Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Eleven breathtaking views of the New York Herald Building, one of midtown Manhattan's earliest tourist attractions


Click into the images within this post for a more closeup view!

When the extravagant James Gordon Bennett Jr. decided to move the offices of the New York Herald from grimy, old Park Row to the frenzy of uptown Manhattan, he wanted something spectacular and eye-catching.  As we mentioned in our newest podcast on the history of Herald Square, Bennett went the opposite direction of newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, who remained on on Park Row and put his publication in the tallest building in the world (the New York World tower, completed in 1890).

Bennett's New York Herald Building, completed in 1894, sat at 35th Street between Sixth Avenue and Broadway, on the north side of the square his building would soon give its name. He wanted the structure to align with the theaters and hotels of the area; as designed by Stanford White, the New York Herald Building doesn't tower over the neighborhood.

He wanted the newspaper to be essential to the rhythm and energy of this bustling intersection. It does so with its mysterious and fanciful ornamentation, its spooky owls, its ornate clock tower and its mechanical bell-ringers.

Below: the New York Herald Building, at 35th Street, between Sixth Avenue and Broadway, a frilly Italian-style structure at the nexus of a growing New York in the 1890s. [LOC]


But the building became a component of the square with its open windows displaying the printing presses inside. Visitors would stand gawking as the presses furiously went about print the late-day editions. In the era before radio and television, the results of sporting events would be displayed on a billboard or "Play-o-Graph" that would attract thousands. It would be here that thousands of New Yorkers would gather to get the results of the World Series between the Red Sox and the Giants -- occurring just uptown at the Polo Grounds!

The New York Herald Building became one of midtown Manhattan's first big draws for regular New Yorkers and visitors to gather, get news, set their watches, dazzle at modern technology and ogle at the curious mix of high and low culture that sped through here. One decade later, Times Square would bring the same kind of excitement to another Broadway intersection.

Here are some additional views of the Herald Building, many romantic, most unbelievable, especially if you consider what sits there today:

Thousands of men gather to watch the results of the 1911 World Series -- between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Athletics -- displayed on a "Play-o-Graph" at Herald Building. Sports results were telegraphed from inside the building, and a mini baseball diamond was regularly updated, mirroring the real time action. [LOC]


Spectators watch the Herald presses in action. {LOC}

From the Appleton publication The New Metropolis, 1899 (courtesy CUNY)


The square in front of the Herald Building would also be used for immediate announcement, often taken right from the telegraph. These men are reading a military recruitment advertisement. [LOC]


A closeup of the ornate clock, with the goddess Minerva, its two bell ringers Scruff and Guff, and the series of owls perched at various spots around the building. From March 1921 (Courtesy NYPL)

A painting by Herman Hyneman from 1899, depicting a Herald newsie and a customer in the snow. [NYPL]


Also from The New Metropolis, an owl's-eye view of Herald Square, from 1899.  The caption: "This is a vibrant reproduction of a color print by Canadian-born artist Charles William Jefferys (1869-1951) who once worked at the New York Herald. The Broadway Tabernacle Church, the 6th Avenue elevated train, the Herald Building and several theatres, including Koster and Bial's, are depicted. The streets are teaming with cable cars, horse drawn vehicles and pedestrians." Courtesy CUNY


And finally, an overhead view of the entire square. This is an image that was cleaned up and published by the great photo blog Shorpy. Click into the picture to see a rather magnificent view of the surroundings. Trust me, you may waste five minutes just looking at this one....

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