I came across this photo uploaded to Flickr by Doc Searls. His caption:
742 E. 142nd Street, Bronx New York. The Englert Family moved here when it was brand new. Florence Englert was born and lived here for 13 years. The whole block is now a parking lot next to the Bruckner Expressway. Nothing in this picture remains.
So this is what a block in the Bronx looked like some 127 years ago. Beautiful. If posted to Instagram, I’m not sure anyone would think it wasn’t taken today—except that it’s not snowing in New York City today.
Everything really has changed. The neighborhood in some ways looks better than any neighborhood built today will look — serious order and repetition, sturdy wrought iron fences, etc. And this really was the Bronx “In the Year of our Lord” 1885—the nation and her people had an entirely different conception of God and faith than we have in this time. In the case of this photo, both the forms and the spirit are gone. As Doc Searls says, “Nothing remains.”
Yet in many neighborhoods in New York, something nearly identical to this photo really could be posted to Instagram now. The spirit of the past survives in physical form. I wonder what we might be able to photograph today that might look similarly contemporary in another 127 years.