This week, Scouting NY is taking a frame-by-frame, then-and-now look at The Naked City. Shot on location in 1948, The Naked City provides an incredible, documentary-style look at the streets of New York. Let’s see how the city has changed over 65 years later. Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2!
We conclude our Naked City tour of 1940s New York by heading uptown…
Upper West Side
Location: 71st Street & Broadway
Our first stop on the Upper West Side begins with this great shot of the intersection at 72nd Street and Broadway. For once, everything in the frame seems to still exist!
Swinging around to the south, we get a fantastic look at the buildings that used to line Amsterdam south of 70th Street. All are gone save the one on the far right:
Finally, a tight shot of the building at 70th Street and Broadway, today razed and replaced by a modern apartment building:
Location: 52 W 83rd Street btw. Central Park West & Columbus
Heading further north, we come to the scene of the crime at 52 West 83rd Street (the address has since been renumbered).
A side view gives us a peek at Central Park in the distance:
Location: Columbus Circle
We come now to Columbus Circle, which amazingly used to afford a view of the Empire State Building. Also, I had absolutely no idea the highrise residential building on the left was so old:
Location: 58th Street @ Ninth Avenue
Just around the corner, we watch as an ambulance leaves from Roosevelt Hospital’s “Accident Ward” on 58th Street. The original Roosevelt Hospital building was later torn down to make way for the highrise apartment that now occupies the property:
As the ambulance speeds off, we catch a glimpse of 58th Street and Ninth Ave, the south side of which is more or less intact:
Upper East Side
Location: 732 Fifth Avenue @ 57th Street
Heading over to the east side, we find a detective questioning a jeweler. This was shot on location at what was then Temple’s Jewels. Today, it’s Bvlgari (no pictures allowed):
The detective exits the jewelry store…
And proceeds down Fifth Avenue.
Location: 745 Fifth Avenue @ 58th Street.
A block north, we get a shot of a detective exiting the bus at 745 Fifth Avenue. Note that the bus is heading north – at this time, Fifth Avenue was a two-way street. A lot of new glass on that corner building…
Location: 478 Park Ave @ 58th Street
As a character pulls up to an apartment building, I love the view we get of a much shorter Park Avenue, a pretty startling contrast to how it looks today. If you look closely, you’ll see that one or two buildings are still the same. Note the Waldorf in the distance.
Location: 773 Madison Ave @ 66th Street
As the detectives continue their investigation, we follow one as he crosses 66th Street on Madison…
…and enters Larimore Chemists, a corner drug store established in 1889. Hey, there’s a city trash barrel in the exact same place after all these years later!
Alas, the drug store is long gone, since replaced by a jewelry store:
Location: 807 Lexington Ave btw. 62nd/63rd Sts.
Another detective checks out Albert’s Beauty Salon at 807 Lexington. That curling device on the left is terrifying. Today, this is Korean Express.
Location: Third Avenue and 59th Street
A chase scene breaks out in front of the now defunct Coronet 1 & 2 movie theater, which was originally located where Urban Outfitters is today. Love the store at 999 Third Avenue with the neon sign for trusses and belts. Finally, note the steel beams along the sidewalk – they’re supporting the Third Avenue elevated train tracks running directly overhead:
The characters run past the theater and swing around onto 59th Street, then takes the stairs up to the el station above:
Yes, this was a time when train stations were heated by cast-iron stoves:
As the character watches the train head north, we get a view of Third Avenue looking south, with the Chrysler Building towering above the skyline. Today, you can’t even see it:
Our view swings around to the north, and the changes are even more incredible. Note the handful of walk-ups on the left still clinging to life:
Location: 103rd Street @ Lexington Ave
Our final street shot takes us up north to 103rd Street, where we see morning commuters scrambling for the train entrance. Note that Lexington was originally cobblestone:
Though I’ve attempted to cover all of the identifiable locations in The Naked City, there are still countless more that either have no identifying features, or simply no longer exist. This includes shots of the old Roxy theater lobby…
A bank in the early morning hours…
A sewing factory after closing:
As NY Times critic Bosley Crowther wrote in his review of the film, “The late Mark Hellinger’s personal romance with the City of New York was one of the most ecstatic love affairs of the modern day.” If you’ve never seen The Naked City, I highly urge you to revisit it for a glorious tour of a Manhattan that no longer exists.
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