Museum of the City of New York: CHARLES LANE (between West and Washington Streets, Perry and Charles Street) SEPTEMBER 20, 1938. Bernice Abbott claimed that Charles Lane was the only back alley she ever found in New York City. The lane was one block long, sandwiched between the New York Central Railroad freight viaduct--seen at a distance in Abbott's photograph--and the elevated West Side Highway. Abbot focused on the Lane’s south side, which in 1938 was still lined with stables and tradesmen shops, as it had been in the nineteenth century.
First paved with cobblestones in 1893, Charles Lane is still cobblestoned, but its buildings, both old and new, are now residential. Although the elevated highway and freight viaduct have been demolished, the narrow alley has retained its scale and quaint character, after a successful battle in the late 1960s against a proposal for a high-rise housing project.
Abbott was no doubt struck by this tiny lane lodged between two recently completed transport behemoths, the viaduct and the highway. She may have enhanced the alley's picturesque appearance by arranging an old bucket in the foreground.