Seen & Heard: The destruction of Lower Manhattan

The photographer Danny Lyon, who took hundreds of amazing images recording the people and buildings of Lower Manhattan in the late ’60s, had a show in Madrid this past winter and you can take a virtual tour of the gallery in the video above. His shots from the area around Washington and Murray are always a thrill, since that address no longer exists thanks to the “urban renewal” project of 1969. (The image on the homepage is not his but one taken from the 1940s tax record documents from the Municipal Archives.)

As a companion piece to Lyon’s shots, S. sent along this image of a box from the department store Peter McClees, which stood at 300 Washington at Reade. Not sure what the 82 means? I just happened to have a picture of the building in the files, also in this post — Historical Tribeca: A Scrapbook. (My plan is to someday soon map out a historic tour of the now-disappeared Washington Street.)

And while we are looking back, JW sent this shot of the odd lot store on Murray Street. That’s Smokey, who liked to watch the pigeons out front. “We used to say no one would buy the socks because they were full of cat hair.”



  1. Great story, Pam.

    Danny Lyon was no one-shot wonder, as this NYT profile from last fall attests: “Even From the Desert, Danny Lyon Still Speaks to the Streets. The indefatigable photographer on the struggles of getting his new film to the next generation of activists.” His new film, “SNCC,” is inspired by his 1960s work organizing with and photographing young civil rights workers in the Deep South and centers on his six-decade friendship with the late John Lewis. Quite a life, and still in progress!

  2. More of the story and pics in this 2018 New York article, “Lyon has said that, at the time, he was surprised by how little the newspapers had to say about this massive transformation. The appeal he makes in “Destruction” is simple: all he wants is for us to notice what will soon be gone.”

  3. Great book, recently republished, and erhaps out of print again…

  4. Weep for what we’ve lost – entire neighborhoods that stood for a century or more. Then weep for what we’re continuing to destroy today. When do we stop vandalizing our own home?

  5. Orson Welles’ 1938 unfinished silent film, “Too Much Johnson” was mostly shot around Washington Market. Of course nothing remains. It stars Joseph Cotten and Arlene Frances, old Mercury Theater actors. The story is silly but those buildings and rooftops… Here’s the full film on YouTube.