Radio Row

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Radio Row is a nickname for an urban street or district specializing in the sale of radio and electronic equipment and parts. Radio Rows arose in many cities with the 1920s rise of broadcasting and declined after mid century.

Contents

New York

New York's Radio Row (1921–1966) was a warehouse district on the Lower West Side of Manhattan, New York City. Harry Schneck opened City Radio on Cortlandt Street in 1921, creating Radio Row. Radio Row was torn down in 1966 to make room for the World Trade Center.[1] It held several blocks of electronics stores, which spread out both ways from a central axis along Cortlandt Street. The used radios, war surplus electronics (e.g. ARC-5 radios), junk and parts were piled so high they would spill out onto the street. It was a scrounger's paradise. According to a business writer, it was also the origin of the electronic component distribution business.[2]

The New York Times made an early reference to "Radio Row" in 1927, when Cortlandt Street celebrated a "Radio Jubilee". The Times reported that "Today... Cortlandt Street is 'Radio Row,' while Broadway is just a thoroughfare." The street was closed and decorated with flags and bunting, and the Times reported plans for New York's acting mayor Joseph V. McKee to present a "key to Cortland Street" to the then-reigning Miss New York, Frieda Louise Mierse, while a contest was held to name a "Miss Downtown Radio."[3]

Meyer Berger recalled that, as a child, "On Saturday mornings, I used to venture from Brooklyn with my father to Radio Row on Cortlandt Street in Lower Manhattan, where he and hundreds of other New York men moved from stall to stall in search of the elusive tube that would make the radio work again. Later, my brothers went there with him in search of television components. Radio Row was a piece of all our interior maps."[4]

In 1930, the Times described Radio Row as located on Greenwich Street "where Cortlandt Street intersects it and the Ninth Avenue Elevated forms a canopy over the roadway.... The largest concentration is in the block bounded by Dey Street on the north and Cortlandt on the south, but Radio Row does not stop there; it overflows around the corner, around several corners, embracing in all some five crowded blocks." It estimated 40 or 50 stores in the vicinity, "all going full blast at the same time. There may be regulations prohibiting this vociferous practice, but if the radio dealers have anything to say it about it, it will never have the slightest effect along Radio Row.... The clamor is heard even as one walks through the subway tunnel to the street exit.... The first impression, and in fact the only one, is auditory, a reverberating bedlam, a confusion of sounds which only an army of loudspeakers could produce." It noted, in addition to merchants selling radio sets, "others display mostly accessories... one shopkeeper last week featured a crystal set small enough to fit into a pocket, and another gave prominent position to a bucket of condensers about an inch in side."[5]

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