Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Look Back at 'Mighty Manhattan'

After I shared archival footage of Santa Cruz, it's only fitting that I do the same for my current hometown: Manhattan.

The Roosevelt Islander blog, a great source for local content, posted this clip earlier in the week. The video depicts a time when the Statue of Liberty was a mere 65 years old (barely eligible for retirement, which no doubt she would eagerly accept since she's French).

There's also a brief view of what is now Roosevelt Island, then Welfare Island.

Photo courtesy of the Roosevelt Islander blog.

But that's just one of the many delights of viewing this clip.

As a relative newcomer to New York, I was surprised to see an elevated subway in Manhattan. The Third Avenue El, which appears to be going strong in the video, was phased out in the early 1950s.

The lack of traffic is striking — especially when you consider that the population of Manhattan was still significantly larger in 1949 than it is today (the total New York population was smaller, though).

Seeing pedestrians cross Fifth Avenue and other thoroughfares with no crosswalks or streetlights is quite something.

Photo courtesy of YouTube.

Another revelation: The Central Park Zoo was free! But the sea lions were still a main attraction. (As I said when we first moved from California, I was surprised that something regarded as borderline vermin on the West Coast is held in such high esteem here.)

The video spends a fair bit of time on the novelty of the Central Park horse carriages. Even then, they were regarded as an anachronism.

Now that they may soon be banned altogether, it was interesting to get a statistic on how many of them existed in 1949.
Although the sight of a horse on the busy streets of Manhattan become rarer from year to year, there are still about 20,000 of them serving mankind in New York City.
In 2015, the number may finally drop to zero.