37 Vintage Photos Capture Street Scenes of New York City in the Early 20th Century

By | March 27, 2017

From 1890 to 1930, big cities, skyscrapers and tourist attractions were the focus of national attention. Suburbs existed, but they were usually just bedroom communities rented by people commuting to the central city.

By 1920, New York City was already the country's center of communications, trade, finance and pop culture. More than 75 out of the 300 of America's largest corporations were heaquartered in the city.

Below are 37 interesting vintage photographs giving us a glimpse back when New York just entered the 20th Century:

Three children playing in garbage can, ca. 1918

Candy shop, ca. 1918

The people in front of J. Lacov Woolens, ca. 1900

Fruit pushcarts

Grand Street. A police officer and a huge crowd, ca. 1910

Broad Street. Push-carts selling "Hot Frankfurters at the price of 3 cents and 2 for 5 cents," ca. 1905

Maiden Lane, ca. 1905

Cleaning the street, ca. 1910s

Three children with carriage

A boy sitting on stoop

A boy leaning against a window

Boys and storefront windows

A child in hat and coat

Orchard Street. Looking North, ca. 1909

Two children by the grate

Boy with a box near empty pushcarts

A boy in hat

A girl by the storefront window

A boy by the bread shop

Elizabeth Street. Looking North. The crosstown street is Prince (see the sign on the corner building at the right). Notice the street car track on Prince. Street cars crossed town West along Prince and returned East along Spring. Buses currently travel the same route.

Carriage, cat, car on the street

Cars on the street, ca. 1918

Mulberry Street. Looking north from Canal. One of the few in the photo no longer in existence is the building housing the Villa Rosa Cafe (first on left) and currently a part of the Rectory of the Church of the Most Precious Blood’s site. The cornerstone of the Church bears the date 1901 (113 Baxter Street, with its property running through to Mulberry), but the Mulberry Street rectory has just recently been built.

Mulberry Street. Looking north between Canal and Hester. A Vitale's Florist Shop, F. Vitale, proprietor, the building was modernized in recent years. Notice the number on the store window at right (126 Mulberry Street).

High angle view of street

East Houston. Looking east. The street on the right, Orchard, is where the street lamp can be seen, 1939.

Orchard Street. Looking North from Delancey

Elizabeth Street. Looking north. Stamped Weissner Studio at the corner of Elizabeth and Prince Streets. In celebration of a feast day, the lights were strung overhead along Elizabeth. This is probably that of St. Anthony of Padua as celebrated on the week of June 13th, ca. 1937.

Orchard Street. Looking north between Stanton and Rivington. Notice the light-colored building on the left with the decorative balconies, 159-161 Orchard.

Orchard Street and East Houston, 1939

Surf Avenue in front of Sea Breeze

A pushcart in front of the meat market

A man and a girl in front of a shop

A little girl on the sidewalk near an elevated subway

Pushcart Boulevard Lower East Side, 1932

Classic old law tenements, 1907

An open door next to storefronts