Vintage: New York City in the 1930s

Vintage: New York City in the 1930s


The Great Depression, which was to affect the rest of the world, began with the Stock Market Crash of 1929. The recently completed Empire State Building would be known as the “Empty State Building” for many years because it could not attract sufficient tenants in the bleak business climate. When New York Governor Franklin Roosevelt becam president, the Hooverville shacks named after his predecessor dotted city parks. The city became a showcase for new deal spending, especially through the Public Works Administration and the Works Progress Administration. There were massive building projects including highways, bridges, public housing, new schools, and expansion of the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Parkway planner Robert Moses took charge of building many bridges, parks, public housing units and parkways with mainly federal money. Moses was a great proponent of automobile-centered modernism whose legacy of massive construction projects is still controversial. He opposed the massive subway expansions proposed in 1929 and 1939. However, the last large expansion of the subway system, combined with the merger of the previously privately owned Interborough Rapid Transit and Brooklyn–Manhattan Transit subway companies and the city-owned Independent Subway System under city ownership, made the subway into largely what it is today.

City Vista, West Street, looking east, Manhattan, August 12, 1938

City Vista, West Street, looking east, Manhattan, August 12, 1938

28th Street looking east from Second Avenue, Mnhattan, April 1931

28th Street looking east from Second Avenue, Mnhattan, April 1931

Department of Docks and police station, Pier A, North River, Manhattan, May 05, 1936

Department of Docks and police station, Pier A, North River, Manhattan, May 05, 1936

Ferry, Chambers Street, Manhattan, April 09, 1936

Ferry, Chambers Street, Manhattan, April 09, 1936

Fulton Street Dock, Manhattan, November 26, 1935

Fulton Street Dock, Manhattan, November 26, 1935

Fulton Street fish market, Manhattan, June 18, 1936

Fulton Street fish market, Manhattan, June 18, 1936

Hanover Square, Manhattan, May 25, 1936

Hanover Square, Manhattan, May 25, 1936

Henry Street, Manhattan, November 29, 1935

Henry Street, Manhattan, November 29, 1935

Huts and unemployed, West Houston and Mercer Street, October 25, 1935

Huts and unemployed, West Houston and Mercer Street, October 25, 1935

Lyric Theatre, Third Avenue between 12th and 13th street, April 24, 1936

Lyric Theatre, Third Avenue between 12th and 13th street, April 24, 1936

Madison Square, looking northeast, Manhattan, March 20, 1936

Madison Square, looking northeast, Manhattan, March 20, 1936

McSorley's Ale House, 15 East 7th Street, Manhattan, 1937

McSorley’s Ale House, 15 East 7th Street, Manhattan, 1937

Midtown Manhattan view from McGraw-Hill building, October 9, 1931

Midtown Manhattan view from McGraw-Hill building, October 9, 1931

Mulberry and Prince Streets, October 25, 1935

Mulberry and Prince Streets, October 25, 1935

 178-183 West Street, Manhattan, April 08, 1936

178-183 West Street, Manhattan, April 08, 1936

Oak and New Chambers Streets, Manhattan, October 28, 1935

Oak and New Chambers Streets, Manhattan, October 28, 1935

Park Row, Manhattan, July 23, 1936

Park Row, Manhattan, July 23, 1936

Pier 11 or 12, East River, Manhattan, April 09, 1936

Pier 11 or 12, East River, Manhattan, April 09, 1936

Pier 13, North River, Manhattan, April 09, 1936

Pier 13, North River, Manhattan, April 09, 1936

Pike and Henry Streets, Manhattan, March 06, 1936

Pike and Henry Streets, Manhattan, March 06, 1936

Blossom Restaurant, 103 Bowery, Manhattan, October 03, 1935

Blossom Restaurant, 103 Bowery, Manhattan, October 03, 1935

South Street and Jones Lane, Manhattan, March 26, 1936

South Street and Jones Lane, Manhattan, March 26, 1936

Unemployed and huts, Mercer Street, Manhattan, October 25, 1935

Unemployed and huts, Mercer Street, Manhattan, October 25, 1935

Union Square, 14th Street and Broadway, Manhattan, 1936

Union Square, 14th Street and Broadway, Manhattan, 1936

Warren and Murray Streets, April 08, 1936

Warren and Murray Streets, April 08, 1936

Waterfront, South Street, Manhattan, October 15, 1935

Waterfront, South Street, Manhattan, October 15, 1935

Broome Street, Manhattan, October 09, 1935

Broome Street, Manhattan, October 09, 1935

Church of God, 25 East 132nd Street, Manhattan, 1936

Church of God, 25 East 132nd Street, Manhattan, 1936

via New York Public Library


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