Manhattan Waterfront from Brooklyn Bridge

The view of Lower Manhattan, looking south from the Brooklyn Bridge, around 1901. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The view from the Brooklyn Bridge in 2013:


Manhattan’s waterfront is quite different today from 100 years ago. Once a major transportation hub, today the FDR Drive along the waterfront is a major transportation corridor, instead of the East River that it runs parallel to. In the foreground of the first photo are the piers for the New Haven Line, a steamship company that operated ferries between Manhattan and New Haven, with railroad connections to points north. The closest steamship is the SS Robert Peck, which was built in 1892 as the flagship of the line. In 1943, it was transferred to the Navy, and served as floating barracks for part of World War II.

Lower Manhattan (4)

The view of Lower Manhattan from New York Harbor, between 1900 and 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The view in 2012:


The first photo shows the Manhattan skyline in the background, with a group of barges passing through to the East River from Albany. Today, the barges are long gone, and the skyline has changed substantially, with low-rise buildings along the waterfront being replaced by modern skyscrapers. Battery Park is still there, though, visible along the left-hand side of the waterfront in both photos. As this photo was taken a few years ago, the new World Trade Center buildings are seen still under construction.


Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge

The view of Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge from Brooklyn, around 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The view in 2013:


The difference is like night and day.  Cheesy puns aside though, there is quite a difference in the Manhattan skyline between the two photos, over 100 years apart.  The Brooklyn Bridge is still there, but otherwise, as far as I can tell, none of the buildings in the first photo are visible in the second.  At least one of them – the tall Park Row Building at the far left of the first photo – still exists today, but I don’t think it can be seen from here.

Brooklyn Bridge Promenade

The view along the Brooklyn Bridge Promenade, looking toward Manhattan, between 1908 and 1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view in 2013:


The angle here isn’t exact, since they were taken from different sides of the walkway, but both photos show the same view of the Brooklyn Bridge and of the Manhattan skyline.  The first photo is interesting, because although the subject of the photo is the bridge, the background shows three different buildings that were, at one point, the tallest in the world:

1. New York World Building: The tallest from 1890 to 1894, demolished in 1955 to expand the approaches for the Brooklyn Bridge.  The dome of the building is barely visible under the left-hand arch of the bridge tower.

2. Park Row Building:  Held the record from 1899 to 1901, and the building still exists, although it’s not visible in the 2013 photo.  It can be seen in the first photo, near the center, with the two towers on top.

3. Singer Building: Held the record from 1908 to 1909, and was demolished in 1968.  It is readily visible on the far left of the first photo, and its location today is marked by One Liberty Plaza, the large black rectangle at the base of the new World Trade Center building.

Lower Manhattan (3)

A view of Lower Manhattan from New York Harbor, taken between 1910 and 1917. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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A similar angle in 2012:


Taken from about the same spot as the first photo of the previous post, the circa 1910s photo here may have been taken on the same day, although the battleship to the left is different from the two in the other post.  This battleship is either a Connecticut or Vermont class ship, built in the first decade of the 1900s and decommissioned shortly after the end of World War I.

Just like in the other post, the 2012 photo here is taken a little to the east of the first one.  The only readily-identifiable landmark from both photos is the Whitehall Building.  However, the Singer Building and its replacement, One Liberty Plaza, help to estimate the angle of each photo.  In the first photo, the Singer Building is immediately behind and to the left of the Whitehall Building, while in the 2012 photo, One Liberty Plaza is to the right of the Whitehall Building.

Lower Manhattan (2)

The view of Manhattan from New York Harbor, around 1913-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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A similar view in 2012:


There’s a lot going on in the first photo.  New York City has always been a busy port, but it was especially so in the early 20th century.  The top photo shows three major ships – the two battleships, and the passenger liner to the right.  In addition, there are several US Navy torpedo boats visible.

The two battleships are two of the five Virginia-class battleships, which were built by the US Navy between 1905 and 1906.  By the time this photo had been taken, they had already been rendered obsolete by new advances in battleship design, but they remained in commission until 1920, and were scrapped or sunk as target ships by 1923.  As for the ocean liner, it is German, as evidenced by the flag on the stern, but I don’t know its exact identity.  The 2012 photo, on the other hand, shows the type of shipping that is most common today.  New York is no longer a destination for trans-Atlantic ocean liner traffic, nor is it a major military base, but today it is a major port for container ships, such as the Charles Island that is seen in the photo.

New York’s skyline has obviously changed in the past 100 years, although a few landmarks are still visible.  the angle isn’t exact between the two photos – the 2012 one was taken slightly to the east of the first one, but they show the same general view.  Both photos show the Whitehall Building, which is fairly prominent in the first photo, just above the stern of the lead battleship.  Today, its distinctive shape is still visible, just above the middle section of the container ship.  Another major building in the first photo is the Singer Building, seen just behind and to the left of the Whitehall Building.  It was demolished in 1967 to make way for the far less architecturally significant One Liberty Plaza, which is the large, black, rectangular building just above she ship’s bridge.  Also in the 2012 photo is the new World Trade Center.  At the time that the photo was taken, the two tallest buildings were still under construction.