A blast from NYC’s Gilded Age past

New book chronicles NYC's bygone decadence

TRD New York /
Jul.July 19, 2014 04:00 PM

 The history junkies over at Ephemeral New York recently put together a new book entitled: “New York City in 3D in the Gilded Age.” The book includes images of New York City from roughly 1870 to 1900 that can be viewed in 3D using a stereoscope. Here is a sneak peak inside the book via the New York Post.

Brooklyn Bridge “No list of New York City’s Gilded Age should go without the Brooklyn Bridge. It sounds obvious, but it’s worth noting it really was the first thing that knit the city together. At the time, New York was Manhattan, and Brooklyn was its own city. After the bridge was built, the idea to unite the boroughs into one metropolis started to grow. Brooklyn held out until 1898, when they decided to give up the ghost and become part of New York,” Esther Crain, founder of Ephemeral New York and author of the new book, wrote.


Siegel-Cooper Dry Goods Store Formerly 620 Sixth Ave., at 18th Street “This was one of the biggest stores built on Ladies’ Mile, the huge shopping district at the time. If you look at the second and third floors [of the building], they’re really ornamental, and that’s because the El was going up Sixth Avenue at the time, and they wanted everyone to see their beautiful, luxury outlet out the window. The store had 125 departments — a dentist’s office, a pet department, a telegraph department. It was like a mini-city. They had their own power plant in the basement. It’s now home to Bed Bath and Beyond and T.J. Maxx,” Crain writes.


Isaac Rice Mansion 346 W. 89th St., at Riverside Drive “[At the time,] Riverside Drive was lined with mansions and rivaled Fifth Avenue as the wealthiest street in the city. [Rice, an inventor and chess patron] built the mansion in 1903. It’s one of two left today, and it’s beautiful but in terrible condition. It’s a reminder that Riverside Drive was supposed to be the Fifth Avenue of the west, but that never panned out — it’s like this Gilded Age phantom,” Crain said.


Tompkins Square Lodging House for Boys Formerly 295 E. Eighth St., at Avenue B “This was built in 1886 and designed by architect Calvert Vaux. It was a home for ‘street Arabs,’ a term for homeless kids — the shoeshine and news boys. Children’s welfare was a huge issue, [so] the Children’s Aid Society built these lodging houses. For 5 cents a night, a boy could get a warm place to sleep and a meal at night and in the morning. They could also take classes to learn a trade. The building was later converted to apartments,” according to Crain.


Central Park’s East Drive Fifth Avenue at 59th Street “The park became this place for rich New Yorkers to parade around in their ultra-expensive black carriages. These were so expensive, only 5 percent of people could afford them. Every day between 4 and 5 p.m., they had this carriage parade. All the rich people would leave work and have their coachman drive them around from 59th Street to the mall and back. It was like this rich person’s showcase: You had crowds of poor New Yorkers just watching. It was kind of the beginning of our celebrity culture. It reminds me of the way we gawk at and hate-watch celebrities today,” Crain said.


Fleischmann’s Vienna Model Bakery Formerly 10th Street at Broadway “A bakery was opened in 1876 by Louis Fleischmann. All the wealthy people would go. One night he’s working late at the bakery and he sees these vagrants huddled outside by the door trying to stay warm. He goes out and gives them some day-old bread. They accepted it and they were grateful — that launched the city’s first bread line. For 40 years, Fleischmann would go out around midnight and give anyone who was in line a free loaf of bread. It became a big deal — at the time, a lot of people thought that just giving away charity without asking anything in return was bad. Fleischmann said, ‘No way. If these guys are going to wait out here all night in the cold for a loaf of bread, I’m going to give it to them. They’re hungry.’ Grace Church stands where the bakery once was,” Crain told the Post. [NYP]Christopher Cameron

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