Monday, March 22, 2010

Chatham Square: 1905

From the great shorpy blog
Some of the informed comments that accompany the picture
1905 was the first year for racing at Belmont Park.
Chatham Square in the Bowery was the heart NYC's popular theater and public amusements in the late 1800s. It got rougher and raunchier, and for most of 20th century was home to derelicts, drunkards, served by many bars and flophouses and famous missions, to feed and save the men that haunted its shadows.
Proctor's 58th Street was a vaudeville house, one of several Proctor Theaters, later part of the Keith's Circuit, then RKO.
I get a kick out of the lion heads gracing the smokestack.
Notice that the horses are running clockwise in the illustration, the way they still run in Europe. Belmont ran clockwise until 1921, when they changed course to counterclockwise, which is the direction all horse racing in the United States is run. The Belmont Stakes was already 38 years old when the new Belmont Park opened to great fanfare in 1905, and is the oldest of the Triple Crown races, inaugurated in 1867, 8 years before the Kentucky Derby. Over a hundred years later a day at Belmont is still a great way to while away the afternoon under the beautiful trees.
Check out Google Maps street view for Chatham Square. You will be astounded at how many of the buildings are still there. Interesting to note is that even in this picture, many of the buildings look old. I wonder how old some of these "high rises" were in 1905. I have to believe they were already 30 years old, minimum, at the time of this photograph. Also, for you non-New Yorkers, this area is at the edge of Chinatown today. No sign of it in 1905

No comments: