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The East Side Elevateds: Life Under the Tracks

EPISODE 331 During the Gilded Age, New York City had one form of rapid transit — the elevated railroad.

The city’s population had massively grown by the 1870s thanks to large waves of immigration from Ireland and Germany. Yet its transportation options — mostly horse-drawn streetcars — were slow and cumbersome.

As a result, people rarely lived far from where they worked. And in the case of most working class New Yorkers, that meant staying in overcrowded neighborhoods like the Lower East Side.

In the 1870s, New York hoped to alleviate the population pressure by constructing four elevated railroad lines — along 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 9th Avenues — in the hopes that people would begin inhabiting Upper Manhattan and the newly acquired portion of Westchester County known as the Annexed District (today’s South Bronx).

In this show, we focus on the two eastern-most lines and their effects on the city’s growth. Take a ride with us — through Lower Manhattan, the Lower East Side, Midtown Manhattan, Yorkville, East Harlem and Mott Haven!

FEATURING an interview with elevated expert and tour guide Michael Morgenthal.

This episode is brought to you by the Historic Districts Council. Funding for this episode is provided by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and Council Member Benjamin Kallos.

Listen to our podcast on the history of New York City’s East Side Elevateds here:

The Third Avenue elevated, 1910 — Image courtesy Shorpy. (Click here for a Hi-Res version with great detail)
The Third Avenue El at 18th Street, September 1942. Courtesy Marjory Collins, United States Office of War Information.
Signaller on the track of the Third Avenue elevated railway near 14th Street in the early morning, September 1942. Photographer Marjory Collins, courtesy United States Office of War Information.
Elevated railway station at Fourteenth Street and Third Avenue, September 1942. Photographer Marjory Collins, courtesy United States Office of War Information.
Second Avenue elevated railway at 14th Street in the midst of demolition, September 1942. Photographer Marjory Collins, courtesy United States Office of War Information.
94th Street. Station of the Third Avenue elevated railway at 8 a.m. September 1942. Photographer Marjory Collins, courtesy United States Office of War Information.


After listening to this episode, check out these past Bowery Boys episodes on subjects featured in the latest show.

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5 replies on “The East Side Elevateds: Life Under the Tracks”

I love learning about the East 84th St. Station, and Yorkville. Plus, the Old Post Road became Third Ave., so I has been a well used traffic route. There is so much tearing down and rebuilding in this area that it’s often easy to forget this is the way of NYC and Manhattan especially, since Europeans landed here.

This was a really interesting show. It is hard to imagine elevated lines running thru Manhattan, but this episode vividly brought the concept to life.

We lived at 1486 3rd ave. The 84th St. station was just a little above all windows all night long with shadows in noise when the train pulled into the station my grandmother’s family came from Germany my great grandmother and all eight of her daughters lived in Yorkville I was born in 1940 in the 50s and 60s growing up in Yorkville was a fantastic time in my life but when the hell came down the building started to come down also and all the high-rises went up when roof it’s breaking down a lot of my friends still live there But except for Schaller and Weber not much remains. When they toured the L down my grandmothers building on third Avenue Macil came down and she moved to a real vote flat on 90th St. right off 30 Avenue rate during the dismantling of Rupert’s brewery the rats were the size of cats, Her building still stands but it’s been made into condos are railroad flat is now two apartments and the maintenance is about $600 a month my cousin still owns a bar on 92nd St. W. 2nd Ave. one of the oldest yet in Yorkville the name is Reif’s and the building in the bar Are 75 years old. I went to school at st Ignatius. My memories of yorkville are irreplaceable. Thank you for this wonderful site.

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