The good folks at Anthology Film Archives just turned us on to a silent black-and-white, 16mm chunk of footage of "New York City--Downtown." It has been identified as the work of Lowell Bodger.
We see an empty urban landscape with only a few people walking. Few cars pass. The streets are cobblestoned--even Broadway at Astor, a desolate row of Automat, parking garage, upholstering and stationery shops. (Those buildings are gone and it's now Game Stop, AT&T, The Body Shop, Benetton.) There's Grace Church in the background as we look uptown.
Nothing is hustling.
Take a right on Astor. Following a white-finned car going east, past Cooper Union, you catch a ghostly glimpse of the neon sign for the St. Mark's Baths up ahead.
But first let's stop for a slow pan of Astor Place and its Luncheonette. The square is quiet, empty. People walk very, very slowly. There are no skateboarders. There is no Cube. It looks like a forgotten part of town.
The luncheonette is in a building that will be torn down to become a parking lot, which will be filled in with Gwathmey's big, undulating Green Monster.
I've been curious about that lost building since I first saw it in Rudy Burckhardt's 1947 photo "Coca-Cola Goddess." By the time this undated film footage was taken, the goddess was gone. I've wondered if it might have been a newspaper office--other photos I've seen have trucks parked outside what looks like a loading dock, with those braced iron overhangs, but I've never figured it out.
Rudy Burckhardt, 1947
If you recognize this building, please let us know. And enjoy the film on youtube and see more clips in the AFA Collections.