On a warm summer day, well over 30 years ago, I was out boating with my cousin, Guy. As we were passing East Harlem, heading North up the East River, I saw the vacant Washburn Wire Factory. It was located between East 117th and 118th Street, at the end of the 500 block, off Pleasant Avenue, by the East River Drive.
My family lived right up the block from that once active factory- back in the 1950’s and ‘60’s. At the time of this actual photo, I had a feeling that Washburn had outlived its welcome, and that it would be just a “matter of time” before it would be (ultimately) demolished & replaced. So…with that thought in mind, as we were drawing closer to the vacant factory, I quickly reached for my film camera and took this photo!
Behold a moment in time- captured on a hazy & humid summer day- on the often tumultuous East River! Thankfully, the river was very calm when this photo was taken!
My aspiration to one day wear a glorious white wedding dress, started way back in the late 1960’s-early 1970’s. In 1966, my family moved out of East Harlem, and settled up in the Bronx. When I was a little girl, living in City Island, we lived close by to a catering hall, known then as The Lido. On the weekends, the limousines would roll up in front of the Lido, and, along with them, came the beautiful brides! I was so in awe of these beautiful, “princess-like” women! They looked as if they were floating on air! I thought to myself, how wonderful it must be to actually be a bride! Well, I guess that’s normal for little girls, right? I mean, looking forward to one’s wedding day, and the opportunity to look like a true princess, is something that most girls dream about…whether in secret or not! Ha! 🙂
Ok, fast forward to this past month! I was thinking about how nice it would be to commemorate the beautiful brides that once lived in East Harlem, during a time when it was primarily an Italian community. I thought I would dedicate a page to this theme, but for now, I will post on my main page for all my readers to see. I noticed that when I post on one of the dozen other pages that I have on this website, my subscribers do not receive an email notification about the new post. But, when I post on my main page- which is this one- all of my subscribers receive news about the post! So, after I post the photo gallery of gorgeous East Harlem brides, I will create a special page, in which I can update it whenever someone shares bridal photos with me. Having said that, if you have a scanned, high-definition vintage wedding photo, or photos, of either yourself, or relatives that once lived in East Harlem-when they got married, do send them to me! Please don’t send me a “photo of a photo,” as the definition will be compromised, and it won’t do the photo justice. Oh… and although I didn’t get married when I lived in the old neighborhood, I thought I’d add my wedding photo in the mix! Enjoy! My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Without further ado, here come the brides!!! 🙂
Photos courtesy of Michael G. (I took the liberty to edit them a bit, just to give them some more definition.) The photographer that took these wonderful photos was Michael’s great uncle, Antonio Scelza, of 424 East 117th Street, in East Harlem. Thank you so much for sharing these amazing photos, Michael! Enjoy them!
My paternal grandfather, Antimo, aka Tony Puca, is seen on the right, wearing the dark pants and shirt, with suspenders. He lived with his wife and 7 children, in his mother’s building, at 346 E. 110th Street. His son, my uncle Philly, is seen in the foreground. Philly was born in 1926, so I estimated that this photo was taken around 1936-38. My grandfather was a produce vendor. He sold fruits and vegetables on that spot, on the north side of E. 110th, and on 1st Avenue, between E. 110th and E. 111th. My dad told me that sometimes, they had the pushcart on the opposite corner, between E. 110th & E. 109th-on 1st Avenue. Notice the tomato plants in the foreground, on the right. Also, seen holding on to the iron fence of the Metropolitan Gas Company, later known as Consolidated Edison, is my grandfather’s friend, Vincenzo, who was also my uncle Philly’s godfather. The man in the middle is unknown to me, although it looks like he is wearing an apron, so maybe he was a food vendor, selling hot foods on a pushcart. Also, notice the man in the background, wearing a suit and hat. It looks like he was interested in buying the tomato plants. Well, I hope my grandfather had a fruitful day on that memorable day in Italian Harlem! 🙂
Note: If anyone recognizes the man wearing the light colored hat, and apron, standing in the middle of this photo, let me know!
The modern day photo is from 2016. I took my aunt Tessie to visit the old neighborhood. She hadn’t been back in over 50 years, so, believe me, that indeed was a memorable day! Today, as you can see from the modern photo, there is a brick wall placed further out where the iron fence once stood. There are no vendors to be seen. No vestiges of ancestral bygone days. No tomato plants. No old friends. Sadly, just an empty sidewalk. I’m sure that there are days when there is more foot traffic, but on that weekend spring day, in April of 2016, it was quiet.
P.S. Isn’t it cool that the large building in the background is still there? They have renovated it, but, as you can see, it is basically the same. Also, one more point…the street light from 1936 was a bit shorter in height than the one that is there now. I noticed that, as in the old photo, the top of the street light aligned with the 4th story of the large building in the background. Today, the street light that exists, lines up with the edge of the 6th story of that same building. Also, back in the day, that building was owned by the gas company. Today, it is a storage facility. Just a bit of trivia for you all! 🙂