Building Broadway: Incredible Photographs from 1920

Building Broadway: Incredible Photographs from 1920

Here we are in the midst of the holiday season. The city was blanketed with snow this weekend and shoppers are frantically working through their holiday gift-giving lists. For today’s Building Broadway post, I’d like to share a wonderful gift that was left to all of us almost 100 years ago: Arthur Hosking’s photographs of Broadway taken in the spring of 1920.

All photographs and captions in this post are courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York‘s online collection.

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East side of Broadway, showing entrance to Grace Church. (Corner of 10th Street.) March 9, 1920.

If you ever wondered what the beautiful Grace Church and Rectory looked like on March 9, 1920, you’re in luck. The complex is a city, state, and national landmark and you can read more about its history on our Resources page.

This photo also features the side of a recent Building Broadway favorite, 808 Broadway, which now houses a costume shop and apartments.

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View of west side of Broadway, looking north from 10th Street. Picture was taken from Wanamaker’s fire escape. St. Denis Hotel is seen at corner of 11th Street. May 27, 1920.

Life sure was bustling on May 27, 1920 on this stretch of Broadway north of 10th Street. The former McCreery & Co. Dry Goods store, captured at the end of the row and across the intersection, still exists today. A particular favorite in this photo is the young man who is riding the delivery truck at the lower left-hand corner. Think you’d see that today on Broadway?

See how this stretch of Broadway has changed over 90 years later. You’ll hardly recognize it.

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View of west side of Bway looking north from Bleecker Street. Ligget’s Drugstore on the near corner at left. On the far corner is No. 463, with I. Moss’ Hats sign on 2nd floor. May 27, 1920.

Here’s a great photo showing an era when trolley service ran up and down Broadway. This section is included in the NoHo Historic District, which was designated in 1999.

See how this stretch has changed over 90 years later. That charming two-story building at the corner sadly didn’t make it.

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West side of Bway looking south from near Bleecker toward Houston Street. Young’s Hats on corner. May 27, 1920.

More trolleys and automobiles for all of you transportation lovers out there. This shot includes the lower floors of the Cable Building at the corner of Broadway and Houston Street, part of the NoHo Historic District and, no doubt, a future Building Broadway feature! You can also catch the buildings of SoHo in the background; they now form part of the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District.

See how this stretch has changed over 90 years later.

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View of west side of Bway, looking south from Great Jones Street, and West 3rd Street. West 3rd Street is shown on the right with the small building and the Coca Cola sign. May 27, 1920.

Broadway wasn’t always full of tall loft buildings dedicated to commerce and manufacturing. Up until the mid-19th century, it was known as a fashionable residential thoroughfare. Though covered in signage in this shot, the 3 1/2-story Federal building at the corner of Broadway and West 3rd Street is a visual reminder of this residential past.

See how this stretch has changed more than 90 years later. If you’re familiar with this intersection, you’ll know that our little Federal (and its immediate neighbors) didn’t survive.

Did you spot the Woolworth Building in the background? Celebrating its 100 birthday this year, the soaring terra-cotta office building – the tallest in the world at that time – was a mere 7 years old when Arthur Hosking took this photo on May 27, 1920.

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View of the east side of Bway looking north from 9th Street. Wanamaker’s is seen at right (corner of the new building, and all the old, extending to 10th St.) April 24, 1920.

Let’s end where we began with a view of Grace Church. Looking north on Broadway, you can just catch a glimpse of the existing Wanamaker’s department store, part of the NoHo Historic District, on the far right. Perhaps even more interesting is seeing the original Wanamaker’s (now demolished) just north of the later building.

See how this stretch has changed more than 90 years later. By the way, anyone else concerned about that man making a dash across the street?

From Lower Manhattan all the way up to Yonkers, the Museum of the City of New York holds many more Hosking photos of Broadway. You can search through them to your heart’s content here. Happy holidays and see you again for more Building Broadway in the new year!

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Amanda
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Amanda was GVSHP's Director of Preservation & Research from January 2012 to July 2015.

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One comment on “Building Broadway: Incredible Photographs from 1920
  1. Amanda Ken Sacharin says:

    620 Broadway
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    (620 Broadway)
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    Crystal Palace, Rubber Roof and a Southern City
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    HereWas the “Crystal Palace” in 1858, the place where you could ogle a roof made of rubber.
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    India-Rubber Roof. The spectacular Crystal Palace, the vast iron and glass structure that occupied the site of today’s Bryant’s Park in 1853, was the equivalent of a World’s Fair–the country’s first, in fact. The Palace had drawn thousands of tourists who were eager to see the technological advancements of science and industry. The Crystal Palace highlighted steam engines, farm machinery, and the newfangled Otis elevator under a vast iron and glass canopy. When the Crystal Palace burned on October 5, 1858, the exhibitors scrambled to find a new venue. They found it here–at 620 Broadway.
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    Most Perfect Velocipede. As with the Crystal Palace before it, the 1858 620 Broadway building was filled with innovative devices for the public’s amazement. On the first floor were electric machines, printing stamps, atmospheric flour bolts, counterfeit coin detectors, and the India-rubber-roofed house that comes with a warranted water-proof guarantee. In 1869, Tomlinson, Demarest and Co. had its offices here when they patented their American Improved Velocipede, the “strongest, best constructed and most perfect velocipede yet produced.”
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    New York, Southern City. This cast-iron fronted building was built in 1858 by the firm of Daniel D. Badger, one of the most famous proponents of cast iron in his time. In 1867, 620 Broadway was home of world famous carriage makers Tomlinson, Demorest & Company–which catered especially to wealthy southerners. According to an 1867 magazine article: “Southronism” in New York of 1867, far from declining since the war, had reached new heights. “There is hardly a trade or profession in which a large number of Southern men are not engaged, and most of these have come North since the war. New York has always been the most highly visible southern center in the North.”
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    tags: Broadway,
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    668-674 Broadway
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    (668-674 Broadway, 16 Bond Street)
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    The Corner
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    HereWas the Marseillaise of the abolitionist cause, The Corner, life with Julia, all that is, a little girl fit to be tied, Charles Dickens and the bumpy heads, a brain with no electricity, God Almighty in second place, nineteenth-century attitude, an 80-year-old pisser, a cold Harvard layer-outer, the Secret Six, John Brown’s Body, and no floating customer.
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    Marseillaise of the Abolitionist Cause. Julia Ward Howe is popularly known mainly for two things. The first: In 1861, she wrote the lyrics that became the “Marseillaise” of the abolitionist cause during the Civil War, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” The second: In 1870, she invented and promoted the adoption of Mother’s Day–a response to the American Civil War to honor and encourage mothers to unite in preventing future wars. But these were the least of her accomplishments. Julia was a funny, brilliant, multifaceted, courageous, and kind woman who was one of the most fascinating figures of the nineteenth-century. Forget the stuffy daguerreotypes. Think Dorothy Parker.
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    The Corner. Julia Ward Howe was born in 1819 at 1 Marketfield Street. In 1821 the Wards moved No. 5 Bowling Green where Julia’s mom Julia Rush Cutler later died. In 1826 her father Samuel took Julia, Julia’s two sisters, and a brother to live in a temporary house on Bond Street where they stayed only long enough for their most famous house “The Corner” to be built. The Corner was completed around 1835 when Julia was 16. The mansion was located at today’s 670-674 Broadway. The Corner had a Bond Street entrance and address (No. 16 Bond Street) but everyone understood it to be a Broadway house. And everyone simply called it “The Corner.” In the late 1830s, “the corner” was all you would have needed to say to a carriage driver to explain your intended destination was the Ward’s house at 670-674 Broadway.
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    First Private Gallery. The Corner had the first private picture gallery in America. According to Valentine’s Manuel of Old New York, the picture gallery was attached to The Corner on the north side of the house. It was a “windowless [structure] built to shelter Samuel’s Ward II’s art collection, the first private building erected for such a purpose in America.” Samuel Ward II was no slouch. A partner in the firm of Prime Ward and King, he was most influential banker in America during the 1830s. During the financial panic of 1837, Samuel played a part similar to that of J. Pierpont Morgan seventy years later in the panic of 1907. Samuel got the loan (from Britain, ironically) that saved America. Samuel died in The Corner in 1839.
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    Life with Julia. Once when Julia was a small child, she sat down at the piano and placed an open music-book on the piano’s rack even though she couldn’t read music (or probably anything) yet. She began to pound and thump the keys with great fervor. Her grandfather, Lieutenant-Colonel Samuel Ward I, (who lived at 7 Bond Street) was sitting and trying to read in the same room with the piano. The Colonel endured the noise patiently for some time, but finally he said in his courtly way, “Is it so set down in the book, little lady?” “Yes, Grandpapa!” said Julia, and she went on banging. The Colonel made no further comment.
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    Is that all?! Julia was a beautiful child, but she had red hair which was then considered a sad drawback. She could remember visitors condoling with her mother on this misfortune. Her mother used washes and leaden combs to darken Julia’s over-bright locks. Even so, some impression of good looks must have crossed the child Julia’s mind. One day, Julia wanted to know what she really looked like, so she scrambled up a chair onto a dressing-table and took a good look in the mirror. She pronounced her judgment aloud: “Is that all?!”
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    Fit to Be Tied. Once when Julia was determined to learn German quickly, she had herself securely tied to her armchair and gave orders that she was not to be untied before the appointed study time was up. She was one smart cookie. Later in life when Mr. William Astor heard of Julia’s engagement, he said, “Why, Miss Julia, I am surprised! I thought you were too intellectual to marry!”
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    Charles Dickens and Bumpy Heads. In the autumn of 1844, Julia was introduced to the famous phrenologist, Professor Fowler. He examined Julia’s head and said: “You’re a deep one! It takes a Yankee to find you out. The intellectual temperament predominates in your character. You will be a central character like Henry Clay and Silas Wright, and people will group themselves around you.” Julia snapped, “Oh, yes! They’ve always been my models!” Charles Dickens once visited the Wards at The Corner. Dickens invited the family to accompany him to places unfamiliar to the ordinary New York City tourist: prisons, workhouses, and asylums (and maybe even The Five Points slum).
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    Empty the Brain. Julia took philosophy seriously, and she spent hours (as an adult) reading Hegel, Schopenhauer, and Fichte. Yet, she read with a fine-tuned skepticism: “I once read a terrible treatise of Fichte upon ‘the me and not me’ in which he gave so many reasons why I could not be the washstand, nor the washstand I, that I began after a while to doubt the fact. Had I read further, I think I should never have known myself from house furniture again!” She thought that the mental gymnastics of German metaphysics were mainly useful “to empty the brain of all its electricity. ”
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    God Almighty in Second Place. In 1863, Julia was planning a party and had invited the actor Edwin Booth (John Wilkes’ brother). This was two years prior to Lincoln’s assassination. Julia wanted Senator Charles Sumner to come to the party and meet Booth. She thought they would like each other. Charles Sumner was a fiery Senator from Massachusetts who was then working to crush the Confederacy, free the slaves, and keep Europe out of the war. A few weeks’ before the party, Julia had the Senator over to her house for tea. In her diary, she later recalled that Sumner “made a rude speech on being asked to meet Booth” and said, “I don’t know that I should wish to meet your friend. I have outlived my interest in individuals.” In the diary she followed with this entry: “Charles Sumner has got beyond taking an interest in individuals. God Almighty has not got so far.”
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    Nineteenth-Century Attitude. Julia was asked to write a poem for the occasion of William Cullen Bryant’s seventieth birthday. On the day of the celebration, Julia took an early train from Boston to New York. Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes was on the train. “I will sit by you, Mrs. Howe,” he said, “but I must not talk! I am going to read a poem at the Bryant celebration, and must save my voice.” “By all means let us keep silent,” she replied. “I also have a poem to read at the Bryant celebration.”
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    80 and Still a Pisser. When Julia was eighty years old she attended a meeting of the National Peace Society at Park Street Church, Boston. The church was packed. When Julia’s turn came to speak, the chairman introduced her with these word: “Ladies and Gentlemen, we are now to have the great pleasure of listening to Mrs. Howe. I am going to ask you all to be very quiet, for though Mrs. Howe’s voice is as sweet as ever, it is perhaps not quite so strong.” Not missing a beat, Julia replied, “But it carries.”
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    Lay Harvard out Cold. Julia could overwhelm almost anyone with her wit and her intellect. One time, Dr. Charles Elliot (President of Harvard University) was scheduled to speak at an event on the subject of women’s suffrage. Elliot was opposed. Julia was slated to be the pro-women’s suffrage speaker at the same event. Oliver Wendell Holmes (a judge on the Supreme Court) was hoping to attend the event, but he had a bad cold. When Holmes’ wife attempted to dissuade Oliver from attending, he replied, “Oh, I must go and hear Mrs. Howe lay out Charles Elliot cold.”
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    The Secret Six. On November 17, 1861, Julia Ward Howe and her husband Samuel Howe (then a director of the Sanitary Commission) were visiting a Union Army camp outside Washington, D.C. when they heard troops sing a familiar old song but with new lyrics. The tune was a song called “Say, brothers.” That original version was a religious camp-meeting song written in the 1850s and began “Say, brothers, will you meet us? On Canaan’s happy shore?” The song eventually spread to army posts, where its steady rhythm and catchy chorus made it natural for marching. When the abolitionist John Brown was executed in 1859, a fiercer set of song-lyrics appeared: “John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave. His soul is marching on!” John Brown was more than a familiar figure to Julia; her husband Samuel was one of Brown’s Secret Six–the wealthy and influential white men who helped fund the attack on Harpers Ferry.
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    Hang Jeff Davis from a Tree. By the time Julia heard the John Brown lyrics (November 17, 1861), that militant version of the song had spread throughout the Union army. Soldiers continually added new verses as they marched through the South, including one that promised to hang Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, from a tree. Meanwhile, Confederate soldiers answered back with their own version, in which John Brown was hanging from a tree. On their way back to Willard’s Hotel, their carriage was delayed by marching regiments. While Julia and her companions waited, they sang the old tune “Say, brothers” and added some of the soldiers’ new lyrics. One of the companions, the Reverend James Freeman Clarke suggested: “Mrs. Howe, why do you not write some good words for that stirring tune?”
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    Pen Stump. Beyond the stirring tune, one of the key attractions for Julia Ward Howe was the way the song had become a symbol of the rightness of the abolitionist cause. Early the morning of November 18, 1861, Julia awoke with the words of the song in her mind and in near darkness wrote the verses to the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Julia later remembered, “I went to bed that night and slept quite soundly. I awoke in the gray of the morning twilight; and as I lay waiting for the dawn, the long lines of the desired poem began to twine themselves in my mind.”
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    Closet for Your Grapes (of Wrath). “Having thought out all the stanzas, I said to myself, ‘I must get up and write these verses down, lest I fall asleep again and forget them.’ So, with a sudden effort, I sprang out of bed, and found in the dimness an old stump of a pen which I remembered to have used the day before. I scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper.” As the morning dawned, Julia Ward Howe had written new lyrics. She entitled them “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord / He is trampling out the vintage where his grapes of wrath are stored / He hath loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword / His truth is marching on.”
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    Lincoln Cried. Howe’s version, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” was first published on the front page of “The Atlantic Monthly” in February 1862. The “Battle Hymn” lyrics were again published in 1863 by the Supervisory Committee for Recruiting Colored Regiments in Philadelphia. Her lyrics, along with the older tune, became the most memorable patriotic song in American history. When Abraham Lincoln first heard Julia’s version, he cried. “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” became the “Marseillaise” of the Union cause.
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    John Brown’s Body. In today’s grade-school textbooks, Julia Ward Howe’s name is linked to the song “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Aside from this linkage, little else is mentioned–either about Julia or the song. So to close, I thought it appropriate to recall the complete lyrics to the song Julia first heard on November 17, 1861, John Brown’s Body:
    Old John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
    While weep the sons of bondage whom he ventured all to save;
    But though he lost his life in struggling for the slave,
    His truth is marching on.
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    His truth is marching on!
    John Brown was a hero, undaunted, true and brave;
    Kansas knew his valor when he fought her rights to save;
    And now though the grass grows green above his grave,
    His truth is marching on.
    Glory, Hallelujah!
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    His truth is marching on!
    He captured Harpers Ferry with his nineteen men so few,
    And he frightened “Old Virginny” till she trembled through and through,
    They hung him for a traitor, themselves a traitor crew,
    But his truth is marching on.
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    His truth is marching on!
    John Brown was John the Baptist for the Christ we are to see,
    Christ who of the bondsman shall the Liberator be;
    And soon throughout the sunny South the slaves shall all be free.
    For his truth is marching on.
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    His truth is marching on!
    The conflict that he heralded, he looks from heaven to view,
    On the army of the Union with its flag, red, white, and blue,
    And heaven shall ring with anthems o’er the deeds they mean to do,
    For his truth is marching on.
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    His truth is marching on!
    Oh, soldiers of freedom, then strike while strike you may
    The deathblow of oppression in a better time and way;
    For the dawn of old John Brown was brightened into day,
    And his truth is marching on.
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    His truth is marching on!
    Old John Brown’s body is a-mouldering in the dust,
    Old John Brown’s rifle is red with blood-spots turned to rust,
    Old John Brown’s pike has made its last, unflinching thrust,
    His soul is marching on!
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    His soul is marching on!
    John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
    John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
    John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
    But his soul goes marching on.
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    His soul goes marching on.
    He’s gone to be a soldier in the Army of the Lord
    He’s gone to be a soldier in the Army of the Lord
    He’s gone to be a soldier in the Army of the Lord
    His soul goes marching on.
    Glory, Hallelujah!
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    His truth is marching on!
    John Brown’s knapsack is strapped upon his back
    John Brown’s knapsack is strapped upon his back
    John Brown’s knapsack is strapped upon his back
    His soul goes marching on.
    Glory, Hallelujah!
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    His truth is marching on!
    John Brown died that the slaves might be free
    John Brown died that the slaves might be free
    John Brown died that the slaves might be free
    But his soul goes marching on.
    Glory, Hallelujah!
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
    His truth is marching on!
    The stars above in Heaven now are looking kindly down
    The stars above in Heaven now are looking kindly down
    The stars above in Heaven now are looking kindly down
    On the grave of old John Brown.
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    No Floating Customers. 670 Broadway was the fourth Brooks Brothers store. The store was built in 1874 on the site of Julia Ward Howe’s family’s house “The Corner.” Founded April 7, 1818, on Catherine Street, the men’s clothier occupied the space on the ground floor at 670 Broadway from 1874-1884. When the founder Henry Sands Brooks died in 1833, Henry Jr. inherited his father’s men’s clothing business. Then his sons, Elisha, Edward, Daniel, and John took over the business in 1850 and renamed it Brooks Brothers. Elisha, Edward, Daniel and John were the Brooks Brothers. Today, theirs is the oldest men’s clothier in the United States. The suit Abraham Lincoln wore to Ford’s Theatre on the night of April 14, 1865, was purchased at Brooks Brothers.
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    Nothing showy, nothing cheap. A few days before Christmas in 1876, “The New York Times” wrote that Brooks Brothers “do not, in fact, pretend to run their business on the cheap-goods basis. No effort is made to attract a large floating customer by offers to sell ready-made clothing at starvation prices–a line of business which involves the keeping of goods as low in quality as in price. Nothing showy, nothing cheap and bad, is offered there.” In 1884 Brooks Brothers moved northward once again to their fifth store at Broadway and 22nd Street. However, the facade of their fourth location here has remained remarkably intact. The first floor ironwork is miraculously preserved. Inside, leafy cast iron column capitals still remain. Since 1915, Brooks Brothers’ flagship location has been on Madison Avenue and 44th Street.
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    tags: Broadway,
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    691-695 Broadway
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    (691-695 Broadway)
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    To form a more perfect union, slap a count!
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    HereWas the fourth location of the Union Club, the oldest private club in New York City.
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    Stuffy in Here. The Union Club was founded in 1836 and moved here in 1850. The Union Club was New York’s first club to have dues. It was the province of New York’s oldest and stuffiest families, such as the Livingstons, the Griswolds, and the Van Rensselaers. According to an 1897 New York Times article, one member went all the way to Newport to slap the face of a foreign Count. The Union Club still survives. It is now located at 101 East 69th Street. Today’s building dates to 1908, and has owls on it.
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    tags: Broadway,
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    808 Broadway
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    (808 Broadway)
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    The Alienists’ Headquarters
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    HereWas a fictional office but a real building.
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    The Alienists. In 1896, the 6th and highest floor of this building was the office for the investigators known as Alienists in Caleb Carr’s novel. This same building existed then.
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    tags: Broadway,
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