It could be worse? — New York and the Blizzard of 1888

Snowbanks on Madison Avenue

Since the blizzard has been quite the topic of conversation lately, we thought it might be a good opportunity to take a look back at New York’s legendary Blizzard of 1888. On March 12, twenty-one inches of snow fell in just under twenty-four hours which was exacerbated by gusts upwards of sixty miles an hour. The combination of snowfall and temperatures dropping to a few degrees above zero paralyzed the city for nearly two weeks.

As the pictures below demonstrate, one of the major problems caused was damage to overhead telegraph, electric and telephone wires. Despite state legislation in 1884 that those wires should be moved underground, New York was slow to respond. The calamity that ensued drove the point home and within a year, Mayor Hugh Grant finally ordered the wires buried.

Snow-laden overhead wires, Downtown.
Downed wires and lampost in Greenwich Village



  1. says

    When I see these old photographs of New York City, it stimulates my imagination as to how I would have handled these types of events. The resiliency of the human species gives us the strength to endure and transform ourselves, in order to deal with whatever crises the future may have in store for us.

  2. Kevin McConnell says

    The Snowbanks on Madison Avenue photo is from the 1908 blizzard and not the 1888 blizzard. The Met life building in the background is nearly complete and was under construction in 1908 and finished in 1909.

    • Edward O'Reilly says

      Kevin, thanks for your comment. In an attempt to confirm whether it is the Met Life Tower, we discovered that despite its resemblance, the building in the background is the Church of the Holy Trinity at 42nd Street. The photo itself is from Madison and 50th, so it’s looking south. Anyway, we appreciate your interest in the blog, and, most importantly, keeping us on our toes!

        • Edward O'Reilly says


          I apologize for not including the information but admittedly, this was the early days of our blog so I think we’ve improved a bit since! I had a look at the photo and penciled on the back — likely at a much later date — is “Looking east along West 11th St.” and “Mrs. Richmond’s boardinghouse is no. 352.” Hope this helps!


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