Amazing archival photos show New York City in the 1940s and ’50s

Posted On Wed, October 7, 2020 By

Posted On Wed, October 7, 2020 By In Features, GVSHP, History

“Bar Scene” Village Preservation (GVSHP) Image Archive

Nonprofit advocacy and educational organization Village Preservation is well known for many things, one of which is its historic image archive. Their newest addition is the Jean Polacheck Collection, which dates largely from the 1940s through the mid-1950s, and includes scenes of Washington Square Park, the interior of clubs and restaurants, and other NYC street scenes. Ahead, step back in time with a sneak peek of some of these wonderfully illustrative photos and learn about the woman behind them.

“Children playing ball just west of the fountain and arch in Washington Square Park” Village Preservation (GVSHP) Image Archive.

“Men in hats and overcoats on bench in Washington Square Park, north side, east of the fountain” Village Preservation (GVSHP) Image Archive.

As Village Preservation explains:

Jean Polacheck was born in 1920 in Detroit. Interested in photography, she started shooting photos on assignment for local publications. She married and moved to New York City, where she continued to do freelance work for magazines, as well as baby portraits and headshots for actors. In her spare time, she travelled the city, shooting whatever caught her eye. She also worked as a darkroom technician for LIFE magazine, printing photos of famous photographers such as Maragert Bourke-White and Robert Capa.

By the time her third child was born, Jean gave up professional work to raise her family, packing away her archive of prints and negatives. Rediscovered after her death, her photographs reveal a high level of artistic skill and a keen eye for her surroundings.

“‘Danger’ — looking northwest from the corner of 39th Street and Seventh Avenue, towards 550 Seventh Avenue ” Village Preservation (GVSHP) Image Archive.

“Policeman and crowd lined up on the south side of 39th Street, east of Fifth Avenue, opposite F.W. Woolworth’s (demolished)” Village Preservation (GVSHP) Image Archive.

“Manhattan Elevated Subway Station, with Metropolitan Life Headquarters (23rd Street and Madison Avenue) in the background” Village Preservation (GVSHP) Image Archive.

“Sidewalk Fruit Vendors, looking southeast from the corner of 39th Street and Ninth Avenues, with 514 Ninth Avenue visible back left” Village Preservation (GVSHP) Image Archive.

“Sidewalk vendor with combs, fruit, and key chains, Possibly 39th Street” Village Preservation (GVSHP) Image Archive.

View the full collection here. And find out about purchasing a print for yourself here.

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