One of the crown jewels of Manhattan, the grand dame of New York City, is turning 100. We are talking, of course, about Grand Central Terminal. A century ago, on February 2, 1913 – after a decade of construction – the building that would revolutionize commuter train travel opened its doors.

There isn’t anything to say that hasn’t been said before about the building’s grandiose and tumultuous history. So, we offer something else to commemorate one of the most amazing buildings in the city: a 360 look at Grand Central. Part of a larger project photographing iconic landmarks in glorious 360 degrees, we teamed up with Shots 360 and photographer Thomas Erh, the man behind the lens of interactive 360ยบ panoramic photography, to document some of our favorite Old New York places.



A guest post from California: Photographer Rob Hammer

We're super excited to have California-based photographer Rob Hammer guest post on I Love Old New York. Rob has been photographing barber shops and shares some of this thoughts and photos below. Enjoy! 

Angel's Barbershop in Seliman, AZ

Like most things in America with true character, the barbershop is quickly becoming a thing of the past. There is nothing in the world like a real old school barbershop. You know almost before entering the door that you've found one.Each one is so unique, but they all offer that same comforting feeling. The walls of each shop offer you a small insight into what has happened there through the years and the wear of the chair tells how many have come before you. The barbershop is a place where men got to be men. You don't have to worry about manors or hurting anyone's feelings. In the same visit you can complain about your wife/girlfriend and get a tip on that nights ball game. Your barber knows without question how to cut your hair and whatever he has to say is more interesting then anything you could tell him .
Angel's Barbershop in Seliman, AZ

The two shops featured below are a perfect examples of this. Angel's in Seliman, AZ and Lolo's Barbershop on Catalina Island, CA. These guys have been around for ages. All they know or care to know is barbering. Their shops are living testaments to their glorious careers and the friends that have been made throughout the years. As another barber once said to me: "If these walls could talk."

by Rob Hammer 
Angel's Barbershop in Seliman, AZ 
Angel's Barbershop in Seliman, AZ

Lolo's Barbershop on Catalina Island, CA 

Lolo's Barbershop on Catalina Island, CA
Lolo's Barbershop on Catalina Island, CA

Lolo's Barbershop on Catalina Island, CA


Optimo Cigars M. Butterman Co. | East Harlem

In a not so distant past,  Harlem was filled with mom and pop shops,  since the chain stores stayed well below 96th street. At that time,  M. Futterman,  Inc thrived as a distributor of candy and cigarettes supplying the many local grocers and bodegas.

The business was started in the early 1900 by Bruce Futterman’s grandfather and grandmother. It operated across the street for many years,  moving to the current location at 1759 Madison Ave in the late 40s/early 50s where it has been there ever since – now in its third generation of wholesalers of candy and tobacco products.

When Mr. Futterman first started in the family business in the mid 80s,  a pack of smokes cost around $1.60. “The city killed the cigarette business” he says. We asked Mr. Futterman if he was a smoker. He said,  emphatically: “No,  I can’t afford it.”

According to Mr. Futterman,  the neighborhood changed tremendously once former President Clinton’s office opened on 125th st. “There is a lot of money put into the area,  fancy restaurants.”

The many layers of advertisements and signs throughout the shop are a virtual time capsule of its many years of operation.

Despite the restaurants and the waves of gentrification,  Mr. Futterman continues to hold on to his century-old business. And while smoking faces many restrictions,  sugar and candies are still fair game.  


Carroll Street Bridge

The Carroll Street Bridge is one of the oldest bridges in New York City and the oldest remaining “retractile” bridge in the country. Built between 1888 and 1889 to provide crossing over the Gowanus canal, the bridge rolls back horizontally on a system of wheels on rails to allow boats to go through. As best as we can tell, the Carroll Street Bridget is one of only four retractable bridges left: one in Queens (Borden Avenue, over Dutch Kills) and two in Boston that are no longer operational.  The bridge was landmarked in 1989 and remains in use to this day.

The bridge provides crossing between Carroll Gardens and Gowanus. Cars can only travel in the Carroll Gardens - Gowanus direction, but bikes and pedestrians (which seem to be the bulk of traffic anyway) can travel in both directions. 

The bridge deck is set up on a system of wheels and tracks, which slide inland to provide boats with clear passage through the canal.

Lots more after the jump


Tenement Museum

One of our all time favorite places to experience Old New York is the Tenement Museum, where you can tour several restored tenement apartments and hear a bit about the families that lived there. Visitation is only permitted when accompanied by a tour guide and photos are strictly prohibited. Earlier this year, we gained access via a special Photo Call event, and here are some of the highlights.

The apartment of a dress-making family. 

More photos after the jump.


Block Drug Store | East Village

Before the era of pre-packaged medicine and inventive new illnesses (restless leg syndrome anyone?), doctors would prescribe compounds that a pharmacist would mix, in a sense custom making the medicines for each patient. In most cases, these days are long gone, however there are still a few places that do Compounding (in essence, mixing compounds to pre-determined specifications). 
Block Drugs, located at the corner of 6th Street and 2nd Avenue in the East Village, opened its doors back in 1885. Almost 80 years later, in 1962, Carmine Palermo Sr purchased half of the business. In 1974 his son, Carmine Palermo Jr began working there, too, becoming a partner 8 years later. 32 years after purchasing the business, Palermo Sr semi retired and his son took over the pharmacy.

Sadly we did not get permission to photograph inside the store. Perhaps thinking of Hollywood movie shoots, Mr. Palermo told us that permission to photograph would “cost a lot of money.”


Central Filing at BBDO NY

Recently I Love Old NY had the chance to take an exclusive tour of the legendary bar at BBDO, the ad agency. Guided by creative director Danilo Boer, we visited Central Filling, which has been in operation since “the old days” – it even served as inspiration for Mad Men. We had the pleasure of meeting Joe, the man behind the bar for the past 20 years. Joe, with his mustache, red vest and black bowtie looks exactly the part of the classic bartender – so much so that throughout the offices of the agency we caught glimpses of sketches and projects that were perhaps inspired by his persona. 

When the agency relocated from Madison Avenue to their current offices on 6th Ave, the original bar was taken apart, moved and reassembled at its new home. Comprised of old filing cabinets that don’t open and drawers with labels that spike the curiosity of the patrons, Central Filling is a membership club for all agency employees ranging from mail room staff to the executive team. It is also a popular place - when we visited at 7 pm on a Wednesday, the bar was full and the offices were empty. 
The Central Filling serves mostly products that represent the agency’s clientele, such as Pepsi, Guinness and Red Stripe. Beverages are paid for with tickets ranging in price form $1.25 to $2.50, prices that certainly contribute to the allure of yesteryear of the place. 

To the left corner of the bar, is a small plaque that reads “Reserved for Alphonse Normandia,” BBDO’s legendary art director and also one of its longest-serving employees, hired in 1944. 


Quality Fabric | Brooklyn

In a not too distant past, the garment industry in New York was thriving. These days, while some fabric stores still remain in midtown, some of the smaller outlets in the boroughs are disappearing. 

We were happy to find Quality Fabrics in Brooklyn, which we guess looks more or less like it always has: tin ceilings and bolts and bolts of fabrics. 
 And at $4 a yard, even the prices seem like a thing of the past. 


O. Ottomanelli & Sons | West Village

Onofrio Ottomanelli ,  who opened the Greenwich Village butcher shop "O. Ottomanelli & Sons" that grew into a New York institution died in 2000. His soul,  however,  remains very much alive at the butcher shop located at 285 Bleeker St. His photograph leaning on top of the fridge,  wobbling back and forth with the ceiling fan,  seems to still keep an eye on the work of his sons. When I visited the shop I had the rare opportunity to chat and photograph Frank and Gerry,  two of Mr. Ottomanelli’s four sons that still work the family business. 

According to The New York times "Mr. Ottomanelli was born in Upper Manhattan in 1917 but moved back with his family to their hometown of Bari, Italy, before he was 3. There, on his grandparents' farm, he learned the butchering trade from his grandmother. In 1937, he returned to New York and was drafted into the Army during World War II. A few years later, he opened O. Ottomanelli & Sons on Bleecker Street." Mr. Ottomanelli encouraged his sons,   Gerry,   Nick,   Frank,   Peter,   Michael and Joseph,   to work in the store,   teaching them to butcher by practicing trimming bones.  Mr. Ottomanelli's sons Michael and Nick have left Bleecker Street to work elsewhere in the meat industry.” 

Mr. Ottomanelli always used to say: "Every time you cut a piece of meat,   it's money,'' Frank said. ''So we learned on the cheap stuff.'' 
Gerry Ottomanelli


Mark the Painter

Mark  is a super talented and fascinating guy who does some amazing work around the city. If you live in New York, there is a good chance you've seen some of his artwork and signs.

Here is a small clip of Mark (more to come).


Corona Plaza | Queens

After our visit to the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona (Queens),  we wandered around the neighborhood,  starting on 107th street where the museum is located. We headed towards 106th where Armstrong favorite barber,   Joe’s Artistic Barber Shop used to be. The shop is long gone,  but the sign is still there – something that can be seen throughout the neighborhood where old signs are vestiges of stores that are no more. 

Corona was first settled by Robert Coe in 1655. In the late 1800s,  Louis Comfort Tiffany manufactured his famous Tiffany glass there. The name Corona came from the emblem of the Crown Building Company,  which developed the area (up until the 1850s  it was mostly farmland). The Italian immigrants who moved there referred to it by the Italian word for Crown (Corona).,  , Over the years the neighborhood has been home to many different ethnicities: from primarily Italian and African American in the 1950s,  to Dominican and largely Latin Americans in the 1990s.  

Armstrong favorite barber -  Joe’s Artistic Barber Shop


House of Oldies | West Village

I was really surprised when I "discovered" the House of Oldies. It felt like stepping into a huge record museum crammed into a very tiny space. Very. Tiny. 

Bob Abramson has owned the store since 1968, and counts more than 1,000,000 records – rock, blues and soul – in his inventory. As the name suggests, House of Oldies specializes in out of print records from the 50s, 60s and 70s. 


City Island - The Bronx

I've been curious about City Island for a long time. Before venturing out last summer, I really didn't have any idea of what to expect.
It is hard to believe this photo was taken on a New York City street. City Island is actually within NYC city limits, believe it or not. 
Love the fish statue with the googly eyes. It's at the entrance of the now defunct Neptune Restaurant. 
The island is only a few blocks wide, and every cross street is a dead end. 


Something Special | South Village

What can you expect from the best mailbox, other that Something Special? 

Leonard Cecere is 87, a Notary Public and also the proprietor of Something Special. He is one of those people who may seem distant at first, but once the ice is broken the floodgates to his stories and personal anecdotes open wide. 

Mr. Cecere says that when he opened the store there was not much commerce in the area. Nowadays he has the luxury to stay in business because he owns the building. Many other stores in the neighborhood are not so lucky, several having closed due to exorbitant rent increases. 

The shop has a bit of that small town general store feel, with plants in the windows and decidedly retro green gingham and daisy wallpaper. 


TWA terminal at JFK | OHNY

Yesterday I trekked out to JFK to tour the old TWA terminal.  I figured it would be a fun and low key thing to do on a Sunday afternoon. After all, how many people could possibly want to schlep all the way to the airpot without the benefit of going on a trip or picking up a loved one? Besides, this was a late addition to this year's Open House New York. Probably no one noticed, right?

I thought surely I would have the building more or less to myself. And the promised Q&A with the architects leading the restoration? I would have all the time in the world to ask questions. 

Well, not quite... It was a paparazzi-like mob scene, the with the building as the main attraction. The turn out was huge and the hosts were extremely gracious and patient, answering all of our many questions.