10. Real Estate Advertisement, 315 West 53rd Street

A real estate ghost sign painted onto a brick wall

The removal of an exterior wall in Hell’s Kitchen during construction in 2016 revealed a puzzling sign that dates to the early twentieth century. What remains of the sign reads, “From 100 to 230, On Easy Terms, Discount for Gas, Electric Cars Pass Premises to Depot, Commutation Grand Central, 60 Rides for $7.00, Call for Map.” 

The electric cars of the ad are trolley cars, also known as streetcars, which debuted in New York City in 1832. Steel tracks were embedded in the ground, which provided a smoother ride for commuters than their predecessor, horse-drawn carriages. 

By 1909, notes Village Preservation, “Electric trolleys hit the urban scene of all five boroughs. The baseball team in Brooklyn was so-named because of the enthusiastic fans that had to ‘dodge’ the traffic en route to the stadium (in fact, the team’s original name was ‘The Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers,’ which was later shortened).”

The ghost sign advertises real estate, perhaps promoting land to the north of Midtown Manhattan. The reference to a depot offers a clue to its age. When it opened in 1871, the rail terminal on 42nd Street was named Grand Central Depot. By 1900, the depot was rebuilt and renamed Grand Central Station.