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Postcards from the Past #5: St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York City

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I thought one good way to celebrate is to take a look at one of New York City’s most beloved landmarks, St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York City (postcard)

I’m not sure of the date but I’d guess mid 20th century based on the little I can see of the cars. Here’s the back:

St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York City (postcard)

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is located on Fifth Avenue at 50th Street. It is the leading Catholic Church in New York City and one of the grandest Cathedrals in the World. Cornerstone 1858. Dedication 1879. Consecration 1910. Restoration 1947. Built of American marbles in modified French Gothic.

What City and State Has Lost the Most Sports Teams?

When we talk about “cursed” sports towns, it’s almost always in the context of things like postseason or championship droughts, heartbreaking losses, or just general futility. In other words, Cleveland. I kid, I kid.

But to my way of thinking there’s something even worse than falling just short of ultimate glory over and over again, and that’s losing a pro franchise entirely. Whether it’s the result of a greedy owner or a lack of fan interest, the death of a sports team is always at least a little sad.

And so I set out to document just with cities and states have lost the most professional teams from the four major leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL). I could expand it to other leagues as well, but I’m not sure that cities mourn the loss of indoor soccer teams quite like they do baseball or football franchises.

A few caveats are necessary. In the early history of pro leagues team movement was fairly common and it can be hard to differentiate between teams folding altogether or simply taking on new identities. Also, I have taken the liberty of lumping some geographic areas together that may get me into hot water with locals. So all the boroughs of New York City are counted as the same, as are other cities located in the same metropolitan area.

If I’ve made any noticeable blunders please let me know in the comments. Publication images courtesy my companion site,

Which State Has Lost the Most Pro Sports Teams?

This one was closer than I thought it would be but indeed, Ohio can rightly be considered the unluckiest state when it comes to pro franchises folding or moving. To date the Buckeye State has lost 20 teams from the four major leagues.

1976-77 Cleveland Barons Media GuideIt started with the Cincinnati Reds (or Red Stockings), one of the charter members of baseball’s National League, who were kicked out of the league in 1880 and subsequently dissolved. Since then two other baseball teams, the Cleveland Blues and Spiders (1884 and 1899 respectively) have vanished.

Ohio has also suffered the loss of two NBA franchises. The Cleveland Rebels were a charter BAA franchise in 1946-47 but went out of business after just one season. The Cincinnati Royals, themselves already relocated from Rochester in 1957, departed the Queen City for Kansas City/Omaha in 1972. The team now plays in Sacramento as the Kings.

But it’s the NFL where Ohio has lost the most, which makes sense given that the league was founded there and was heavily concentrated in the Midwest for its first few decades. A whopping total of 14 NFL franchises have either moved or gone belly up in Ohio, although to be fair most of that movement was done by the mid-1930s.

Of note, however, are some notable franchises that were lost. The Canton Bulldogs, one of the great teams from the NFL’s first decade, were kicked out after the 1926 season. In 1946 the Cleveland Rams moved west to Los Angeles. Of course I don’t think I need to get into what happened with the Cleveland Browns in 1996 — and if you think that doesn’t count because the city was awarded a new Browns franchise in 1999, ask local residents how they feel about that.

Coming in a surprisingly close second on this list is New York, which has seen 19 teams move or fold. Aside from the infamous moves of MLB’s New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers, the Empire State has lost three NBA teams, one NHL team, and nine NFL teams. New York City’s five boroughs alone account for 10 teams on this list.

Here’s the full Top 10:

1. Ohio (20 teams)
2. New York (19)
3. Missouri (14)
4. Indiana (9)
5(t). California, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin (8)
8. Illinois (7)
9(t). Maryland, Michigan (6)

Which City Has Lost the Most Pro Sports Teams?

New York Bulldogs vs. Philadelphia Eagles (September 22, 1949)I guess I gave this one away already, but New York City has lost 10 pro sports teams in its history. Some people may take issue with lumping all five boroughs together, but this is my site so my rules.

The exodus began in 1876 when the New York Mutuals, a founding National League club, were expelled from the league as punishment for refusing to make a late-season road trip. Things remained calm for several decades, but the wild and woolly early NFL days brought a host of teams in and out of New York City.

Between 1921 and 1951 a total of six APFA/NFL teams vanished — the New York Brickley Giants (1921), Brooklyn Lions (1926), New York Yankees (1928), Staten Island Stapletons (1932), Brooklyn Dodgers/Tigers (1944), and finally the New York Bulldogs/Yanks (1951).

(See programs for more defunct NFL teams.)

Just behind New York City in the loss column are St. Louis and Cleveland, who have each seen nine teams go away. St. Louis most recently saw the NFL’s Cardinals move to Arizona in 1988 and the NBA’s Hawks fly to Atlanta in 1968. More recently, all signs point to the St. Louis Rams returning to their longtime home in Los Angeles soon, at which point the city will tie New York for this infamous honor.

In addition to the Browns’ move to Baltimore, Cleveland lost an entire league when the NHL’s Barons merged with the Minnesota North Stars in 1978.

Here’s the full top 10:

1. New York City (10 teams)
2(t). Cleveland, St. Louis (9)
4(t). Baltimore, Detroit, Washington D.C. (6)
7(t). Kansas City, Milwaukee, Philadelphia (5)
10(t). Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Louisville, Minneapolis (4)

What Team Name Has Been the Unluckiest?

Just for fun, I decided to look at what nickname has been associated with the most defunct/relocated franchises. For this exercise, I only counted the name of a team when it went away, even if was known by another name for a longer period. This part is more art than science, unfortunately.

1926 Montreal Maroons NHL programWith that said, history indicates that the nicknames that most often portend doom are Maroons, Senators, and Tigers. There have been five teams each that had this name and then were no more.

The most recent Maroons team is probably the most well known, the Montreal Maroons of the NHL (1924-38), winners of two Stanley Cups. Three NFL teams bore the moniker and were from Kenosha, Wisconsin, Pottsville, Pennsylvania, and Toledo, Ohio.

All but one of the Senators teams were based out of Washington D.C., the exception being the original Ottawa Senators of the NHL. Three separate MLB franchises used the name, folding or moving in 1899, 1961, and 1972. Only hardcore NFL history junkies would know about the Senators that played just one season in the APFA/NFL (1921).

As for the Tigers, the last of them to go extinct was the NFL squad known for most of its existence (1930-44) as the Brooklyn Dodgers. Three other NFL teams were known as the Tigers and were from Chicago, Detroit, and Columbus. The latter of these was also known as the Panhandles.

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New York State Pavilion

The New York State Pavilion Gets Its Day in the Sun

I was not born until a decade after the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair ended, so I’ve only ever been able to experience it through home movies, photographs, and postcards. Having never attended a World’s Fair in the United States — the last of which was held in 1984 — it’s always been a little difficult to understand the spell that those events cast over millions of Americans in the 20th century.

New York State Pavilion World's Fair PostcardThe most visible remnants of that once-glittering spectacle in Queens are the Unisphere, which sits a stone’s throw from Citi Field, and the New York State Pavilion. The Pavilion, actually comprised of three distinct elements — the Tent of Tomorrow, a trio of concrete observation towers, and the Theaterama — has been abandoned since the 1970s, its metal portions rusting and its paint fading. (Theaterama has since found new life as the home of the Queens Theatre.)

Derided by many as the object of Baby Boomer nostalgia at best and a vulgar eyesore at worst, there would seem to be little reason why someone my age should even care whether it gets torn down or not.

And yet, when I read last month that the Pavilion was going to be opened to the public for just a few hours, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, I didn’t even hesitate to schedule a day off for my own personal pilgrimage.

(For a full set of photos, check out my New York State Pavilion Flickr album from the day.)

New York State Pavilion World's Fair

Approaching the Pavilion.

The announced opening time for the Pavilion was 11am, and the plan was to stand in line for a bit, get a ticket, then mosey into the Tent of Tomorrow and snap some photos. I had a ticket to a 3pm presentation at the Queens Theatre by World’s Fair expert Bill Cotter, and I wondered how I was going to kill the few hours I had left after visiting the Pavilion.

I had no idea how many people would show up for the day’s events. It was of major interest to me and it was a beautiful spring day, but it was also in the middle of the day on a Tuesday. I figured on a crowd of maybe 500 tops.

And then I saw the line.

Even arriving at the park 15 minutes before the opening, there were already more than 1,000 people in front of me. I know I wasn’t the only person to joke that the line snaked all the way into Brooklyn, but it sure seemed like it. Woe to those who showed up late.

Fortunately, owing to the special nature of our gathering and the nice weather, all around seemed to stay in good spirits.

Still, by the time I got within throwing distance of the observation towers I had already been on line for more than two hours. Fortunately, this rather leisurely pace afforded me ample opportunity to study the structures and lament their decay.

New York State Pavilion World's Fair, 2014

The partially repainted Pavilion, with the observation towers in the background.

As I rounded the Tent of Tomorrow toward the entrance gate I had the chance to appreciate the fruits of the very hard work put in by the New York State Pavilion Paint Project, a small volunteer group that has been refreshing the lower portion of the Tent of Tomorrow for several years.

Finally, as the clock closed in on 1:30, I received my ticket! But all this meant was that I had a spot in the queue. I was told that I could expect my number to be called by around 3pm.

It was at this point that I began to understand just how popular the re-opening really was, and how much the hard-working volunteers had underestimated the Pavilion’s enduring appeal (this is no criticism, however). I heard through the grapevine that in the end more than 2,500 people had shown up for a glimpse of the Pavilion, and the event organizers had no choice but to start turning some of them away.

So with another 90 minutes or so to kill, I decided to grab some lunch. But, probably owing again to the greater than expected turnout, the only places to grab food that I could spot were a Belgian waffle truck, a hot dog cart, and an ice cream truck. It wasn’t until a little while later that I found out about the snacks and drinks for sale inside the Queens Theatre. D’oh!

A few dirty water dogs later, I felt refreshed and ready to stroll down the path to see the iconic Unisphere. Even though the water fountain basin was dry and the surrounding trees and flowers weren’t all in full bloom, I couldn’t help but be impressed the site of the 12-story steel globe up close.

The Unisphere

The Unisphere

Finally, more than four hours after I arrived, my group’s ticket numbers were announced. So I strolled through the north gate, grabbed a hardhat, and soaked in the history of this once magnificent building.

Of course, to the casual observer the Pavilion probably looks less like a piece of cultural history and more like a rusted old hulk with no discernible reason to exist. Aside from the refurbished paint, little of note remains from the Fair days other than some preserved pieces of the 9,000-square-foot terrazzo Texaco floor map of New York State.

As for myself, however, all my mind could do was keep filling in the pieces of what once was — the brilliantly colored glass ceiling tiles covering the Tent of Tomorrow, the Sky Streak elevators in the observation towers, and the floor map in its full glory for starters. I began to feel a bit sad over what has been lost, but hopeful at the same time that so many people still cared about it.

New York State Pavilion World's Fair, 2014

After I was satisfied that I had taken enough pictures, I headed down to Bill Cotter’s presentation (albeit almost an hour late). It seems I missed roughly half of his talk, but what I did see was fascinating. The Pavilion has a great ambassador in Bill, among others.

When I emerged from the theater and prepared to journey home, the sky had clouded over and a light rain had begun to fall. I can’t help but feel there was some symbolism in that. The New York State Pavilion had its day in the sun, but the gray clouds returned once again cast a pall over it.

My hope, and I know that it’s the hope of thousands of other World’s Fair enthusiasts and history buffs, is that one day the Pavilion will be allowed to shine for good.

More photos…

Kiss (1974) band photo

Listening Booth — Kiss New York City Loft Rehearsal, 1973

Kiss (1974) band photo

Well, today’s the big day. After years of waiting, and a whole lot of politics and gossip in the meantime, Kiss is finally being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And so I felt it only appropriate to publish the first edition of the Listening Booth in more than a year. And this one should be a real treat for devoted members of the Kiss Army.

Today’s offering is a bootleg from the earliest days of the band, before they even had an album out. Hell, when this was recorded no one outside the immediate New York City area even knew who Kiss was.

This recording, my friends, was reportedly made by Gene Simmons while the band played for an audience of no one in their New York City rehearsal loft (located at 10 East 23rd Street). What you will hear on this is a band still gelling, still trying to find their sound and nail down their repertoire. It’s a short recording — just six total songs over 35 minutes — but one that any Kiss fan will want to hear.

The vocals on this are distant and somewhat muffled, but otherwise you can hear the raw power of the early Kiss sound in its (almost) full glory. After a brief soundcheck the band launches into two of their signature songs, “Strutter” and “Firehouse.” The arrangement on “Strutter” sounds more like what’s on the famous Bell Sound Studios demo than what was laid down on the Kiss LP. Likewise with “Firehouse,” which is not nearly as tight as it would become by 1974.

Up next is “Watchin’ You,” which is pretty much fully formed by the point but didn’t appear until the second Kiss album, 1974’s Hotter Than Hell. Things return to the first album then, as we get a run-through of “Let Me Know.” It’s one of my favorite Kiss songs but, sadly, it was dropped from the setlist after the Kiss tour.

Finally, a pair of songs for the faithful. First is the ultra-rare “Life in the Woods,” a bizarre tune that disappeared after the band’s club days. To my ears it sounds more like Wicked Lester material, or maybe Kiss’s best Doobie Brothers impression, but it’s still worth hearing. And hey, Peter Criss gets in some vocals so that’s a bonus.

Finally there’s “Acrobat,” a song a lot of fans heard for the first time in live form on the 2001 Kiss Box Set compilation. This song was cut down considerably when it was included on the first album, but you probably know it better as “Love Theme from Kiss.”

But enough preamble. Here’s the entire recording, uploaded to YouTube by yours truly. Enjoy it before the Google Police take it down and ban my account.

Vintage 1956 New York City Street Scene Photo

Let’s Examine This Vintage 1956 New York City Street Scene Photo

From the furthest reaches of the internet comes this outstanding photograph, taken in 1956 in midtown Manhattan, New York City — Times Square to be specific. Drink in the details (click for a larger version), and then let’s talk about what’s on here.

Vintage 1956 New York City Street Scene Photo

Gorgeous, isn’t it? Of course there are vintage cars and clothes aplenty, but let’s focus on some of the other details instead. Here’s what I can pick out from this picture, starting from the upper left:

  • Some kind of travel billboard, likely either for air or rail. This part is too blurry for me to tell anything else.
  • Giant ad for the Western movie Jubal, which according to IMDB was released on April 6, 1956. The ad plays up co-star Ernest Borgnine, who had just received the Academy Award for Best Actor a few weeks earlier for his starring role in Marty. The film was playing here at the historic Loews Mayfair.
  • Directly across W. 46th Street is the RKO Palace, now known as the Palace Theatre. For years the Palace was considered the premier venue for vaudeville in New York, and even at this late date you could still catch vaudeville shows there. I can’t make out the full name on the marquee, but it sure looks like it says Lloyd Bridges.
  • On the left of the theater building is a giant sign for Sylvania bulbs, and on the right is a sign for Buitoni spaghetti (lo-starch and lo-calorie!).
  • To the right of the RKO Palace is the Embassy Theater, showing both newsreels and more risque fare.
  • There’s a fantastic Planters Peanuts sign that probably looked spectacular at night. Above that is a beauty school — Banford? Branford maybe?
  • A large sign for the now-defunct Grand Union supermarket chain, and right under that a small sign for what I think is a Benhil clothing store.

If I’m off on any of this, feel free to correct me in the comments below.

Madison Square Garden

An Exploded View Drawing of Madison Square Garden, 1967

According to this Deadspin article, New York City has basically given the owners of Madison Square Garden ten years to find a new place to play. The arena, which is the fourth to bear that name, opened on February 11, 1968 on the site formerly occupied by the above-ground portion of Penn Station. Apparently New York wants to undo that architectural crime, and so here we are.

Not to get all nostalgic or anything, but I thought it worth taking a quick look back at MSG IV’s early days. Here’s a neat exploded view drawing of the Garden from the November 1967 issue of Popular Mechanics. It shows the main areas of the building by function.

Madison Square Garden exploded view drawing

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Vancouver World's Fair 1986

Vintage 20th Century World’s Fair Postcards (1958 – 1992)

Back for more, eh? As the follow-up to my set of World’s Fair postcards covering the first half of the 20th century, here is the second half. This set picks up with Expo 58 in Brussels, which marked the first World’s Fair held after World War II.

Expo 58 (Brussels, Belgium)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Expo 58 (Brussels)

Brussels World Exhibition map

Century 21 Exposition (Seattle, 1962)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Seattle (1962)

(via Drive-In Mike)

1964 New York’s World Fair

Vintage World's Fair postcard - New York (1964/65)

(via The Pie Shops)

Expo 67 (Montreal)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Montreal (1967)

The Kaleidoscope Pavilion

(via The Pie Shops)

HemisFair ’68 (San Antonio, Texas)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - San Antonio (1968)

(via zawleski)

Expo ’70 (Osaka, Japan)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Expo '70 (Osaka, Japan)

British Pavilion: “Suspended from four giant steel masts 34 meters tall, this pavilion will appear as if it is floating in the air. Inside the pavilion will introduce Britain’s history and industries.”

(via Duncan Brown)

Expo ’74 (Spokane, Washington)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Spokane (1974)

Washington State Pavilion

(via The Pie Shops)

Expo ’75 (Okinawa, Japan)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Expo '75 (Okinawa, Japan)

Mitsubishi Pavilion

(via World’s Fair Photos)

1982 World’s Fair (Knoxville, Tennessee)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Knoxville (1982)

1984 Louisiana World Exposition (New Orleans)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - 1984 Louisiana World Exposition

Expo ’85 (Tsukuba, Japan)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Expo '85 (Tsukuba, Japan)

Gas Pavilion

(via World’s Fair Photos)

Expo 86 (Vancouver, British Columbia)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Expo 86 (Vancouver)

World Expo 88 (Brisbane, Australia)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - World Expo 88 (Brisbane, Australia)

Seville Expo ’92

Vintage World's Fair postcard - World Expo '92 (Seville, Spain)

International Exhibition Genoa ’92

Vintage World's Fair postcard - International Exhibition Genoa '92 Colombo '92

Kodachrome Photos of New York City Storefronts, 1949-1952

Four Beautiful Kodachrome Photos of New York City Storefronts

In browsing through the Kodachrome prints on one of my favorite auction sites recently, I came upon these four gorgeous shots taken in New York City between 1949 and 1952. They feature four different storefronts and some of the sweetest Art Deco signage you will see this week. Click on any photo for the full-size version, and enjoy!

Kodachrome Photos of New York City Storefronts, 1949-1952

Miller’s Pharmacy

Kodachrome Photos of New York City Storefronts, 1949-1952

Bank & Restaurant

Kodachrome Photos of New York City Storefronts, 1949-1952

Dilbert Bros., Inc.

Kodachrome Photos of New York City Storefronts, 1949-1952


Just look at those signs. Something about Art Deco makes even an otherwise drab storefront look slightly glamorous, doesn’t it? The Golds and pharmacy stores must have looked fantastic on a dark New York City evening.