May 26, 2024

AD CAMPAIGN, 1933

For this Memorial Day edition of Tudor City Confidential, we turn to an ad campaign that ran in 1933, at the height of the Depression. Headlined What's Smart in New York Today, the message was simple: one could flirt with the world of high fashion and maintain a modest home in Tudor City. One offset the other. 

As for the retailers named, some remain ‒ Saks Fifth Avenue, Brooks Brothers ‒ while others have closed ‒ Lord & Taylor, Peck & Peck, and De Pinna.




























⸺⸺⸺⸺⸺⸺


A reminder that Manhattanhenge is just around the corner. Plan accordingly. 

Manhattanhenge 2024

Tuesday, May 28, 8:13 pm, half sun
Wednesday, May 29, 8:12 pm, full sun

Friday, July 12, 8:20 pm, full sun
Saturday, July 13, 8:21 pm, half sun

May 19, 2024

The VACANT LOT in Photos

Today, a history of the Vacant Lot in photographs, the story of the three-block site from its beginnings up to present day. 

To get in the mood, we begin with this atmospheric picture of the New York Edison Company, made from 39th Street and 2nd Avenue. Producing both electricity and steam, the plant opened in 1901, and underwent many changes over the years.



A rare view of construction to the original building, dated December 26, 1906.



Two photos made in the 1960s. There have been many changes over the years ‒ including the name to Con Edison in 1936 ‒ but the original name remained over the door.
 



The final day of operation came on April 29, 2005, after 104  years of continuous operation. The wrecking ball was not far behind.  



Real estate developer Sheldon Solow bought the site ‒ for $630 million ‒ and announced plans for seven luxury towers. 



Then Solow fell ill, and the fate of the property languished. The years went by. A verdant tangle of weeds gave the place a kind of Manhattan, Kansas vibe. More years slipped by.



And now, finally, the present day. Sheldon Solow has passed on and his son controls the site, which he has renamed Freedom Plaza. It now hosts the Field of Light show, an after-dark attempt to draw positive buzz to its proposal for a casino ‒ a block away from the UN. 

Only in New York, dear readers!

May 12, 2024

ANATOMY OF A PHOTO: 42nd St and Second Ave

 
Once again, an episode of Anatomy of a Photo in which we examine a photograph in close-up. This one was taken by the Wurts Bros around 1943, just after the Second Avenue El was disassembled and carted away.



We begin with this close-up of the northeast corner of 42nd and 2nd. From left to right are a Cigar vendor, a Beauty Salon, and a Laundry; a line of parked cars borders the ramp. A sign urges QUIET ‒ a hospital is nearby.



On the opposite southeastern corner is a Whelan's Drug store; the two-story building that is its home is a 'taxpayer' ‒ a building that was put up temporarily to pay the taxes until better times came along. The second floor was occupied in part by the Home of Empire State ‒ Cleaners, Tailors, and Launderers.




As for the remaining businesses around the corner on 42nd Street, there is a Hosiery, a Cleaners, and an awning bearing the words Hotel Tudor. But it's the sign on the second floor that catches one's attention: TUDOR HAIRDRESSERS. Clearly one  of the Tudor City wannabes in the neighborhood.      




Of course, it would be remiss not to include close-ups of the Hotel Tudor sign. . .  




. . . and the ghostly Tudor City sign.

May 5, 2024

"A VIGOROUS LIFE," Part One

 


Today we present "A Vigorous Life: The Story of Fred F. French, Builder of Skyscrapers," by two authors: Fred French, who provides a firsthand account of his early life, from his birth in 1883 until he took his first business partner in 1910. In the second part, his son, John French, picks up the story and continues it through the early 1990s. (The book was published in 1993.)

This is a big subject, which will play out over several posts. In our initial effort, we take a look at French, the man.  Little is known about his personal life, but a few photographs survive.    


This picture of French was undoubtedly commissioned by the French Company to be used as an official portrait. Thus, everything is perfect from the necktie ‒ and necktie pin ‒ down to his thumbs, casually tucked in the vest pocket.     


In 1914 he is introduced to Cornelia Williams, a young lady of some means. After a spirited courtship, they are married seven months later. 



They take a summer house in Pawling, New York while Fred builds for them a city home, the penthouse at 1140 Fifth Avenue. 


They have four children: Theodore, Fred Jr., John, and Ellen. Photo made in 1927, the year that the French Building and Tudor City arrived.


Fred with his sons, Theodore and John. He does smile for the camera when around children.

April 28, 2024

INSTAGRAMABLE

 Once again, a tip of the hat to the talented Instagrammers who have supplied this week's post.

by lucas_d_in_nyc                      






by olrnyc           





by viewofmycity                     






by the_domenico_team     




by xandra_k._     
    

April 21, 2024

Even More MISCELLANY

Another collection of items that aren't interesting enough to deserve their own post, but certainly are amusing.  
  
Tudor City Recreation Co. was its official name, but to the passerby on the street it was simply known as the Bowling Alley. As seen in the photo below, it was located in part of the future site of the Pfizer Building. The matchbook is from the collection of our good friend, David Reiff.



⸺⸺⸺⸺⸺




IN BADMINTON CHAMPIONSHIP
Harry Conlan, left, of New York,and George Harris, also of New York, are two of the competitors in the Eastern New York Badminton Championships at the Tudor City Courts, New York, Feb. 12th.

⸺⸺⸺⸺⸺

An ad for the Tudor City Coffee House that ran in 1939 in Tudor City View, the community monthly. Why it ran on the diagonal is anyone's guess.


⸺⸺⸺⸺⸺



Finally, a photograph made after a good day fishing by our founder and his son, Theodore. From the French biography, A Vigorous Life: The Story of Fred F. French, Builder of Skyscrapers.

April 14, 2024

Early Advertising

Some samples of early advertising for Tudor City, all of which ran in the first year of the enclave's opening.   

The poor commuter faces 1,500,000 like-minded souls daily at Grand Central Station. The answer to this problem is, of course, Prospect Tower and The Manor, which "will be ready for occupancy in September."



The poor old coal shovel was but one of many things left behind in the trip to the more upscale side of life in Tudor City, where apartment living was a dream to aspire to.


Two examples of an ad campaign making a case for how a day can be two hours longer for 8 private secretaries and 15 salesmen.


This ad reads upscale ‒ "green trees, shadowed lawns, splashing fountains" ‒ undercut with a hint of snob appeal. 



We close with this twist on the famed Maxwell House Coffee slogan, "good to the last drop." In the updated version, toast choked down with gulped coffee are signs of someone who "never has time for 'the last drop.'" Move to Tudor City, for Pete's sake.

Further reading on the subject here and here.