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Throwback Thursday: First Avenue Market Scenes

Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY).

Welcome back to another post in our Throwback Thursday series where we feature everyday scenes of yesteryear. I recently came across some neat market photos taken by Andrew Herman as part of the Federal Art Project. The ones featured today were all taken in the 1930s on First Avenue between today’s St. Mark’s Place (referred to in this post as 8th Street to reflect its name at the time) and 14th Street. All photos are courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York.

Because these photos were possibly taken on the same day, they provide us with a nice glimpse of what everyday East Village life was like on a cool day c. 1935. First up is a man grabbing some lunch at a hot dog stand on First Avenue and 8th Street, which looks like it cost him anywhere from three to five cents. Are men’s coat pockets still large enough to hold a big newspaper like that?

Courtesy of the MCNY.

Perhaps that man wandered up the avenue to 14th Street to buy some pickles in a jar from this lady. You can just catch a glimpse of other vendors behind her. I wonder if that woman holding the guitar was off to perform somewhere?

Courtesy of the MCNY.

He could have also grabbed a pretzel from this man on 14th Street just under the El train. This track is actually part of the Second Avenue El, which ran from 1875 to 1942; north-bound trains ran along First Avenue from Houston to 23rd Street. Just think, 72 years ago today the rail was in the process of being dismantled.

Courtesy of the MCNY.

Here’s another view of the El further down on 8th Street. It provides a nice backdrop to these two customers who are fishing for fabric.

Courtesy of the MCNY.

Herman also captured a photo of a child working as a bag peddler near those fabric shoppers on 8th Street.

Courtesy of the MCNY.

Shopping for bananas on 8th Street with a sign for Nathan’s Meat & Poultry Market in the rear and another glance at the El. I love the bit of Hebrew on the sign, which speaks to the neighborhood’s Jewish heritage.

Courtesy of the MCNY.

Does anyone know what this man is taking out of the bucket on the corner of 13th Street? I like that you can also see the busy market and the cop keeping an eye on things in the background. Also note the Belgian block street paving.

Courtesy of the MCNY.

A man selling something or other near 8th Street. Anyone have a guess what’s in that suitcase?

Courtesy of the MCNY.

A vendor outside B.B. Butchers near 8th Street.

Courtesy of the MCNY.
Courtesy of the MCNY.

Both photos above show just how crowded the sidewalks were with vendors selling various products, from food to hardware to cigars and everything in between. Herman took these from the El.

First Avenue Retail Market, 1938. Photo by Sol Libsohn for the Federal Art Project. Courtesy of the MCNY.

And that’s our little look back at outdoor market life in this corner of the East Village. Of course, you may be familiar with the First Avenue Retail Market spearheaded by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and opened in 1938 in this very section of the neighborhood. It’s possible that these photos were taken as part of a study of outdoor markets at a time when LaGuardia was pushing for more indoor markets. For more on this story, be sure to read our past then & now post on the First Avenue Retail Market.

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