P. T. Barnum’s spectacular American Museum, destroyed by fire a decade earlier, is gone in this photograph; in its place stands a statuesque Second Empire structure (left). Across the street stands the massive granite Astor House, which obscures a view of the steeple of St. Paul’s Chapel. Here the architecture tells the story where the technology cannot: because of the long exposure time required of early photographs, moving elements completely disappear from the scene. This 1870s photograph therefore recalls the earlier serene watercolor depictions of empty city streets, leaving chromolithographs, woodcuts, and stereoviews to remind contemporary viewers of the spectacle of Broadway and Ann at mid-century.

Map of Broadway and Anne Over Time

Astor House, Broadway, Barclay to Vesey Street, 1875. Albumen print. Museum of the City of New York, X2010.11.599.