Despite not being alive in the 1970s and having only spent a limited amount of time in New York City, photographs of it in the ‘70s are some of my favorite things on earth. (Actually, really any photos from ‘70s do it for me; the Environmental Protection Agency’s 1972-1978 project, Documerica, is one of the most awesome collection of photographs ever. It was originally conceived as a way of documenting subjects of environmental concern across the United States, and while it does do that, it also seems to capture the spirit of the decade. I think. I wasn’t there.) So, Richard Welling, who I’ve written about before, was into the architecture of New York City and photographed it with his SX-70 Polaroid camera in the 1970s.
One of my favorite parts of cataloging photos of cities is figuring out what the buildings are in them. Some are obvious: the Brooklyn Bridge with the World Trade Center towers in the background, for example.
But what about this?
The building housing the Bellevue Hotel, presumably in New York, remains anonymous. Without notable landmarks or unusual architectural features, I haven’t been able to figure out what or where this building is. While it is annoying to not be able to identify buildings, I also find it kind of romantic, the idea that some things are lost to time despite our intentions to document and preserve them. Everything is, in a way, ephemeral. (Apparently it is a very existential day down here in Graphics.)
Tasha Caswell is a Project Cataloger/Researcher at the Connecticut Historical Society.
I am Richard’s son-in-law and a long-time New Yorker. The Bellevue Hotel did not ring a bell with me as a NYC hotel. But knowing that Richard traveled to other cities to draw, I focused on Washington DC where a Bellevue Hotel did exist. I believe he may have stayed at the Bellevue Hotel on one of his DC trips. The hotel was constructed in 1928 and reopened as the Hotel George in 1998 after a complete renovation.
I love this post and the pics! But it makes me feel old because alas, I WAS alive in the 70s. 🙂
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