New York City from the 1970s to 9/11: Through the Lens of Meredith Marciano

A film industry location scout with a keen eye for settings, Meredith Jacobson Marciano has been an East Village resident since 1986. An avid photographer with an eye for pop culture, ephemera, and architecture, Meredith captured on film some of her favorite places and the most striking sites she passed in her wanderings through the five boroughs and beyond.

Meredith Marciano at the corner of Charles and West Street, 1986.  It’s not just the original World Trade Center which is now gone; note the cars (l.) on the sidewalk along West Street in front of the garages and car repair shops now replaced by luxury condos, or the pier headhouses since torn down to make way for the Hudson River Park.

Over the years, Meredith noticed many of the bars, restaurants, and stores she used to frequent or pass during her early New York years disappearing without a trace. For those of us who lived in NYC before 2007 when Google Streetview started documenting everything, many of those storefronts from the 1970s to the early 2000s are lost to time. But Meredith realized her photos could provide an important link to a New York that was rapidly disappearing without a trace. And so did we.

Many of Meredith’s photos are in fact one of a kind, from a time when not everyone had a camera in their pocket. A storefront captured for its antique lettering starting to fall apart, a ghost sign on the side of a building fading into oblivion, an old theater or two now gone — Meredith captured all of these. Thankfully, Meredith has generously donated an amazing trove of images to GVSHP to share with the public, dating from the late 1970s when she frequently visited the city, to the days just after 9/11.

Graffiti on Washington Square Park Arch with World Trade Center in background, 1978

Meredith  captured the feeling of a very different New York City, such as this graffitt-covered subway, the outpouring of grief following Joey Ramones’s passing, commemorations and protests following 9/11, a quiet Grove Street in 1980 (well, that one actually hasn’t changed that much…), lost small businesses including Nightingale Bar, Moondance Diner, Lanza’s Italian Restaurant, Jade Mountain, and many more. Involved in the film industry, Meredith was able to take some interesting shots showing Valerie Perrine being filmed on the Streets of the West Village in Can’t Stop the Music with the Village People in 1979.

Meredith still walks around with her camera, the Minolta no longer working but replaced by a few other vintage finds. Check out all her donated images on the GVSHP archive. Click here to read more about the stories and collections of the GVSHP Image Archive.  You can see more of Meredith’s photos of similar subjects now gone in Los Angeles and Boston in the 1970s-80 here,  and more recent analog work here.

For a vivid illustration of how the East Village has changed since Meredith’s time photographing it, check out this before and after picture of the Little Missionary Day Nursery on St. Mark’s Place here:

If you have any stories or old photographs of our neighborhoods that you wish to share, email Sam Moskowitz.

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Sam Moskowitz