Friday, October 15, 2010

Downtown B&W

The good folks at Anthology Film Archives just turned us on to a silent black-and-white, 16mm chunk of footage of "New York City--Downtown." It has been identified as the work of Lowell Bodger.

We see an empty urban landscape with only a few people walking. Few cars pass. The streets are cobblestoned--even Broadway at Astor, a desolate row of Automat, parking garage, upholstering and stationery shops. (Those buildings are gone and it's now Game Stop, AT&T, The Body Shop, Benetton.) There's Grace Church in the background as we look uptown.


film still

Nothing is hustling.

Take a right on Astor. Following a white-finned car going east, past Cooper Union, you catch a ghostly glimpse of the neon sign for the St. Mark's Baths up ahead.



But first let's stop for a slow pan of Astor Place and its Luncheonette. The square is quiet, empty. People walk very, very slowly. There are no skateboarders. There is no Cube. It looks like a forgotten part of town.


film still

The luncheonette is in a building that will be torn down to become a parking lot, which will be filled in with Gwathmey's big, undulating Green Monster.


film still

I've been curious about that lost building since I first saw it in Rudy Burckhardt's 1947 photo "Coca-Cola Goddess." By the time this undated film footage was taken, the goddess was gone. I've wondered if it might have been a newspaper office--other photos I've seen have trucks parked outside what looks like a loading dock, with those braced iron overhangs, but I've never figured it out.


Rudy Burckhardt, 1947

If you recognize this building, please let us know. And enjoy the film on youtube and see more clips in the AFA Collections.

19 comments:

Peter said...

Beautiful stuff, Jeremiah. Thanks for finding and sharing.

Grand St. said...

Re: dating the footage -I'd guess early 60s.
Biggest hint, other than the 'look' (hair length, casual clothes) of some of the people in the film, is the glimpse of Wash. Sq. Village (completed in the late 50s) that you get at about 4 minutes. Car nuts (and I am not one) always do well at this sort of thing.

...and speaking of cars, 2-way traffic on Lafayette. Gah!

jimandkarla murray said...

Gorgeous. Thanks for this!

Jeremiah Moss said...

that two-way traffic on Lafayette is crazy! i think Broadway might be, too, but it's hard to tell.

Carol Gardens said...

Looks like early 60s to me a well. And I would guess that this was shot very early morning. It just has that feel.

Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

Carl Fisher Music used to be a sheet music store on about 7th Street and 4th Avenue right from the Cooper Union building. Carried lots of sheet music, Beethoven etc. Had very little popular music.

esquared said...

i was about to post this! anyway, nice to see the area free of , glass condos, woo-wooers, scary sadshaws today's nyu brats...

Peter said...

Just about every avenue in Manhattan was two-way until the early/mid-60's, I believe.

Kevin Walsh said...

Look how peaceful the Brooklyn Bridge was in 1960, without all the speeding bicyclists...

www.forgotten-ny.com

Gaziano said...

Beautiful post! Thanks for the dream.

Jason said...

stunning

Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

Now that have thought about it the memories do come back. In my teen years I used to go with a girl who always led me to Lafayette Street past the coffee shops where it was always quiet, dark and deserted of people. We'd do some heavy petting and making-out. Afterwards I had to buy her a cola or a lime-rickey in the lunchenette on Astor Place. Do not know if there was a building on that site but your photos sure brought some sad growing-up memories. Thanks.

Grand St. said...

On further inspection (this thing is worth watching twice), you can see traffic moving in both directions on Broadway, and according to Wikipedia, the GV potion of B'way was converted to one-way South in Nov. 1963.
We're looking at Kennedy era footage, no doubt.

Wish I could identify an intersection seen at about 7:30. Some small buildings are seen across the avenue, but I think they're all gone now.

brett steel said...

i have the burckhardt coca cola girl on a postcard i bought & kept from mercer street books a few years ago. i just checked it and all it says "astor place, 1948." would be interested to know as well!

Caleo said...

Truly amazing. The emptiness of the streets and the slow, almost aimless gait of everyone filmed is such a contrast to today. Even the park was empty. I mean it's a beautiful, sunny day, and it seems if less than 6 people are at the park. My God....bring it back, please bring it back.

Marco said...

The white Ford Thunderbird is a 1959. I only know that because of Google not because I am a car freak.

laura said...

the shoes are 1961-62. the pointed toe, the closeups of the boys in washington square. this was a trend. he could have still been wearing them & its 63-64 or 65. people looked good untill they stopped the dress code in 65. it took a while then after 68 it started going downhill. everyone looks great in that film!!!

Steve Reed said...

You mentioned newspaper offices -- the Village Voice's office is just a few doors away even today, as I'm sure you know. Maybe the Voice was housed in that building, or its loading docks were nearby?

Anonymous said...

The city seems haunted & very atmospheric.
The downtown skyscraper One Chase Manhattan Plaza can be seen in a few scenes; It was completed in 1961, so the film can't be from any earlier...