7 mystery photos of downtown New York in 1968


“For a couple of months in 1968, one New Yorker walked around the East and West Villages, aiming a camera loaded with black and white film at the people and buildings encountered on the street. This New Yorker captured scenes that would be familiar to city residents today. Above is Sixth Avenue looking south toward Jefferson Market, a year after it became a library branch (but before six years before the fortress-like Women’s House of Detention behind it was demolished). Here’s Gem Spa at Second Avenue (are those Belgian paving blocks on the street?) and St. Mark’s Place. Apparently in 1968 it was Gems Spa. I’m not sure what block this is, taken from a roof or terrace across the street; I think it’s LaGuardia Place, without the community gardens on the east side of the street, which didn’t come until the 1970s. Is that a volleyball net in Washington Square Park? It’s set up in the southern end of the park, with Judson Memorial Church and its iconic bell tower in the background. Back in the East Village again looking down St. Mark’s Place, with the St. Mark’s Theater marquee advertising a Bette Davis film (it was a second-run house at the time). The park benches at St. Mark’s Church on Second Avenue are still popular—but you don’t see men in hats and overcoats like this anymore. These folks are old-school East Villagers, and their younger neighbors are hanging out by the church fence near the Biafra sign. Below, a sidewalk artist displays his work, though it’s hard to know where we are. Soho barely existed at the time; perhaps it’s part of the Greenwich Village art show? Since most of the images here are easily identifiable, what’s the mystery? That would be who it was who decided to shoot some film of random ordinary street scenes and hang onto the photos for the next 50 or so years. I don’t have an answer…but I know the photographer stashed them in a drawer and basically forgot about them.”
Ephemeral New York

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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