These days it’s hard to imagine New York without its Skyscrapers, no-nonsense mentality and lots and lots of people. But digging deep into the archives of New York reveals a city that was a lovely, spacious place, just a little over 110 years ago.
Indeed, the New York City we recognize today developed over a very short period of time. From the early 1910s to the 1930s, about 20% of New York’s skyscrapers entered construction – including the famous Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, and the Woolworth Building. And with it, endless commentary on the physical appearance of the city that French architect Le Corbusier famously described as a “beautiful disaster.”
Below, we look back at a New York City in the midst of an architectural transformation — as architects began looking into the sky and saw not clouds but opportunity:
#1. A firehouse and engine on E. 3rd St. in 1901.
#2. Six girls sit at a Wall St. stoop on August 18, 1904.
#3. Women stroll on Fifth Ave. at 33rd. St., 1909.
#4. Battery Park.
#5. People gather outside the free public baths at the Battery, 1890.
#6. Crowd watches baseball scores being posted on the New York City Sun Building in 1914.
#7. Traffic at Fifth Ave. and 25th St., 1909.
#8. Cyclists on Broadway, 1915.
#9. First Ave. at 2nd St.
#10. A police officer speaks with a street peddler in front of Pier 5, 1898.
#11. The 11th Ave. piers from 21st St. to 14th St
#12. Second Ave. and 122nd St.
#13. MacDougal Alley in Greenwich Village, circa 1890-1919.
#14. Street cars at 42nd St. and 12th Ave., 1896.
#15. Second Ave. at 35th St.
#16. Fourth Ave. and 23rd St.
#17. Astor House at Broadway and Barclay St. circa 1895-1919.
#18. Hotel Brevoort in 1895.
#19. The original Washington Square arch, 1889.
#20. The Washington Square arch.
#21. Broadway before the construction of the Flatiron Building.
#22. The Central Park reservoir, circa 1890-1919.
#23. The corner of Fifth Ave. and 33rd St.
#24. A view of the Brooklyn Bridge at 12th St., 1891.
#25. Crowd reads notices on the closed doors of the Seventh National Bank Building on June 27, 1901.
#26. A curio shop on 28th St. and Fifth Ave., 1913.
#27. Corner of Lexington Ave. and E. 82nd St. or 84th St. in 1899.
#28. The Williamsburg Bridge under construction, April 27, 1902.
#29. Pedestrians on Fifth Ave. and 48th St.
#30. The New York Public Library.
#31. Fifth Ave. looking south from 42nd St, 1880.