Alright, so you know how over the past couple of days I put up three separate posts of old photographs of mine to free up space on my computer? Well, yes, that was fun wasn't it. In any case, I'm not done just yet, but this time, there's a difference.
At some point, I started a folder of photographs to collect images (taken by other people) of New York from various bygone ages. Had I the opportunity to do it all again, I'd have been more meticulous and reverent in my information-gathering, as I currently have no clue of the true provenance (as a chef might say) of these particular photographs (although a good portion of them probably came from this website and this website, two antiquated forums devoted to sharing this type of content). Either I was convinced that one or both of those sites were about to disappear, or I had some grand design for pulling these images off them. But now they're on my desktop, and I've no idea what my original plan was.
That all said, I did pull them off for a reason. Each one of them has some significance to me. As such, here's a selection of my favorites, appended with explanations as to why. Sadly, I have no idea who took them or when they were taken.
This first one is a shot of Fifth Avenue, looking south from about 90th Street on the Central Park Side (but a stone's throw from the Engineer's Gate). If I had to put a date on it, I'd suggest some time in the 1970s, given the look of the automobiles. That rounded facade is, of course, the Gugenheim Museum. This particular image resonated with me, as it's the neighborhood I went to grade school in. St. David's School is tucked away behind that corner of East 89th Street.
If you're not familiar with the Gugenheim, it's well worth a trip uptown to visit it. You may recognize it from its many cameos in films as wide ranging as "Men In Black" to "American Psycho" to "The Spanish Prisoner" to "Downtown `81." Not too long back, I put up a shot of the Beastie Boys posing in front of it, dressed like a trio of suitably yuppified fops.
This one's way back downtown, and probably a little later (very early 80's, maybe?) This is Lafayette Street, just south of Great Jones Street. Both the diner in the middle-ground and the gas station to the right are long gone. On the other side of the street, you can see the building that later become the Life Cafe and then the laughable Chinatown Brasserie (which has also since closed -- soon to be something else). Just above that is what was Tower Video. All very different now, of course.
Here's a closer shot of the corner above, looking North on Lafayette. The car wash became an auto repair shop (now closed) and around the corner from that on Great Jones heading East was the Acme Bar & Grill (closed and since re-opened under new management, I believe).
Also probably from the `70's, this shot below is Houston Street looking West from just a few steps off of Broadway. Where that sign as "Loft For Rent" is now the Angelica Theater. Lots of development on this strip has ensued since this photograph, obviously.
Ah, this is where Thompson Street meets Broome down in SoHo. I've spoken about this spot fondly before, as when I first started exploring this area downtown, that facade was covered with a mural by an artist named Stefano of the Mona Lisa (you can see it here and here). Today, there's a billboard there, of course.
Back uptown, this is the Market Diner on 11th Avenue in Hell's Kitchen. It's still there, actually, but back in the 70's, there was some bad bits of business carried out here by the Irish mob, which is all slavishly detailed in T.J. English's awesome true crime epic, "The Westies." In the 90's, meanwhile, the basement of this diner was turned into a dance club that I was dragged to a couple of times called Big City Diner. That's long gone.
Back downtown again, this topless bar is what was later known as the Baby Doll Lounge, on the corner of Church and White Streets in TriBeCa. It's long gone now (and now a high-end Italian eatery, I want to say). I regret to say that I did indeed darken the doors of the Baby Doll at one point, and seemingly not even that long ago. My friend John and I went to see Jonathan Richman perform at the Knitting Factory (now also gone), and afterwards, we repaired to the Baby Doll for a beer as a lark. It wasn't entirely pleasant nor especially titillating. Actually, it was pretty depressing. If I'm not mistaken, it too makes a cameo in "Downtown `81."