A photo believed to be one of the oldest ever taken in New York City was sold on Monday at Sotheby’s for $62,500, the auction house said. The pre-auction sales estimate was $50,000 to $70,000.
This daguerreotype, of a house on what is now the Upper West Side, is believed to be one of the oldest taken in New York City.
The winners were Billy and Jennifer Frist of Nashville. “It’s a very unique, historically significant daguerreotype,” said Mr. Frist, who has been collecting photos since 1993 and is a nephew of Bill Frist, the Tennessee Republican and former Senate majority leader.
The picture, believed to date from October 1848 or earlier, shows a white house on a hill with a white picket fence, next to what is believed to be the old Bloomingdale Road, the continuation of Broadway, in what is now the Upper West Side.
The photo was discovered at a small New England auction, and the date and location of the image were taken from a note that was in the daguerreotype’s case. The note — misspelling the word “magnifying,” among other irregularities — is written in a neat, cursive hand, in dark ink on pale blue paper:
This view, was taken at too great a distance, & from ground 60 or 70 feet lower than the building; rendering the lower Story of the House, & the front Portico entirely invisible. (the handsomest part of the House.) The main road, passes between the two Post & rail fences. (called, a continuation of Broadway 60 feet wide.) It requires a maganifying glass, to clearly distinguish the Evergreens, within the circular enclosure, taken the last of October, when nearly half of the leaves were off the trees.
May 1849. L. B.
“It took a tremendous amount of research to establish where it was,” said Denise Bethel, director of the photography department at Sotheby’s New York
Bloomingdale Road, often referred to as “continuation of Broadway” in the city directories of the day, was one of two main roads that ran up and down Manhattan in the 1700s. Bloomingdale Road was named for the Bloemendael area, now the Upper West Side, and cut from Union Place to Manhattanville.