Like the grill of a 50s car paired with an incredible bold amount of black. Never had I seen such an Art Deco chrome façade like that before. But what also got my attention was the unusual name of the bank. A rather small signage compared to the bold building grill, but still striking enough – Gotham Bank of New York. Wow. I had found Batman’s bank.
I was fifteen at the time of this photo and little did I know that Gotham is an actual, much older nickname for New York. It evokes the image of a much darker gothic city, like a film noir. So in a way the bold building decoration works well with that idea.
“The word “Gotham” actually dates back to medieval England. (…) Folk tales of the Middle Ages make Gotham out to be the village of simple-minded fools, perhaps because the goat was considered a foolish animal. ” – So, Why Do We Call It Gotham, Anyway? by Carmen Nigro, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy
Curious to find out if that building I found nothing about online, is still decorated like that today, I searched on Google Street View. It’s a great game of detective work to match any of my old images to the busy and updated streets of New York of Today. Not that they were not busy when then (at least so I thought), but compared to what is going on in Google Street View these days, I feel incredibly lucky I have experienced Manhattan in a different way, though I am sure I have omitted quite a few details from my memory since then, mainly due to age and a limited mental hard drive capacity (another reason why photos are so important to me).
Oh but things change.
Then v Now
It took me a while to find this exact building on Google Maps, even though I had the address I took me round the block to another bank that also doesn’t exist any more. The façade of 1412 Broadway has been changed completely, big satin glass panels cover the bottom floors, which house different stores now.
The new look makes it unrecognizable from my photo alone, but I matched it to the address of course, the windows and the adjacent building with the typical vertical lines. These days I doubt it would be such an interesting motif as it was to me in November 1992.
It is weird how quickly things change and won’t be the same again. On one hand change can be exciting, but it also creates and inevitable sense of nostalgia. That is why I like photography. We freeze a moment in time that may never return.