PHOTOGRAPHER UNEARTHS PICTURES OF LOST UPPER WEST SIDE STOREFRONTS

In the summer of 1982, New York photographer Daniel Weeks undertook an ambitious project — he wanted to take a street-level portrait of New York City, block by block. So Weeks took a VW bus, mounted a camera on top, and hired a few guys to drive around and systematically take pictures of the city’s streets, block by block. One photographer sat on top of the van, snapping pictures using a Nikon with a 250-frame film back. The crew talked by radio as they drove slowly down the street a lane away from the curb.

After shooting, they would develop the film, print the negatives and splice the prints together to create panoramas of entire streets. Then they would create large contact prints of each panorama.

“There was talk of assembling a YellowPages style photo-directory of storefront Manhattan, and even a meeting with New York City to discuss a ‘digital photo map’ of the city, which at the time would have been a stretch,” says Weeks.

But it was exhaustive, time-consuming work, and eventually it just got too expensive. So Weeks dropped it.

Until now. Years later, Weeks has come back to his project and begun scanning the negatives and posting them on the Internet. On the Upper West Side, Weeks’ crew took photos of Columbus Avenue from 68th to 86th streets, which you can see here. (He doesn’t have photos of the other avenues in the neighborhood although there are also shots of midtown.)

Since 1982, obviously, technology has changed quite a bit, and the folks at Google have created a service called Street View that has lots of similarities to Weeks’ project. But Street View clearly can’t recreate what isn’t there anymore. That’s what makes Weeks’ pictures so valuable.

Looking at Weeks’ shots and comparing them to images in Google Street View shows just how much the neighborhood has changed. Weeks, who now lives in North Dakota, sent us images of two blocks in the series and gave us permission to post them:

Below, check out a picture of the west side of Columbus Avenue between 73rd and 74th Streets taken in 1982. If you click on the picture it will enlarge on a new page and you can see more detail.

I looked up the store called “The Last Wound-Up” (second storefront from the right) in Upper West Side Story, Peter Salwen’s indispensable book about the neighborhood. It turns out it sold “the world’s largest collection of wind-up toys and music boxes”.

Here’s the same street as it looked more recently. None of the stores that were there in 1982 are still around, although luckily the street has retained its character of small shops, unlike much of the rest of the neighborhood.

The picture below depicts the west side of Columbus between 82nd and 83rd Streets.

What’s funny is that if you blow the picture above up, you see that the second store from the left has a sign on it saying that a pizza shop is coming soon. That shop eventually became Ray’s Pizza, which is about the only store left on the block that sells the same kind of stuff that it did in 1982, aside from the Mission Bethel church on the corner. See the image from Google below:

In the end, it seems the only things that survive are churches and pizza shops. I guess we could do worse.

Here are some more local storefronts that Weeks’ merry band of photographers shot.

If you’re an old-timer, do these photos bring back any memories? Let us know in the comments.

ART, HISTORY, NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 26 comments | permalink
    1. Great post, Avi. I remember the Last Wound-Up very well. Used to buy little gifts there all the time. SO glad to see these wonderful photos.

      • Avi says:

        Good to hear that. I wish those funky little stores were still around.

        • Marianne says:

          Nice post. I used to go to The Last Wound-Up, probably in the late ’80s, but I’m pretty sure the store was around the high teens-low 20s then.

    2. CEB says:

      Maybe someone knows the answer to something I’ve been wondering about for awhile; when did the widespread planting of trees on the sidewalks start? I see pictures of what are now beautiful tree lined streets that were taken as recently as the 1980s as above (though further back in most cases) and it’s a completely different scene.

    3. Bedford Falls says:

      I moved to the UWS in Oct. of ’82, and I remember many of the stores shown in these photos well. The Last Wound-Up, Silver Palate, Handblock, the Trio Coffee Shop…all of those places were part of my local scenery for a long time. These pictures really do bring back memories. Thanks for posting!

    4. Joanna says:

      What a shame the project ended. Very cool idea.

      I got a little excited because I have been trying to figure out what store used to be on the corner of 82nd Street and Broadway (NW corner). Liberty Travel used to be there for years and they finally moved a little downtown, but since the Liberty Travel sign is down you can see the remnants of a sign “The Place” but no one seems to know what it was. Does anyone remember this store called “The Place”?

      • Joanna says:

        oops, I meant NE corner

        • Joyce says:

          Joanna, I am racking my brain. I remember when that Liberty Travel went in! The Red Apple across Broadway (NW corner) was there before Barnes&Noble. I used to read magazines at the checkout. There was a TV news piece on that Red Apple backdating the chicken, if I remember correctly.

          • Joanna says:

            Keep racking Joyce :) Wow, Red Apple. I barely remember.
            Even the owner of The Town Shop couldn’t remember “The Place” and he’s been there forever.

          • Donna D. says:

            Yes, Red Apple did backdate the chicken. I never shopped there again. It became a Gristedes for a while and then- I can’t remember. It was not where Barnes & Noble was, however. It was bet. 69/70 on the West Side of B’way. I’ve lived in this neighborhood (72nd St.) St. since 1949. I wish I had taken photos of all the changes over the years. It was a real neighborhood in the 50′s. The 80′s brought some great stores- ‘Observation’ and Mythology to name a few.

            • Donna D. says:

              oops – wrong neighborhood. I thought you were speaking of the Red Apple down on 70th Street. Red Apple might have been there on 82 NW corner before B&N but Plymouth Shops was there before that. Their Lingerie shop was in the middle of the block. West Town House was on 82nd St/Bway at the SE corner. Great store for stuff.

      • Eve says:

        I was wondering the same thing! I’m guessing some kind of diner. Remember royal Canadian pancake house that was also on that block?

        • Cato says:

          Royal Canadian Pancake House was on the East side of Broadway, between 82 and 83, just below where Artie’s deli is now. That would have been in the mid- to late ’90′s.

      • Len says:

        Hi

        I’ve been on the uws since 1990 & I’ve been wondering the same thing. I found another post online which says it was a mens clothing store. Heres the link

        http://www.eatingintranslation.com/2011/12/the-place.html

    5. LKN says:

      I swear, life was just cooler in the past.

      • jules says:

        Yes it certainly was!! And I think it got dirtier now.. A lot of stuff on the streets…. overflowing bins. Gallons of dog urine these days… I don’t think anyone has a clue what “curb your dog’ even means!!
        I dont remember the UWS being dangerous. There were a number of jazz venues in the 90′s that I’d go to. All gone now sadly. The UWS was never a big haven for high end restaurants. However on the E side of Broadway in the 70′s there was a terrific lobster restaurant with red and white checked tablecloths that was amazing and always popular. Cant remember too much any more… wish I could! Today it’s like living in the burbs with the chain stores. No character.

    6. Tap-a-Keg! Where teen girls in school uniform could stop in for after-school pitchers just by calling out, “Of course we have I.D. We’re stewardesses! The old hardware stores, groceries and quirky shops -each owned by a neighbor. This post really brought back memories.

      • jules says:

        Tap-a-Keg was brilliant!! Great neighborhood restaurant and bar!

      • whatsupduck says:

        Speaking as a former schoolgirl who had many a fun afternoon there, I remember having a shirt from them. It said, “Tap-A-Keg: A Hell of a Joint” and, smack-dab in the middle of the shirt was a picture of a lit joint.

        It got me sent home. But then I just went into Tap-A-Keg.

    7. JAN LEVY says:

      PORTOBELLO ROAD – EITHER 77-78 OR 78 – 79 STREETS. THEY SOLD ANTIQUES.

    8. breakawayfilm@aol.com, jeanywolf@earthlink.com, breakawayfilms@earthlink.com, jnwolf@aol.com says:

      Not SO long ago!

    9. Martin says:

      Anyone remember Copenhagen Cone (NW corner on Broadway, I think 82nd st)?

      • Cato says:

        The original Scandinavian waffle-cone ice cream place was on the NW corner of 81 and Broadway, though not for very long. Would have been mid- to late ’80s. Across 81st Street was Shakespeare’s, a great bookstore that had a neat cafe on the second floor (where you could look out and see the waffle cone store, with its lines into the street when it first opened).

    10. uzi silber says:

      I grew up on the UWS; funny, it didnt seem as shabby then as it does in these photos. The stirrings of what was to come (Il Cantone in the pic above is one such stirring) had started around 1981, with some of the Columbus Av cafes (Cafe Pacifico) appearing across the street from the museum.

    11. FL says:

      What an amazing project! I moved to NYC in 1981, and often I’ve wished I’d taken pictures of the storefronts of my neighborhoods. When you’re young, you think things will always be the way they are. These photos are like a time machine. Bravo, Daniel Weeks! More!

    12. Johnny says:

      I have a problem opening this link, and gosh how I want to!!!

      “Here are some more local storefronts that Weeks’ merry band of photographers shot.”