42nd Street

Forty-Second Street in Manhattan


The 42nd Street is a major cross-town street in Manhattan. It was designated by the Commissioners' Plan of 1811 and constructed about 1825. Many famous buildings in New York City were erected along 42nd Street, including the headquarters of the United Nations, Chrysler Building, Grand Central Terminal, New York Public Library and the Times Tower. Fifth Avenue divides the 42nd into West 42nd St. and East 42nd St.

The Exhibition of the Industries of All Nations opened on July 14, 1853. The fair was seen by over 1.1 million visitors before closing on November 14, 1854. The Crystal Palace and the Latting Observatory tower were erected for the Exhibition on 42nd Street, between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue. In 1870, the Hospital for the Relief of the Ruptured and Crippled, at the corner of Lexington Avenue, was opened. In 1871, the Grand Central Depot was completed on the northwest corner of Fourth Avenue. The Holy Trinity Church opened in 1873, on the corner of Madison Avenue.

Many theaters opened along the street after the 1870s. The eight-story Hotel Bristol, on the corner Fifth Avenue, was completed about 1877, then one of the largest hotels in NYC.

In 1899, the old Croton Reservoir, built in 1839, was demolished to be replaced by the New York Public Library. In 1904, the Times Building was completed and the Long Acre Square was renamed Times Square, north of 42nd Street.

In the early 20th century, the 42nd Street was the busiest cross-town street in Manhattan, especially after Grand Central Terminal opened in 1913. By the late 1920s, subway lines, elevated lines, and bus routes all stopped at West 42nd Street. It thus became a hub of the City.

Several historic hotels were erected along 42nd Street, including the old Hotel Wellington on the corner of Madison Ave., Grand Union Hotel, Belmont, Bristol, Devonshire, Pabst Hotel, Commodore (Grand Hyatt New York) Hotel Manhattan, Knickerbocker Hotel and others.

Skyscrapers were constructed, including Chrysler Building, completed in 1930, on the corner of Lexington Avenue. It was the tallest building in the world for a short time, before the construction of the Empire State Building. In the 1970, the area was in decline. Revitalization began in the 1980s.


42nd Street


Antique photos of NYC




Copyright © Geographic Guide - Old images of NYC.


Forty Second Street


The 42nd Street, looking west from Fifth Avenue. Aeolian Hall and Sterns Department Store are on the right. The the Times Tower is in the distance. The New York Public Library is to the left. Photo taken about 1914, published in this vintage postcard by American Art Publishing Company.


Manhattan photographs


20th century NY


Below, intersection of East 42nd St., Park Ave. and Pershing Square, with the Grand Central Terminal in a recent photo. The Grand Hyatt New York (former Hotel Commodore) is to the right. The MetLife Building (former Pan Am Building) is in the background (credit: Julienne Schaer / NYC & Company).


19th century

42nd from Fifth to Lexington Avenues.


Pershing Square, September 1942, and the Information Center of the City of New York. Pershing Square is an area in Forty-second Street, under the Park Avenue viaduct, opposite Grand Central Station, named after General John J. Pershing, in 1919. In 2018, it was closed to traffic and transformed into a pedestrian plaza. Photo by Marjory Collins, from the Library of Congress.


Old Buildings 42nd street

Hotel Wellington is on the northwest corner (right) of Madison Avenue. Hotel Bristol in the distance.


Hotel Manhattan

Northwest corner of Madison Ave. and 42nd St., between 1901 and 1907.


NYC 19th century

42nd Street from the Hudson River to  East River waterfronts - 1879.


42nd Street Station


42nd Street NY


Forty-Second Street


42nd Street


Grand Central Terminal


Grand Union Hotel


NYC 42nd Street


Forty Second Street

Bryant Park, on the left, and Times Building.


Forty Second St


New York Public Library


St. Cloud Hotel


Lincoln Building


Forty-Second Street looking east from 6th Avenue, with Chrysler Building in distance. The New York Public Library and Bryant Park are on the right. Vintage postcard by Manhattan Post Card Publishing Co.


42nd Street

East 42nd Street from 5th Avenue, prior to 1913.


Crystal Palace


Manhattan 19th century

Lower Manhattan, looking south from 42nd Street, showing the Croton Reservoir and the Crystal Palace, built for the Exhibition of the Industries of All Nations, 1853/1854.


NYPL New York


Times Square NY


Theaters NY


Pabst Hotel


Grand Central Station

Photo between 1900 and 1904.


Hotel Bristol


United Nations Buildings


Knickerbocker Hotel


East 42nd Street


Belmont Hotel


Pershing Square




Forty-Second Street in Manhattan



Antique photographs