NEW YORK, 1947

Here’s another marvelous view of a now very vanished New York City, courtesy of the YouTube artist known as NASS. The city is seen in color (via colorization–it was originally shot in black and white) with an added soundbed of city noise, which somehow works wonder in terms of bringing a spooky authenticity to the footage. The locations of the first half of this nine minute reel are hard to pin down, save for a big fat shot of Fifth Avenue which still had two-way traffic. We see lots of views of people getting in and out of subways with Elevated Trains overhead. The amount of El’s then in existence is quite remarkable and must have caused the city to be much more loud and stinky than we know it to be now. The second half of the reel has the camera placed looking out a commuter train window as it travels southbound into the city, terminating in the Park Avenue tunnel that leads into Grand Central Station. As to when his was filmed, a YouTube commenter named ‘Spindalis79’ offers the following:

When the train footage starts, the year is 1947 based on the movie marquee for “Lady in the Lake.” The Ronald Coleman movie advertised was released in 1947 as well. Due to the leafless London Planetrees I saw, as well as the date of the movie’s release, I put the date of filming roughly around April 15, 1947. Also note the faded ads on the side of buildings. Given the year of the film, the “old timey” advertisements fading into obscurity are probably from the 1880s to early 1900s.

Well done, sir. Much of the pleasure of this footage that NASS works on has to do with the seemingly random nature of it. What was it filmed for? Why was it preserved? Sometimes it feels to me like background plates for movies set in New York. Sometimes it feels like somebody just doing a camera roll-off, perhaps to use up film at the end of a load. Whatever. It’s a wonderful way to take a trip back in time.


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