The pages of my former professors’ book (above) and the long thread on Wired New York about the city’s architectural history are stunning.
I tremble as I look at these pictures, just over a century old, of what Manhattan was like in the 1910s. Everything I’ve been learning about comes to life in grayscale images that show that what I’ve been researching is all true. The buildings are so low, so ornate and so otherworldly. Imagine Park Avenue without the imposing MetLife Building above Grand Central Terminal, or a half finished Chrysler Building, still shrouded in black scaffolding. This is not the bold New York I know, and inside I shudder slightly. The classically styled buildings resemble the bits and pieces I discover now in walks around the city, but in these historical images it’s as if like ants the old buildings have invaded and submerged the New York I know. But it really is the other way around: The glass skyscraper has taken over.
And when, in those old pictures, I recognize an old building that once stood among similarly designed structures, I feel as if I’ve found an old friend.