Old New York: 39 Stunning Shots Of Manhattan Before The Skyscrapers

These days, one cannot think of New York City without envisioning the steely thicket of soaring buildings whose foundations dig deep into Manhattan soil. While inextricable from the idea and physical reality of New York City today, these skyscrapers compose a relatively meager part of the city’s nearly 400-year history.

Indeed, the New York City most of us recognize vis-a-vis its splintered skyline really began to develop over a short period of time. From the early 1910s to the 1930s, New York City saw approximately 20 percent of its tallest buildings — including the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, and the Woolworth Building, among others — enter construction. And with it, endless commentary on the physical appearance and meaning of the city that French architect Le Corbusier famously deemed a “beautiful disaster.”

Below, we look back at a New York City on the cusp of architectural transformation — just as planners and architects began looking high into the sky and saw not clouds but opportunity:

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Gotham Fire House And Engine, East 3rd St. (now Ladder 9, Engine 33, 42 Great Jones Street), New York City, 1901

New York Historical SocietyA firehouse and engine on E. 3rd St. in 1901.

Six Unidentified Little Girls Seated On A Wall Street Stoop, New York City, August 18, 1904.

New York Historical SocietySix girls sit at a Wall St. stoop on August 18, 1904.

5th Avenue   33rd Street 1900

New York Public LibraryWomen stroll on Fifth Ave. at 33rd. St., 1909.

Battery Park

New York Public LibraryBattery Park.

People Gathered Outside The Free Public Baths At The Battery, New York City, 1890.

New York Historical SocietyPeople gather outside the free public baths at the Battery, 1890.

Crowd Watching Baseball Scores Being Posted On The Sun Building, New York City, 1914

New York Historical SocietyCrowd watches baseball scores being posted on the New York City Sun Building in 1914.

5th Avenue   25th Street 1909

New York Public LibraryTraffic at Fifth Ave. and 25th St., 1909.

Cyclists Broadway 1915

New York Historical SocietyCyclists on Broadway, 1915.

1st Ave 2nd Street

New York Public LibraryFirst Ave. at 2nd St.

Police Office And Suspender Peddler Talking In Front Of Pier 5, New York City, 1898.

New York Historical SocietyA police officer speaks with a street peddler in front of Pier 5, 1898.

11th 21 14

New York Public LibraryThe 11th Ave. piers from 21st St. to 14th St.

2nd 122

New York Public LibrarySecond Ave. and 122nd St.

MacDougal Alley, Greenwich Village, New York City, Undated (ca. 1890 1919).

New York Historical SocietyMacDougal Alley in Greenwich Village, circa 1890-1919.

42nd Street   12th Avenue 1896

New York Public LibraryStreet cars at 42nd St. and 12th Ave., 1896.

2nd 35

New York Public LibrarySecond Ave. at 35th St.

4th 23

New York Public LibraryFourth Ave. and 23rd St.

Astor House At Broadway And Barclay Street

New York Historical SocietyAstor House at Broadway and Barclay St. circa 1895-1919.

H:6.5 In. W:8.5 In.; Glass Negatives; Negatives (photographic)

New York Historical SocietyHotel Brevoort in 1895.

The Original Washington Square Arch, New York City, 1889.

New York Historical SocietyThe original Washington Square arch, 1889.


New York Public LibraryThe Washington Square arch.

Broadway Before Flatiron

New York Historical SocietyBroadway before the construction of the Flatiron Building.

The Central Park Reservoir, New York City, Undated (ca. 1890 1919).

New York Historical SocietyThe Central Park reservoir, circa 1890-1919.

Fifth 33rd

New York Public LibraryThe corner of Fifth Ave. and 33rd St.

Rooklyn Bridge From The East River At 12th Street 1891

New York Historical SocietyA view of the Brooklyn Bridge at 12th St., 1891.

Crowd Reading Notices On The Closed Doors Of The Seventh National Bank Building, June 27, 190

New York Historical SocietyCrowd reads notices on the closed doors of the Seventh National Bank Building on June 27, 1901.

Curio Shop On 28th Street, Back Of 5th Avenue (?), New York City, 1913.

New York Historical SocietyA curio shop on 28th St. and Fifth Ave., 1913.

Corner Of Lexington Ave. And E. 82nd Or 84th Street1899

New York Historical SocietyCorner of Lexington Ave. and E. 82nd St. or 84th St. in 1899.

The Williamsburg Bridge Under Construction, New York City, April 27, 1902.

New York Historical SocietyThe Williamsburg Bridge under construction, April 27, 1902.

Fifth 48th

New York Public LibraryPedestrians on Fifth Ave. and 48th St.

Fifth 40 42

New York Public LibraryThe New York Public Library.

Fifth 42 South

New York Public LibraryFifth Ave. looking south from 42nd St, 1880.

Fifth 59th

New York Public LibraryA view of Central Park from Fifth Ave. and 59th St.

Fifth Ave Arch

New York Public LibraryA view of Fifth Ave. from the Washington Square arch.

Fifth Broadway 23

New York Public LibraryFifth Ave., Broadway and 23rd St.

Fifth W53

New York Public LibraryA choir sings on the corner of Fifth Ave. and W. 53rd St.

Lower Manhattan Skyline Viewed From The South Street Piers, New York City, 1915.

New York Historical SocietyA view of the Lower Manhattan skyline from the South Street piers. 1915.

Madison Square Garden And Park, New York City, Undated (ca. 1890 1910).

New York Historical SocietyMadison Square Garden and Park circa 1890-1910.

The Flatiron Building (Fuller Building) Seen From Across Madison Square Park, Undated (ca. 1902 1919).

New York Historical SocietyThe Flatiron building seen across from Madison Square Park, circa 1902-1919.

Three Unidentified Boys Playing On A Sidewalk, New York City, 1893.

New York Historical SocietyBoys play on a city sidewalk, 1893.

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21 Of The Most Memorable Bill Clinton Quotes

While some may remember Bill Clinton best for his controversies or his mixed legacy as a progressive, one cannot cast doubt on the fact that Clinton was — and is — a remarkable public speaker. Here are 21 Bill Clinton quotes that’ll make you nod, smile, think, and laugh:

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Bill Clinton Quotes Flag

Tim Clary/AFP/Getty Images"There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured with what is right in America."

Bill American Flag Background

Shawn Thew/AFP/Getty Images"If you live long enough, you'll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you'll be a better person. It's how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit."

Bill Chelsea Hillary

Doug Kanter/AFP/Getty Images"Let us all take more responsibility, not only for ourselves and our families but for our communities and our country."

Bill Clinton American Eagle

Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images"We need each other. All of us, we need each other. We don't have a person to waste. This is America. There is no them; there's only us. One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty, and justice, for all."

Bill Clinton Arms Raised

Gary M. Prior/ALLSPORT"Great rewards will come to those who can live together, learn together, work together, forge new ties that bind together."

Bill Clinton Arms Spread

Stephen Jaffe/AFP/Getty Images"Pessimism is an excuse for not trying and a guarantee to personal failure."

Bill Clinton Blue Jacket

Donald Miralle/Getty Images"I learned a lot from the stories my uncle, aunts, and grandparents told me: that no one is perfect but most people are good; that people can't be judged only by their worst or weakest moments; that harsh judgments make hypocrites of us all; that a lot of life is just showing up and hanging on; that laughter is often the best, and sometimes only response to pain."

Bill Clinton Chelsea

Shawn Thew/AFP/Getty Images"Politics gives guys so much power that they tend to behave badly around women. And I hope I never get into that."

Bill Clinton Cowboyboots

Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images"If a politician doesn't wanna get beat up, he shouldn't run for office. If a football player doesn't want to get tackled or want the risk of an a occasional clip he shouldn't put the pads on."

Bill Clinton Frowning

Mario Tama/Getty Images"Criticism is part of the lifeblood of democracy. No one is right all the time. But we should remember that there is a big difference between criticizing a policy or a politician and demonizing the government that guarantees our freedoms and the public servants who enforce our laws."

Bill Clinton Pilots

Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images "The road to tyranny, we must never forget, begins with the destruction of the truth."

Bill Finger Crossed

Shawn Thew/AFP/Getty Images"I hope we have a woman president in my lifetime, and I think it would be a good thing for the world as well as for America."

Bill Finger On Chin

Joyce Naltchayan/AFP/Getty Images"When we make college more affordable, we make the American dream more achievable."

Bill Hands Clasped

Shawn Thew/AFP/Getty Images"Democracy does not have to be a blood sport, it can be an honorable enterprise that advances the public interest."

Bill Pledge Of Allegiance

Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images"Let me say this as clearly as I can: No matter how sharp a grievance or how deep a hurt, there is no justification for killing innocents."

Bill Snow Background

Mario Tama/AFP/Getty Images"I want to leave my daughter, and my grandchildren I hope to have and all these young people, a better world. And I think the reason you should do things for other people at bottom is selfish. There is no real difference between selfish and selfless if you understand how the world works. We are all tied together. Every time you cut off somebody else's opportunity you shrink your own horizon."

Bill South Lawn

Manny Ceneta/AFP/Getty Images"Work is about more than making a living, as vital as that is. It's fundamental to human dignity, to our sense of self-worth as useful, independent, free people."

Bill Washington Monument

Joyce Naltchayan/AFP/Getty Images"The government simply has no right to interfere with decisions that must be made by women of America to make the right choice.”

Bill White House

Manny Cetena/AFP/Getty Images"Whether our ancestors came here on the Mayflower, on slave ships, whether they came to Ellis Island or LAX in Los Angeles, whether they came yesterday or walked this land a thousand years ago our great challenge for the 21st century is to find a way to be One America. We can meet all the other challenges if we can go forward as One America."

Smiling With Hillary

Mario Tama/AFP/Getty Images"Hillary is uniquely qualified to seize the opportunities and reduce the risks we face. And she is still the best darn change-maker I have ever known. You could drop her into any trouble spot, pick one, come back in a month and somehow, some way she will have made it better. That is just who she is."

Bill Clinton From Below

Chris Kleponis/AFP/Getty Images"Being president is like running a cemetery: you've got a lot of people under you and nobody's listening."

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