Friday, November 9, 2018

Then and Now: Broadway at 51st Street, Manhattan

Then and Now: Wienerwald at Broadway and 51st Street, Manhattan

Wienerwald Broadway 51st Street
Broadway at 51st Street circa. 1980.

Old photos of distinctive street locations intrigue me. What do they look like now? Sometimes it is easy to identify the location in an old photo, and sometimes it isn't easy at all. This was one of the latter locations. However, ultimately there was a match.

I found the above photo of the corner of Broadway and 51st Street in Manhattan from the 1970s or early 1980s and decided to investigate to see how the corner looks now. So, I did a comparison of the corner of 51st Street and Broadway in Manhattan from around 1980 to 2018. I took a photo from Google Street View below for the current view of the corner.

I actually had all sorts of trouble pinpointing the location in this photo. The only thing that stands out in the photo is the Wienerwald location on the corner at 1650 Broadway. My sources said that there was a Wienerwald on 790 Eighth Avenue at 48th Street, but I could not get that intersection to line up with the above photo. Finally, I got frustrated and did a little more research, which is always a good idea in such situations. I finally pieced everything together when I found the following item in New York magazine from 26 May 1980.

Wienerwald Broadway 51st Street
New York Magazine, 26 May 1980, page 115.

So, as you can see from the New York magazine entry, there were not two Wienerwald restaurants in the Times Square area back in the 1970s and early 1980s - there were instead three Wienerwald restaurants. It had not occurred to me that a German company would place three locations literally within a few blocks of each other where they would cannibalize each other's business, but such was the case.

The below photo of the southeast corner of 51st Street at Broadway from Google Street View does line up, though a lot has changed in the intervening years. The best indication that this is the same street corner as in the above photo from ca. 1980 is the presence of the windows above where the Wienerwald restaurant. Some of the buildings in the background are the same, too, but they aren't distinctive enough to really draw any conclusions. The locations do match up.

Wienerwald was an Austrian restaurant chain, one of the earliest, that was formed in 1950 and accumulated 880 locations by the time of its bankruptcy in 1982. It did not serve wieners, but instead served chicken - the name "Wienerwald" actually means "Vienna Woods." You can see little pictures of chickens on the marquee, in fact.

Why you would name a chain of restaurants in the United States with such a misleading name is unclear, but the chain did have some success before McDonald's and other US fast food joints, er, ate its lunch. Wienerwald remains in existence in its home country, with about eight locations, but it was forced to shutter its US locations in 1982. The main location for the New York City restaurants was at the 48th Street location, where the corporation had its subsidiary based. That corporation has been "inactive" since 1993.

Now, the location serves as the home of Ellen's Stardust Diner. People have to eat, and this busy location still serves that basic need. The more things change the more they stay the same.

Thanks for visiting this entry in my review of historical street photos and how they look now. I hope you enjoy them!

Wienerwald Broadway 51st Street
The corner of 51st Street and Broadway ca. 2018, using Google Street View.

I also have pages for the other Wienerwald locations in New York City, there were three in all:
Why were they so closely bunched together? You'd have to ask them. But, there likely was enough foot traffic in the area to sustain them, so why not?


No comments:

Post a Comment