A New York City mailman is chased by both cops and crooks when he steals a shipment of dirty money. This film-noir directed by Anthony Mann re-teams Farley Granger and Cathy O’Donnell (who previously starred together in 1948’s “They Live by Night”) for a gritty urban crime story. And to add a sense of realism, almost all the exteriors in this film were shot on-location on the streets of New York — which was still quite unusual for this time period.
“Side Street” has always been one of my favorite noir films, long before I became interested in identifying NYC movie locations. Although it doesn’t have an incredibly strong script, the film does tell the classic noir story of a “good guy” getting drawn into a dark world of crime and murder. With its combination of on-location shooting, dramatic lighting and over-the-top acting, Mann did something very rare — creating a film that was both a dark melodrama and a semi-documentary police procedural. And since nearly all the exteriors were shot on the streets of New York, “Side Street” gave me plenty of location puzzles to figure out.
Introduction – Motorcycle Cop
This shot of a motorcycle cop chasing a speeder is the second shot in the opening montage. (The first shot is of Broad and Wall Streets, which will show up again at the climax of the film). Identifying the avenue wasn’t difficult since the voice-over stated we were on Park, although even without that, the presence of a median strip would’ve been an obvious giveaway.
Finding the cross-street turned out to be a pretty easy task as well. Having previously identified a location for “Rosemary’s Baby” which was just a few yards away from this location, I was already familiar with this area and quickly identified the large building (seen in the second “before/after” image above) to be the Park Avenue Armory, which is located between 66th and 67th streets,
Introduction – Times Square
Whenever tracking down old movie locations that took place in Times Square, the results are inevitably disappointing. Of all the iconic spots in NYC, Times Square has undoubtedly changed the most. The majority of the buildings have either been torn down and replaced over the years, or they’ve been altered so much, they’re practically unrecognizable today.
Case in point — the spectacular Bond Clothing Store that used to be located on the east side of Broadway between 44th and 45th Streets. During the store’s run from 1940 to 1977, the building was always a sight to be seen — notably covered with some of the biggest and most colorful neon signs ever to shine in Times Square.
At one point, the building was actually adorned with a 50,000 gallon waterfall, flanked by two massive classical statues of a man and woman who were nude by day and dressed in neon togas by night. The design also featured a 24-hour news ticker, and a giant round digital clock with the message, “Every hour, 3,490 people buy at Bond.”
By the mid 1950s, Bond began leasing the outdoor space to other brands, and one of its first clients, Pepsi-Cola, turned the two human figures into giant soda bottles and the round clock into a bottle cap.
Even though the Bond Clothing Building (which was constructed in 1938) is still in Times Square today, the facade has changed so much, it looks like every other modern building in the area.
Coincidentally, this quick scene in Side Street took place on the corner of Broadway and W 45th, which was at the north end of Bond Clothing. However, since you can’t see the clothing store in the shot, I actually figured out this filming location by identifying the movie theater whose marquee appears in the background, which belonged to the original Loews State Theatre at 1540 Broadway.
When Loews first opened its doors on August 9th 1921, it featured both movies and vaudeville shows, and continued to book vaudeville acts into the late 1940’s, long after its popularity had waned. Being located in the heart of Times Square, many world premieres were hosted at Loews over the years, including The Three Musketeers (1948), Some Like It Hot (1959), and the Godfather (1972).
In early 1987, Loews State Theater showed its last feature and the building was demolished shortly thereafter. By the 1990s, the address became home to a Virgin Megastore which had a short-lived four-screen multiplex, called the Loew’s State 4, in the basement.
Even though the Times Square of today looks nothing like what it did when they filmed this scene in 1949, if you look closely at the “before/after” image above, you can see one extant building in the background that is remarkably unchanged. It’s the Brill Building (est. 1931), the striking Art Deco edifice located at 1619 Broadway, which appears in this scene in the far background, directly between the policeman and the street peddler. (The building was also prominently featured in the 1957 film, Sweet Smell of Success.)
Introduction – Fulton Market
This location at “Fulton Market” was mentioned in the opening voice-over, so it wasn’t really a mystery where this scene was filmed. It just took me a minute to figure out the proper orientation of the shot.
What’s nice about this brief scene is that not only does it show the South Street Seaport in full-swing, but it also features the original Fulton Market Building at 11 Fulton Street before it was demolished. The block-wide market was eventually rebuilt in 1983, where the designers managed to retain the fish stalls from the original building. (Those stalls finally disappeared after the fish market officially moved to the Bronx in 2005.)
The interesting thing is, for a long time, I thought this simple three-story building at 11 Fulton with its metal canopies and high gabled roof was constructed long before 1983. It looked as if it might have been an early 20th-century industrial building that was just cleaned-up and slightly revamped. However, the building did actually have to be cleaned-up and modernized after a blaze broke out in 1995, which Fire Department officials determined was arson when they discovered the floor was soaked with a flammable liquid and the building’s sprinkler system was intentionally shut off. Then-mayor Rudy Giuliani blamed the fire on mobsters, while others thought it was set by disgruntled merchants or vagrants.
With the fish market gone, the building is now home to a high-end multiplex movie theater and a variety of retail stores and eateries.
Introduction – Getting Married
This scene was obviously filmed at a courthouse in downtown Manhattan, and I figured it was most likely the courthouse at 60 Centre — a building that had been used in several other films, including 12 Angry Men and Trading Places.
It should be noted that in the scene that immediately proceeded this one, there was a shot of a maternity ward with rows of newborns in their cribs. I always assumed this was original footage for Side Street, but while watching Frank Capra’s 1941 film, Meet John Doe, I was surprised to see the exact same shot in the opening credits.
Since Capra’s film was made nearly a decade earlier, either the editors of Side Street borrowed that shot from John Doe, or both productions took it from a library of stock footage. Either way, it was fascinating how random Side Street connections would crop up from time to time.
Introduction – Dead Person
Since there weren’t any apparent landmarks in this quick scene, the biggest clue to go on was the pizzeria seen across the street. I couldn’t make out a specific name or address, but I figured I’d get a list of pizzerias from the 1949 Manhattan phonebook at the library and investigate any likely candidates.
Around that time, my research partner, Jeff Blakeslee, had discovered a complete 1946 Manhattan phonebook that was available online and had searchable text. He told me he searched for the word, “pizzeria,” but only got a few results and none of the addresses looked like what was in the scene.
Then a breakthrough came! It’s very hard to see, but in the far distance, you can actually make out the Empire State Building. That helped narrow down the possibilities and we figured that the scene probably took place on a north/south street in Little Italy.
After a little poking around in Google Street View and searching vintage maps for any streets with empty lots (since there was an open lot next to that pizzeria), Blakeslee finally ended up on Mott Street and concluded that the body was carted out of the building at number 150. Amazingly, the residential entrance still has the same etchings on the door frame (albeit a little faded) that appeared in the film.
Once we confirmed this location, we were able to figure out the name of the pizza shop across the street, which was called Paul’s Pizzeria. And that lot next to it remained open for several decades until finally a 6-story building went up there in 1992. Surprisingly, aside from the storefronts, the street is more or less the same as it appeared in this 1950 film.
Introduction – Fruit Stand
WIth all the street vendors, I thought this quick shot in the movie’s intro looked like it took place on the Lower East Side. Upon studying the scene, Blakeslee thought the awning at the top right corner of the frame said “AVE C FISH MARKET.” Since the awning below that had the number 70 on it, we figured the scene perhaps took place at 70 Ave C in the East Village (which was considered the “Lower East Side” in 1949 when this film was being made).
I eventually discovered a 1926 photograph of Avenue C on the NYPL Digital Archives and found several details that seemed to match the film. The thing that stood out the most in that photograph was the corner building at 90 Avenue C with its noticeable lack of windows on the south-facing wall. From there, I checked out the windows and fire escapes to the left and right of that corner building, and I could see that they matched up with the scene as well, making me fairly certain we found the correct filming location.
Introduction – Hobos
No explanation needed behind this location — it was clear that it was shot on the waterfront near the Brooklyn Bridge. At the time this scene was filmed, a lot of the waterfront area near the bridge was nothing but rubble, as several buildings were being demolished in preparation for a major construction of the Alfred E. Smith housing development. (See more about this area in the “On the Rooftop” scene below.)
This scene also took place shortly before the East River Drive (later renamed FDR Drive) was converted from a boulevard to an elevated parkway,
This section of East River Drive, which ran from the Battery to the Lower East Side, was known as the South Street Viaduct, and was completed in 1954. Less than 20 years later, it was actually proposed that the South Street Viaduct be turned into an underground tunnel, but obviously, this plan never came to fruition.
Introduction – Religious Men
Jeff Blakeslee found this location on a hunch. He thought the collapsed awning on the left side of the frame with teh word, “CAFFE” (the Italian word for coffee), indicated that the scene probably took place in Little Italy. So he did some poking around the neighborhood in Google Street View, and shortly thereafter, found the Chapel of San Lorenzo Ruiz on Broome Street (formerly the Church of the Most Holy Crucifix) which matched the building in the film.
I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that the building was still there and practically unaltered, but unfortunately, that all changed a couple years later when the property was sold to a real estate developer (for a sum of over $7 million) after the Archdiocese of New York declared that it was no longer sacred.
By the summer of 2019, the building was completely demolished. At the time of this writing, there’s just an empty lot at the address, but renderings have been released, showing the sleek and modern condominium building which will go up where the church used to be.
As disappointing as this news was, the one saving grace is that almost all of the other buildings that appear in this scene (when the camera pans to the left) are still standing today. And I’m thankful I was able to get to the location in early 2018 and take some pictures before the wrecking ball turned this tiny Roman Catholic chapel into nothing but a faint memory.
Introduction – Superstitious Ladies
This location was identified not from the building itself, but from the reflection in the window. The tower in the reflection looked like it was the Dinkins Manhattan Municipal Building on Centre Street. And after looking around the area, it was concluded that the building with the ladder propped up against it was on the corner of Broadway and Fulton — across the street from St. Paul’s Chapel, which is also in the window’s reflection.
Introduction – Ferry Terminal
Figuring out this location wasn’t a major issue, as I assumed that this quick shot was of a Staten Island Ferry coming into the Whitehall Terminal in Manhattan. But just to be sure this wasn’t a shot of another commuter ferry line, I researched the name “Mary Murray,” which was clearly painted on the bow of the boat.
Turns out Mary Lindley Murray was a Quaker woman who, according to legend, delayed a British General during the American Revolutionary War to help allow George Washington’s troops to escape New York. As the story goes, after a defeat in the Battle of Brooklyn, General Israel Putnam and around 5000 of Washington’s soldiers were retreating north on Manhattan Island, when British military forces prepared to trap them up near Kips Bay. However, Mrs. Murray convinced British General William Howe and his staff to repair to her nearby mansion (located at what is today Park Avenue and 36th Street) for cake and wine, keeping them distracted as the patriots were able to slip away unscathed.
Aside from being a footnote in American Revolutionary folklore, Mrs. Murray’s name was also attached to a ferryboat that traveled between lower Manhattan and St. George, Staten Island for nearly 40 years. The 252-foot-long steamboat was first launched in 1937, and sailed back and forth in the New York Harbor, carrying thousands of people daily, until it was permanently docked in 1974. Two years later, the ferry was sold at an auction for $25,000, with the new owner intending on turning the vessel into a museum or restaurant.
Unfortunately, nothing ever happened with the Mary Murray — it just sat rusting on the Raritan River (not far from the New Jersey Turnpike overpass), until it was finally dismantled, beginning in 2008.
After I confirmed the Mary Murray was a ferry for the Staten Island commuter line, I became confident this brief shot in Side Street’s opening montage took place at the Whitehall Ferry Terminal in Manhattan. And this was actually shot at the original terminal building, before it was remodeled in 1953, and before it was completely rebuilt in the early 2000’s.
Introduction – Central Park
Both these quick shots in the opening montage obviously took place in Central Park.
The clue to help figure out the locaton of the policeman reuniting a lost child with his mother was the small body of water in the background. I assumed that the scene took place either near the pond in the southeast corner of Central Park or near the Lake about a half mile north. But once I identified the twin towers of the Majestic at 115 Central Park West that appears in the background in the scene, I was able to determine that the scene took place on a pedestrian path just southwest of where Bow Bridge crosses the Lake.
The location of the second shot with the people on horseback was also solved by using the skyscrapers on the horizon as a guide, in particular the Hampshire House at 150 Central Park South, with its distinctive steep copper roof and twin chimneys.
Figuring out both the angle of the roof and its relation to the neighboring Essex House got me to the general vicinity of the scene, but I had to go to Central Park in person to find the the exact spot. My one other clue was the fact we were on the bridle path, which helped narrow down the number of places it could have taken place in the park (assuming the path hadn’t been dramatically rerouted since 1949).
Once I arrived at the park, I just followed the path south from around 65th Street until the landscape started to match up. It was at the bend near Pine Bank Arch when I discovered that those skyscrapers on Central Park South lined up perfectly with the bridle path, the rock outcroppings and several trees that have survived since 1949.
Even though these were two fairly insignificant shots (most likely taken by a second-unit team), it was still rewarding to be able to find their exact locations inside Central Park’s 840 acres of trees, rocks and paths.
Looking in Store Window
Finding this scene’s location took a little deductive investigating, but I was able to do it within a couple hours.
The first thing I noticed in the scene was a street sign that appeared in the background as Joe walked away. It was a little blurry, but it looked like it said 5th Ave, which made sense since 5th has many stores like the one in the film.
I also noticed that in the wide shot looking across the street, there appeared to be a medium-sized church on the far corner. Assuming we were on Fifth, I searched for any corner churches that were on the avenue between 14th and 59th Street.
Modern street views on Google didn’t show any corner churches that matched the one in the film, so thinking it had possibly been torn down, I checked the 1930 land book to see if there were any corner lots on 5th Avenue that were labeled as a church, and found “Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas” on 5th anf 48th. As promising as that looked, the one thing that temporarily puzzled me was that the church was on a block that is currently occupied by Rockefeller Center, and I was pretty sure Rockefeller Center was already built by 1949.
This discrepancy aside, I thought the block was definitely worth taking a look at on Google Street View. After studying the area, I eventually zeroed in on the entrance to 608 Fifth Avenue which matched an entrance with a curved top that appeared in the film. (The curved section has since been filled-in so it was a little harder to see.)
From the curved-top entrance, I was able to determine that Farley Granger’s character was standing in front of Saks Fifth Avenue, whose framework on the windows is still the same today. I also noticed that the buildings that are reflected in the store window in the scene match the current buildings that are catty-corner to Saks.
Having confirmed this filming location, I did a little research on the history of Rockefeller Plaza, and it helped clear up the thing that originally puzzled me about the church’s location. It’s true that most of the Rockefeller complex had been completed a good while prior to the filming of this scene, but with one exception — the corner lot at 600 Fifth Avenue where Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas used to stand.
I got confused because the current building at no. 600 contains architecture similar to the original Rockefeller complex (so I just assumed it was constructed at the same time as the rest of the buildings), but it was actually built by a private developer in the 1950s and was only acquired by the center in 1963. And with that, I was done with this quick scene that introduces the film’s leading character, Joe Norson, and gets the main story on its way.
Chatting with a Cop
For some reason, this location fascinated me. The vertical art-deco-looking buildings in the background seemed unusual and not like anything I could picture in New York. They looked more like a lost set from Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis.”
I ended up figuring out this location by first finding the location of the following scene at the lawyer’s office building, which was at 138 Centre Street. Once I located that spot, I began searching the general area to see if any buildings stood out, and sure enough, the New York Criminal Court, which was just a couple blocks south, fit the bill perfectly. I then used the towers at the nearby United States Court of Appeals and the David Dinkins Manhattan Municipal Building to help get the proper orientation.
Stealing the Money
Of all the locations in this film, the lawyers office was at the top of my list to find. For some reason, I thought the building had a charming archaic quality about it. Unfortunately, the shots didn’t include any obvious landmarks from the surrounding area so the only thing I had to go on was the signage that appeared around the entrance and an address of “136” which appeared on the neighboring building.
Most of the signs were for small businesses featuring the owners’ names, and for a moment, I actually thought they might have been set-dressing placed there by the film’s art department. In particular, the sign for “Joseph Komito – Lawyer & Notary Public” looked a little fake. However, after doing some research, I ended up finding several references to a New York lawyer by that name, along with a couple court documents — indicating that the signs were real.
Despite finding a few references to Mr. Komito online, I couldn’t find an address to his office, nor could I find an address to any of the other businesses on the posted signs. Eager to find this office building, I decided to go to the 42nd Street Public Library to try to look up the lawyer’s name in a 1950 phone book. (This was actually the first time I used the library’s collection of phone directories to help me find a location, and it didn’t take me long to recognize that this collection was a valuable resource — one that I would utilize many times in the future.)
After searching the phone book, I found a “Joseph Komito” with an address of 138 Centre Street, which sounded promising since the neighboring building had the number 136 on it. Since this was the first time I used the library’s resources for this “NYC in Film” project, I felt a real thrill when I was able to find a match, but the thrill was short-lived when I looked up the address in Google Street View, and discovered that the building was no longer there (having been torn down in the early 80s).
However, there are still a few elements from this scene that remain today, including the building at 133 Centre which you can clearly see reflected in the door window. (See the 2nd “before/after” image above.) And months later, after watching the trailer for Side Street, I noticed that they included an alternate shot from this scene that showed more of Centre Street, and more extant buildings.
As to the scene of Joe walking back to his neighborhood with the stolen loot, I figured out the location by looking up “Tom’s Body Fender Repair,” (whose sign is prominently featured in the shot) in the 1950 phone directory.
I found out that the repair shop’s address was 115 Walker Street, but I also found out this building’s fate was the same as the lawyer’s office — it, along with the entire block, got razed in 1991. However, after scanning the background, I noticed that the distant building at 125 Canal Street was still around today.
What made the discovery of this extant building more exciting was the fact that the billboard on its roof was still in place today. Even the angle was the same! The only change that has taken place over the years is that instead of advertising cigarettes, the billboard now probably advertises some crappy new superhero movie. (We need to keep expanding that Marvel universe, folks!)
On the Rooftop
Rooftop scenes are usually the most difficult to pinpoint an exact address for, since all you really get are the tops of buildings. However, finding the general location of a rooftop scene is usually doable because the shots will often show unobscured views of the nearby skylines, which undoubtedly will include one or two landmark buildings. One nice thing about this scene is that in addition to the rooftop, there was also a quick shot of Joe entering the building from the street, offering an alternate perspective of the location (assuming everything was filmed at the same place).
This was a scene I revisited several times, and each time I did, I kept getting closer to the exact site. When I first began my hunt for Side Street locations, I could tell this scene took place in the general vicinity of lower Manhattan since you could see the towers of the Woolworth and David Dinkins Municipal Buildings in one shot, and the Brooklyn Bridge in another.
After checking out a few maps, I approximated that we were somewhere between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, near the east river.
A few months later, I revisited this scene and tried to get a better fix on its location. Looking at how the rooftop was in relation to the Brooklyn Bridge, I estimated that they were about four or five blocks north of where the bridge met the river. That would put the building in or around the current location of the Alfred E. Smith Houses, a public housing development built between 1951-1953 and named after the former Governor New York. When the city built these housing units, the area got completely razed, so I knew finding an extant building from this scene was unlikely, and that would make figuring out the exact address of the rooftop all the more difficult.
But as a last-ditch effort, I combed through a bunch of vintage photos in the NYPL Digital Archives to see if I could find any buildings that matched the ones that were in the initial shot of Joe walking across the street with the stolen money. I couldn’t find anything that definitively matched the scene, but I did find a 1931 photograph with some buildings in the far background that could possibly be a match. Then, after surveying a 1930 map of the neighborhood, I estimated that the building Joe entered was on James Street just south of Madison.
Turns out my James Street guess was pretty close, but not exactly right. I learned this a few months later as I was planning a trip to the Lower East Side to take some modern photos of the area. Before traveling there, I asked Jeff Blakeslee if he’d like to take a crack at figuring out the exact location of this rooftop scene. As he did that, I went back to the NYPL Digital Archives to inspect any Manhattan photos labeled, “James Street,” and found a 1927 photo that turned out to be very promising.
Comparing the 1927 photograph (top) to a still from the film (bottom) was a little tricky at first because they were taken from reverse angles, but the corner building (indicated with arrow) and the adjacent fire escapes (circled) seemed to be a match. Pretty confident I was closing in on solving this location, there was still one problem — the 1927 photo from the NYPL archives was simply labeled “James St. + Oak St.,” but didn’t indicate which street was which, or what direction we were facing.
Right around this time, Blakeslee was looking through the NYC Municipal Archives and stumbled upon a wonderful high-resolution photo of a public school building from 1902, which featured a clearly-marked street sign (whose marvelous design was something I had never seen before), indicating we were on Oak Street looking towards James.
When I compared this 1902 photo with the 1927 photo I had previously found, I was able to single out several matching elements and concluded they were of the same intersection, but taken from reverse angles.
After that, I was able to conclusively link the 1902 photo to the 1927 photo, and the 1927 photo to the 1950 film. Therefore, since the street sign from the 1902 photo indicated we were on Oak, that meant they shot the film on Oak as well. However, the one last question was, which direction were we looking on Oak? That’s when Blakeslee went to the vintage maps. Using the position of the public school as a starting point, he concluded that the rooftop from the film was on Oak between James and New Chambers, and using the building heights marked on the map (measured in floors) he pinpointed the exact address to be no. 27.
Once I knew the location was 27 Oak Street, I did a more narrow search on NYPL’s digital archives, and found a photograph taken from New Chambers Street (circa 1919) looking down Oak Street towards James. The image was a bit damaged, but it gave me a perspective closer to that of the film.
The icing on the cake came a couple days later when I found a photograph from around 1940 which was labeled, “29 Oak Street.” Taken from almost the exact same spot as from the film, the photograph confirmed our findings.
Actually the real icing on the cake came a few weeks later when I went down to the Lower East Side to take some photos. Standing in the middle of the Alfred Smith housing complex, I tried to get my bearings so I could take a picture that was as close to the actual filming site as possible. Lost in a jumble of identical giant residential buildings, I had trouble figuring out which way to point my camera, until I suddenly came upon a landmark I hadn’t expected to see. As I peered beyond the perimeter of the complex, I stumbled upon a public school building — the very same one from that 1902 photo!
I immediately texted Blakeslee a pic of the school and he was equally flabbergasted. Somehow, neither one of us realized the building had survived the redevelopment that took place in the 1950’s. Goes to show that sometimes it helps to get out from behind a computer screen and go exploring in the real world.
A Waterfront Hotel
This was a Side Street location I waited a long time before bothering to look for, mostly because I figured the waterfront hotel Joe went into was long-gone. But with two bridges in the background, I knew I could at least find the general location of the scene.
I identified the two bridges as being the Brooklyn and Manhattan, so I knew we were a few blocks south on South Street, and since the cross-street appeared quite expansive, I took a guess that we were on the extra-wide Peck Slip. A quick trip to Google Street View, and I noticed that the building on southern corner of Peck and South looked a lot like the hotel from the film, with a similar overhanging awning and wooden poles. After doing a little digging, I found out that the building used to be home to the Meyer’s Hotel, which seemed to give credence to it being the film location.
After doing some searching online, I was able to find several vintage photos of the 1873 building, but it wasn’t until I discovered a 1981 photo of the entrance to the adjacent bar that I was convinced I found the correct filming location. In the photo, you could see an address plaque by the corner door which matched the one seen outside the hotel entrance in the film. And once I went to the building in person, I could see that there was another plaque where the Meyer’s Hotel entrance used to be, and it had the number 118 — the same number in the film.
Even though the hotel has since been converted into private condos, the attached tavern at 119 South Street is still open for business, under the name Paris Cafe. In fact, the spectacular original polished wood bar with its sparkling mirrors (where such luminaries as Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, and outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid purportedly once drank from) is still in place there today.
Reading the Newspaper
This was not a terribly challenging location to find. Bowling Green is a fairly recognizable park, along with the Standard Oil Building that appeared on the far right in the scene.
Once I was certain where this scene was filmed, I then gathered that the tower that appeared in the distance was the Woolworth Building, located 233 Broadway. Interestingly, the Woolworth building, which is over ten blocks away from Bowling Green park, looks like it’s only a block or two away in the scene — all thanks to the magic of the movie camera lenses.
This is one of two locations where its address is explicitly disclosed in the course of the film (see “Beauty Shop” below for the other one). In this case, it happens when Joe tries to return the stolen money, and he tells the lawyer that he lives at 850 Third Avenue.
Since the first scene of him returning to his home featured an elevated train, I was pretty sure it was, in fact, filmed on Third Avenue. However, since most of the area near no. 850 has been replaced with modern skyscrapers, I needed to search through some vintage photos to see if I could confirm the address he gave was correct. If they really did film the scene at 850 3rd Ave, that would take us to the west side of the avenue between E 51st and E 52nd Streets.
After looking through the NYPL Digital Archives, I was able to find a 1936 photograph of Third Avenue, looking north from 51st.
The 1936 photo featured a delicatessen and a barber shop —which can also be seen in the film when Joe enters the apartment building at night— confirming that the address of 850 3rd Avenue was correct.
Knowing this, I thought I’d look to see if there were any extant structures in the area that might have ended up in the film. The only thing I found was a building that appeared in the beginning of the night scene when Joe is lurking around the corner. Although it’s not easy to see, if you look through the glass of the corner building you can see the north side of 52nd Street and a few windows from the building at no. 155 (est. 1929), which still stands today. But aside from that, nothing else survives from 1949.
This was a location that was already well-established — cited by several film historians and websites as taking place in Stuyvesant Town in the East Village. However, despite Stuyvesant Town being a sprawling housing complex with multiple recreation areas, no one seemed to indicate where specifically the scene took place.
In order to find this scene’s exact location, it became a matter of figuring out which playground in Stuyvesant Town was the one in the film. Unfortunately, Stuyvesant Town, like many of these large housing projects that started going up in NYC after World War II, is full of identical looking apartment buildings without any real distinguishing markings. So I thought figuring out what quadrant the scene took place was going to be nearly impossible. That is, until I noticed something interesting while studying an aerial view of the area — on top of only four buildings in the complex there’s an additional tower.
Fortunately, one of these towers appears in the scene when the camera is pointed towards the kids playing. So, with a limited number of towers on the property, I could use them to narrow down the possible locations of the playground. After going to the actual complex, I determined by the angles that the scene took place either at the current playground that’s just south of Stuyvesant Oval (with views of the northwest tower), or at the grassy patch that’s just north of Stuyvesant Oval (with views of the southeast tower).
I wasn’t able to confirm which of these two possibilities was the actual location (mainly because the surrounding buildings were virtually identical), but since the space to the south of Stuyvesant Oval was currently a playground and the space to the north was just an open lawn, I figured the southern location was where the film was most likely shot.
I found the hospital location by first clinching the location that appears at the end of this sequence where Joe jumps out of the cab. In the scene, Joe asks the onlookers where he is, and a man tells him “32nd and First Avenue,” which is verified by the Empire State Building seen in the distance. Then, I just backtracked from that location and concluded that the action started at Bellevue Hospital, near 27th Street.
At first glance, it appeared as though part of the hospital got torn down and replaced with a modern version, but actually, all they did is just put a new addition on the front of the original building. And what’s interesting is that a good portion of the original facade is still visible inside the modern building’s main lobby, so I was still able to take a current photo of the entrance used by Garsell.
When it came to taking a current photo of where Joe jumps out of the cab, the once-industrial area along First Avenue has since changed a lot since 1949, but I was able to find a couple distant buildings between 38th and 40th Streets that are still around. Fortunately, I was able to grab a photo of the area just in time, as a tall monstrosity went up on First Avenue just a few months later, effectively blocking the building at
The Neighborhood Bar
Not much to say about finding this location. The exterior of the bar had already been identified as PJ Clarke’s Tavern on Third Avenue by several reliable sources, so there was no real legwork involved.
However, for a brief time, I thought they actually shot the interiors of the bar on-location as well, but upon closer inspection (once I had a better-quality print of the film), I determined that it was just a nicely-reconstructed set. My first clue was that the cabinet behind the oyster bar at the actual New York location is slightly different from what appears in the film. I then studied the street exteriors as seen from inside the bar. It’s not super easy to notice because of all the glass and framework in the foreground, but if you look closely, you can tell it’s actually rear-projection. The clincher was the fact that the Third Avenue El (seen in the background as Joe approaches the bar) disappears as soon as he steps inside. Apparently the Second Unit film crew didn’t manage to shoot exteriors of the actual Third Avenue when making the background plates.
Going to a Funeral Parlor
This ended up being a slightly tricky location to figure out, although at first I thought it would be easy, because in the film, Joe is expressly told by the new tavern owners that Nick’s mailing address is 76 Cherry Street.
Since I knew the address Joe gave for his home in an earlier scene was also the actual filming location, I hoped the same would be true with this scene. But when I looked at vintage photos of Cherry Street, and saw that nothing in them matched the film, I realized that this wasn’t the case with this scene’s address.
I’m not sure why they ended up giving a different address in the storyline from what was used as the filming location, but it might’ve had something to do with the fact that they filmed most of the scene on a Hollywood soundstage. Only the intial shot of Joe walking up the street was filmed in New York.
So, knowing that they didn’t shoot this scene on Cherry, I went to the library to look up the address for K&T Auto Tops — a business sign that appears across the street. When I found the address in a 1950 phone directory, it was listed on First Avenue between 23rd and 24th Streets, which didn’t make sense, since the street Joe walks on is clearly a narrower cross-street and not First Avenue.
Then, when I consulted a 1955 map of that area, I noticed that one of the lots on E 24th Street was marked as Saint Sebastian Roman Catholic Church, which for some reason, I thought might be the same church that appeared in the background in the scene. (The church is seen across the street, to the right of K&T Auto Tops.)
When I looked at E 24th Street on Google Street View, I discovered the entire block had been torn down and replaced with modern buildings. But that didn’t really matter, because way down the street at 1 Madison Avenue, I could see the unmistakable tower of the Met Life building, which matched the tower seen in the film.
I never figured out why there was a discrepancy with the address for K&T Auto Tops, but once I found a vintage photo of Saint Sebastian, I was certain that E 24th was the correct cross-street.
Even after I figured out what street this scene took place on, I couldn’t figure out the exact address of the “funeral parlor,” mainly because the exterior that appeared in the film was just a movie set built in Hollywood. It wasn’t until I got access to the 1940 tax photos (which were released a few months later in the fall of 2018) that I was able to find a picture of where I believed the “funeral parlor” would have been.
After consulting the 1940 tax photo, I was able to determine that the stoop and railings that appeared at the beginning of this scene on the far right side of the frame matched with what was outside the residential building at 331 E 24th. That would mean Farley Granger was approaching the building at no. 333, which turns out wasn’t really a funeral parlor, but was a garage for Mobilgas.
Visiting a Bank
This was a location that seemed too good to be true. In this scene, there’s a street clock prominent in the background, which I hoped would help lead me to the location. Back in 1950, street clocks were ubiquitous fixtures in the city, but today, there are only a few of them left. But off the top of my head, I did know of two still in existence. There’s the ornate gold clock in front of the Fifth Avenue Building near Madison Square Park and there’s an art-deco black-and-white clock on 5th Avenue just below 44th Street.
Thinking that it was a slim chance that the clock on 5th Avenue would be the same one from the film, I wasn’t feeling too optimistic when I went to Google Street View to take a look. However, I got a quick attitude adjustment when I discovered the clock to be a perfect match with the one seen in the film. With a little more looking around, I was able to identify several of the buildings in the background along 5th Avenue, and was able to categorically confirm the bank location.
Satisfied that I found the correct location of the bank exterior, I erroneously thought the interior was also shot in the same building, since the ground floor had several load-bearing posts which could conceivably be the ones seen in the film.
But then I spotted something peculiar about an early bank scene that made me rethink where they shot the interiors. At the beginning of the film, when the blackmail victim enters the building, the actor was evidently in front of a rear-projection screen, which meant they probably shot it on a soundstage in Hollywood. With that in mind, I rewatched a later scene that took place in an alley with actor Whit Bissell (who played the bank clerk), and that looked like it had been shot on a backlot in Hollywood. That made me think that all the scenes involving Bissell were shot on the west coast, including the bank interior.
This led me to do an online image search of “banks in Los Angeles,” to see if I could find the one used in the film. When I did this image search, I adjusted the settings to give only black-and-white results (a good tool to use if you’re trying to narrow your results to pre-1970’s) and found one image of the Pacific Southwest Trust and Savings Bank which had a similar-looking ornate lobby with square posts and an intricate coffered ceiling.
But upon closer inspection, I could see that the pattern on the floor didn’t match, and the details on the posts and ceiling were different as well. But as I continued my search, I eventually found a blog by author and L.A. historian, Kim Cooper, that featured a 1923 photo of the “Bank of Italy,” whose floors, columns, and ceiling seemed to match the film.
I then did a search for “Bank of Italy” to see if I could find additional images. Surprisingly, I couldn’t seem to find any other photographs of the bank’s opulent lobby, but I did find a postcard that had an illustration of the “main banking room.” Even though it wasn’t a photograph, the illustration offered some nice details, including that of the customer tables used to fill out banking slips, which matched a table seen in the film.
Curious as to whether the building still existed, and if so, whether the interior retained any of the original decor, I was pleased to learn that the space has been converted into a hotel and restaurant —albeit an extravagant, fancy-pants one I’d normally never set foot in— keeping in place many of the ornate Neoclassical fixtures seen in the film.
It’s a shame the bank interior wasn’t shot in New York, but it’s fortunate that the building —along with its Doric columns, marble floors, golden-coffered ceilings and original bank vault— has been lovingly preserved. So on my next trip to L.A., it’s good to know that I can go inside the former “Bank of Italy,” and stand where the entire plot of 1950’s Side Street was set into motion.
Village Beauty Salon
This was the first location I was able to find for this film, and it was super easy… a bit too easy. In the film, Joe is looking for Garsell’s girlfriend and finds a photograph of her sitting in front of a “Village Beauty Salon.” He then goes to a drugstore phone booth to look up the address in the directory.
The address listed in the book —shown in a nice tight close-up— is 29 W 8th Street, and to my pleasure, the address given in the story was also the actual filming address (unlike the “funeral parlor” scene above). So essentially, the character of Joe Norson did all the research for me.
Needless to say, I was also pleased that the building was still standing, with its unusual display “balcony” on the second-story firmly in place. Although, a year later, when I stopped by the location, I noticed that the clothing shop that was on the second floor had since closed, and the mannequins gone. Hopefully this isn’t a sign that the building is about to be taken down.
One last note about this location. Although all principal photography was done in England, Kubrick’s film “Eye’s Wide Shut” did use several real New York locations as inspiration for the sets built overseas. Many have postulated that the Rainbow costume shop in the film was modeled after this store at 29 W 8th Street.
Whenever there’s a clearly marked business sign in a scene, that’s obviously where I start my research when trying to figure out a filming location. By the looks of the signs in this scene, I was pretty sure this was an actual location and not a movie set (unlike the nightclub where Joe finally finds the girlfriend). It didn’t take much searching online before I found the location of Marie’s Crisis Cafe, and I was absolutely surprised that it was still in business (along with the neighboring Arthur’s Tavern).
This old West Village watering hole has been around, in one form or another, since the 1850s, starting as a prostitutes’ den and later becoming a speakeasy that was, according to a 1929 NY Times interview with Police Commissioner Whalen, “a breeding place of crime and a menace to the health and morals of the community.”
After the end of Prohibition, it was bought by chanteuse Marie DuMont (who is the woman Joe talks to in this sequence) and the space became a bohemian bar and restaurant called, Marie’s Crisis Cafe. The “Crisis” is a reference to “the Crisis Papers” written by Thomas Paine, who died in 1809 in a small wooden house that once occupied the site where the brick building at 59 Grove Street now stands.
At the time Paine was living there, Grove was a little dirt road known as Columbia Street which ran through a Greenwich Village farm. Years after Paine died, Columbia was widened, paved, and renamed Grove Street, and as the neighborhood became more geared towards middle class families, a row of five matching Federal-style brick-homes were erected, including the one at no. 59.
Owned and operated by Marie DuMont for nearly 40 years, Marie’s Crisis Cafe was eventually purchased by the current owners in 1972, who turned the space into a sing-along piano bar in which neighborhood gay men and musical theater performers have gathered over the decades to belt out show tunes.
According to the bartender I talked to when I went there to take the “after” pictures, the reason Marie’s has survived so long is because the owners of the bar also own the entire building — thus avoiding steep rent hikes that have obliterated so many small NYC businesses in recent years. Even though the space has changed quite a bit since they filmed this scene in 1949 —most notably the dark wood drop-ceiling that was installed to add a second floor to the bar— it was exciting to see the nightclub Farley Granger visited was still business.
Taking Joe to the River
This was an easy location to find. Having lived in New York for many years, the building near the Hudson River where W. Houston Street cuts through it is a very familiar place. A quick trip to Google Street View and this location was confirmed.
Note: In the “after” image above, you can see a couple news trucks parked on West Street. This is because they were there reporting the story of the Uzbek national who used a truck to plow through the Hudson River bicycle path, killing eight people in October of 2017.
This location was puzzling me for a while until Blakeslee found a film-noir blog by film historian Max Alvarez that basically mapped out the entire final chase sequence from Side Street. The blog post was missing a few spots, and made a couple demonstrative errors, but it also identified a couple locations I wasn’t able to find on my own, including this one. Alvarez describes this APB scene as follows:
At this point, an all-points bulletin is issued to all police cars, and a radio car in an industrial part of lower Manhattan backs away from the camera to join in the chase. Cops are then seen getting into squad cars outside the police precinct overlooking South Street that presently houses the New York City Police Museum.
The description of the first shot was vague and didn’t offer any new insight. However, the description of the other shot was more precise, mentioning that they were in front of the New York City Police Museum. No address was given, but a quick internet search found the museum’s location to be 100 Old Slip (although it’s now on Governor’s Island, which tripped me up for a minute when doing my search).
A few months later, I revisited this scene, determined to find the location of the first shot where the radio car backs away from the camera. The one main clue was the elevated tracks in the background. At this point, I had better knowledge of the Third Avenue El along with its South Ferry spur, which connected South Ferry to Chatham Square via Pearl Street. So I felt more confident I could zero-in on this location using the elevated tracks as a guidepost.
When studying the shot, it definitely looked like they were in the financial district somewhere, so those tracks in the background were most likely part of that spur line. I went to Google Street View and looked around anyplace I thought the tracks used to be. It didn’t take too long before I realized that we were looking towards Hanover Square, where the El runs along Pearl Street. That meant that we were at 100 Old Slip — the exact same location of the policemen getting in their cars which was already identified. We were simply looking in the opposite direction.
I’m not sure if Alvarez was unaware that both of these shots were filmed at the very same location, or whether he did know, but simply glossed over it in his description.
At the River
Finding this location wasn’t an easy one, although at first glance I thought it would be. The main reason was because unlike other scenes, this one had a clearly marked street sign reading, “12th Ave.”
Knowing that the production filmed most of the chase sequence in the downtown area, I figured they filmed on 12th Avenue in the downtown area as well. But after I started looking for old photos of 12th online, I discovered it only existed north of 23rd Street. This perplexed me a bit since the buildings in the scene looked like they were from one of the old downtown markets which are below 23rd. But I tried to keep an open mind and spent many hours sifting through any vintage photos I could find of 12th Avenue, only to come up empty.
About a month later, Blakeslee found that blog by Max Alvarez that mapped out most of the final chase sequence from the film, but he concluded that this scene took place on 12th Street (not 12th Avenue), which I determined was incorrect.
After several more weeks of no luck, I left the scene alone for a while, but would still revisit it from time to time. For example, when Blakeslee and I were looking for the location of a riverfront coal yard for the film The Rag Man, it took us to the Manhattan shoreline. So while searching vintage photos for a coal yard, I also kept an eye open for any clues that might lead me to the Side Street’s “River” location. In particular, I was looking for a long, industrial building that ran the entire span of the street leading to the river. It looked like a dilapidated warehouse or a shipping pier, and I figured the window arrangement would be the best way to identify a match.
However, after I re-watched the scene, I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before — that long industrial building didn’t end at “12th Ave,” it continued on into the Hudson river. That meant that it was most likely a pier, and by extending into the river, it actually created a cul-de-sac.
Armed with this new information, I hit the maps again, seeing if I could find any avenue that ran north-south along the Hudson, which had a dead end. Almost immediately I focused on a little, one-block peninsula near Gansevoort Street that essentially had a north-south avenue with a dead end.
Even though every map I found of this peninsula labeled the waterfront avenue as “13th” (instead of “12th”), I wasn’t necessarily discouraged. There could be several explanations for this variance in names, and I thought it was definitely worth investigating.
Besides 13th Avenue, the other two streets on the peninsula were Gansevoort and Bloomfield, so I decided to check out the NYPL digital archives, using those two street names as a reference, and see if I could find any promising photos. And a few minutes later, I hit pay-dirt.
The photograph I found —labeled “Gansevoort Street – Bloomfield Street”— was from 1933 and was actually a shot of the Manhattan coastline taken from the Hudson River. Even though the photo was taken from the reverse angle from the film, I was still able to recognize several matching structures, including a white wooden river house and that large industrial building that extended into the water. After doing a little research into piers 53 and 54 (which are just north of the peninsula), I found out they were home to Cunard Lines (which accounts for the “RD” that appears on top of the pier in that 1933 photo).
Once I was fairly confident this scene took place on the river between Gansevoort and Bloomfield, I was able to do a more refined search online and found a nice photo of the Cunard Pier and see that it matched the long industrial building from the film.
One last interesting piece of evidence that helped confirm this location was a tugboat that was docked next to that white wooden house on the fiver. To my surprise, the boat actually appeared in both the film and in several different vintage photographs taken of the area. Turns out this watercraft was a perennial fixture —a fireboat called the Thomas Willett, which was operated by the Fire Department of the City of New York from 1908 to 1951. You can tell it’s a fireboat by the small metal tower seen near the stern (standard issue for all FDNY vessels at the time).
After finally figuring out this location, I became somewhat intrigued with the history of that tiny peninsula along the Hudson River, but more specifically, that short stretch of the relatively unknown 13th Avenue.
Apparently, this coastline-thoroughfare had a rather brief and tumultuous history. Established in 1837, 13th Avenue was added to the Manhattan grid when the state passed a new bill allowing entrepreneurs to buy water-logged “lots” along the Hudson River and fill them in with landfill in order to establish a “permanent exterior street for the city.” The purpose of this new avenue was to help facilitate the rising number of water vessels coming to the city of New York.
The original plan was to have 13th Avenue run all the way up to 135th Street, and by the late 19th century, it had already become a somewhat developed roadway, although the surrounding neighborhood left a lot to be desired, consisting of things like inhospitable lumber yards, tough saloons, and garbage dumps. An 1886 NY Times story describes the southernmost part of the avenue as a “dreary waste,” which after nightfall becomes a “seedy, unsafe place that even the police avoided.” Despite the roughness associated with the avenue, the city still had designs on making it a solid fixture of the Big Apple, paving it with Belgian block in 1874.
However, by the end of the century, the need to provide piers for a new breed of luxury ships not only halted the expansion of the avenue, it actually started reversing things. Basically, as larger liners like the Lusitania and the Titanic started to become more common, the city needed to create longer piers to accommodate them. The only problem was, they couldn’t expand these piers without encroaching too much into the Hudson River. So instead, they went in the other direction and began cutting out chunks of the newly-created landfill, and in the process, decimating 13th Ave.
By the early 20th century, most of 13th Avenue was long gone, however, one block between Bloomfield and Gansevoort did survive. mostly because it was home to the then-active West Washington Market.
One of the buildings from the declining West Washington Market appears in this “river” scene when the hoods notice a dock watchman. The market eventually shut down a few years later in 1954, but the meager piece of land known as Gansevoort Peninsula, where the market once stood, survives today. The property is currently controlled by the sanitation department but the city has plans of turning it into a public park, holding onto the last remanent of a long-forgotten avenue.
After finally figuring out the location of the river scene, I was able to deduce a couple other locations that appear immediately after that scene.
I always knew this quick shot of an oncoming truck was on West Street —because of the elevated highway— but now that I had Bloomfield Street and the Hudson River as a reference point, I could spend more time studying the buildings in that general area. It didn’t take long to find the extant building at 45 West (on the far left of the screen) with its characteristic window arrangement of single windows on the top two floors and window pairs on the lower levels.
From that building, I estimated that the cab nearly crashes with the truck on West Street somewhere between Gansevoort and Horatio Streets, which makes sense since they were coming from the tiny peninsula where the West Washington Market used to be.
Making a U-Turn
This is another location I found within hours of confirming the river location on Bloomfield Street.
Like the “Oncoming Truck” scene, I had already figured out months prior that this scene probably took place on West Street due to the elevated highway. (According to the blog by Max Alvarez, the police road block was set up on Pearl Street, but I quickly assessed that that was incorrect.)
After surveying a 1955 map of West Street, I concluded that Canal was the only cross-street that had a wide-enough opening that could match the film. But when I went to Google Street View, I couldn’t seem to find any matching buildings — that is, not until I checked the older street views. In the 2011 view, you can see the old 2-story sanitation garage at 553 Canal Street, right before it got replaced with the new 67-foot-tall “Salt Shed,” which has the capacity to hold 150 sanitation vehicles.
But the 2-story garage from 2011 matched the building that appears in the film perfectly. And from there, I studied the outlying buildings along Canal and discovered several other matches, thus conclusively resolving the “U-Turn” location.
Chase – Washington Market
In order to find this filming location, I started with the large sign on the side of a building at the top of the sequence, which said, “J.J. Fisher, Inc.” At first I thought the sign was on the actual store building, but it turned out it was just an advertisement and “Fisher” was at a completely different location.
I finally figured out this location after doing research for the 1963 film, Love with the Proper Stranger and learned about the Washington Market that used to be in Tribeca (not to be confused with West Washington Market that appears in the “River” scene above). After looking through a bunch of vintage photographs of the Market, I thought the structures looked similar to the ones that appeared in this scene. And then by sheer luck, I found a couple photos that were taken at almost the exact same angle as the first shot.
Once I figured out the first exterior shot of this scene took place at the intersection of West and Reade, I then had to figure out where the next exterior shot took place. It looked like it was still in the Washington Market in Tribeca, but I had a little difficulty figuring out where exactly since a lot of the marketplace structures looked the same.
Eventually I found a photo of Washington Street and Chambers from 1936 on the NYPL digital archives that looked like it could be a match from the film.
It took a little studying, but I found enough similar elements to confirm that that the second shot of the taxicab in the Market was on Washington Street and Chambers. Of course, since the Washington Market and most of its streets were razed nearly 50 years ago, it was a little difficult to match up the scene with modern maps, but I was pretty sure I got the proper orientation. After turning east on Reade in the first shot, the taxicab (in theory) turned south on Washington Street for two blocks, before turning east again on Warren.
After the 1940 tax photos were released online in the fall of 2018, I was able to find several more photographs of the area and used them to double-check my conclusions, which turned out to be correct.
Chase – Dave’s Auction
In addition to the location of the “All-Points Bulletin” scene, this was the other location I got from the film-noir blog by film historian Max Alvarez. But before becoming familiar with the blog, I spent a great deal of time searching maps of lower Manhattan to see if I could find a spot where two streets merged at a triangle (as they do in this scene), but somehow this spot at West Broadway and Greenwich Street had alluded me.
Located just north of the World Trade Center, the area has changed a lot since the film was made, but the Post Office building (seen on the far right of the second “before/after” picture above) is still around, as well as the building one block north at 53 Park Place.
After finding out the location of this scene, I immediately looked for any vintage photographs that might offer me a better view of that curious store named “Dave’s” (which incidentally I could not find an address for when I looked it up in a 1950 phonebook at the library).
It wasn’t until the release of the 1940 tax photos that I finally had a chance to get some alternate views of the area. In one of the photographs, you get a nice clear shot of the building at 70 Vesey Street, but this was apparently before “Dave’s Auction & General Merchandise” moved in. But what’s nice about these photos is that they offer rare views of the 9th Avenue El (NYC’s first elevated railway line) before it was shut down and dismantled.
Chase – Mobil Gas Station
This scene was on the top of the list of Side Street locations I wanted to find. Seeing a vintage Mobil gas station in what looked like the heart of downtown Manhattan intrigued me. I was also interested in those unusually long stairs and finding out where they led to — maybe they led to an elevated train station or to some unseen promenade above, or perhaps they led to an upper-level entrance to the adjacent columned building.
After successfully identifying the locations of two scenes using the phone directories stored at the 42nd Street Library, I decided to use them again to look up the Mobilgas address. Using the 1950 yellow pages, I was able to successfully find a listing for a Mobilgas at 18 Park Row — but this address ended up throwing me off the track for a short while. When looking at both modern and vintage maps, I couldn’t find any even-numbered addresses for Park Row, but I estimated that no. 18 would probably be just south of City Hall Park where Broadway intersects with Park Row.
I eventually figured out that this estimation of mine was wrong, but that wasn’t until after I spent hours looking at old photos and studying all the current buildings in the City Hall area on Google Street View. When I consulted NYCityMap (which provides construction dates for any NYC address), I learned that most of the current buildings in the area pre-date 1949, so that meant that probably any building that appeared behind the gas station in this scene would still be standing today.
A couple months later, I looked at the scene again and noticed that after the taxicab and police car travel through the gas station, they enter a tunnel or some sort of underpass, and you can see an eatery on the other side called Merritts Foods.
Hoping this might help me figure out the location, I searched online for any reference to a “Merritts” in downtown Manhattan. Unfortunately, the only thing I could find was a woodcut print of the corner food shop by 1960’s artist, Ted Davies. So, it was back to the library to look up “Merritts” in the phone book and see if I could find its address.
After consulting the 1950 Manhattan white pages, I found a listing for a “Merritts Coffee Pot” on William Street, and even though the name didn’t match perfectly and the address didn’t appear to be a corner lot, I had a feeling I had the correct establishment.
Using a 1955 vintage map as my guide, I could see that just north of that Williams Street address was the Brooklyn Bridge, so I gathered that the “tunnel” the two cars traveled through was actually a passageway under the bridge. And that meant that the Mobilgas station would have been just north of that passageway on William, which is the current location of the Park Row on-ramp near the Dinkins Municipal Building. That’s when I realized that the columned building in the film was the Municipal Building! After that, everything else fit into place. I identified the tall H-shaped building in the distance to be the former Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank (est. 1912) at 51 Chambers Street, and the shorter building on the left to be City Hall (est. 1812). As soon as I matched up all the buildings, a warm feeling enveloped my entire body, as it always does once I’ve gotten my bearings.
Also, once I became confident of the exact location of this scene, I did a little more research and figured out that those long stairs behind the gas station led to the City Hall station for the Third Avenue Elevated Line.
Construction of the Third Avenue El began in 1875 and by December of 1878, it ran from South Ferry to Chatham Square, then up along the Bowery and Third Avenue to E 129th Street near the Harlem River. By 1896, service was extended to the Bronx, and in 1902, the Third Avenue El officially became part of the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT).
Years later, the Third Avenue El ended up being the last of the elevated lines to operate in Manhattan (after the closings of the 6th, 9th and 2nd Avenue lines, respectively). The spur line that went to South Ferry ended in 1950, and the City Hall station featured in Side Street was closed shortly thereafter. The main line along 3rd Avenue in Manhattan continued service for a couple more years, before being shut down in 1955. But the Bronx extension that operated between 149th St and Gun Hill Road was reassigned as a shuttle service (informally called the 8-train) and remained open until 1973.
Besides getting a better history lesson of the 3rd Avenue El, as I searched for this scene’s filming location, I also came upon a unusual piece of architecture from New York’s past. It happened right after I realized the Mobilgas was not at the intersection of Park Row and Broadway. Out of curiosity, I checked out a 1932 map to see if anything occupied that space before, and I discovered a lot marked “Post Office 122.” After a little research, I learned that that oddly-shaped plot on Park Row was home to a building I had never heard of before — the former City Hall Post Office and Courthouse.
Designed by Alfred B. Mullett, and completed in 1880, this Neo-Baroque building with its mansard roof was considered by contemporary critics as a failure in design, described in a 1912 New York Times article as an “architectural eyesore” and “unsatisfactory to the Postal Service and the Federal Courts beneath its roof.”
Torn down in 1939, this former post office and courthouse epitomized the extravagance in design that was pervasive in New York City during the turn of the 20th Century. Personally, I always felt that these examples of outrageous buildings were truly wonderful, and are what makes many of the photographs from this era look like they were taken at some bizarre world’s fair. These structures are a far cry from what’s happening today, where unimaginative glass and metal boxes are being erected on every other block in the city without any purpose other that maximizing profit.
Today, Mullett’s grand edifice is barely remembered —even by most NYC historians— but if you want to get a feel of what the building was like, you can visit Mullett’s Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington DC, which is a similar example of monumental French Second Empire architecture.
Chase – Frankfort Street
Strangely enough, I found this location before I found the Mobilgas location, not realizing that it was pretty much a continuation of that scene and was more or less staying geographically accurate. Turns out this scene took place just a few yards away from the gas station.
This was basically another scene I found by looking up an address in an old phone book. With its large tower looming in the distance, it was already obvious we were near the Brooklyn Bridge, but it was the building with a large “I. Lippman…Sole Leather” sign that I hoped would be the clue to lead me to the exact location of this scene.
When I went to the library, I looked up “Lippman” in a 1949 phone directory and found a listing for 103 Gold Street, which made sense since the sign also had the number 103 on it. And after consulting a map, the address made even more sense, as 103 Gold turned out to be right next to the Brooklyn Bridge on the corner of Frankfort.
Unfortunately, none of the structures seen in the film are around today, except of course, the Brooklyn Bridge.
Shooting the Cabbie
I found this location by first looking up an address in the phone directory for “Armour Leather,” whose sign is visible in the shot right after the cabbie is killed. Whenever I look up an address at the library, and find a match, there’s always a momentary jolt of excitement, especially when the address in the directory sounds correct. This happened when I found the leather shop address. It was listed in the directory as 5 Jacob Street, a location that wasn’t familiar to me, but sounded like something in lower Manhattan.
When I got home and looked up Jacob on Google Maps, I came up with nothing, but after doing a general internet search, I discovered that Jacob is a former block-long street that used to be just south of the Brooklyn Bridge. Turns out it was located in a tiny neighborhood that used to be known as a leather and tanning district, and was once nicknamed, “The Swamp.” This four block area in lower Manhattan got this somewhat unflattering moniker because, naturally, it used to be an actual swamp. Originally the streams and ponds were used by the leather merchants to treat and process the raw hides brought in by ships, but by the 19th century, some ambitious entrepreneurs decided to use the running spring underneath Jacob to open up a spa. With a reputation that the spring water had a health-giving minerals that could cure ailments and diseases, hopeful New Yorkers came to Jacob Street every morning to take a drink, at a cost of sixpence a glass.
However, this spa enterprise didn’t last very long, as it was soon discovered that the “remarkable healing properties” of the water were due to the fact that the spring lay through old tan pits. After the rise and fall of Jacob’s health spa, a handful of leather merchants and orienting houses remained in the neighborhood, until the whole area finally got razed in the late 1960’s to make way for the large housing complex, “Southbridge Towers.”
Disappointed that the streets from the film no longer existed, I still wanted to figure out roughly where the shooting took place and get the perfect orientation of the scene. Fortunately, since Jacob was only one block long, there were only a couple options that could have taken place, and after studying a 1930 map and re-watching the scene several times, I pretty much figured out where all the action took place.
The first shot in this scene showed an elevated train in the background about one block away, so I figured that must had been the South Ferry spur line that ran along Pearl Street. With that as a starting point, it didn’t take long to figure out where the rest of the action took place. Basically, the taxicab came from Frankfort Street (which runs parallel to the Brooklyn Bridge), went south on Cliff Street, turned right onto Ferry Street (which was more or less a continuation of Peck Slip), and stopped at the alley between nos. 28 and 30. It was there that Garsell killed the cabbie (although the close-ups were filmed on a studio set), and afterwards, the taxicab continued west on Ferry Street and made a right onto Jacob (going back toward the Brooklyn Bridge).
At this point I was satisfied I got the location pretty much settled. However, after discovering that in Max Alvarez’s film-noir blog, his street desciptions were similar, but not exactly the same, I decided to try to dig up some vintage photos of the area to make sure my conclusions were correct.
In my first go-round, I couldn’t find anything useful, but eventually I found a photo of Jacob Street on the webside, PopSpots, which was analyzing a photo of Bob Dylan that appeared on a 1966 cover of The Saturday Evening Post. Turns out the photo of Dylan was taken on Jacob Street as well, and the PopSpots entry showed a vintage photo of the street as a comparison. Even though the image was low-resolution and taken from the other direction, it captured several buildings that also appeared in Side Street, offering more evidence of the filming location.
Months later, after the digital archives of the 1939-41 NYC tax photos were released online, I was able to find a few better vintage shots of the area, including both Ferry and Jacobs Streets. Strangely, almost all the photos I found happend to have been taken from the reverse angle, but I did find one that was nearly identical with the film.
Even though most of the tax photos were taken from reverse angles from the film, they clearly showed the same buildings that appeared in the scene, and offered a nice glimpse into an area that used to be affectionately known as “the Swamp.”
Chase – Exchange Place
This was another scene that fortunately had a storefront included in one of the shots that helped lead me to figuring out the location. After the cab crosses the main intersection, you can see a store that has a sign that reads, “Walker & F______ Tailors.” Even though I couldn’t read the second name on the sign, I was still able to find the tailors address in the 1950 yellow pages, which was at 52 Broadway. That meant the taxicab traveled east on Exchange Place, crossed Broadway, and continued on towards (the very snappy sounding) New Street, where you can see the edge of the extant building at 30 Broad Street.
As far as I could tell, the only other extant building I could find from this scene was 42 Trinity Place (which you can see at the end of Excahnge Place in the first “before/after” picture above), Sadly, the building ended up getting demolished shortly after I took that picture in 2017.
But later on, I discovered that the building at 52 Broadway was technically the same one that appeared in this scene, dating back to 1897. I discovered this while trying to figure out the location of one of the most spectacular shots from the film — the first overhead shot from this chase sequence where you can see a tiny taxicab a couple hundred feet below being pursued by several police cars — which turns out, took place at the same intersection of Broadway and Exchange.
I got lucky when it came to figuring out the location of this overhead shot. Jeff Blakeslee spent a good amount of time searching through vintage photos of Lower Manhattan looking for matching buildings, but came up empty. But I thought there was something familiar about it. It made me think that perhaps the filmmakers reused one of the street-level locations from this chase sequence, and simply moved the camera to the top of a building. And since the street that appeared in the overhead shot was somewhat narrow, I thought the equally-narrow Exchange Place was a worthwhile starting point.
In search of any matching buildings, I started with 52 Broadway, which I discovered had a construction date of 1897. However, when I looked at that corner building in Google Street View, the facade looked nothing like what was seen in the film, but it also didn’t look like anything from 1897 — meaning that it probably got a major renovation at some point in its latter years. So, before I moved on to other possible locations for this shot, I did a little more research into 52 Broadway and discovered that the building —formerly known as the Exchange Court Building— was rebuilt and restored in 1980-1982, where its facade was completely “modernized” and its height was raised from 12 to 20 stories.
Knowing that 52 Broadway of today looked nothing like it did in 1949, I searched for a vintage photo of the building and was pleased to discover that it looked exactly like the foreground building in that high-angle shot.
Chase – William Street
This location was found through straight-out perseverance.
When I first decided to tackle this quick scene, I already had access to Max Alvarez’s film-noir blog, which identified this shot as being on Warren Street. But after looking up and down Warren in Google Street View, I couldn’t find anything that looked similar to what was seen in the film. And it wasn’t as if the buildings on Warren were new — almost all of them looked like they dated back to before 1949.
Next, I looked up “Livehouse Restaurant and Bar” (whose sign you can see on the left side of the street in the scene) in a 1950 phone directory, but couldn’t find anything. At one point I became worried that perhaps this was another scene that was shot on a street that has since been razed, and replaced with some large housing complex, but I tried to remain positive and decided to attempt one last tactic.
In the scene, if you look down the street, you can see it eventually runs up against a large building, then jogs a little to the left. Even though this wasn’t a completely unique street-layout for this area of Manhattan, it did narrow down the possibilities. So I just started looking at any street that had a slight jog to the left in Google Street View and see if I could find a match. After about 5 or 6 tries, I finally stumbled upon William Street and quickly spotted several corresponding matching elements, including the fire escape that’s on the building next to “Livehouse.”
After finally confirming I found the right spot, I could’t figure out why the blog inexplicably listed this location as being on Warren Street, when it was clearly on William. Perhaps it was simply a typo.
Chase – Liberty Street
The thing that helped me find this location was the presence of the prominent Federal Reserve Bank of New York on the corner of William Street and Liberty — a building that would be a pivotal location in a couple other films, including 1995’s, Die Hard with a Vengeance, starring Bruce Willis.
After becoming familiar with what the Federal Reserve Bank building looked like, I then started to notice it in the background in a bunch of other films that were shot in Lower Manhattan.
Interestingly, just as was the case with the “Stealing the Money” scene, an alternate shot from this scene was featured in the trailer for Side Street. Towards the end of the trailer, they show a much wider shot of Liberty Street that doesn’t appear in the final cut of the film. This wider shot features the former Great American Insurance Company Building, as well as several informative signs along the sidewalk, including one for Gold Street and one for Legion Memorial Square, which would have been useful information if the location was still stumping me.
Having never heard of Legion Memorial Square before, I learned that it was named in 1933 in recognition of the American Legion — the largest veterans’ organization in the United States. But the reason I’ve never heard of it before is because this open space on Liberty Street was turned into a small park in 1978 and renamed Louise Nevelson Plaza (after the Russian-born sculptress), making it the first plaza in NYC to be named after an artist (let alone a female artist).
But before this triangular block of William Street, Maiden Lane and Liberty Street was an open plaza, it was home to the Great American Insurance Company Building — a 20-story “Flatiron” style building that was completed in 1908.
Originally called the German American Life Insurance Building, the company changed its name to the Great American Insurance Company in 1918, after an anti-German sentiment developed in the United States during World War I. The building was demolished in 1971, a few years before the open space was renamed Louise Nevelson Plaza.
Chase – Pine Street
Blakeslee is the one who found this filming location. Unlike Exchange and Broadway, this high overhead shot on Pine Street had puzzled me for a long time. In fact, even after Blakeslee told me this was the location, I had trouble finding matching buildings. The one matching element that helped him originally find it was the long spire that sits in the cemetery at Trinity Church on Broadway.
After he pointed out the spire, I was convinced it was the correct location, but because several buildings on Pine had either been replaced or remodeled, it took me a while to get a fix on where exactly the camera was set. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that the camera was on top of a building on Pine Street, looking west, somewhere between William and Pearl Streets.
The only unfortunate thing about overhead shots like these is that it’s practically impossible for me to capture an “after” picture from the same vantage point. Maybe someday I’ll rent a drone to take some overhead shots of several NYC filming locations.
Chase – South William Street
I found this location by looking up the address of the Lehman Brothers building, which I didn’t have to go to the public library to get. There was enough information online about the Lehman Brothers, and since I knew this scene took place in downtown Manhattan, it wasn’t very difficult to find the correct address.
But like most streets in the Financial District in Lower Manhattan, it can be a little confusing at first, and it took me a minute to figure out the exact orientation of this scene. The thing that helped was the presence of the nearby elevated tracks for the South Ferry spur line, which predominately ran along Pearl Street. Coincidentally, this set of the tracks that appears in this scene is the same set of tracks that appears in the “All-Points Bulletin” scene when the camera is pointing towards Hannover Square. In fact, when the camera is pointing towards the Lehman Brothers building in this scene, you can see the former New York City Police Museum in the far distance.
Chase – Final Car Crash
Even though this is the last scene in the film, this was one of the first locations I was able to confirm. In fact, when Blakeslee and I first watched this film in the early 2000’s, we immediately recognized the location because we were already familiar with the Federal Hall building with its distinctive statue of George Washington that appears in scene. At the time, we were both starting to expand our knowledge of New York history and architecture, and Federal Hall was a place we had just done a bit of research on.
Once I began this “NYC in Film” project, I quickly discovered that many, many movies have used this location at the intersection of Broad and Wall Streets, and hopefully I will have the chance to cover them at some point in this blog.
As my research for 1950’s Side Street came to a close, I decided to map out the entire chase sequence from the film’s climax and turn it into a short video. You can see how wacky the chase gets towards the end.