Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Then and Now: Broadway and 48th Street, NYC

Broadway at 48th Street, Manhattan, NY

Broadway at 48th Street, NYC, randommusings.filminspector.com
Broadway at 48th Street, NYC, in 1975.
There's a lot of history throughout midtown Manhattan despite the fact that everyone bemoans how much history has been lost (such as the old Penn Station). However, sometimes the history is very subtle, or artfully disguised. Anyone who is familiar with Manhattan knows that the Theater District is centered around Times Square. I came across the above picture from 1975 that shows a location on the fringes of Times Square and wondered what it might look like now, well over 40 years later. So, I did a comparison of Broadway at 48th Street from 1975 to 2018.

Broadway at 48th Street, NYC, randommusings.filminspector.com
Broadway at 48th Street in October 2018 (Google Street View).
It is well known that Times Square real estate is some of the priciest on earth. The best way to maximize its value would be to erect giant skyscrapers on every available plot of land. It definitely would not mean keeping decades-old four-story warehouses in place. However, New York City prevents the removal of many older buildings through a variety of tools which go under the general rubric of zoning. The wealth gets shared somewhat through the sale of air rights and other means, so the owners of the lower buildings aren't exactly on poverty row. The owner of the building on the northwest corner of Broadway and 48th (shown above) appears to have kept the old building in place, though it is heavily disguised by massive alterations. You can verify that it is the same location by the same white building (we'll get to that below) in the background on the right - and the same office building behind it. When we say that even the heart of Manhattan doesn't change that much over time, we mean it. There is a continuity even in this heart of capitalism that might surprise you.

Broadway at 48th Street, NYC, randommusings.filminspector.com
A tourist bus parked at the corner of 48th and Broadway (Google Street View). 
The photos, separated by almost 50 years, have so many similarities that it's almost creepy. Note that they both have a bus right outside the building. Not only can you compare the status of the buildings, but also the technology of buses in the two eras. It almost feels as if the more recent views are staged to correspond to the 1975 photo, but that's just how it is on that corner of the universe, whether it is 1975 or 2018.

Broadway at 49th Street, NYC, randommusings.filminspector.com
Northwest corner of Broadway and 49th Street (Google Street View).
Since we mentioned the white building in the background, let's take a look at it, too. If you are a true expert on Manhattan, of the "maven" class, you know that is the Brill Building. Anyway, obviously, the Brill Building is pretty much unchanged since 1975, though they are doing some work on it in this photo (the city requires periodic maintenance of facades so things don't start falling down on the tourists). Anyway, what fascinates about this 2018 view of the Brill Building is the red sign advertising the current production of the musical "Chicago." If you are also an expert on Broadway musicals, you would know that, while it is a 1926 play, it is best known for its adaptation into a stage musical by director and choreographer Bob Fosse in - 1975.

I hope you enjoyed this entry in my series on "the more things change, the more they stay the same." The similarities between 1975 and 2018 just ring out in this sequence of photos. Things really don't change that much in the Big Apple even though you might think that nothing stays the same. Please visit some of my other entries in this series to see more examples of this!


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