I came across this photo in the NYPL Digital Gallery, showing the northwest corner of West 169th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in 1915. A grocer stands at the corner, and a confectionery is shown partially out of frame.
A girl with a baby carriage seems to talk to a man near the store’s entrance. Inside, what appear to be employees gaze out at the photographer. No doubt he was a novelty in 1915 Washington Heights. Ads in the windows announce various tomatoes for between 5 and 10 cents a can, 6lb bags of potatoes “giving great satisfaction” for 10 cents, smoked shoulders for 13 cents/lb, and flour for $5.95 a barrel.
In the corner of the window stands a carpenter’s sign, explaining the wooden boards in the store’s windows in the previous image: they’re remodeling!
The corner today could use a remodel. A restaurant’s faded awning hangs over the northern 2/3 of the shop, and a driving school occupies the rest. The confectionery next door fared worse: an abandoned-looking church occupies its ground floor. The display windows it once boasted have long ago been plastered over, and the entire building above it appears to be boarded up and condemned. A legacy of decades of hard times in Washington Heights. (Screen Grab from Google Maps)
Though many architectural details survive, including the ornate detailing above the windows, the once-elegant fire escape has been replaced by a far more utilitarian version in the century since the original photo was snapped.
The stores and people in the 1915 photo are all long gone, but its ghostly presence can still be imagined thanks to the surviving building and a little creative editing. (1915 photo from NYPL Digital Gallery, 2011 photo from Google Maps, editing done by Keith Taillon)