Sunday, June 9, 2019

Then and Now: 10th Avenue at 20th Street, NYC

10th Avenue and 20th Street in Manhattan

10th Avenue at 20th Street, NYC,
10th Avenue and 20th Street, New York City, in 1977 (John Margolies).
The above picture of a Shell station was taken in 1977. There aren't a lot of gasoline stations left in Manhattan, so it piqued my interest. After tracking down the exact location, I decided to do a comparison of the southwest corner of 10th Avenue at 20th Street in New York City from 1977 to September 2017.

10th Avenue at 20th Street, NYC,
The Southwest corner of 10th Avenue at 20th Street in 2017 (Google Street View).
Obviously, the gas station is long gone. It has been replaced by a generic parking lot. So many people just have cars in Manhattan to commute in from across the rivers that there probably isn't much need for gas stations anyway (and Manhattan gas stations always have been prohibitively expensive anyway). Probably the most notable structure visible is the High Line railroad, which was still in use in 1977. The High Line's use was reduced to only two trains a week in 1978 and ceased altogether in 1980, but in 1977 it was still in regular operation. Today, the High Line has been converted into a park, which has helped to revitalize the surrounding neighborhood of Chelsea.

10th Avenue at 20th Street, NYC,
The entrance to the High Line park on 20th Street near 10th Avenue in Manhattan.
One of the interesting aspects of the 1977 photo to me is the Cadillac sitting by the service station. The days of those behemoths were numbered in 1977, especially after the 1979 oil crisis. Otherwise, though, the photo looks pretty fresh. For some reason, that style of a service station with the white exterior and orange lettering always reminded me of a burger joint for some reason, but overall, it wouldn't look out of place in 2019. Tenth Avenue was a great area in those days full of classic designs, including the Empire Diner just up 10th Avenue at 22nd Street (which is still there, of course). The Guardian Angel school was right in between the service station and the diner at 21st Street, so it was a pretty happening area.

10th Avenue at 20th Street, NYC,
The Empire Diner just up the street at 10th Avenue and 22nd Street (Google Street View).
Park of the service station's land, the part where you can see the Ford truck in the background in the 1977 photo, was later used to build a condo building (505 West 19th Street, which actually straddles the High Line on 19th Street).

10th Avenue at 19th Street, NYC,
A Google Street View capture of the corner of 19th Street and 10th Avenue, one block south of the original 1977 location, shows that the two buildings in the background of the original photo are still there.
However, the other two buildings in the background of the original 1977 photograph are still there, though a bit obscured from the same location now.

10th Avenue at 20th Street, NYC,
This building now occupies part of the original lot of the service station, the part in the background where the Ford truck was sitting.
If I' m not mistaken, the orange car parked next to the service station is an early-'70s BMW 2002 in factory-painted Inka Orange. While 1977 was the last production year for the BMW 2002, that doesn't look to me like a late model version of the car - but a '70s BMW needing servicing was nothing unusual. Those were the days when cars were still permitted to be colors other than dull silver, white, black, dull green, and dull red. If you see any bright orange sedans on the road these days, you're probably looking at a classic car.

Anyway, I hope you have enjoyed this entry in my "the more things change, the more they stay the same" series. Please visit some of the other entries in this series, which looks at the evolution of neighborhoods over the decades.


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