The East side of Broadway between 79th and 80th street has gone through many transformations over the years, but it’s always been a bustling retail thoroughfare. With half of the block having just been demolished to make way for a new building, we thought we’d show some photos of how the block transformed over the years, starting in 1912.
Ironically enough, these kinds of two-story buildings were commonly known as “taxpayers,” modest structures meant to bring in enough rental income to cover the taxes until a buyer came along to transform them into something more lucrative. We couldn’t find the exact date of construction but these buildings have lasted more than 100 years before finding a more lucrative use (luxury residential real estate of course).
First a look way back at that block:
This is a photo by Robert Bracklow of Broadway and 79th street in 1890, although it’s not clear if this is the East or West side of the block. Little did the owner of that house know what was about to happen on his lawn!
This is the Northeast corner of 79th street and Broadway in 1912 via the Museum of the City of New York. The store on the corner is the Oliver A. Olson department store.
The same store two years later, gussied up with billboard ads like Times Square. You can see the dresses in the windows too. Also via MCNY.
Looking North on Broadway from 79th in 1920. Photo by Arthur Hosking, who made a whole series of Broadway photos. From this photo is looks like the building on the 80th street corner may have been modified at some point, because it appears to have more columns than it did years later.
A painting from the block looking South by Richard Estes in 1974. As you can see, the block had gotten a subway station by then, which brought shoppers more easily to the stores.
A photo looking South from the Broadway median from 1985 by Matt Weber, whose evocative pictures you can purchase here. (Click the photo to enlarge it.) As you can see in the photo, mid-market and discount stores have made their home on that block for years, from Price-Wise Discount and Fayva Shoes to Lionel Kiddie City Toys and Circuit City to…
Filene’s Basement! Filene’s opened this store in 1993 — its first Manhattan location. The Times report at the time said “Filene’s Basement had been targeting the Upper West Side, Mr. Gibson said, in part because of the neighborhood’s dense residential population. The building, he said, is in ‘a highly trafficked area, across the street from Zabar’s’ that is home to other high-profile retailers, among them Conran’s, Talbots and the new Barnes and Noble superstore, and is rapidly becoming a major shopping destination. The IRT’s 1/9 line and the M104 bus stop right on the corner, he added, and ramps for the Henry Hudson Parkway are just two blocks away, allowing the store to be ‘a destination shopper, not just an area store.'”
Filene’s closed at the end of 2011, and Fox’s briefly moved in on the 80th street side. DSW opened on the 79th street side in July 2012.
Here’s what the block looks like now:
Kinda sad in its current state, isn’t it? The 80th street corner is set to become a residential development, although accounts differ on exactly how tall it’s going to be. In any case, we hope it will have a vibrant retail section, in keeping with more than 100 years of tradition.
The Zabar’s family, which owns the 79th street building, has no plans to demolish it, Saul Zabar has told several people (if nothing else he has to preserve the Banksy on the wall!).
If anyone else has more photos of this block, please send them and we’ll add them. And leave your memories in the comments!