Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Then and Now: 7th Avenue and 42nd Street, NYC

Nedick's at the Corner of 7th Avenue and 42nd Street

Nedick's location in Times Square, NYC, randommusings.filminspector.com
Nedick's at the corner of 7th Avenue and 42nd Street in 1971.
Many people still Nedick's, which had a prominent location in Times Square for several decades during the middle of the 20th Century. Nedick's was an early fast-food chain. Begun just before World War I, it predated its more famous successors such as McDonald's and Burger King by decades. The first Nedick's was at 23rd and Broadway, but the Nedick's formula caught on and its most famous stand was at the northwest corner of 7th Avenue and 42nd Street. Its name came from combining the last names of its two founders Robert T. Neely and Orville A. Dickinson. They didn't have the fast-food formula down pat in the early 20th Century, and instead of selling the later standard offerings of burgers and fries, Nedick's relied more on hot dogs and its distinctive orange drink which was sort of a combination of orangeade and orange juice. It had pulp, but also a lot of sugar, so it wasn't some kind of health tonic. Just to show how different the times were, the orange Nedick's drink wasn't even carbonated. As tastes changed over the decades, soda took over and Nedick's orange drink increasingly seemed archaic if not downright toxic (if you have fond memories of it, don't get upset, non-carbonated drinks just fell out of fashion, I'm sure it had a lovely flavor). Anyway, this is a comparison of the old Nedick's location at 7th Avenue and 42nd Street from the 1940s to 2018.

Nedick's location in Times Square, NYC, randommusings.filminspector.com
Nedick's in Times Square in 1946. Note the dentist's office on the second floor. (IMAGE: ANDREAS FEININGER/ TIME LIFE/GETTY IMAGES via Mashable).
Nedick's in Times Square was next to the White Rose Bar & Grill. While it's nice to imagine that "back in the day" all of the places were quaint and unique, in fact, the White Rose Bar was just part of another chain with several locations in the city. While Times Square was a "big deal" in the 1940s, it still remained a place where the normal processes of ordinary life were serviced. This included things like dentist offices, newspaper stands, and small "joints" where you could pop in for a quick brew or a dog with mustard. The current Times Square is of a vastly different scale even though the essential street layout and some of the buildings remain unchanged.

Nedick's location in Times Square, NYC, randommusings.filminspector.com
Nedick's in Times Square in 1947 (photo by future filmmaker Stanley Kubrick).
Nedick's was on just another street corner. Anyone familiar with Manhattan knows that the majority of it (except for some of the older areas) is based on a strict grid pattern. While the corner of 7th and 42nd Street undeniably was a top location at the "crossroads of the world," it was just like every other rectangular street corner in the city. This meant the ubiquitous newspaper stand nearby where you could get the latest New York Times or the latest copy of Life magazine. The newsstands did big business on Sundays when people bought the Times for the real estate listings and expanded sports section.

Nedick's location in Times Square, NYC, randommusings.filminspector.com
Nedick's in the background of a scene in "Taxi Driver" (1975). This was when Times Square had reached its heights of seediness, which fit the theme of the film.
Nedick's reached its peak in the 1950s. That was when hot dog stands reigned supreme. However, burger joints already were starting to pop up, and the rise of McDonald's in the 1960s and 1970s made hot dog places like Nedick's virtually obsolete. The chain ceased operations during the 1980s. A brief revival around 2003 was unsuccessful. However, the name "Nedick's" remains a valuable property, and future comebacks in some format are not inconceivable.

Nedick's location in Times Square, NYC, randommusings.filminspector.com
The old Nedick's location no longer features a standard rectangular streetcorner. Instead, it has a curved corner which facilitates the incorporation of 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues into the Times Square milieu (Google Street View October 2018).
The Times Square Nedick's was in a storefront of 3 Times Square. This was the Hermitage Hotel, which became the National Hotel at some point. The building was demolished in the 1990s as the city made a major push to revitalize the Times Square area and turn it into a family-friendly tourist destination again. As part of this, 3 Times Square was demolished beginning in 1998 and replaced by a generic office building known as the Thomson Reuters Building.

Nedick's location in Times Square, NYC, randommusings.filminspector.com
Looking north along 7th Avenue from 42nd Street (Google Street View October 2018).
Thus, all traces of the old Nedick's location have been obliterated aside from the surrounding streets. It is easy to get misty-eyed and sentimental about the end of one era and the beginning of another, but the Nedick's in Times Square had become more of a relic than a profitable business. The new 3 Times Square is energy efficient and sports the modern video screens on the exterior that are de rigueur in Times Square these days. The Nedick's spot is still a heavily trafficked location, only now people are not stopping for dogs and a drink but instead are heading over to Disney and Madame Tussaud's around the corner.

I hope you enjoyed this entry in our "the more things change, the more they stay the same" series. Please visit some of our other pages to join our journey into how city locations gradually evolve to meet the needs of successive generations.


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