In search for fodder for this here weblog, I've been known to scour the `net, looking for rarified images of the New York City of my youth, specifically of neighborhoods or storefronts that had particular resonance for me. I've pretty much exhausted all of my own photographs, so I started respectfully mining the fertile frontiers of Flickr for other pictures of a New York City of a since-vanished age. I'm not alone in this hunt. Some of my favorite local blogs like EV Grieve, Jeremiah's Vanishing New York, The SoHo Memory Project, Bowery Boogie and many, many others do this as well. In doing so, we've set up a de facto community of NYC bloggers that is often lambasted for being stuck in the past and/or accused of glorifying eras of Manhattan-living that were not all that history has made them out to be. Fair enough, but while I may indeed look fondly back at the NYC of my childhood and adolescence, I'll be the first to suggest that it had its myriad downsides (like, say, getting mugged on occasion). That said, compared to the antiseptic, venomously exclusive and gentrified Manhattan of today, it was a veritable hotbed of possibility.
Anyway, blah blah blah. The reason I'm waxing rhapsodic about all this now is because this evening, from the standpoint of a nostalgia-crazed NYC blogger, I just hit fucking PAYDIRT. You may remember a post of mine the other day wherein I spoke about Rocks in Your Head, a since-vanished record shop in SoHo. For some reason, I wanted to find another pictures of same. One or two Google image searches later, I came across a shot of Rocks In Your Head I'd never seen before. At first, I couldn't pinpoint a date on it (though I would later), but looking at the vinyl featured in the window (including Tattoo You by the Rolling Stones, Pretenders II, Penthouse to Pavement by Heaven 17, Beauty and the Beat by the Go-Gos, Dark Continent by Wall of Voodoo and Half Alive by Suicide), I'd have to say it was 1981. I traced the photo back to to its original website, and I was floored.
The image in question comes from the New York University Archives: Guide to the Washington Square Park and Washington Square Area Image Collection, 1850-1990. I was all fired up to post a bunch of their images here until I read the fine print.In a nutshell, you're ostensibly supposed to get written permission before publishing them. While that hasn't really stopped me in the past, I feel it would be a sort of churlish and disreputable move on my part to post them here now. But, by the same token, I feel that I ABSOLUTELY MUST SHARE THIS AMAZING FIND with the kind folks and kindred spirits who regularly read my blog. This is truly the biggest cache of amazing downtown NYC photographs I've ever encountered. It almost makes me want to overlook New York University's tireless expansion. That they've amassed such a collection is to their credit.
So, what are you waiting for? Yes, you'll see images of Washington Square Park from every conceivable era at every conceivable angle, but the REALLY GOOD STUFF requires scrolling about halfway down until you get to Series II: Washington Square Area. After this point, you'll find BREATHTAKINGLY RARE shots of stuff like...
- The Astor Place subway station
- The Broadway area around the NYU environs circa the 60s, 70s and 80s.
- The old Bleecker Street Cinema
- Vintage shots of Bleecker Bob's, Folk City, Tower Records, Rocks in Your Head, Tio Pepe Cafe, Arch Cafe, Cafe Figaro, The Captain's Table, The Cookery, Lone Star Cafe, Andy's Cheepees on 8th Street, and SO, SO MUCH MORE.
You have no idea how exciting I find this collection. Again, I'd love to put some up here, but I want to be respectful of the archivist's wishes. GO CHECK IT OUT AT ONCE!