This photo from the NY Public Library’s digital archives, depicts the northwest corner of Bryant Park on a warm summer day in 1926. The beginnings of the Times Square skyline poke above each other in the background, with the prominent Times Building, for which the square was named, standing dead-center.
Men, almost all in straw hats, populate most of the benches in the park. A lone woman, at right, reads a magazine.
Men crowd a bench as they read their newspapers. A salesboy makes his way along a path, no doubt trying to hock his goods. To the right is 42nd Street with the stairs of the elevated train station in the distance.
The 6th Avenue Elevated Train snaked its way uptown above the street, while the 42nd Street Trolley scuttled along below it. In the foreground, with globe lamps above it, is an entrance to the newly-opened IRT-Flushing Line Bryant Park Station (now the 7 Train).
The Elevated Train would be replaced by the IND 6th Avenue Subway and this station was demolished in 1939. The trolley pictured here ran until 1949, when it was replaced by buses.
The IRT-Flushing Line originally opened in 1915 and slowly pushed west from Grand Central Terminal to reach Times Square by 1928. The Bryant Park Station, pictured here, opened in 1927.
Construction of the Flushing Line to Bryant Park greatly disrupted the peaceful nature of the park, pictured here from above in 1924. You can see the massive pit dug for the train along the north side of the park next to the Public Library, with the construction crew’s staging area consuming more than half of the park’s green space.
A New York Times headlines on April 6, 1949 announces the final removal of the 42nd Street Trolley’s tracks. Buses now fight through traffic along the route, though multiple proposals recently have suggested reviving a trolley system across the island at 42nd Street.
With the opening of the IND 6th Avenue Subway close at hand, the 6th Avenue Elevated Train was dismantled, exposing the avenue to sunlight for the first time since it opened in 1913, and marking the beginning of the end of New York’s elevated era. The 2nd, 3rd, and 9th Avenue Els would meet similar fates in coming years, though they were not fortunate enough to at least be replaced by subways.
Two New York pasttimes of yore are on display on the building across 6th Avenue from Bryant Park: unabashed smoking and public baths. To the immediate right of the ads stands the Times Building, headquarters of the New York Times on eponymous Times Square.
The 1913 Times Building received a decidedly unflattering renovation in 1963-64, which stripped it of all its formerly-refined ornamentation. Over the following decades, it was slowly consumed by advertisements. Today, it is referred to as “One Times Square” and is mostly unoccupied, all of its income being reaped from the massive billboards clinging to its facade.