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What Manhattan Looked like in the 1950s through Fascinating Photos

The 1950s saw Manhattan in post-war bloom. The economy was humming, and the island was swiftly transforming. Skyscrapers like the Seagram Building redefined the city’s skyline, making it even more iconic. This was the era when Manhattan truly became the “concrete jungle” as steel and glass structures dominated the skyline, signaling a new age of prosperity and architectural prowess.

From Brownstones to High Rises

The architectural face of Manhattan was undergoing significant change. While the brownstones and historic buildings still stood tall, there was an undeniable shift towards modernity. The International Style of architecture, characterized by its clean lines, functional design, and lack of ornamentation, began to emerge in full force. Park Avenue became a showcase of this style with buildings like the Lever House setting new standards. The blend of old-world charm with the sleekness of modern design reflected Manhattan’s ethos in the 1950s: a city rooted in its history, yet eager to embrace the future.

Beats and Coffee Shops

Down in Greenwich Village, smoky coffee shops and dimly lit bars were abuzz with the Beat Generation. Writers like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg voiced their dissents and dreams, challenging the status quo. These were the haunts where poetry readings and jazz improvisations blended seamlessly, creating a subculture that would leave a lasting mark on American literature and counterculture.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Fever

As the decade progressed, a new musical phenomenon swept through, and its name was Rock ‘n’ Roll. The likes of Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly blasted from jukeboxes, marking a seismic shift in musical tastes. From Harlem’s Apollo Theater to downtown dance halls, Manhattanites were jiving and twisting to these infectious new rhythms.

The Rise of Madison Avenue

If you’ve ever heard the term “Mad Men,” then you’re familiar with Madison Avenue in the 1950s. It was the golden age of advertising. Bright, creative minds gathered in sleek offices, crafting campaigns that would become legendary. Brands like Coca-Cola and Volkswagen became household names, thanks in no small part to the advertising moguls of Manhattan.

The Subway Series and Baseball Mania

The 1950s were also a golden era for baseball in New York. With teams like the Yankees, Dodgers, and Giants all based in the city, fierce rivalries and unforgettable moments played out. The ‘Subway Series’ clashes were the talk of the town, as fans passionately debated their favorite players over hot dogs and cold beers.

#1 Storm over Manhattan, New York City, 1950. The towering buildings of Manhattan are silhouetted against heavy clouds which gathered over the city just before a sudden electrical rainstorm.

#2 Manhattan skyline from City Hospital, New York City, 1950

#3 Pete’s Bar at Washington Market in Lower Manhattan, 1950

#4 Part of Washington Market in 1956, looking north along Washington Street at Fulton Street in Lower Manhattan.

#5 Peace Protest in New York: Members of the New York Labor Peace Conference march on 34th Street in protest against the Korean War and German rearmament, Manhattan, 1952.

#6 We Are Opposed to Assimilation!: Native Americans demonstrate near Central Park with placards opposing assimilation, Manhattan, 1952.

#7 Price War in New York City: Ross Restaurant displaying signs announcing the “Price War” and sales on Broadway, Manhattan, 1951.

#8 Mike Todd’s Birthday Party: The entrance of Madison Square Garden where Mike Todd’s birthday party is taking place, Manhattan, 1957.

#9 New York City Skyline: Aerial view of Midtown, Manhattan, 1956.

#10 Woolworth Building & Lower Manhattan: Aerial view of lower Manhattan and the Woolworth Building, Manhattan, 1953.

#11 Madison Square Garden: Sign advertising tennis matches at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, 1955.

#12 Models on Park Avenue: American models pose amid traffic on Park Avenue, Manhattan, 1958.

#13 Midtown East: Panoramic view facing east of Midtown Manhattan, Manhattan, 1957.

#14 Circus Threatened with Strike: Pickets parade in front of Madison Square Garden announcing the sale of tickets to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, Manhattan.

#15 Bonwit and Teller Department Store: Exterior view of Bonwit Teller store on 56th street and 5th Avenue, Manhattan.

#16 Outdoor Pursuits: Three young men drinking on the pavement in East Harlem, Manhattan, circa 1955.

#17 Someone Walking a Dog near Central Park: Someone walking a dog near Central Park, Manhattan, 1958.

#18 Skaters in Rockefeller Center in Winter: Skaters on ice at Rockefeller Center in winter, Manhattan.

#19 Ice Skaters at Rockefeller Center: The sunken garden at Rockefeller Center used as a skating rink during cold seasons, Manhattan.

#20 Main Post Office in New York: Main Post Office at 8th Avenue and 33rd St., Manhattan.

#21 Peace Protest in New York: Labor Peace Conference march on New York’s 34th Street protesting the war in Korea, Manhattan, 1952.

#22 Welcome for General Dean: Major General William F Dean waving during a ticker-tape parade on Broadway, Manhattan, 1953.

#23 A Street Sign in New York: Bus stop and street sign at Orchard and Delancey Street in Lower East Side, Manhattan, circa 1950.

#24 Blizzard Hits Manhattan: Pedestrian struggles with an umbrella on 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue during a blizzard, Manhattan, 1958.

#25 Blizzard Hits Manhattan: Pedestrians navigate Fifth Avenue at 57th Street in a blizzard, Manhattan, 1957.

#26 The View from Ellis Island: View of Manhattan from Ellis Island, Manhattan, 1951.

#27 The Bowery in Chinatown: Signpost on the corner of Canal Street and Pell Street in Chinatown, Manhattan, 1955.

#28 Dell’Orefice & Pickering on a ‘Don’t Walk’ Sign: Models Carmen Dell’Orefice and Betsy Pickering atop a traffic light, Manhattan, 1958.

#29 A Stagecoach at Night: Models pose by a horse and carriage outside Central Park’s Tavern on the Green, Manhattan, 1958.

#30 Midtown Manhattan: View of Midtown Manhattan, Manhattan, circa 1955.

#31 Jewel District of New York: Police car in a jewelry district of Manhattan, 1950.

#32 Omelio Agramonte vs. Jersey Joe Walcott: Scene outside Madison Square Garden for a heavyweight fight, Manhattan, 1950.

#33 Northern Dispensary, Greenwich Village: View of the Northern Dispensary building in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, 1951.

#34 ILGWU Members Protest, NYC: International Ladies Garment Workers Union protest on 35th Street in the Garment District, Manhattan, 1959.

#35 Park Avenue, New York City: Cars parked on Park Avenue looking north from East 45th Street, Manhattan, 1950.

#36 Washington Mews, Greenwich Village: Washington Mews between Fifth Avenue and University Place, Manhattan, circa 1955.

#37 East River, New York City: Evening falls over the East River with Manhattan skyline, 1951.

#38 Brooklyn Waterfront Redevelopment Including High Angle View of L-Shaped Three-Berth Pier 1 and Two-Berth Pier 2, Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Skyline, Manhattan, 1959

#39 Downtown Brooklyn Skyline and Brooklyn Bridge in Brooklyn Heights, Manhattan, 1958

#40 Aerial View of Midtown Manhattan and Part of Murray Hill with Empire State Building, Manhattan, 1950s

#41 View of Third Avenue El and Manhattan House, Manhattan, 1952

#42 Entrance to Grand Central Theatre in Grand Central Station, Manhattan, 1956

#43 Brooklyn Heights (Now Called DUMBO) with View of Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Skyline, Manhattan, 1958

#44 Waterfront in Brooklyn Heights (Now Called DUMBO) with View of Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan, Manhattan, 1958

#45 Brooklyn Heights Promenade in the Rain, with View of Manhattan Skyline, Manhattan, 1958

#46 Aerial View of Mid-Town Manhattan Looking Downtown, Manhattan, 1955

#47 Manhattan Skyline Looking Towards Central Park, Manhattan, 1959

#48 Crowds Watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Passing Through Times Square, Midtown Manhattan, 1951

#49 Marilyn Monroe Seen Through Window of Department Store on Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, 1957

#50 Marilyn Monroe Walking with Tom Ewell While Filming “The Seven Year Itch”, Manhattan, 1954

#51 Tourists and Diners at the Four Seasons, Located in Seagrams Skyscraper on Park Avenue, Manhattan, 1959

#52 Christmas Crowds Window Shopping at Macy’s on 34th St, Manhattan, 1955

#53 Roger Kent Men’s Clothing Store with Radio City Music Hall in Background, Manhattan, 1955

#54 Outdoor Art Exhibition in Recently Constructed Washington Square Village, Greenwich Village, Manhattan, 1958

#55 Taping of ‘Merv Griffin TV Show’ Supported by ‘Give a Damn’ Campaign in Harlem, Manhattan, 1958

#56 NBC Television Remote Broadcasting Bus Parked Outside Rockefeller Center Plaza, Midtown Manhattan, 1955

#57 Exterior View of Bonwit Teller Store on 56th Street and 5th Avenue, Manhattan

#58 Skaters at the Wollman Rink in Central Park, Manhattan, 1951

#59 Panoramic View of Times Square, Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, and West Side of Manhattan, 1957

#61 Upper East Side of Manhattan, East River, Astoria, Queens, and Seagram Building, Manhattan, 1956

#62 Boxer Sugar Ray Robinson Leaning on His 1950 Pink Cadillac Convertible in Harlem, Manhattan, 1950

#63 Street Scene of Times Square with Neon Movie Theater Marquees, Manhattan, 1957

#64 Pedestrians and Residents of Tenement Buildings on East Side of Manhattan, 1955

#65 People Jam Sidewalks in Times Square Celebrating George Washington’s Birthday, Manhattan, 1953

#66 Dragon Dance During Chinese New Year Celebrations on Mott Street in Chinatown, Manhattan, 1957

#67 View of Chatham Square in Chinatown Neighborhood of Lower Manhattan, 1955

#68 Summer in the City: Children Stand and Watch as a Young Boy Opens a Fire Hydrant in Harlem, Manhattan, 1955

#69 In the Shadow of the Third Avenue El: Two Men Push a Car onto Bowery Under the Train in New York, Manhattan, 1954

#70 Times Square in New York: View of the Traffic in Times Square, Manhattan, 1956

#71 Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller in a Convertible, New York, Manhattan, 1957

#72 View of Advertisements on Broadway and the RKO Palace, Manhattan, 1957

#73 Midtown Manhattan, NYC: Sign Reads ‘Passengers are Forbidden to Ride on Platforms of Trains’ Near Chrysler Building, Manhattan, 1950

#74 Mott Street, Chinatown, NYC: Cars Parked and Pedestrians Outside Stores, Manhattan, 1945

#76 Empire State Building Observatory: Crowd of People with City and East River Below, Manhattan, 1953

#77 Rockefeller Center, Midtown Manhattan, NYC: Statue of Prometheus Overlooks Plaza, Manhattan, 1955

#78 Dutch Royals, NYC: Juliana of the Netherlands and Prince Bernhard Pass Along Broadway, Manhattan, 1952

#79 Shriners Manhattan Parade: Members Marching Along St Nicholas Avenue, Manhattan, 1951

#80 Mott Street: The Pagoda Restaurant and Others in Chinatown, Manhattan, 1950

#81 The Port Arthur Restaurant: Mott Street in Chinatown, Manhattan, 1950

#82 Pell Street: Wo Ping Restaurant and Others in Chinatown, Manhattan, 1950

#83 Manhattan at Night: View from a Dock Across the River, Manhattan, 1950

#86 Up Late or Up Early: Models Embrace Under an Umbrella near Grand Central Station, Manhattan, 1959

#87 Looking Uptown in the Shadow of the El: View Over Oldsmobile and Chrysler Building, Manhattan, 1954

#88 The Old and the New: Car Approaches Horse-Drawn Cart Under Train Tracks, Manhattan, 1954

#89 Times Square Newspaper Salesman: Vendor Leans Over Stack of Papers, Manhattan, 1954

#90 Two Silhouetted Women at Bus Stop on Rainy Night in Times Square, Manhattan, 1950

#91 Columbus Circle Looking North, Broadway on Left, Central Park West on Right, Manhattan, 1952

#92 1950s New York City Times Square, West 43rd Street Looking North, Manhattan

#93 Times Square View North Up 7th Ave at 45th St, King Creole on Theatre Marquee, Manhattan, 1950

#94 1950s Automobile Highway Traffic on Grand Central Parkway Looking East, Manhattan

#95 Washington Mews: View West Along Washington Mews in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, 1954

#96 Madison Square Garden Marquee Night, West 49th Street, Ice Capades of 1953, Manhattan, 1953

#97 View Washington Square North with Arch, Fifth Avenue Buildings, Washington Square Park, Manhattan, 1950

#98 On a Wet Labor Day, the Boardwalk at Coney Island Is Empty, Manhattan, 1950

#99 Ice Skating in Central Park at the 59th Street Rink with the Essex House in the Background, Manhattan, circa 1952

#100 1950s View of United Nations Building and New York City Skyline from East River, Manhattan, 1950s

#101 1950s Wet Rainy Streets of Times Square at Night with Neon Signs, Manhattan, 1950s

#102 Times Square Traffic Broadway Bus Looking North to Duffy Square from West 44th Street, Manhattan, 1950s

#103 Times Square with Massive Bond Clothing Sign Between 44th and 45th Streets, Manhattan, 1950s

#104 Times Square at Night Looking South Toward the New York Times Building, Manhattan, 1951

#105 Night Scene, Lower End of Manhattan Island and New York Harbor, Manhattan, 1951

#106 Night Scene, East Side of 7th Avenue in the Times Square District, Manhattan, 1951

#107 New York at Night with Empire State Building at Right and Chrysler Building at Left, Manhattan, 1950

#108 The F.W. Woolworth Co. Store on 6th Avenue, Manhattan, circa 1952

#109 Riverside Church Near Grant’s Tomb, Manhattan, 1950s

#111 Times Square New York City Looking South from Duffy Square, Manhattan, 1950s

#112 Entrance to Holland Tunnel from Manhattan Under Hudson River to Jersey City, 1950s

#113 Looking South on Third Avenue at 47th Street, Manhattan, 1950s

#114 Port Authority Bus Terminal, 8th Avenue 40th and 41st Streets, Manhattan, 1950s

#115 Night Times Square Looking South from Duffy Square to NY Times Building, Manhattan, 1950s

#116 Looking North up Broadway from Times Square to Duffy Square, Manhattan, 1950s

#117 Woman Sitting on Luggage, Main Concourse, Grand Central Terminal, Manhattan, 1958

#118 Couple Riding Tandem Bicycle, Park Avenue and 57th Street, Manhattan, 1959

#120 Broadway Looking South from East 10th Street, Manhattan, 1954

#121 American War Invalids in Wheelchairs Protest Against the Early Closure of Halloran Hospital on Park Avenue, Manhattan, 1951

#123 A Scene of Daily Life on West 119th Street in Harlem, Manhattan, 1956

#124 The Ziegfeld Theater, Located at West 54 Street, Manhattan, 1955

Written by Henry Parker

Content writer, SEO analyst and Marketer. You cannot find me playing any outdoor sports, but I waste my precious time playing Video Games..

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