Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Riverside and Riviera Theaters

A theatre located at 96th and Broadway was ideally situated with a rail link two blocks west. A vaudeville show often traveled as a package, and by train. Up until recently, theatrical scenery flats were built to fit into railroad boxcars. Prior to the great depression and the WPA, 96th street ended at the Hudson River. There was no Westside highway. Access to the river and the New York Central freight line was as simple as crossing a street. The tracks under Riverside Park, built along what was the natural edge of Manhattan (the rest of the park and highway is landfill) have been there since the early railroad days of a pre-civil war New York. There had even been a passenger station at 96th street for many years before and after the civil war. The Westside Improvement created the rest of Riverside park, the highway and covered over the tracks, thanks in large part to Robert Moses and his persuasiveness with the WPA.

This is 96th street prior to the Westside Improvement.  The top picture is looking south, the building in the background is 230 Riverside Drive at 95th street and the kids crossing the tracks are really old now.  The third rail in the foreground is the same used today on the Metro North railroad (the LIRR and the NYC subway system use a different type).
The bottom picture is looking north. The train in the background is being pulled by an electric locomotive. Curiously, there is a passenger car at the back end. Passenger service on that part of the Hudson Line had ended decades earlier.

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