This was done to protect children from the raincoat men who would gravitate towards kids dropped off by their parents who, during the war, would go off and work in a defense plant for 8 hours and too many movie houses became day care centers. 

The theater was first cut up into a “triplex” by 1975, then a quad by 1978. The seats were never re-angled, left in their original single screen position so you always sat at a slight angle from the screen. Until it was cut up into a quad you had a view of the intact auditorium and it’s box seats from the balcony.  The fact that the boxes were still there was not only a rarity but also shows how theater design had changed.  Live entertainment, although included in the design had taken a secondary role in the purpose of the theater, which was to show movies.  The boxes, which did not have seats in them in 1975, were used by patrons and did not interfere with the projection.   

It also had an organ. Not a "Mighty Wurlizter" but still a powerful instrument - not unlike an analog synthesizer (I know I have said this before).  This is a picture of the second and last organ to be installed in the theater. Identical organs were installed in Loew's Alhambra Theatre in Brooklyn, Loew's Astoria Theatre in Queens, Loew's Spooner Theatre in the Bronx and Loew's Rio Theatre in Manhattan.  The console pictured here was called the wing-style mahogany console.

Just before it was torn down I was fortunate enough to get a tour of the remains of the orchestra section and the stage. Everything in front of the wall they had put into make it a quad was intact. Sadly, however the boxes had been removed as well as the decorative plaster above then.  The orchestra pit had been covered over years ago.  The stage was very large but was not used after the sound pictures and the depression really kicked in. Loew’s dropped vaudeville in all but their big houses during the depression.  Even the big houses had periods of time when their stages were dark.  The Pin rail, used to tie off the ropes that hoisted scenery up into the fly loft, was intact.  There was a white grand piano sitting in the middle of the stage. There were 4 or 5 floors of dressing rooms that I do not remember why I did not explore.

Loew’s 84th, the soulless "six-o-plex" opened in 1985 and for a few weeks the old 83rd Street theater operated at the same time.  There were a total of 10 screen on that block for while, a ten-o-plex.  By the summer of 1985, another Thomas Lamb theater was but a memory.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Appalachian or Harlem Farmhouse? Regardless of the condition, the tenements inthe background should give it away.

Once upon a time, on the isle of Manahatta, amongst the somewhere between 300 and 1200 Lenape who made what would become some of the most expensive real estate in the world a full time home, there were more eco – systems than what exists in Yellowstone Park.  There were deer, cougars, eagles, egrets and bears (not the picnic basket stealing kind).  In her book The Measure of Manhattan, author Marguerite Holloway sums up all this nature with some surprising figures for those of us who are used to and need the concrete.  Among 10,000 species (not including insects, molds, mosses or micro-organisms), there sandy beaches, eelgrass meadows, red-maple hardwood swamps, grassland and pine – scrub oak barrens there were 21 lakes or ponds and 66 miles of streams” she writes.  I like nature, don’t get me wrong, but I love that it is somewhere else, especially the molds and mosses.  I am not alone with these sentiments either.  What I am astounded by is the fact that change did happen so quickly considering the big picture of history but also that it once was. Change did not happen in an instant and there were vestiges of this islands rural past late into the 19th century.

This is the 1867 map of Manhattan showing the northwestern corner of Central Park.  Although the park would not be officially complete until 1871, they knew what was to be.  The items that are missing are any reference to what would become Morningside Park or any suggestion that the topography there is a cliff.  This cliff and very steeply sloped area was considered to be too “severe” for any extension of the street grid.  Although New Yorkers had become adept in getting rid of natural obstacles by the mid – 19th century, the area will be deemed unsuitable for residential development and ripe for conversion into a park.  

 These are from the 1885 map showing the soon to be completed Morningside Park.  The gentle curve of the Ninth Avenue Elevated makes its way over to Eighth Avenue along 110th street.  With the El bypassing of the plateau known as Morningside Heights, residential development was slow to blossom but not the resented institutional as the Heights became home to an insane asylum, a hospital and an orphanage.  Notice that there is no station at 110th street yet as it was believed the tracks were to high for a station to be placed and that Morningside Avenue is called Ninth Avenue.   

In 1867, Andrew Haswell Green, the Commissioner of the Central Park project (it was called the Greensward Plan after all) recommended the park idea.  The City had taken control of the land in 1870 and a design competition was held in 1871.  No one got the contract as the Board of Commissioners of Public Works rejected all the design proposals submitted, including the scheme introduced by the heroes of Central Park Fredrick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. Their plan included a connecting park between the new Morningside Park and Central Park but this plan was not to be - what with the El in the way.  Architect Jacob Wrey Mould, whose floral and fauna carvings are all over the staircases leading down to Bethesda Terrace in Central Park was hired to re do the Olmsted and Vaux plans and work began in 1883.  Unfortunately Mould died in 1886 before work was completed and in 1887 Olmsted and Vaux were brought in to complete the project.

This is the 1868 map showing a section of the Harlem Creek. This is one of the streams and creeks that made up that 66 miles of waterways in this island.  It entered the island between 106th and 107th streets and the East River. It flowed over to what is now Central park and created a swamp at the bottom of a rise, a place called McGowan's pass. McGowan's pass was home to a Tavern, The Black Horse, owned by McGowan which was a favorite stopping off place of George Washington after the Revolution.  The creek then flowed north between 5th and 6th avenues and turned west just north of 116th street ultimately disappearing around Eighth Avenue and 122nd Street.  The creek had branches off of it in several places and was known as a great place to fish.  The Native Americans used it and so did the first Europeans to settle up in what Peter Stuyvesant called in 1658"Nieuw Haarlem".  The little village had a name change after 1664 when the British took over, they called the village just "Harlem". The Lenape called the area Muscoota.

This is a farmhouse along side what is left of the creek.  Note the newly minted tenements in the distance on the left, going north and west.  Muscoota really referred to the Harlem Plains, a mostly flat area where the soil was great and could support various crops as well as being an area abundant with wildlife.  The rise in the west around the area became Morningside, Saint Nicholas and Colonial (now Jackie Robinson) Parks.  The south western corner of the area, now 110th street and Morningside Drive, was a perfect place for the first settlers to build as they had the protection of a cliff at their back, not an open field.  In other words, it was harder to launch a sneak attack from the west.  So, given the location of the house, it is likely that the house was not there for the village of "Nieuw Haarlem" but was there for the village of Harlem.  This photo dates from 1893.

1868 map showing where the the house would be.  The map detail shows a five block area from 115th to 120th street (the bottom of the orchard) from 5th Avenue on the right over to 6th Avenue on the left. The house was on the north side of the creek.

This is the 1867 map which for some reason has more information than the 1868 map, except the creek is missing.  The land is owned by Samson Benson and this is indicated on both maps. The little square right above the name "Wm. Zeis" is the house.

This the 1885 map indicating the house and what is left of the creek. The house is the yellow rectangle between 58 and 56 west 118th street, so I am guessing the house was eventually known as 57 West 118th.  The branch that once broke off from the main stream is indicated as well with dotted lines near the bottom left corner.  The number 602 refers to the block. The land has been divided up into lots but there is nothing there . . . yet.

Monday, December 16, 2013

What is this, looks like a wine cellar. It is not.

Is it a medieval prison or a wine cellar under some villa in Tuscany?  The brick work is very middle 19th century so we can rule out anything medieval.  Well I will tell you that it is here, it is on Park Avenue as a matter of fact and it ain't no wine cellar.  In 1831 a company called the New York & Harlem River Railroad began running streetcars hauled by horses up Fourth Avenue from Prince Street. Originally it went as far north as Union Square but eventually it was going to go further.  The population of this fair city was growing and that population had only one way to move and that was up this long thin island.  Horse cars was one way to move people; however, as you can imagine the process of getting uptown was long and you only moved as fast as the beast of burden did.  Sometimes the beasts did not come back downtown . . .

By 1832 the New York & Harlem River Railroad had moved all the way up to 23rd Street and Fourth Avenue and by 1836 to this larger  castle-like facility between Madison and Fourth Avenues bounded by 26th and 27th streets.  By this point the NY&HRR is running steam engines, however, in 1858 a ban will be put into place as to how far south a steam engine can go. The risk of an exploding steam engine, as these things had the unfortunate propensity of every now and then doing that, was to great to bring into a populated area.  The limit will be set at the once upon a time wilderness of 42nd street. This print is from the Valentine's Manual and is dated 1860. On the lower right, that is a train car being pulled by a team of 4 horses, the horses are pulling more than just this one car.  The engine was removed at a facility at 42nd Street and 4th Avenue.  In the center of the print, the smaller conveyance is a horse car and the building eventually became P.T. Barnum's Greco Roman Arena and then Frank Gilmore's Garden Arena. This is the great grand father of the current Madison Square Garden.  

This is the what is known today as the Park Avenue Tunnel.  It is now a one way car tunnel starting at 33rd Street and feeding into the Park Avenue viaduct around Grand Central Terminal.  It did not however start as a tunnel, it started as an open cut beginning at 33rd Street.  Remember that this was a horse drawn world and I do not know how plentiful horses were but this island I call home was once a great deal hillier, so New Yorkers have been trying to flatten this rock for centuries.  This open cut went through a hill named for the local once upon a time land owner, the Murray family.  The horses pulling the horse cars could not get over the hill without seriously shortening their service life.  Eventually steam engines are plying the open cut. The City of New York had required the addition of bridges at the cross streets and soon after the steam engine ban went into effect, the open cut was covered and turned into a tunnel. Plantings were placed on the tunnel roof and thus the name Park Avenue is applied to 4th Avenue north of 33rd Street. South of 33rd is Park Avenue South.  This is a picture of the tunnel with street car tracks and a station within the tunnel. 

By 1871, Cornelius Vanderbilt, who had become incredibly wealthy in shipping and by starting what would eventually grow into the Staten Island Ferry, had put together his uber-railroad, when he became majority stock holder in various smaller roads.  Amongst them was the Hudson River Railroad, The New York & Harlem River Railroad and a small upstate line with the name New York Central. He believed that people needing to travel by rail would come up to the wilds of 42nd Street; his peers tried to talk him out of it but he knew that the city would grow, could only grow, up the island and with a build and they will come attitude gave us the first, and immediately inadequate, of 3 Grand Centrals.  This put an end to the horse drawn train cars under Park Avenue.

  This was the glass and steel train shed on the north side of the station.  Impressive, is it not. It had been influenced by the old Crystal Palace located where Bryant Park is now, and this influenced McKim, Mead & White in their design of the late great Pennsylvania Station.

This is the north facade of the train shed and that is Park Avenue, with tracks and dirt all over it.

This is the tunnel under Park Avenue. The tunnel existed as far back as the mid 1870's but it went only as far south as 59th. Notice the over-abundance of ventilation holes as this was built for steam - don't let the 3rd rail fool you.  The tunnel was also built with stations for passengers at 59th, 72nd and 86th Streets.  The horse cars were a slight improvement over walking but the trains were a huge improvement over the horse cars. Neighborhoods will blossom as the stations will spark development.

86th Street was on the grid prior to the grid map being published. It was a road to the Hells Gate Ferry and still was when this map was printed in 1885.  The 86th Street station was accessed by a little structure in the center island, now marked by 2 steel emergency exit doors.  There were 2 more stations north of this.  The obvious one is 125th Street. The other one is not as obvious.

 Again a detail from the 1885 map and this is the station at Park Avenue and 110th Street.  The platforms were up on the viaduct, as the tracks come out of the tunnel at 97th Street at what was once called Mount Prospect (I guess that the Harlem Plains would be the "prospect"). This means that the station facility was within the viaduct.

These are 2 views from inside the pedestrain arch on the north side of 110th Street.  The door is a gate with rusted metal panels large enough to stuck my hand through. This was the main entrance to the station. There are stairs, probably on both sides, at the end of this corridor. 


This is the eastern side of the viaduct. The arch on the left is at street level but I am not sure it was a pedestrian entrance, maybe a carriage entrance but I am not sure.  The scars of were the stairs would have been are plainly visible.  Did a passenger go back inside or were the tracks raised after the closing of the station? The tracks were raised so it is possible that were the gate is would have been a small staircase up to platform level. But what is there now?

There are scars of something above this arch. This is where the stairs come out of. Perhaps a cast iron and glass canopy? In the keystone above the arch, does that not look like a weather beaten  . . . something? A corporate logo perhaps?

I stuck my camera into the little window under the arch in above picture.  It was pitch black but this is a back of a staircase.

There is a light at the top of the stairs. This is again the eastern side and the holes on either side as well as the concrete patch work indicate that there was once something there.

This is the western side that does contain a maintenance / emergency entrance / exit staircase.  Dramatic with the train, right?

This is the map from 1916. The station is there but not for very much longer. It appears that the need for these stations will not be needed.  There already had been the 3rd and 2nd Avenues where in place by the early 1880's and we will have the Lexington Avenue subway running by 1918 so the East Side was well served and the New York Central did not need all of those stops, even if they would have been incredibly convenient.