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Guide to NYC Places to Go

Where to Find Remnants of Old New York

April 17, 2019

New York City is an exquisite paradox of constant innovation and deep-rooted history. This history, found in remnants everywhere from Downtown Manhattan to Coney Island, is what keeps our exciting city down-to-earth and charming. Even with constantly changing neighborhoods and businesses, all one has to do is look around to find this old New York charm, from some of the greatest historical landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge, the Chrysler Building, and the Statue of Liberty, to some of New York’s more hidden gems. Here are a few of our favorite places to experience old New York.

Photo by Leonard J. DeFrancisci via Wikimedia Commons

McSorley’s Old Ale House

15 East 7th Street (Between Second and Third Avenues), New York, NY 10003
Open: Monday – Saturday 11AM – 1AM; Sunday 1PM – 1AM

The sawdust-covered floors of McSorley’s Old Ale House are sure to send you back in time. The walls of this iconic East Village bar remain covered in the exact memorabilia that was hanging in 1910, the year the original owner died. One of the oldest operating taverns in the United States, McSorley’s offers only two kinds of beer on tap: light and dark. You might find more of a selection elsewhere, but you won’t find the feel of old New York that seeps from every inch of this establishment. Ask about the century-old chicken bones that hang above the bar, or the time that Abraham Lincoln celebrated a speech in the very same space you’re occupying. Ask about e.e. cummings or Woodie Guthrie or McSorley’s during Prohibition or the Supreme Court case. But don’t tie up the bartender for too long—keep to McSorley’s age-old golden rule and “Be Good or Be Gone.”

Photo via Marriott.com

The Algonquin Hotel

59 West 44th Street (Between Fifth and Sixth Avenues), New York, NY 10036

During the Jazz Age of the 1920s and ’30s, artists and writers created countless enduring portraits of New York City in their works, and a group of these creative minds met every day for lunch at the Algonquin Hotel in Times Square. For ten years, this group of rotating members came together to discuss life, love, politics, culture, and ideas. Known as the “Algonquin Round Table,” they included the likes of Dorothy Parker, Franklin Adams, and Robert Benchley. The Algonquin Hotel’s restaurant is now called “The Round Table.” It’s an ideal destination not only for fine dining, but also for helping to inspire your own creativity, just as it did for people like John Barrymore, Maxwell Anderson, and Harold Ross, the latter of whom created the New Yorker in this very spot.

Aerial photo of Macy's Department store in Herald Square in NYC | LivingIn
Photo by Ged Lawson via Unsplash

The Wooden Escalators at Macy’s Herald Square

151 West 34th Street (Between Broadway and 7th Avenue), New York, NY 10001
Open: Monday – Saturday 10AM – 10PM; Sunday 10PM – 9PM

Each day, thousands of Midtown shoppers frequent the floors of Macy’s Herald Square. What many may not know is that while traversing those lofty floors, a deep history lies literally right beneath their feet. Between 1920 and 1930, Macy’s was modernized, and the cutting-edge technology of escalators was installed. Some of these escalators, built from a single piece of ash wood, remain in operation today. Though nearing a century in full operation, they continue to pass all safety inspections. Macy’s escalators run so smoothly that most visitors have no idea they’re riding some of the first of their kind ever to be made.

Nathan's World Famous Hotdogs in Coney Island | LivingIn
Photo by Liam Macleod via Unsplash

Nathan’s Famous in Coney Island

1310 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11224
Open: Monday – Thursday 10AM – 11PM; Friday 10AM – 12AM; Saturday 9AM – 12AM; Sunday 9AM-11PM

When Nathan Handwerker opened a hot dog stand in 1916 on the corner of Surf and Stillwell in Coney Island, he likely wouldn’t have guessed that his wife’s Polish recipe would become a world-famous street food synonymous with New York City. His iconic restaurant still stands today, with the counter service and signage that remain faithful to its origins, and the ever-famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, going strong since 1972. Handwerker and his wife were Polish immigrants, making even the “all-American” hot dog a testament to the melting pot of cultures intrinsic to New York since its beginning.

If this list has you itching to discover more remnants of old New York, check out Art Deco Architecture: A Tour Through Midtown Manhattan. And for a fascinating peek at the origins of New York’s underground, take a look at NYC Subway History: The Early Years.

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