The Evolution of the New York Skyline


Image: chadh

Probably nothing tells the story of a city as vividly as its skyline. Seen over the course of the decades, it is often more the absences or the gaps that tell of significant and often traumatic events than new and daring constructions that seem to fight for viewers’ attention. This is surely true for Lower Manhattan, as the following stunning pictures from 1911 to 2008 show.

Image: army.arch

The New York City skyline in 1911, already quite tall and impressive.

Here is an image of Lower Manhattan in 1911. The pointy tower in the middle is the Singer Building, built in 1906 and more than 40 stories tall. It was demolished in 1968 to make way for the U.S. Steel Building located at One Liberty Plaza. Right below, the long building is the Municipal Ferry Terminal, also called Battery Maritime Building. It was built in 1909 and used until 1939 for the Brooklyn ferry. Today, it’s where people can catch a ferry to Governor’s Island, long closed to the public.

The similar long structure on the left is the Whitehall or Staten Island Ferry Terminal. It was built in 1907 and used until 1991 when it burned down. It was only replaced by a new terminal in 2005.

The two buildings on the very left are the Whitehall Building, 20 stories high and built in 1904, and the Whitehall Building Annex, 31 stories high and built in 1911.

It’s no wonder there was a building boom even then in New York, considering the city already had a population of almost 4.8 million in 1910 due to a steady stream of immigrants from Europe.


Image: U.S. Naval Historical Center

The USS Arizona in front of the Manhattan skyline in 1916.

Despite World War I, the building boom in the city continued. Here is a view of Lower Manhattan as seen from the East River with the Brooklyn Bridge and the new Municipal Building on the right – constructed in 1914 and 41 stories high. The tall building to the left is the new Woolworth Building, constructed in 1913 and at 57 stories, the tallest building in Lower Manhattan at the time – and therefore visible from any angle. Left of it, close to the Brooklyn Bridge, is the Singer Building.