Over the past few weeks we've been digging into the New York Public Library's archives, which includes an expansive digital collection of NYC photographs. For our Dear NYC series, photographer Scott Heins has recreated some of these old photos through his 2020 lens. Upon completing the assignment, Heins reflected on the one constant here: "if anything defines New York City, it's change." But as we've learned, you'll often find pieces of the past fully in tact, even if's under some grime and scaffolding.
Previously, we shared the photos from Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Manhattan; now we're closing things out with The Bronx.
Castle Hill Ave, The Bronx
This is the corner of Castle Hill Avenue and 177th Street in the Bronx in the 1930s. At the time, the avenue was served by a streetcar (you can see some footage of Bronx trolleys of that era here). Near the workers, you'll notice a WPA sign spiked into the ground, referring to the Works Progress Administration created by FDR in 1935 as part of the New Deal.
As signaled even in this photo, the area became very developed, but there were also many vacant lots around, and after World War II, war veterans were provided temporary housing nearby here in Quonset hut structures. (You can see one such development in this photo.)
Can you spot any remnants of the past? A lot has changed, notably the Cross Bronx Expressway is now here. That was built between 1948 and 1963.
Loew's Paradise Theatre
The Loew's Paradise Theatre, located at 2413 Grand Concourse in the Bronx, had already seen better days when this photo was taken in 1995. The marquee notes here that it is closed — at this point it had been for around a year.
The theater originally opened in 1929, and according to Cinema Treasures was "the 23rd largest movie theatre ever to be built in the USA," taken over by Loew's after Paramount/Publix withdrew from the project. "The design was adapted to become one of the five Wonder Theatres, named after the Robert Morton 'Wonder Organ' which was installed in each of them."
There was also the Loew’s Valencia Theatre in Jamaica, Queens, the Loew’s Kings Theatre, Brooklyn, the Loew’s Jersey Theatre, Jersey City, and the Loew’s 175th Street Theatre in Washington Heights.
While some of the Loew's Wonder Theatres have been lovingly restored and reopened as venues, the Loew's Paradise has seen better days. The building still stands, because in 1997 both its facade and interior became a New York City Registered Landmark, but it hasn't been brought back to life like some of the others. It was renovated and reopened in October 2005 as a live theater (named Utopia’s Paradise Theater), but in November 2012 it was leased to a church. Currently, it's enshrouded in scaffolding.
As part of our month-long Dear NYC series, we're looking through the New York Public Library's vast offering of photographs which span the history of the city. You can find these images through the NYPL’s Digital Collections portal, which is open to all.