What 7 iconic New York sites looked like in the 1930s -- and what they look like today

NYC 1930s vs NowBernice Abbott circa 1930/Courtney VerrillThe Salmagundi Club, located at 47 Fifth Avenue, in the 1930s vs. present day.

The 1930s were difficult years for New York City, as the Great Depression took a toll on the city and its residents.

But still, compare the city’s scenery from that period, and it may seem similar to the present day — the streets were always congested, subway lines were running, and people filled the iconic buildings that we still see today.

We dove into the New York Public Library’s archives to find vintage photos of some of New York’s most iconic sites, then compared them to how those same places look today. It’s a good reminder of how much things change — and yet, how they stay the same.

In 1935, Washington Square Park added a one-way circular road to help ease up busy road traffic. With this change, the streets surrounding the park were widened, requiring pedestrians to cross a large stream of cars just to access the park.

Washington Square Park in 1935.

Source: nycgovparks.org

Today the park has a large area for pedestrians to walk around without running into any road traffic. The park serves as a gathering place for local residents, chess players, students, and tourists from around the globe.

Courtney Verrill
Washington Square Park in 2016.

The Empire State Building was built in 1931. At the time of its completion, it was 102 stories and 1,250 feet high and was the world's tallest skyscraper.

The Empire State Building in 1931.

Today, it's no longer the tallest building in the world. But, to add a little spark to the skyline, the Empire State Building lights up with colour to recognise different occasions.

John Moore/Getty Images

Herald Square was a hub for the newspaper industry, shopping, and subway lines in the 1930s. The elevated Sixth Avenue line, which you can see in this image, was built in the 1870s but demolished in 1939, just four years after this photo was taken. It was replaced by the underground subway.

Herald Square in 1935.

Today, Herald Square is still popular for shopping, dining, and many events.

Courtney Verrill
Herald Square in 2016.

Street clocks -- like this one at Fifth Avenue and 44th Street -- are scattered throughout New York. The street clocks were typically owned by the business that they were located in front of. If the business was relocated, the clocks would move with them.

Fifth Avenue and 44th St. street clock in 1935.

This gold street clock -- located in front of the Fifth Avenue Hotel at Madison Square Park -- still stands today, though the intersection seems just a little more busy.

Courtney Verrill
Gold street clock in front of the Fifth Avenue Building at Madison Square Park in 2016.

In the 1930s, Madison Square Park was a place for people to walk around and enjoy views of the buildings surrounding it.

Madison Square Park in 1935.

Today, the park has popular restaurants, including a Shake Shack, and even a playground for children. It also has exhibits from artists like New York artist Bill Beirne, contemporary San Francisco artist Jim Campbell, sculptor Mark di Suvero, and many more.

Courtney Verrill
Madison Square Park in 2016.

The Salmagundi Club, pictured here, has been one of the oldest art organisations in the US since it was founded in 1871. It's located at 47 Fifth Avenue, near the corner of Fifth Avenue and East 12th Street.

The Salmagundi Club in 1935.

Today, the club offers art classes, exhibitions, painting demonstrations, and art auctions. They own a collection of 1,500 works of art from over its 140-year history, and boasts a membership of nearly 850 artists and patrons.

Courtney Verrill
The Salmagundi Club in 2016.

When Penn Station first opened in 1910, it was widely praised for its beautiful architecture done by the firm McKim, Mead & White. In the 1930s, the beautiful interiors were still standing.

Penn Station interior in 1935.

Since then, the interior has completely changed. In 1962, demolition plans were revealed to build Madison Square Garden on top of it, and drastic remodels occurred. Today, it is still a huge commuter spot full of subway lines and a commuter rail -- only, much less glamorous. Plans are currently underway to expand and renovate the station to get back some of its old beauty.

Courtney Verrill
Penn Station interior in 2016.

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