by Kevin Walsh

Infrastructurally, there’s a lot going on in this picture of the Bowery at Pell Street looking south. This is just about at the starting point of the Bowery at Chatham Square, where East Broadway and St. James Place meet, and it’s the former junction of the 2nd and 3rd Avenue Els, which proceeded up Division Street (eventually 1st and 2nd Avenues) and the Bowery, respectively. The 3rd Ave El was removed in 1955, the 2nd in 1942.

In the foreground there’s a high pressure “fattie” fire hydrant. These were found with some frequency in Manhattan and selected areas in other boroughs, notably Coney Island. Most were removed by the 1990s, but the odd one still turns up on occasion. Behind it is a strung wire wastebasket. This type of NYC wastebasket also hung in there until the 1990s, when it was replaced by a green trash receptacle with a narrow opening, unsuccessfully meant to preclude overstuffing.

On the corner we see a pair of special Donald Deskey lamps, first introduced in 1958 but first appearing with frequency around 1962. In Chinatown the Deskeys came with special luminaires designed like Chinese lanterns. They disappeared in the 1980s, but were brought back a decade later.

The foreground Deskey holds a special rectangular yellow Manhattan street sign. Most contained one or two panels above and below the main sign that showed the cross street. Also mounted on the post is a lighted police call box indicator, which were fairly frequent until the city began installing 911 alarm buttons on fire alarms.

The “Fishy’s Bar” neon sign is mounted on the corner building at Bowery and Pell, which happens to be one of Manhattan’s oldest buildings, the Edward Mooney House, constructed in 1789, altered in 1807 and restored in 1971.

Behind the Deskey we can just barely glimpse a phone booth decked out like a Chinese pagoda, and beside that, a General Motors “New Look” fishbowl-window bus, first introduced in 1960 but still a minority in the NYC bus fleet in 1964.

The large ad for 1964 Republican presidential candidate, Arizona senator Barry Goldwater, is on a building at Bowery and Catherine Street that was torn down years ago and replaced by a glass-fronted building. Goldwater (1909-1998) served five terms in the Senate from 1953-1965 and again from 1969-1987. The ad uses a little pidgin which would be politically incorrect to employ today.

Finally, the tall building next to it, which still stands, has an ad with an ST area code. There were a number of ST exchanges in NYC but in Manhattan it stood for STuyvesant.


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