in , , , ,

What New York City looked like at the Turn of the 20th Century

The first decade of the 20th century was a time of significant change and growth for New York City. This era saw advances in construction, a booming economy, cultural developments, and new forms of entertainment that shaped the city’s vibrant life.

Life and Society

Life in New York City at the turn of the century was bustling and dynamic. The city was a home to many cultures. People from Italy, Ireland, Eastern Europe, and many other places came to New York, bringing their traditions and customs with them. These immigrants settled in diverse neighborhoods, creating a rich tapestry of cultural life.

The population of New York City grew rapidly during this period, surpassing four million by 1909. This growth led to crowded living conditions, especially in tenement buildings on the Lower East Side. Despite the challenges, these neighborhoods were full of life, with street vendors, pushcarts, and markets providing goods and services.

 Famous Places and Landmarks

Several iconic landmarks and buildings were constructed in New York City during the 1900s. One of the most famous is the Flatiron Building, completed in 1902. Its unique triangular shape made it a standout architectural feature and a symbol of the city.

Read more

Another significant landmark from this era is the New York Public Library. Its main branch, located on Fifth Avenue, was under construction throughout much of the decade and would open to the public in 1911. This library was designed to be a center of knowledge and culture, offering extensive resources to the city’s residents.

Times Square also began to emerge as a major entertainment hub. Originally known as Longacre Square, it was renamed in 1904 when The New York Times moved its headquarters there. The area quickly became known for its theaters, bright lights, and bustling activity.

Economic Growth and Industry

The economy of New York City flourished at the turn of the century. The city was a leading financial center, with Wall Street at its heart. The New York Stock Exchange saw increased activity, contributing to the city’s economic boom.

Industries such as textiles, printing, and manufacturing were thriving. The garment industry, in particular, provided jobs for thousands of workers. Many of these workers were immigrants, working long hours in factories under challenging conditions. Labor movements began to grow in response to these conditions, advocating for better wages and working conditions.

Construction and Infrastructure

Construction in New York City during the 1900s was characterized by rapid development and innovation. Skyscrapers began to dominate the skyline, made possible by advances in steel construction and elevator technology. The Singer Building, completed in 1908, was one of the tallest buildings in the world at the time.

The city’s infrastructure also saw significant improvements. The subway system, which had begun construction in the 1890s, opened its first line in 1904. This underground network transformed transportation in the city, making it easier for people to commute and reducing congestion on the streets.

Bridges like the Williamsburg Bridge, completed in 1903, connected Manhattan to Brooklyn, facilitating the movement of people and goods. These infrastructure projects were crucial in supporting the city’s growing population and economic activities.

Restaurants and Food

The culinary scene in New York City at the turn of the century was diverse and vibrant. Immigrant communities brought their traditional foods, contributing to a rich culinary landscape. Italian immigrants introduced foods like pizza and pasta, which quickly became popular.

Restaurants ranged from elegant dining establishments to simple eateries. Delmonico’s, one of the city’s most famous restaurants, was known for its luxurious atmosphere and fine cuisine. It attracted wealthy patrons who enjoyed gourmet dishes and sophisticated service.

For more everyday dining, there were countless delis, diners, and street vendors. These places offered affordable and convenient meals for workers and residents. Foods like hot dogs, bagels, and pretzels became staples of New York’s street food culture.

Entertainment and Leisure

Entertainment was a major part of life in New York City during the 1900s. Vaudeville theaters were extremely popular, offering a variety of acts, including comedy, music, and magic shows. These performances attracted diverse audiences and provided affordable entertainment for the masses.

Broadway began to establish itself as the premier theater district in the country. Theaters along Broadway hosted a range of productions, from dramas to musicals, contributing to the city’s cultural vibrancy. The establishment of iconic theaters like the New Amsterdam Theatre in 1903 helped solidify Broadway’s reputation.

Coney Island was another major attraction, known for its amusement parks and seaside resorts. Places like Luna Park and Dreamland offered thrilling rides, games, and shows, drawing visitors from all over the city and beyond. Coney Island provided a place for fun and relaxation, especially during the summer months.

Public Services and Health

Public health and services improved significantly during the 1900s. Efforts to combat diseases like tuberculosis and typhoid led to better sanitation practices and public health measures. The establishment of public hospitals and clinics provided more people with access to medical care.

The city also worked on improving its water supply and sewage systems. The Croton Aqueduct, which had been expanded over the years, continued to provide fresh water to the city. Improvements in waste management helped reduce the spread of disease and made the city a healthier place to live.

The fire and police departments also saw advancements. The fire department modernized its equipment and training, making it more effective in responding to fires. The police department continued to professionalize, with efforts to reduce corruption and improve public safety.

Education and Intellectual Life

. Public schools expanded, providing more children with access to education. Efforts to implement compulsory education laws ensured that children spent time in school rather than working in factories or on the streets.

Higher education institutions also grew during this period. Columbia University and New York University expanded their campuses and programs, attracting students from around the country and the world. These institutions played a crucial role in the intellectual and cultural life of the city.

Public libraries and literary societies flourished, promoting literacy and intellectual engagement. The New York Public Library, with its extensive collection of books and resources, became a vital center for knowledge and learning.

Social Issues and Reforms

The rapid growth and industrialization of New York City brought significant social challenges. Overcrowding, poor living conditions, and poverty were widespread, particularly in immigrant neighborhoods. Social reformers worked tirelessly to address these issues.

Figures like Jacob Riis used journalism and photography to document the harsh realities of life in the tenements, raising awareness and advocating for change. Settlement houses, like the Henry Street Settlement, provided support and services to the poor, including education, healthcare, and job training.

Labor movements gained momentum during this period. Workers organized strikes and protests to demand better wages, working conditions, and hours. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911, though just outside the decade, highlighted the need for labor reforms and led to significant changes in workplace safety regulations.

#3 Cole’s Store, 2517 Webster Avenue, south of Fordham Road, the Bronx, 1902

#4 M. & C. Uhly Delicatessen, 749 East Tremont Avenue (now renumbered 483 East Tremont with a new building), the Bronx, 1902

#5 Sunday school parade, Tremont section of the Bronx, 1902

#6 H.N. Worth Fish & Oyster Market, 767 (now 505) East Tremont Avenue, the Bronx, 1904

#7 Present-day East Tremont Avenue, the fields later became Parkchester, Westchester Square, the Bronx, 1905

#8 Williamsbridge looking towards Gun Hill Road, Bronx, NY, with roadside billboards, 1907.

#9 Third Avenue Bridge over the Harlem River, viewed from the southwest with JL Mott Iron Works on the Bronx side, 1900s

#10 Willis Avenue Bridge over the Harlem River with a railroad yard in the foreground, Bronx, 1900s

#11 St. Raymond’s Catholic Church on Castle Hill Avenue, Tremont Avenue, Bronx, 1905.

#12 Bronx Parkway Commission headquarters after renovation from a factory, Bronx, 1900s

#14 M. & C. Uhly Delicatessen in Tremont, Bronx, 1902.

#17 Cole’s Store at 2517 Webster Avenue south of Fordham Road, Fordham, Bronx, 1902.

#18 A houses on Washington Avenue near E. 188th Street, Fordham, Bronx, 1902.

#19 Bathers on the beach at Orchard Beach, Bronx, 1907.

#20 Men of the 71st Regiment in a Decoration Day parade, Bronx, 1902

#21 Men of the 71st Regiment in a Decoration Day parade, Bronx, 1901

#22 The Mott Haven branch of the New York Public Library, Bronx, 1905

#23 The Zborowski mansion in Claremont Park, Bronx, 1903.

#24 Uniformed boys on parade for Decoration Day, 1903

#25 Firemen marching in a Decoration Day parade, 1903

#26 A school with the flag at half mast in Tremont, Bronx, 1902.

#27 149th Street and Morris Avenue, 1902, from Transit System Survey.

#28 Morris High School in the Bronx from the Front, Southwest, circa 1903.

#29 Education, Schools, Academy of Mt. St. Vincent, 1905.

#30 New York University, Delta Upsilon Fraternity House, circa 1905.

#31 Children engaged in exercise activities at Crotona Park’s Vacation Playground, 1901.

#32 Boys boxing at Crotona Park’s vacation playground, 1901.

#33 Broadway and 242nd Street at Van Cortlandt Park, circa 1905.

#34 169th Street and Ogden Avenue, an undeveloped and wooded section of the Bronx, circa 1906.

#36 3rd Avenue and Melrose Avenue at 149th Street, 1900.

#37 Willis Avenue between 148th Street and 3rd Avenue, showing the J. Clarence Davies Real Estate Offices, circa 1904.

#38 Tremont Avenue, west from 3rd Avenue, circa 1905.

#40 J. Clarence Davies Real Estate Office, circa 1904.

#41 East 216th Street and Bronx Boulevard, Vari Lace Manufacturing Company, 1909

#42 161st Street, 1900, looking northwest across Third Avenue.

#48 Van Cortlandt Manor House, Van Cortlandt Park, 1905.

#50 Horsecar Antique, Bartow & City Island, No. 7 Pelham Bay Park, 1905.

#52 Manhattan, East River and Brooklyn Bridge from Brooklyn, 1904

#54 River Crossing, 1907. Brooklyn Bridge, East River, New York.

#55 Turnaround Time, 1906. Williamsburg Bridge Plaza in Brooklyn, New York.

#56 A group of patients, Brooklyn Navy Yard hospital, 1900

#60 Three New York-Brooklyn bridges from Brooklyn, 1908

#64 People Enjoying Ocean Beach at Coney Island, circa 1900

#65 Pedestrians on Coney Island Boardwalk, circa 1900

#66 Brooklyn Bridge Spanning the East River, Brooklyn, 1901

#67 Italian Immigrants on South Street near Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn, 1901

#68 Brighton Beach Hotel, Coney Island, Brooklyn, 1903

#69 Beer Delivery on Ocean Avenue, Coney Island, Brooklyn, 1904

#70 Dreamland Theme Park, Coney Island, Brooklyn, 1905

#72 Amusement Parks View from Coney Island, Brooklyn, 1900s

#73 View of the Oriental Hotel and grounds along the coast of Manhattan Beach, Coney Island, Brooklyn, 1900s

#74 Whirl of the Whirl ride at Luna Park, Coney Island, Brooklyn, 1905

#75 Miniature Railway at Luna Park, Coney Island, Brooklyn, 1905

#77 Offices of Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper, Brooklyn, 1909

#80 Family with Chauffeurs and Their 1918 Buick, Possibly Brooklyn, 1909

#81 Bird’s Eye View of Flatbush Ave with Streetcars, Brooklyn, 1909

#82 Mess Room at Brooklyn Navy Yard Hospital, Brooklyn, 1900

#83 View of New York Harbor from Brooklyn Waterfront, 1900

#84 Jake Daubert Receives New Chalmers Car at World Series, Brooklyn, 1909

#91 Broad Street and curb market, New York, Lower Manhattan, 1906

#92 Hotel Manhattan, Madison Avenue and 42nd Street, 1904

#94 East River and Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan, 1903

#96 Another of Detroit Photo’s Manhattan stores, 1903

#98 The Brooklyn Bridge Promenade and Manhattan Terminal in 1907 amid a forest of billboards facing the trains, 1907.

#100 Ernst Roeber’s Manhattan saloon at 499 Sixth Avenue, around Easter 1908.

#101 New York City from World Building Looking North, Manhattan, 1900

#102 Manhattan, Pedestrians, Traffic, Cars, Double Decker Bus on Fifth Avenue, 1900

#105 Street Scene, Pedestrians, Horses, Wagons, Traffic, Policeman, Manhattan, 1900s

#106 View of Central Park from Southwest Corner Looking North, Plaza Hotel Visible, Circa 1900s

#107 Three-Story Club Building at Fifth Avenue and 63rd Street, Manhattan, 1900

#108 View of Brownstones on Fifth Avenue Between 60th & 61st Streets, 1900

#109 Side View of the New York World Building and Street Activity on Park Row, Downtown Manhattan, 1900s

#110 Street Scene at 57 Hester Street and 55 Hester Street on the Lower East Side, Manhattan, circa 1900

#112 John Jacob Astor’s House on Fifth Avenue and 65th Street, 1900s

#113 Horse-Drawn Women’s Suffrage Cart on its Way to Boston, circa 1900

#114 Manhattan ASPCA Provides Water for Horses, circa 1900

#121 Jewish Markets on Busy Street, Lower East Side, 1904

#122 Italian Neighborhood with Street Market, Mulberry Street, 1900

#124 Summer Looking West on 23rd Street from Sixth Avenue, Bon Ton Music Hall on Right, 1900

#125 Madison Square Park in at the junction of 5th Avenue and 24th Street, 1901.

#126 109th Road and Farmers Boulevard, Queens, 1900s.

#127 223rd Street and Merrick Boulevard, Queens, 1900s.

#128 Astoria Boulevard and 1st Street, Queens, 1900s.

#136 45th Street and Astoria Boulevard, Queens, 1900s.

#137 60th Street and Metropolitan Avenue, Queens, 1900s.

#140 Willets Point Boulevard and Pilgrim Avenue, Queens, 1900s.

#141 Fresh Meadow Lane and 65th Avenue, Queens, 1900s.

#144 Hancock Street and Wyckoff Avenue, Queens, 1900s.

#145 Hillside Avenue and 118th Street, Queens, 1900s.

#146 Hillside Avenue and 120th Street, Queens, 1900s.

#147 Hillside Avenue and 162nd Street, Queens, 1900s.

#154 Waterfront, Canarsie, Jamaica Bay, Queens, 1900s.

#155 Kissena Boulevard and North Hempstead Turnpike, Queens, 1900s.

#159 Main Street and Northern Boulevard, Queens, 1900s.

#161 Northern Boulevard and Linden Place, Queens, 1900s.

#162 Northern Boulevard and Union Street, Queens, 1900s.

#163 Northern Boulevard and 123rd Street, Queens, 1900s.

#164 Northern Boulevard and 147th Street, Queens, 1900s.

#165 Northern Boulevard and 162nd Street, Queens, 1900s.

#166 Parsons Boulevard and Highland Avenue, Queens, 1900s.

#167 Parsons Boulevard and Grand Central Parkway, Queens, 1900s.

#168 Queens Boulevard and 62nd Avenue, Queens, 1900s.

#169 Queens Boulevard and 83rd Avenue, Queens, 1900s.

#172 Beach 101st Street and Edgemere Avenue, Queens, 1900s.

#173 Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach 94th Street, Queens, 1900s.

#176 The Saunders Bicycle Shop, Richmond Avenue, Port Richmond, 1900s.

#177 New Dorp Lane was known as “Bungalow Row” in the early 1900s.

#179 View of Amboy Road in Pleasant Plains, Staten Island, 1907.

#182 Casino and Boardwalk, South Beach, circa early 1900s.

#183 Glory Days at Staten Island’s Shore Hotels, View of the Richmond Hotel in Midland Beach with People Walking on the Boardwalk, 1905.

#184 The Boat House on Richmond Terrace, Near Snug Harbor, 1900s.

#186 William A. Morris with Horse-Drawn Truck, Founder of Staten Island NAACP, 1900s.

#187 The Shore House Hotel among various hotels in Staten Island that catered to beachgoers, 1900s

#188 Jolly Campers at Beach Park, Midland Beach, early 1900s.

#190 Victory Boulevard, formerly Richmond Turnpike, looking north toward Cebra Avenue, 1900s

#191 Killmeyer’s, a historical German restaurant and the oldest bar on Staten Island, 1909.

#192 The Richmond County Country Club Commands Striking Views, New York City’s Only Private County Club, 1900s.

#193 South Beach, known as “The Riviera of New York City,” circa 1908.

#194 Daily life in Bungalow City, Midland Beach, 1900s

#197 Hart Boulevard and surrounding area transformed into communities and thoroughfares, early 1900s.

#198 Richmond Avenue Looking North to Bulls Head, Staten Island, 1909.

#199 Schopp’s Hotel and Boat House Existed in the Lemon Creek Area in the Early 1900s; Owner Was Charles Schopp Jr.

#200 Richmond Engine Company No. 1 at 3664 Richmond Rd, One of Two Staten Island Volunteer Fire Companies, Horse Drawn Engine Circa 1903

#201 Charleston, Once Known as Kreisherville, Was Established by German Immigrant Balthasar Kreischer in the 1850s, Circa 1907.

#202 Richmond Turnpike workers pictured in 1903, grading the dirt roadbed at Corson Avenue and Victory Boulevard in preparation for paving, 1903.

#203 Amboy Road and Station Avenue, Pleasant Plains at the turn of the century, 1900s

#204 Entrance of Staten Island Hospital in New Brighton, Staten Island, 1900.

#205 Staten Island Ship Building Company facilities in Mariner’s Harbor, Staten Island, 1900s.

#206 Mount Manresa, the oldest retreat in America, located on Staten Island, 1900s.

#207 Morning tide at Crescent Beach, Great Kills, Staten Island, 1900.

#208 Bathing scene at New Dorp Beach, Staten Island, 1900s.

#209 Boardwalk and bandstand at Midland Beach, Staten Island, 1900s.

#210 Stuyvesant Place looking north from High Street, St. George, Staten Island, 1900s.

#211 Camping cottages and beach at Camp Midland, Midland Beach, Staten Island, 1900s.

#212 Aerial view from Richmond Memorial Hospital overlooking Raritan Bay, Staten Island, 1900s.

#213 Fishing and railroading on the pier at Midland Beach, Staten Island, 1900s.

#214 Early cars, shops, and signs on Amboy Road, Great Kills, Staten Island, 1900s.

#215 Club House in Cedar Grove Beach, Staten Island, 1900.

#216 Main Hall at Wagner College, Grymes Hill, Staten Island, 1900.

#217 Washington Park in Stapleton, showing people on benches and walkways, framed by buildings, Staten Island, 1900s.

Written by Frederick Victor

I've been a history writer for a while. I love to explore historical sites because they connect us to our past. They make us feel like we are part of something much bigger.

Leave a Reply

Comment using name and email. Or Register an account

GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings