Blackest Night’: Look Back at when Northeast Skylines Went Dark

On Nov. 9, 1965, the Great Northeastern Blackout caused headaches for commuters but didn't stop city nightlife.

. Cars move slowly on 42nd Street in New York, after a massive blackout.

The Great Northeastern Blackout came at the height of the evening rush hour on Nov. 9, 1965, and plunged tens of millions into darkness across the northeastern U.S. and southern Canada for hours.

Robert Goldberg / AP

. The usually bright New York skyline stands in darkness with only a few generator powered buildings illuminated.

The nation had never seen a power failure of such scope before, and Cold War tensions instantly stoked fears of sabotage.


. New Yorkers burn papers in a litter basket at a street corner in midtown Manhattan.

The great luminous cities looked as if they had been struck by some awesome tragedy. But reports indicated most people took it all calmly.


. Stranded commuters crowd the ticketing and waiting room at New York's Grand Central Terminal. The electric clock in background gives the time of the power failure, 5:28 p.m..

Thousands had made their way to the Grand Central Station only to learn that no trains were moving to suburban areas.


. Passengers sit patiently in near-darkness in a stalled subway car in New York.

At one time, more than 850,000 were trapped in stalled cars in New York's subway system.

Jerry Mosey / AP

. Commuters are helped up from railway tracks in New York by police and firemen in the early morning hours. About 750 passengers had been stuck for nearly eight hours on a stalled northbound train out of the city.


. Front pages of newspapers in London the following day tell the story of the massive power failure.

Eight states were involved in the power outage that reminded some Britons of the wartime blackouts.


. New Yorkers eat dinner by candlelight at an automat, or restaurant where food is sold through vending machines.

Nightlife continued in New York despite the blackout, according to an AP report at the time.

"Everybody is acting as though it were New Year's Eve," said Bob Kriendler, the president of the historic 21 Club at the time.


. Stranded workers wait in line to use a phone booth in New York.

It was soon established that problems with the electrical grid, originating near Niagara Falls, caused the blackout.


. People sit, sleep and wander around the main waiting room of Grand Central Terminal in New York.


. A policeman stands in front of a looted pawn shop in Bronx, New York.

Off-duty policemen were called back to work. National Guardsmen in some areas were alerted in case of looting, and convicts at the Massachusetts state prison at Walpole took advantage of the excitement to throw a riot which was quickly quelled.


. Commuters stranded by the power failure settle down for a long wait on the steps of an entrance to the Commodore Hotel in Manhattan.


. A police officer directs pedestrians and regulates traffic on Tremont Street in Boston.

Power came back on to Boston and other cities hours after the blackout, while New York remained in the dark.

Judith Buck / Boston Herald via AP

. Not all parts of Boston were plunged into darkness during the power failure since many areas had emergency backup generators.

The 1965 blackout was the first large-scale realization of infrastructure worries that would resurface in major blackouts in both 1977 and 2003.