Lower Hudson with Manhattan Skyscrapers
The following three Now shots were taken on February 9, 2010.
To capture the Manhattan skyline from the west, Cushman took the ferry from Jersey City. Back in 1941, the ferry ran from Jersey City to the stop at Liberty Street (the ferry still runs today but the stop further north on Vesey Street). From such a distance, it is difficult to get the correct zoom and distance so the Now shots naturally are off to some degree. Nevertheless, the change in the skyline is noteworthy (it will be even more so when the Freedon Tower is completed). The World Trade Center was approximately a quarter of the way from the left side of the Now shot.
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Manhattan Skyscrapers from a Jersey City Ferry Boat
Besides the changing Manhattan skyline, another significant difference between 1941 and today is the amount of boats and planes that traveled on or above the Hudson. Back in 1941, the river traffic was much heavier; today it is my guess that the air traffic above the river is much heavier.
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Approaching Liberty St. Ferry
One of the most significant differences, however, pertains to Manhattan proper. Back in 1941, many piers jutted out all along the border of Manhattan which, in certain areas, approached in frequency the number of streets which ran across Manhattan. But even more significant is the spot where the ferry actually docks with the island. Back in 1941, West Street (naturally) marked the western border of Manhattan and the ferry stop shown in the Cushman shot was at Liberty and West Streets. Since the early 1970′s this is no longer true. This is because Manhattan proper was extended westward into the Hudson River to create what is today Battery Park City. This was made possible in large part by the construction of the World Trade Center. Earth moved to create the foundation for the Twin Towers was used to extend the southwestern tip of Manhattan. So the lower buildings seen in the background on right side of the Cushman shot (an area of Manhattan known as Radio Row) were replaced by the World Trade Center.
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The Old Fulton Market on a Saturday Afternoon
The Now shot was taken on October 2, 2010.
One thing that I learned in doing a little research on the Fulton Market is that it should not be confused with the more commonly known Fulton Fish Market. A Fordham University article written by Kathryn Burke (South Street Seaport: From Its Original Conception to Its Present Day Revival (December 12, 2007)) provides some very interesting background. In summary, the Fulton Market originated at a time before refrigeration and was intended to provide people with a market for a number of perishable items, fish being among them. As described below, eventually, the market was housed in building that was rebuilt a number of times. The fish merchants eventually moved out into another building nearby (on the other side of South Street on the East River) but did maintain some space in Fulton Market (along the South Street side). This became known as the Fulton Fish Market, which relocated to the Bronx several years ago.
The angle and distance are off in the Now shot but … who cares? The elevated FDR Drive obscures much of the view that Cushman had back in 1941. But more importantly, the Old Fulton Market is gone. SeaPortSpeaks, which appears to be a consortium of businesses and individuals devoted to preserving and developing this area of Manhattan provide some interesting facts about the Market. The original Fulton Market structure was built in 1822. It was razed and rebuilt in 1883 — this is the structure that existed in Cushman’s shot. Then, in 1950, this structure was razed and replaced (presumably) with a similarly shaped building. Finally, in 1982, a portion of the 1950 structure was razed and redeveloped to what exists today: a building with the look and feel of a suburban strip mall filled with tourists.
It’s actually quite amazing that the 1883 structure, which, alas, was operated by the City, even made it to Cushman’s day. From a January 8, 1912 New York Times article titled “Old Fulton Market is to be Abandoned:”
In a joint letter to President Mitchel of the Board of Alderman, Controller Prendergust, and Borough President McAneny will to-day recommend that Fulton Market be discontinued and the property turned over to the Sinking Fund Commission for the disposition as it may see fit to make. This recommendation is made after a careful study of the present uses and the physical condition of the old market which show conclusively that the market is an expense to the city not warranted by necessity nor by any public benefit.
Fulton Market [not the actual buildings] was established in 1817 for the purpose of supplying ‘the common people with the necessaries of life at reasonable prices,’ and now occupies the block bounded by Fulton, South, Beekman, and Front Streets [it still is]. … Investigation shows that for many years Fulton Market has been steadily depreciating both as to its patronage and physical condition. The population which it previously served has moved apparently north and west, and the market trade has been changing gradually from retail to wholesale. …
This change in the volume and character of the business has been largely due to the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge [in 1883], the discontinuance of the Fulton Street crosstown car lines, as well as the subsequent improvement in transit facilities which caused the removal of the market’s patrons to other sections of the city. …
The structure itself is in an unsanitary condition, the Health Department having made a report virtually condeming a large part of it. … One section of the building was destroyed by fire some months ago.
And then there is this October 22, 1916 Times article titled “Ruin has Overtaken Old Fulton Market:”
The most ruinous looking building on Manhattan Island is the old Fulton Market structure…. There is scarcely a window which has a pane of glass intact and the greater part of the roof has fallen in. The part of the structure at Fulton and Front Streets where the tower was burned out several years ago threatens to collapse at any time and complete the ruin caused by long neglect and exposure to the weather. …
The Board of Health condemned [the structure] as unsanitary and not fit for occupancy several years ago. The damage due to the fire … was never repaired. It has been a common sight when it rained to see the retail fish and cheese merchants transacting business under umbrellas. …
Following this action of the Board of Health the Alderman, early in 1914, adopted a resolution to abandon the market. Efforts had been made before that to have the city make necessary repairs. … After discussing several plans for the old market in which the tearing down of the old building and selling the property figured prominently, the Board of Estimate appropriated $30,000 to repair the structure, not as a market but as a general business building. … Plans for the renovated building … have been prepared … and bids have been received. As there was no available money to meet the $30,000 appropriation … the Board … authorized the issuance of special revenue bonds … but [nevertheless] bids exceeded the appropriation by more than $7,000 …. Therefore, nothing has been done, and unless a larger appropriation is obtained … the Fulton Market building may stand in its ruinous condition for many more months.
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Looking up [Peck Slip] from South Street
The Now shot was taken October 9, 2010.
Cushman was very meticulous in labeling each of the shots he took but he did make a few errors. This was one of them. His notes describe this as being a shot of Fulton Street from South Street. It actually is a view of Peck Slip from South Street (which is a few long blocks north of Fulton Street). This would have been an easy mistake to make given that both spots strongly resemble each other.
Peck Slip has retained its cobble stoned surface and a number of the buildings that ran along its borders also remain. But as noted on the October 7, 1942 page, the block of buildings which ran along Peck Slip (where the building with the rows of tinted windows in the Now shot is located) would tragically be razed – tragic because within that block of buildings sat the oldest known house in Manhattan.
In addition to this loss of precious real estate, the entire area of Manhattan between the end of Peck Slip and the Municipal Building (seen in the background of Cushman’s shot) has been wiped out and replaced with truly massive cooperatives that obscure the view today. This will be noted on subsequent pages.
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Tower of Brooklyn Bridge from South Street
The Now shot was taken on March 7, 2009. The elevated FDR Drive, which runs parallel to South Street today, continues to obscure the view that Cushman had back in 1941.
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On New York’s East Side, Lower Clinton Street
The Now shot was taken on February 13, 2010.
Cushman continued north, most likely on South Street, to take his next three shots (of which only one is reproduced here given that they were all of the same spot). He described this shot as a view of Clinton Street from close to the East River so it must be from where Clinton and South Streets intersect.
This represents Cushman’s first, but far from last, foray into parts of Manhattan off of the beaten path. He was about to enter the Lower East Side which was a storied area of the City and not one which the typical tourist (then or now) would walk through snapping pictures. In 1941, this was a neighborhood of hard working immigrants — many of them Jewish — who lived in the four and five story walk up buildings that ran along the tight city blocks that comprised so much of the Lower East Side. It is not surprising that he made his way to this area of the City as the Lower East Side and Chinatown were the next areas of the City covered in the Guide.
As evidenced by this and other Then and Now shots Cushman took, the Lower East Side was fundamentally transformed after World War II (in the name of “slum” clearance) from these tight city blocks to massive public housing projects, parking lots, and large open spaces.
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Corner of Broome Street and Baruch Place
The Now shot was taken on January 16, 2010.
A case in point is below. The neighborhood corner that existed in 1941 is now in a fenced in dead zone. Broome Street was cut off and a fenced in high security parking lot occupies this area (the only thing missing is the guard towers). This is the Lower East Side post-War style, when the urban planners who knew best brought in the wrecking balls and bull dozers in the name of “slum clearance.”
Certainly, the building on this corner was run down in need of repairs. And the people who lived there and in the surrounding blocks may have been dirt poor but they had a neighborhood. This is evidenced by the next shot Cushman took below.
Cushman describes this one as stores near corner of Broome and Baruch Streets. The street number is 26 and I was able to confirm per the 1930 Manhattan Land Book that this was the north side of Broome Street between Baruch and Mangin Streets. It would have been further to the left in the parking lot that occupies the area now. This doesn’t look like a slum to me. It was a sunny September day in the days before television. A man is sitting on a stoop with his infant son on his lap; women are in a circle chatting away; a lady is buying vegetables from a street vendor; and four young boys are organizing a game of stickball. Talk about a priceless image of yesteryear. And look at it now. But at least the kids are off the streets (because there are none). What would we do without urban planners?
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Looking Up Riverside Drive from 181st Street
The Now shot was taken on October 9, 2010.
This is another shot Cushman partially mislabeled. This is a view facing north off of 181st Street, not 126th Street as provided by his notes. Thankfully, he also made the reference to the George Washington Bridge which is nearby. This is a shot of Fort Washington (the moss covered columns that can be seen in Cushman’s shot are gone today). Ironically, the Real Estate section of the September 27, 1942 edition (exactly one year after Cushman’s shot) of The New York Herald Tribune shows a picture almost identical to the one shown below (the angle was a bit to the left). The caption read: “In the picture are shown the Palisades, the Hudson River, Riverside Drive, and the group of apartment houses which Dr. Charles V. Paterno has constructed on the plateau two hundred feet over the surface of the river. Nehring Brothers, agents for the buildings, say these features are very popular with new and old tenants.”
It is anybody’s guess as to why Cushman traveled so far off the beaten path to take this shot. The most likely answer in my mind was to get a shot of the George Washington Bridge (and perhaps the Fort also). So why did he not take a shot of the bridge? The answer, I believe, is that he would have had to face directly into the sun to do so; hence, it was not possible. The time that I took the shot below (basically standing in the same place as the above shot but pivoting about 180 degrees), was was an hour or so earlier in the day than when Cushman took his shot and the sun is close to coming into view. In another hour, I suspect I would have been facing right into it.
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Cushman would return to Manhattan a little over a year later in October 1942 to take his next and last series of shots in the 1940s. Please go to the October 1, 1942 page to begin viewing them.
Note: The Cushmanshots have been reproduced on this site with the written consent of Indian University, which owns the Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection.