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Snow Days in Village Preservation’s Historic Image Archive

Some winters in New York City see almost no appreciable snowfall (prior to late January 2024, for example, there had been over 700 days without), and other years we have more than we can handle. In a snow-filled year, it may feel like the entire city has transformed into something of a real-life snow globe.

Washington Square Park in the snow on the evening of January 19th, 2024. Photograph by Dena Tasse-Winter.

Whether it’s a snow-drought or snow-glut year, our Historic Image Archive chronicles all sorts of events that have occurred in Greenwich Village, the East Village, NoHo, and beyond, and it’s fun to peruse and find old photographs that identify certain places at specific points in time. Let’s take a look at some historic snow images and their settings:

Left: Washington Square Arch in a snowstorm, ca. 1950s, photograph courtesy NY Bound Bookshop. Right: Horse-drawn snow plow in Washington Square Park, photograph by Ruth E. Cushman. Both images are from Village Preservation’s Historic Image Archive.

One of Greenwich Village’s most recognizable views is that of the Washington Square Arch, and our Historic Image Archive contains many images of the park in the snow. These photographs from the 1950s (above left) and 1930s (above right) show the park buried far beyond what we’ve experienced in recent years.

Did you notice the parked car on the left side of the above image? This helps to date the photograph, as the park was only permanently closed to traffic in 1959. You can read more about the complex history of automobiles and Washington Square Park here.

442-450 Sixth Avenue in Winter, with snow, 1998. Photograph by Carole Teller, from Village Preservation’s Historic Image Archive.

A few blocks north of Washington Square Park are these row houses, located at the corner of 6th Avenue and West 10th Street. The four houses were built on lots owned by William Beach Lawrence, and then sold to John H. Martine in 1834. According to the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s Greenwich Village Historic District Designation Report, the two buildings closest to the corner (Nos. 442 and 444) were built for Martine just after he purchased the land in 1834-35, while the two buildings on the northern lots were erected in the 1840s for Dr. Austin Sherman, who owned considerable property in the neighborhood.

Further north still is No. 452 Sixth Avenue, a six-story loft building designed by Ralph Towsend in 1891 in the late Romanesque Revival style. The painted sign on its secondary facade, advertising a real estate developer in the 1940s-50s, is still present today as a “ghost sign.” Rather than the 10-digit phone numbers we use today, or even the 7-digit version (sans area code), this sign has an old telephone exchange name – ALgonquin – that referred to a central office through which the call would be connected via a switchboard. This system was replaced with all-number calling by the 1960s.

Looking northeast from 4th Street across construction site on Broadway in 1978 Blizzard. Photograph by Riccardo Spina, from Village Preservation’s Historic Image Archive.

Here in the city that never sleeps, schedules must be met no matter the weather. Presumably, construction work did take a pause while this lot was partially submerged by snow in the winter of 1978, as seen in the above image. Construction must have resumed pretty quickly, though, as this is the site of 699-705 Broadway, the Hebrew Union College building, which was fully constructed by 1979. The concrete block and red brick Modern style building is now part of the NoHo Historic District. The building that was previously situated on this lot was the home of the music venue Gerde’s Folk City, where Bob Dylan landed his first professional gig.

Speaking of the folksinger and iconic Village snowstorm images, the cover of Dylan’s album “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” which was photographed on Jones Street, features Bob Dylan and Suze Rotolo walking arm-in-arm on a snow-covered street.

Looking northwest along 8th Street towards 6th Avenue from MacDougal Street after 1978 Blizzard. Photograph by Riccardo Spina, from Village Preservation’s Historic Image Archive.
Looking down Jones Street to Bleecker Street in 1978 Blizzard. Photograph by Riccardo Spina, from Village Preservation’s Historic Image Archive.

The above images were selected from the Riccardo Spina Collection, which features a number of shots from around the neighborhood during the Blizzard of 1978, which dropped a total of 17.7 inches of snowfall upon New York City, the sixth-largest since records began in 1869. Click here to see more from the collection.

West 11th Street and Waverly Place following the blizzard of 1888 with snow piled high. Photograph courtesy NY Bound Bookshop, from Village Preservation’s Historic Image Archive.

An earlier consequential storm, the Great Blizzard of 1888, was one of the most impactful New York City had ever experienced. Over the course of three days, from March 11-14, the city received 22 inches of snow, while parts of Upstate New York were pummelled with double that amount. Some areas along the east coast were buried under 60 inches of snow.

There’s so much more to discover in our Historic Image Archive. Try using the search function to seek out “snow” or “blizzard” images, or any other key words of interest to you.

One response to “Snow Days in Village Preservation’s Historic Image Archive

  1. I lived on West 8th Street from 1971 to 1982 and though I now live on the Upper West Side, I love and miss the place.

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