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:

Prev Next 1 of 40
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.

Arch

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.

Like this gallery? Share it!

Continue Reading

What We Loved This Week, Aug. 14 – 20

Woodstock’s anniversary, Cambodia’s child boxers, literary feasts brought to life, Taiwan’s mushroom rocks, and when punk ruled New York.

Santana At Woodstock 69436 16a

Baron Wolman/Slate

Rolling Stone Photographer Looks Back On Woodstock On Its 47th Anniversary

Baron Wolman_guitar On Car.jpg.CROP.original Original

Baron Wolman/Slate

As the summer of ’69 enters middle age, the first Rolling Stone staff photographer looks back on an event whose weight eluded everyone — including its own attendees.

“Like a bee is attracted to a flower, the people couldn’t resist,” photographer Baron Wolman told Slate via email. “For me, the moment I encountered that enormous stage and a crowd of untold thousands, I was literally blown away. I had never, ever experienced anything like it. Nobody had.”

Wolman went through around 30 rolls of black-and-white film documenting the festival, Slate writes. Immortalized within those rolls are moments of pure exuberance — Santana bows to his audience of thousands; lean, long-haired men and women strip down to cool off in a lake while bandana-clad concert goers disappear amid the fields.

We may never have another Woodstock — and furthermore, we may not want to — but these photos provide a glimpse back to the summer of ’69, forever young.

Woodstock 69444 17

Baron Wolman/Slate

Continue Reading

21 Stunning Vintage Photos Of Paris In The 1920s

You probably know the City of Lights as one of most romantic places in the world. And nearly a century ago, with horse-drawn carriages clopping down cobblestone streets and the whole thing preserved for history in luscious black-and-white, that was truer than ever. Immerse yourself in 1920s Paris with these incredible vintage photos:

Prev Next 1 of 22
1920s Paris River Seine

National Library of France A boat on the Seine River in 1926, with a view of the Eiffel Tower in the background.

Children Boxing

National Library of France Children boxing in an outdoor match, 1921.

Coin Rue De Seine Eugene Atget

Eugène Atget/Wikimedia CommonsLooking down the Rue de Seine, as shot by the pioneer of documentary photography, Eugène Atget, circa 1924.

Cyclist Paris

National Library of France Cyclists, 1920.

Horticulture Exhibition Grand Palais 1922

National Library of FranceA horticulture exhibition at the Grand Palais in 1922.

Jardin De Tuileries Yvon

Yvon/Editions YvonThe Jardin de Tuileries taken by the little-known photographer, Yvon.

La Neige In Paris

National Library of France Street cleaners clear slushy snow off the sidewalk, 1922.

Longchamp Racecourse 1926

National Library of FranceThe Longchamp Racecourse, 1926.

Mi Careme Parade Horses

National Library of FranceThe queen of the Mi-Carême parade on her float, 1921.

Nun Montmarte 1929

National Library of FranceA nun walks down a street in the Montmartre neighborhood in 1929.

Palm Sunday Paris

National Library of France Palm Sunday, 1922.

Quai Saint Michel Paris

Yvon/Editions Yvon The quiet Quai Saint-Michel, as photographed by Yvon.

Place De L'Opera 1926

National Library of FranceThe Place De L'Opera, 1926.

Pound Joyce 1923

New York Public Library From left, the writers James Joyce, Ezra Pound, John Quinn, and Ford Madox Ford, 1923.

Prostitute 1921

Eugène Atget; Wikimedia Commons Eugène Atget captured this prostitute sitting in front of her door in 1921.

Megisserie Yvon

Yvon/Editions YvonThe Quai de la Mégisserie, as photographed by Yvon.

Shoeshiner Paris 1929

National Library of France A man gets his shoes shined, 1929.

Train Station Paris 1929

National Library of France A busy train station, 1929.

Woman 1925

National Library of France. A young woman leans up against a wall, 1925.

Women's Car Rally 1926

National Library of France A women's car rally hosts hot air balloons, 1926.

The Pantheon Eugene Atget

Eugène Atget/Wikimedia Commons Eugene Atget's shot of the Pantheon on a foggy day, circa 1924.

Like this gallery? Share it!

Continue Reading

Dark Buddhist Teachings That’ll Upend Westerners’ Peace-And-Love Assumptions

From hatred of singing and dancing to comparing women to snakes, these Buddhist teachings reveal that this religion isn’t exactly the paragon of peace and love that so many ill-informed Westerners think it is.

Buddhist Teachings Statue

ANTONY DICKSON/AFP/Getty ImagesThe Tian Tan Buddha — at 112 feet tall, the world’s largest outdoor, seated, bronze Buddha statue — looms over Hong Kong.

Continue Reading

Close Pop-in
Like All That Is Interesting

Get The Most Fascinating Content On The Web In Your Facebook & Twitter Feeds