Cushman took his last series of 1942 shots on October 7, 1942.
A Corner of Pearl Street
He started out on a very interesting corner of Pearl Street and Peck Slip (the Now shot was taken on October 2, 2010). From the Guide’s description of a part of the old Fourth Ward:
Four blocks east of City Hall, an abandoned building at 11 Peck Slip (near Pearl Street) is reputed to be the oldest house in Manhattan. It was built in 1725. Constructed of roughhewn stone and faced with plaster, the structure is still in good condition. At No. 7 is a tumbledown clapboard house, now serving as a junkshop, which was the farmhouse in which David Thomas Valantine, famous editor of Valentine’s Manual, lived during his youth [p.114].
A small part of it can be seen on the far right side of Cushman’s shot, but much of it is obscured by the truck in the foregound (the Guide provides a black and white shot). Two buildings to the left is Valentine’s clapboard farm house. An El train also ran above Pearl Street back in 1942; a support column can be seen on the far left side.
In searching the net I also came across a June 7, 1853 New York Times blurb about 11 Peck Slip. In a special notice titled “Rally for the Charter Amendments and Secure Substantial City Reform” New York City residents were encouraged to vote for amendments to the City charter. I am not familiar with how such elections were held back then, but based upon this notice, apparently one would vote for or against the amendments through use of pre-printed tickets. The notice (which was put out by the “Committee” – a committee of whom it does not say) provides, in part, that “[a]s it is well known that the men who are growing rich upon the corruptions of the City Government are making arrangements to destroy all the tickets in favor of the amendments which they can reach, the Committee earnestly request every voter to supply himself with tickets previous to the day of election.” This was done through businesses located in each of the City’s wards. For the Fourth Ward, tickets were to be distributed from six locations. One such location was Emmons & Jones’ clothing store, which was located at 11 Peck Slip. So it looks like what was the oldest house in Manhattan was transformed into a business at some point since its construction in 1725.
It was possible to pinpoint this location today thanks to the Marg Printing Co., which I was able to find in the 1941-42 Manhattan Yellow Pages. It was located at 3 Peck Slip (and could be reached at WOrth 2-9433). Printing companies were prevalent in Manhattan at this time and there were literally hundreds, if not more, listed in the Yellow Pages. According to the Guide, many printing companies dotted this area of Manhattan (not far from Beekman Street) due to the concentration of newspapers along Newspaper Row (see June 6, 1941 page, last shot) and the vicinity.
There is little doubt that the oldest house is what drew Cushman to this spot. It appears that he did not get a closer shot because it may have been blocked by the trucks parked along the curb. Or could it be the wiry looking fellow marching up the sidewalk who appears to be staring down the stranger with a camera?
According to the New York Times, this block of buildings was razed in 1950 to make way for the Peck Slip Post Office that is shown in the Now shot. What a complete travesty that the City could bury such a rich part of its history, with a Post Office of all things.
Of all the shots Cushman took this is one of the most priceless.
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A View Up Pearl Street
The Now shot was taken on October 2, 2010.
This was another shot that Cushman mislabled. His notes describe it as a view up Moss Avenue. I searched 1942 maps, the 1930 and 1936 Manhattan Land Books and the internet and could not find any evidence that any street, avenue, alley or other throughway in Manhattan ever bore such a name. As it turns out, he merely continued north on Pearl Street (from the above shot at Peck Slip) past the Brooklyn Bridge and paused to take this one, which was just east of the intersection of Pearl and William Streets (William Street no longer runs this far north).
It was possible to locate this shot thanks to NYPD’s Central Booking building seen in the background of the Cushman shot and still there (albeit obscured) today. The El Train that ran along Park Row can also be seen in the background of Cushman’s shot.
As is evidenced by the Now shot the area has been completely transformed. All of the buildings that comprised the tight city blocks back in Cushman’s day have long since been razed and replaced by government buildings and cooperatives (Chatham Green, a truly massive co-op is to the right and out of view in the Now shot, although trees that line the parking area can be seen). Moreover, because the Municipal building, jail and federal and state courthouses are in this area, fences (such as the one seen in the Now shot), gates and Jersey barriers litter the entire high security area today. In fact, Pearl Street at this point is bisected by a fence. A neighborhood in the tradational sense it is no longer.
It is one of the most unattractive areas of Manhattan.
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A Street in New York’s Chinatown
The Now shot was taken on March 25, 2009.
Cushman proceeded to Park Row and made his was north to Chatham Square where he eventually reached nearby Mott Street. Below is a shot looking north on Mott Street not far from where it intersects with Bowery Street.
I was able to locate this spot by first locating the shot below.
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Chinese Store Windows
The Now shot was taken on October 9, 2010.
I was able to find this spot by Googling (this was before I discovered the 1942 Yellow Pages) the Mon Fong Wo Co., which for some reason is still listed as being at 36 Pell Street. The building is still there although the lower exterior has been renovated and Mon Fong Wo has been replaced by Chinatown Optical.
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Empire State Building from 28th Street
The Now shot was taken on March 21, 2010.
The comparison of these two shots reminds me of those video games that show two “identical” shots but with certain things changed, the challenge being to identify the differences before time runs out. The television and radio antenna on top of the spire of the Empire State Building in the Now shot serves as a prime example of such a difference.
The Empire State Building was a little over 10 years old when Cushman took his shot and a little under three years before an Army Air Force B-25 Mitchell tragically flew into the north side of the building (the opposite side seen here) on the foggy morning of July 28, 1945. According to the Empire State Building web site:
Lieutenant Colonel William F. Smith, Jr., a decorated veteran of 100 combat missions, was piloting the bomber from his home in Bedford, Massachusetts to Newark, New Jersey to pick up his commanding officer, before returning to home base in South Dakota. The flight plan called for Smith to land at LaGuardia Airport. A dense fog over the city led the air traffic controller to direct that a landing be made. Smith, however, apparently believing he could maneuver safely through the fog, asked and received permission to fly on to Newark — on the other side of Manhattan from LaGuardia. The last thing the air traffic controller told Smith was, ‘At the present time, I can’t see the top of the Empire State Building…. Disoriented by the dense fog, he apparently believed he was on Manhattan’s west side.
Smith’s final blunder came when he passed the Chrysler Building. Had he kicked the left rudder, he would have been safe; instead, he went right rudder and directly on a path to the Empire State Building. At 200 miles per hour, the unarmed trainer bomber screamed down 42nd Street and banked south over 5th Avenue. The pilot tried desperately to climb, but it was too late. At 9:40 that Saturday morning, the B-25 slammed into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building.
Luckily, the accident occurred on a weekend, with only about 1,500 people in the building — compared with the 10,000-15,000 on an average weekday. Still, 14 died in the accident — 11 in the building, plus Colonel Smith and the other two occupants of the plane. Hardest hit was the Catholic War Relief Office on the 79th floor, directly in the path of the bomber. Eight relief office workers were killed.
Damage to the building and the surrounding area was extensive. An 18-by-20 foot hole was gouged by the B-25, and one of the plane’s engines plowed through the building, emerging on the 33rd Street side and crashing through the roof of a neighboring building. Upon impact, windows shattered, and glass fell to the street. When the bomber hit, its fuel tanks exploded, sending flames racing across the 79th floor in all directions. According to Althea S. Lethbridge, a secretary for a trading company on the 72nd floor, ‘Everything shook. (At the window), we saw flames below and above us. It was scary; we didn’t know how fireproof the building was.
Unbeknownst to rescuers, when the hoist and governor cables of one of the elevators had been severed, ropes to other cars had been weakened. Nevertheless, the elevators had to be used to transport those severely injured, including Betty Lou Oliver. As the plane hit, Oliver, an elevator operator, was blown out of her post on the 80th floor and badly burned. After receiving first aid, she was put in another car to go down to an ambulance. As the elevator doors closed, rescue workers heard what sounded like a gunshot but what was, in fact, the snapping of elevator cables weakened by the crash. The car with Oliver inside, now at the 75th floor, plunged to the sub-basement, a fall of over 1,000 feet. Rescuers had to cut a hole in the car to get to the badly injured elevator operator.
Despite a harrowing experience, Oliver survived, due in large part to the elevator safety devices which served their function, though perhaps not as envisioned. The elevator car safety could not set because the governor cable had been severed by the plane’s impact. Therefore, other factors contributed to slowing the elevator and ‘cushioning’ its fall. As the elevator fell, the compensating cables, hanging from beneath the car, piled up in the pit and acted as a coiled spring, slowing the elevator. Also, the hatchway was of a ‘high-pressure’ design, with minimum clearance around the car. In such a small space, the air was compressed under the falling elevator. With such a tight fit of the car in the hatchway, the trapped air created an air cushion in the lower portion of the shaft — thereby further slowing the elevator car and allowing its occupant to survive.
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McSorley’s Old Ale House, E. 7th Street
The Now shots were taken on October 9, 2010.
Below are two shots of one of New York’s most storied watering holes, McSorley’s Old Ale House. According to McSorley’s’ web site:
McSorley’s Old Ale House has been a gathering place, a watering hole, the subject of art and literature and even a supreme court controversy. Established in 1854 – McSorley’s can boast of being New York City’s oldest continuously operated saloon. Everyone from Abe Lincoln to John Lennon have passed thru McSorley’s swinging doors. Woody Guthrie inspired the union movement from a table in the front – guitar in hand, while civil rights attorney’s Faith Seidenberg and Karen DeCrow had to take their case to the Supreme Court to gain access. Women were finally allowed access to McSorley’s in 1970! So belly up. Enter the sawdust strewn floors and history patched walls for a trip back through time.
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McSorley’s Old Ale House
One of the things I wonder about when I see these shots of McSorley’s is what the fellow sitting in the doorway with the cane is doing. A McSorely’s sentry, perhaps? A resident of the building? Or was he eighty-sixed?
It’s quite possible that Cushman was drawn to McSorley’s by Berenice Abbott’s “Changing New York” photography project from the 1930′s, which included two shots from inside the old saloon (seen here and here). Another possibility is the publicity McSorley’s received in the early 1940′s. According to McSorley’s web site, The New Yorker published a “watershed” article about the place in 1940, which in 1943 was turned into a book titled “McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon.” In that same year, Life magazine featured a photgraphic article about McSorley’s under the same title.
It’s a place definitely worth visiting but to me not a place to hang out on a regular basis because it is a tourist trap, or at least it has been every time I’ve stopped in. But I still love the place.
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A View Up Fourth Avenue
The Now shot was taken on October 9, 2010.
Fourth Avenue always puzzled me because unlike all of the other avenues in Manhattan, which run in a north south direction and are many blocks long, Fourth Avenue runs diagonally only for several blocks. Then whilst surfing the net I came across the answer in a New York Times Q&A from the Real Estate Section. From the Times’ web site:
When the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 imposed the grid onto Manhattan, Fourth Avenue ran the length of the island from Astor Place [the view seen below] to 135th Street. In the years before Civil War, the New York Central train depot was at 27th Street, and trains cars were hauled by horse and carriage from 42nd Street to the depot; to keep the unsightly trains out of sight, they were shunted to a viaduct for 10 blocks south of 42nd Street, and when that covered viaduct was beautified, that short stretch of Fourth Avenue came to be known as Park Avenue.
However, it was not until 1888 that the term Park Avenue was used to refer to the entire stretch of the avenue north of 32nd Street. As the street’s popularity as a fashionable residential address grew, the merchants and residents along what remained of Fourth Avenue began to lobby the City Council, and in 1959 the city voted to call the stretch of the street from 17th Street to 32nd Street “Park Avenue South.” (Since the section of the avenue next to Union Square was already called Union Square East, it seemed easiest to begin at 17th Street.) This left only the tiny area from Astor Place to 14th Street as Fourth Avenue, which it remains today.
This would be the final shot Cushman took for this era. He would not take any more color shots of Manhattan until 1960.
Click here to see the next series of shots taken on July, 5, 1960.
Note: The Cushman shots have been reproduced on this site with the written consent of Indiana University, which owns the Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection.