Sunday, January 16, 2011

Riding the El - 8 - Ninth Avenue


It's the Ninth Avenue El, May 1940, the month before it closed. Last time we got from 59th St to 30th St. This time we'll head down Greenwich St to lower Manhattan.

A little background will help you understand what we'll be looking at.

The Greenwich St and Ninth Ave elevated railway, the first one in the city, was primitive compared to the other three lines that opened only a few years later. Very lightweight construction limited trains to a few small passenger cars, with bodies only 40 feet long and 6 feet wide, pulled by small engines. The stations had stairways to the street on only one side of the structure, and passengers walked across the track to get to the other platform. The company upgraded the line to standard in 1880 with a substantial amount of new construction replacing the obsolete portions.

In Greenwich St, the original structure from 1870, the track over the east curb line, was replaced, along with the older segments of second track built up to 1873 (the second track was originally a series of discontinuous passing loops). The later portions of second track built from about 1875 on were retained, which was apparent from below because of a different type of column, as we will see.

133-2. Greenwich St, looking downtown at Christopher St station.

As narrow as Greenwich St is, the two tracks centered over the curb lines had more space between them than was needed for a third track. Beyond the station, the third track was centered between the side tracks with an open space on each side of it. In the station, there was room between the tracks for the center track and an island platform.

133-2 detail.

"Passengers are forbidden to ride on front or rear platforms of trains": a statement that becomes much more interesting with the creative lettering. The same today would just be lines of Helvetica white on black, bah. I like the triangular "front or rear" especially because there's no particular reason for it.

Many of these buildings were there when the el went up. Far left: the dog presides.

133-2 detail.

The tower controlled these switches. Sign on building: Vita Herring is still in business. The station sign mentions prominently the connection to the Hudson Tubes, which must have been the reason to make this an express stop.

139-5. Christopher St, looking west at Greenwich St.

I have to rate this one of the outstanding photographs of this series.

Under the el you can see the New York Central "high line" (over properties on the west side of Washington St) and beyond that the Miller Elevated Highway. Both are now gone, although some of the high line remains north of here. The row of houses on the left is also gone now, but the other blocks we see here are still there today.

139-5 detail.

The Christopher St PATH station still has its marquee, but not a good rapid transit connection. The el and the "tubes" had their own newsstands. The dealer has a broom, so he can keep his bit of sidewalk clean!

Check the bus stop sign with the arrow pointing up.

139-5 detail.

They don't build them like this any more. In fact people would have said that in 1940. If this was in color you'd notice the stained glass borders in the windows. Hidden in the decoration is N Y E R R in a circle, for the owner in 1880, New York Elevated Railroad.

139-5 detail.

Daily life goes on.

133-5. Barclay St station.

One of a series of lower Manhattan stations sited to be handy to railroad ferries. The Barclay St ferry went to Hoboken Terminal. This was a local stop, so you can see the space between the center and side tracks.

133-5 detail.

Ads. Serutan: It's Natures spelled backwards! I remember the slogan but not what it was for. Oh, real relief from constipation, it says there. Great. I do not recall Glostora and Astring-O-Sol at all.

Nowadays Doublemint Gum could not claim to be healthful without FDA approval, but at least the copy writer used the right word. (Food isn't healthy unless it's still alive.)

133-5 detail.

It's the woman with the hat! So it's Kellogg's Corn Flakes that make her smile. I've got to say, I never thought of corn flakes as being as "cooling as a breeze", did you? At least they are healthful. Not like Camel cigarettes, which according to the ad would also make her "extra cool".

137-8. Greenwich St looking northeast near Liberty St.

How do I know where this is? I happen to have another photograph with Schulte's store in it, and that one identifies the location as being near Liberty St. And where's that, you ask? Liberty St is now the southern side of the World Trade Center property. So nothing you see here exists today.

And for the direction? The near side has a four-part column that spreads out four ways at the top. That's old style, circa 1876-1878. The far side has the newer column from 1880 with two parts, so that's the east side of the street, where the original elevated railway was.

137-8 detail.

This looks like a movie set with extras, doesn't it? Action! What's the young man with the newspaper doing, striding so confidently across the street? What's about to happen? We will never know.

Well, I was going to get all the way to South Ferry this time, but I think that's enough for now. You'll have to wait.


1 comment:

  1. Astring-O-Sol is still being made! Glaxo Smith Kline's web site says the major markets for it are Mexico and Asia. But you can find dealers selling it online.