Driving Through Manhattan in the Spring of ’62


Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan side.


Let’s take a tour of New York City.  But this is a different kind of tour.  We will not only move from place to place, but back in time as well.  Through the magic of vintage photography, we will drive through Manhattan in the Spring of 1962.  What will we see?

Approaching City Hall Park from the Brooklyn Bridge.


Exact location uncertain. Possibly Mott Street in Chinatown.


Times Square.


The beautiful color photographs above are here to set the stage for the main subject of this post, namely the black and white pictures that follow.   They come from a very unlikely source, a research report prepared by the General Outdoor Advertising Company.   It shows a typical billboard advertising campaign and its various sign locations throughout Manhattan.  In this case, the client is the Chevrolet Motor Division of General Motors, and the product is the new Chevy II station wagon.  Someone from GOA was assigned to photograph all the Chevy II billboards, and highlight them in yellow.  That sounds like an interesting job to have:  “Here, take this camera, drive around the city and take pictures of our billboards!”

The resulting collection is a unique time capsule showing what cars were typically on the road at that time, along with NYC architecture, signs, storefronts, and other details.  These are not the kind of photos you’re going to find in a typical book about New York City.   Very few people went around with a camera, photographing various intersections and everyday traffic.  And even if someone did, who would publish such photos?

One thing I noticed was that so many makes of cars were being used as taxis:  Fords, Chevrolets, Dodges, Checkers . . . and even Studebakers!  Some of these shots were taken “through the windshield”, so you’ll notice some glass reflections and a lack of sharpness on some of these.  But that’s price of true authenticity.   So let’s experience what a driver would actually see as he drove through Manhattan in May of 1962.   Luckily I have the address locations so if some of you explorers want to look these places up on Google street views (or go there in person), you can see what has changed and what hasn’t changed:


207th Street west of Sherman Avenue.


155th Street approaching St. Nicholas Avenue.


2nd Avenue approaching 110th Street.


St. Nicholas Avenue and 125th Street.


West End Avenue and 61st Street.


St. Nicholas Avenue south of 173rd Street.


116th Street west of Park Avenue.


Broadway and 158th Street.


Columbus Avenue and 107th Street.


A little side note here–I happen to own the two cars seen at left: a 1958 Ford Custom 300 4-door (two tone), and a 1959 Chevrolet Biscayne sedan (solid color).  I also once owned a cream-colored Comet, like the one barely visible behind the Chevy.


10th Avenue and 56th Street.


10th Avenue and 47th Street.



10th Avenue looking north from 37th Street.


14th and Hudson Streets.


Greenwich and Canal Streets.


Lenox Avenue south of 115th Street.

This is the stretch of Lenox Avenue that Fred Astaire sang about in 1930, “Puttin’ on the Ritz”.


Overhead view. Location not specified.


Park Avenue and 31st Street.


Express Highway and North Moore Street.


110th Street west of 7th Avenue.


11th Avenue south of 46th Street.


8th Avenue south of 133rd Street.


Zooming in closer.


6th Avenue and 25th Street.


2nd Avenue and 74th Street.


This concludes your tour of New York City.  Thank you, and come again!