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Vintage New York Comes Alive in a New MCNY Photo Exhibit

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These images capture iconic spots like Times Square and Coney Island in the late 19th and 20th centuries

A photo of Penn Station c. 1935
Photo by Wurtz Bros. via MCNY

The Museum of the City of New York (MCNY) is taking us back to the late 19th and 20th centuries in its latest photo exhibit that captures some of the city’s most iconic locations like Times Square and Coney Island. The collection of images is a precursor to the museum’s three-gallery exhibit, New York At Its Core, which will open this November. That exhibit will be the museum’s first permanent one, and will chart the history of the city from its origins as a Dutch village to present day.

"As we prepare to launch New York at Its Core this fall, we want our guests to be excited about the idea of experiencing the city’s history in new and engaging ways," Whitney Donhauser, the director of MCNY, said in a press release. "With that goal in mind, I hope New Yorkers and tourists alike enjoy transporting themselves to the Brooklyn Bridge in 1903 or the Bergdorf Goodman windows on Fifth Avenue in the ‘50s, and maybe even win a membership."

Here now is a selection of some of those images:

Bathing, Midland Beach, 1898
By the Byron Company via MCNY

↑ Around the turn of the 20th century, Staten Island’s beaches like Midland Beach pictured here had become go to spots for "cheap amusements" due to their rides and concessions. Just some of the things you would have found at Midland Beach at that time included a ferris wheel, an electric light show, and a carousel.

Brooklyn Bridge Promenade, 1903
By the Byron Company via MCNY

↑ When the Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world at the time. At the time that this photo was taken, 20 years later, 350,000 people crossed the bridge daily in various modes of transportation.

Coney Island, The Algerian Theatre, 1896
By the Byron Company via MCNY

↑ In the 1890s, when this photo was taken, Coney Island was attracting millions of visitors annually to its bathhouses, saloons, and hotels. Part of the "Street of Cairo" sideshow, the Algerian Theater was where men would to go watch "scantily clad women dance the ‘hootchy kootchy.’"

[Broadway and 42nd Street, Times Square], c. 1947
By World Wide Photos, Inc. via MCNY

↑ The intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue got the name Times Square when the New York Times moved its headquarters there to a new building in 1903. Ten years later, the Times moved, but the name stuck, and at the time that this photo was taken "Crossroads of the World" had become a popular tourist attraction. The Times building can be seen at the center of this image, the Hotel Astor, and Leows Theater are on the right.

[Woman walking by Bergdorf Goodman], 1952
by Arthur Rothstein or John Vachon for LOOK magazine via MCNY

↑ Bergdorf Goodman started as a tailor’s shop by Union Square in 1899, and only moved to its current Beaux-Arts building on Fifth Avenue in 1928, on the former site of Cornelius Vanderbilt’s mansion. It joined other high-end retailers like Saks, Lord & Taylor, and Macy’s, all of which were known for their standout window displays.

Schaefer Center at the 1939 New York World's Fair, 1939
by Samuel H. Gottscho via MYCNY

↑ The Schaefer Center was one of the pavilions during the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair that took place at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. It included a 1,600-seat circular restaurant, and an open-air bar with a mural depicting the history of brewing.

For this new exhibit, MCNY is encouraging visitors to snap pictures with these photos and share them on social media using the hashtag #LostInOldNY.

Museum of the City of New York

1220 5th Avenue, Manhattan, NY 10029 (212) 534-1672 Visit Website