Friday, August 9, 2019

Then and Now: Broadway Between 17th and 18th Street, NYC

Broadway Between 17th and 18th Street, Manhattan

Broadway between 17th and 18th Streets, NYC,
Broadway between 17th and 18th Streets, 1982.
Once again, we are going to see a historic portion of Manhattan that the tourist guidebooks don't spend any time on. I stumbled upon the above 1982 photo of Broadway between 17th and 18th Streets in the Flatiron District of Manhattan and it intrigued me. The photo shows a slice of New York City history that many people walk by without giving it a second thought. This block is just north of Union Square Park and marks the continuation of Broadway along its historic route north toward Times Square and points further north. I wondered what change might have taken place on this block since 1982, so I decided to do a comparison of Broadway between 17th and 18th Streets in Manhattan from 1982 to August 2017.

Broadway between 17th and 18th Streets, NYC,
Broadway between 17th and 18th Streets, NYC, August 2017 (Google Street View).
A quick glance shows that the buildings, for the most part, haven't changed very much. The building at the extreme right is 860 Broadway, which we have talked about elsewhere. Perhaps its greatest claim to fame is that it once housed Andy Warhol's famous Factory on the third floor. 860 Broadway was erected in 1926 and renovated in 1979, just a few years before the photo at the top of this page was taken, and now houses a Petco store. The commercial building at 862 Broadway to its left (north) was built in 1910 and houses Innisfree, which sells Korean beauty products. The building to its left at 864 Broadway was built in 1900 and now houses a Chipotle. The building just to its left at 866 Broadway was built in 1910 and now houses Scotch and Soda, which is not a bar as you might think but rather a pricey women's clothing store. To its left is 868 Broadway, built in 2007 and home to a Dr. Martens store. Just to its north is 870 Broadway, which dates from 1910. Until recently, it housed Roast Kitchen salad bar, but that is now permanently closed. Next to it on the corner of 18th Street is 872 Broadway, built in 1915 and home to Fresh, a cosmetics shop. Finally, the tall but slim building across 18th Street is 874 Broadway, which is known as the MacIntyre Building. The MacIntyre Building is a neo-Gothic, 12-story cooperative apartment building which dates from 1892 and lends the entire area a certain charm.

Ladies Mile Historic District, NYC,
Ladies Mile Historic District, NYC. The block between 17th and 18th Street on Broadway is just on the southeast edge of the historic district.
The entire block between 17th and 18th Street is historic except for 868 Broadway, which somehow snuck in there in 2007 but obviously was designed to fit in with its neighbors. In fact, that's not just a word, but a designation. Every building in the 1982 photo was placed within the Ladies Mile Historic District on May 2, 1989. It's easy to say they would have been torn down without the designation, but they did last almost a hundred years without the historic protection. Incidentally, as the above map shows, Broadway in this area runs almost true north even though it runs at a diagonal to the usual grid pattern (which is tilted slightly north of true west).

Broadway between 17th and 18th Streets, NYC,
The McIntire Building in 1895 - from "King's Photographic Views of New York" via Daytonian in Manhattan. This area of Manhattan was still partly open land at that time, as can be seen just beyond that block.
This section of Broadway was made a historic district because many of the famous names of retailing had locations there in the late 19th Century. These included B. Altman, Best & Co., Arnold Constable, Bergdorf Goodman, Gorham Silver, W. & J. Sloane, Lord & Taylor, and Tiffany & Co. Only a few of those companies are still with us and most achieved their greatest fame at other locations, but circa 1900, this area was the place to shop.

Broadway between 17th and 18th Streets, NYC,
Broadway on the west side of Union Square Park, looking north, in 1904. The McIntyre Building is clearly visible on the right. You also can see some of the other buildings that were built in 1900 below it.
The McIntyre Building has anchored this stretch of Broadway for well over a hundred years. Old photographs often feature it as a looming presence in the background. The McIntyre Building was built by Ewen McIntyre, who owned a couple of pharmacies, one located at the later site of his building and the other on 6th Avenue. The building was a huge success, decorated with stone carvings of animals, Celtic knots, vines, faces, and even some gargoyles. When one thinks of an old, mysterious Manhattan building such as one featured in one of the "Ghostbusters" movies, well, the McIntyre Building fits the bill. It underwent a full-scale restoration in 2000 that restored some original architectural bits such as the wooden windows. The restoration was done so well that it earned the Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award from the New York Landmarks Conservancy.

Broadway between 17th and 18th Streets, NYC,
Broadway on the west side of Union Square Park, looking north, in September 2017 (Google Street View).
As this comparison makes clear, there are stretches of Manhattan that haven't really changed much in over 100 years. Well, if you can disregard the skyscrapers in the background. And all the trees that have been added. And the pedestrian malls. And some other things. But, the streets and buildings, they're pretty much the same decade after decade after decade.

Broadway between 17th and 18th Streets, NYC,
Broadway at 17th Street, NYC, looking north in August 2017 (Google Street View). 
Thanks for visiting this entry in our "the more things change, the more they stay the same" series. The buildings in areas of Manhattan like Broadway at 17th Street stay the same, but it's important to remember that the people do not. There is change, it just isn't reflected in the bricks and mortar. Please visit some of our other entries in this series!


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