Old New York


BROADWAY, most celebrated of the great streets of the world, had a most humble beginning. It has always been the central artery of New York, and the story of Broadway is the history of the city itself. An Indian trail before white men reached the Island of Manhattan, in the days of the Dutch it had grown into a country road called Heere Straat or Breedeweg. The name Broadway or Breedeweg had its origin in the broad way that led from the entrance of the old Fort up to the gate at Wall Street. The street was wide near the Fort to give room for the soldiers to drill. This explains the contradiction between the name and the appearance of Broadway. When a wall was put about the little town, stretching across the Island on the line of the present Wall Street, Breedeweg led directly to the city gate. Beyond the gate it wandered away to the north, and for close upon a hundred years was the only road extending the length of the Island. With the coming of the British, Breedeweg quite naturally changed from a Dutch to an English thoroughfare and became Broadway.

What you'll find in our Gallery here are many prints depicting the Broadway of Yesteryear and old photographs from a collection called Old New York.

Come with me on a virtual journey through our Cyber-Museum. I'll point things out along the way.

- Robert Rusie

New Amsterdam (now New York) in 1650

A beginning for us by noted artist, Edward Trumbull. This, and some other murals shown here, at one time decorated the walls of the cafeteria of the Kress store on Fifth Avenue in the 1940's.

The old fort at the left is on the site of the present Custom House.

Atlantic Garden House 1765

This house was erected about 1730, the garden back of it extending to the river. This was a noted tavern in its day and was called by various names at different times, "King's Arm Tavern," "Atlantic Garden," etc. This photo was taken 140 years later (1905) at the same exact location.

Trinity Church after the Great Fire 1776

This shows the ruins of Trinity after the disastrous fire of 1776. The present Trinity is the third church of that name on this site. The first was erected in 1697.

Battery and Bowling Green during the Revolution

The name "Bowling Green" was first given to this open space at the foot of Broadway in 1732, when it was leased for the purpose of a bowling green to three prominent citizens. The rent was one peppercorn a year. During the Revolution the patriots tore down the statue of King George which had been erected there and melted it into bullets. They also broke off the tops of the iron posts of the fence surrounding the Green.

The new Custom House was erected on the site of the old fortifications, which were demolished about 1787. The Government House, which was erected here to be occupied by the Presidents, was never used for that purpose, the seat of the national government being moved to Philadelphia before the house was completed. This 1905 photograph will show you how the area changed. It was filmed from the same angle as the print.

Lispenard's Meadows (Broadway & Spring st.) 1785

At this time all of the land in the vicinity of Canal street and west of Broadway was a marshy tract that had previously been a swamp. After having been drained it was called Lispenard's Meadow. All that remains of the meadow is the tiny park at the west end of the meadow. In our turn-of-the-century photo we're looking southwest from Broadway in the vicinity of Canal Street.

Tontine Coffee House 1797

The coffee house, left, was a famous meeting place of financial men, situated on the northwest corner of Wall and Water Streets.

Gov't House near Bowling Green 1797

First intended as the Presidential mansion but later used as the Custom House, it was demolished in 1815.

Buildings in the Park 1809

This space has been variously called the Fields and the Commons. During the Dutch period criminals were executed here, and at one time a portion of it was used as a Potter's Field. The Bridewell or City Prison was built in 1775, and torn down in 1838. The City Hall - which was then and is still considered the most beautiful building in the city - was finished in 1812.

Federal Hall at Wall and Nassau Streets

George Washington was inaugurated President here in 1789. The Hall was built in 1697 as a City Hall and demolished in 1812.

Elgin Botanical Gardens 1812

On the site of the present Rockefeller Center. These were the first public Botanical Gardens in the country.

Buck Horn Tavern, Broadway & 22nd, 1812

This hostelry stood for a number of years ten or fifteen feet above the present grade of Broadway. The part of Broadway north of Union square was then called Bloomingdale road. The photograph shows some shops from the first decade of the 1900's.

Canal Street & Broadway 1812

This canal was dug to drain the swamp and marshy land called Lispenard's Meadow. This bridge was erected by the British during the Revolution. A hundred years later it looked like this.

Broadway and Park Row 1820

City Hall is in the center with the Park Theatre on the right. The first Grand Opera in New York was presented here in 1825.

Broadway from Rector Street 1820

This was considered a fashionable residential section. Grace Church Chapel at the left, later moved to Broadway and Tenth Street. Trinity Church in the center occupies the original site today.

Looking up Broadway 1825

Here, we are looking up Broadway from Bowling Green to Trinity Church. The first three houses on the left were owned by the Kennedy, Watts and Livingston families.

South Street Seaport 1828

Here's the great Seaport from Maiden Lane in the days of the square-riggers.

Washington Institute & City Reservoir 1829

Located at Thirteenth Street, east of Fourth Avenue, the Reservoir was the first erected by the city for extinguishing fires.

Contoit's Garden 1830

This Garden was between Leonard and Franklin on the west side of Broadway, at about No. 355. This was a favorite place of refreshment of the fashionable set. The first Garden by this name was near Park Place, but Contoit moved from there in 1809. And in the first part of the 20th century it looked like this.

St. Paul's Church & Broadway Stages 1831

This print shows the number of stages plying Broadway at this time. Stages continued to run on Broadway until 1886. St. Paul's was built in 1766, facing the river, which at that time came up to Greenwich Street. Here is the same area, 1905 photo.

City Hotel, Trinity and St. Paul's, 1831

The City Hotel was built in 1806 at the corner of Cedar Street. It stood on the site of the old De Lancey House, which had been the scene of the first "Inauguration Ball" in Washington's time. In this hotel it was considered that the acme of luxury and magnificence had been reached.

An interesting explanation of the narrowness of Thames street is found in the fact that it was originaly a carriage drive from the De Lancey House to the stable. Here's the same view from the first decade of the 1900's.

Broadway at Ann Street 1831

Here we see Grace Church Chapel, Trinity Church, New England House and the City Hotel.

Mansion House 1831

These were originally private residences. They were erected about 1780, being among the first to be put up in what was called "The Burnt District" after the fire of 1776. Washington occupied the middle one of the houses during the second session of the First Congress.

The houses were afterward turned into a hotel, known as Mansion House at 39 Broadway, and it was the leading hotel of the city.

This site is of interest as being the spot where the first habitation of white men was erected on the Island. At the beginning of the 20th Century it looked like this.

Junction of Broadway & Bowery 1831

This print shows what is now 14th street, Fourth Avenue and Broadway. Fourth Avenue was then the Bowery. Notice the billboards for Luna Park (Coney Island) and the Hippodrome in the photo, both popular amusements in the early part of this century. The "new" Hippodrome opened on Broadway in 1905 and was partly owned by "Bet-A-Million" Gates who also was a co-owner of Luna Park.

Bourne House 1832

For a number of years G. Melksham Bourne kept a picture and stationery store here. He published a very fine and authentic series of New York views called "Bourne's Pictorial Views of New York." The painting by John Rae, which is reproduced at the very top of this page, shows an interior view of Bourne's store.

South Street & Fulton Market 1835

One of New York's oldest grocery houses is at the left and Fulton Market at the right.

View of Broadway 1840

We're on Broadway's east side, between Grand and Howard Streets. This print shows Tattersall's Horse Market, the building having been erected in 1819, first used as a circus, then converted into a theater. The Olympic Theatre is also shown; this was erected in 1837. And, here, in our photo is the same street just 65 years later.

Croton Resevoir 1842

The reservoir was built in 1842 on the site of the present New York Public Library. The brick Presbyterian church is shown at the extreme left followed by the Gerard, Pell, Wendel, Clark and Kip residences.

City Hall Park 1842

The Astor House was opened in 1837. The ground on which the Post Office stands was at that time included in City Hall Park. Barnum's Museum was opened in 1842. The building had before that date been occupied by Scudder's Museum. Sixty-three years later it looked like this.

Broadway & Fulton Street 1843

As seen from below Fulton street, St. Paul's Church is at the center, with the Astor House to the right.

The Custom House 1845

As seen from Broad Street in 1845, the Custom House later became the Sub-Treasury building. At right center is the oyster stand which stood in front of the building where the J.P. Morgan building was later erected.

Madison Cottage, Broadway & 23rd St. 1847

This tavern was quite a noted one and was kept for a number of years by Corporal Thompson. This was torn down to make way for Franconi's Hippodrome. The Hippodrome only lasted a few years and was replaced by this.

Church of the Puritans at Union Square, 1851

Union square was first laid out as a park in 1815. The junction of so many streets at this point first suggested the idea of a park here.

Proposed plan for Bridge over Broadway 1852

In 1852 "the great volume of traffic" on Broadway at Fulton street led the street commissioner to plan this bridge. A bridge was actually erected here in 1866, but it was soon torn down, "it was so crowded with sightseers there was no room for pedestrians." Here is the same view view from our 1905 photo collection.

M. Franconi's Hippodrome 1853

This was erected in 1853, and torn down in 1856, to make way for the Fifth Avenue Hotel. The performances here were on a grand scale, the advertisements stating that the services of "fully thirty supernumeraries are needed to properly depict the gorgeous spectacles, pageants," etc. Today, as in 1905, this is a very busy intersection of Broadway and 23rd Street.

Proposed Railroad Terrace for Broadway 1854

This print shows the proposed elevated as it was to appear near Park Place. The intention was to have a passageway for pedestrians next to the buildings and have the cars run over the outside edge of the sidewalk. The entrance to the elevated was to be through the stores. It was hoped "that the storekeepers would see the advantage of having the public pass through their stores."

The feeling of the 1905 shopkeepers on this score is shown by the expense they were willing to go to to furnish passageways to the elevated and subway. The house No. 235, shown in the print, was occupied by Mayor Philip Hone between 1821 and 1837. And here it is in 1905.

Croton Cottage 1855

Billiards was featured here at the southeast corner of Fifth Avenue and Fortieth Street. Burned during the Draft Riots, the site was afterwards occupied by the residence of Wm. H. Vanderbilt and then later on by the Arnold Constable & Co. store.

John D. Wendel House 1856

This famous house was located on the Northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and Thirty-Ninth Street. When the last Wendel died in 1939, three generations of wealth was bequethed to charity. Wendel House was demolished some 80 years after its construction and the Kress department store was built at 444 Fifth Avenue.

St. Paul's Church 1858

From Park Row we see St. Paul's Church, the park and the Astor House.

The Five Points 1859

Here, we're at the intersection of Baxter, Park and Worth Streets.

Fifth Avenue Hotel at Madison Square 1859

The hotel was built on the site of the old Madison Cottage, a famous roadhouse. In 1908, the hotel was demolished for the Fifth Avenue Building. Madison Square is at the right.

P.T. Barnum's Circus 1874

On this site the old Madison Square Garden was built later. The New York Life Insurance building stands on it now.

Coaching Days on Fifth Avenue 1880

Looking south from Forty-Fourth Street, on the left are Tyson's Meat Market, Old Willow Cottage, and Temple Emanu-El.

St. Patrick's Cathedral 1880

This is a view of the Cathedral at Fifth Avenue and Fiftieth Street with Dr. Gardner's school for Young Ladies in the left foreground. The spire of St. Thomas'church is seen in the distance.

The Union League Club 1881

The original Club-House stood at 26 East Seventeenth Street in 1863 until it moved here in 1879. It was at the Northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and Thirty-Ninth Street.

Washington Square 1889

Looking south to Washington Square from Fifth Avenue we see the Washington Arch which was erected in 1889.

Thank you for coming with me on our little journey; I hope you enjoyed our trip to The Broadway of Yesteryear and Old New York. While this has been an historical gallery of the street named Broadway, rather than the show business Broadway, our next gallery will concentrate on the Broadway we all know and love. In 1904, Longacre Square, was re-christened Times Square and this is where we will begin.





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