Midtown West has always been in flux. Herald Square was once the theater district, before Broadway shows migrated to Times Square. The High Line was where the city put elevated trains when too many street-level accidents caused locals to dub Tenth Avenue “Death Avenue.” The West Side Cowboys, who rode horses in front of those street-level trains to warn pedestrians, are ghosts of Midtown’s past, as is the 1943 cigarette billboard that belched smoke over Times Square at a time when people still smoked wherever they wanted to. Grand old hotels fell on hard times as luxury headed a few blocks in a new direction; Barney’s flagship store is now a Loehmann’s discount outlet. Lately, commercial and residential developers have staked out much of Midtown West.
The neighborhood’s headed for a renaissance or for high-end homogenization — depending on whom you ask. Here’s a glimpse of what was, from the Collection of The New York Historical Society, and what’s coming, from Midtown Gazette photographers. Following the slideshow, data to show exactly how Midtown West has changed.