New York

The Magic of Time Travel

Man outside of Dakota looks like an antique photo in New York City

Living in Manhattan for so long on the cutting edge of just about everything, it’s hard to imagine how it must have looked decades before I ever set foot in the Big Apple.

Sure, I’ve seen a gazillion Scorsese flicks and I watched all five seasons of Boardwalk Empire, but that’s not really “seeing.”  And yes, there’s a ton of old buildings—heck, my apartment building was built in 1924—but through all the years and inevitable changes, the trappings of the 21st century have eclipsed what once was.

For awhile now, when I explore the city streets, I find myself wishing I had a pair of magical glasses that would enable me to see anything I looked at as it was at the turn of the century.

Obviously such a treasure doesn’t exist, but the other day I had a fleeting moment when, I swear, I experienced something pretty close. I was walking to Central Park and as I approached the infamous Dakota at 72nd and Central Park West, I saw it.

The entryway to the building’s courtyard, with its large period wrought iron gate and vintage guard stand, was cloaked in shadow from scaffolding that had swallowed the Dakota whole. The setting sun cut through the metal and netting, casting a shaft of light on one of the guards as he stepped out of his station. For an instant I was back in time. The veil of black obscured all the modern-day distractions on the street and the walls, leaving only the trappings of the old classic Dakota in view—even the flickering gas lamp overhead played its part.

Moments later a cloud doused the light, the guard moved on, and the honk of a car rattled me from my moment of zen. Suddenly I was hyper aware of the modern street lights and taxis and the tourists gawking at the spot where John Lennon fell.

But for a second, just a second, I had magic.

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115 replies »

    • Thank you! I’m glad you understand and that you liked the piece. The city is remarkable that way. If you’re so inclined, please share with your friends. And welcome to the blog. I hope you return.

  1. This is amazing! I love the description- I have these moments, but they startle me, being hyperaware of things, that is.
    It’s probably caused by my caffeine intake though, haha.

    Do you ever plan on checking out Chicago? It’s a pretty neat place,- downtown is huge! I haven’t even explored all of it yet! My friends and I usually go there together, it’s absolutely grand. The buildings and architecture are gorgeous, and the way the sun hits them at certain times of day is breathtaking. The weather right now is rocky for us, but I admire it still nonetheless.

    • I”m very happy you enjoyed it. It was a special little slice of life.

      re: Chicago. I grew up in Michigan so Chicago was only a four hour drive away. I went there often. It’s been years since my return but I really did love it. Great city.

  2. Other experiences for me that similarly induce authentic nostalgia of the past include the area around the Hollywood Walk of Fame, South Miami Beach, Old Quebec City near the Chateau Frontenac and the New Orlean St. Charles Streetcar line.

    • Hi Alisa! Welcome to the blog. As it so happens, I have read it, and you’re right it’s fantastic. In fact, your note might inspire me to read it again. Such a good read. Thank you.

  3. Hey, this is really really cool. I love imagining the history behind a place, especially somewhere that must have witnessed so many huge events. Mind if I share it on my blog? 🙂

  4. Well scene moment and captured really well Susan. I think the black and white treatment with great use of tones really adds to the scene. I expect that some other photographer will have it listed as one of their ‘Pictures I wish I had taken’

Would love to hear from you!