A little "then and now" on West 18th Street. Here is 461-463 West 18th Street, photographed by Berenice Abbott in 1938 (via NYPL).
And here is the same address today. The bar and restaurant is still a restaurant, now the back end of La Lunchonette. The junk shop has been replaced with a luxury condo.
The crummy little house is now a townhouse that rents for $6,400 a month. "Harry Potter should live here!" crows the listing--but the "super needy need not apply." It appears, in photos, to be combined with the loft space next door.
It's hard to say that the people are different, but we know they are. In each photo, there is a couple, a man and a woman. Imagine that they live in the little house, then and now.
In 1938, the wife follows her husband to the street. He's going out to work on the docks and he forgot his lunch pail. She will spend the day in the crummy house, with the wooden boards nailed across the first-floor window, and the grimy curtains, and the babies crying, and the filthy floor waiting to be scoured. She thinks about the things she needs: an ice box, decent shoes she doesn't have to stuff with cardboard, a roof that doesn't leak every time it rains. But it could be worse. At least there's a roof.
In 2012, the husband and wife walk out together, heading to the lot where they keep their cars. They both work. They don't bring their lunch. The house sits quiet and empty during the day, its floors gleaming, its upholsteries quietly off-gassing volatile organic chemicals. The man and woman pride themselves on not being "super needy," just like the real-estate listing requested--even though, as the wife takes her husband's arm, she thinks for a nanosecond, "I am a bottomless well of needs." But the awful thought vanishes quickly, the High Line rises reassuringly up ahead, and she settles her mind on something simpler to worry about.