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:

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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:

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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:

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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.

American Falls, Niagara Falls, New York (2)

The American Falls at Niagara Falls, seen from the Canadian side around 1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view a century later in 2005:

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As mentioned in my previous post, the American side of Niagara Falls has changed a great deal, with erosion contributing to the large pile of rocks at the base of the waterfall.  In 1969, the water was diverted away from the American Falls, and work was done to stabilize it and prevent it from becoming just a series of rapids, but the existing rocks at the base were not removed.  As a result, the American Falls looks far less dramatic than it did 100 years ago, but the Falls nonetheless remain just as popular a tourist destination as ever.

At the base of the Falls is the Maid of the Mist, one of of two such boats that brought tourists to the base of the Falls.  Both of these boats burned in a fire in 1955, but newer Maid of the Mist boats continue to give tours of Niagara Falls.

American Falls, Niagara Falls, New York (1)

A young man and woman, seated in front of the American Falls at Niagara Falls, around 1858. Photo courtesy of Library and Archives Canada.

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The scene in 2005:

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Niagara Falls has been a popular tourist destination since the 19th century, and was particularly popular as a honeymoon destination – perhaps that was the occasion for the young couple in the first photo.  Much has changed at the Falls since then, both the surrounding area and the waterfalls themselves.  In the distance, the high-rise buildings reflect the increasing popularity and tourist-oriented nature of Niagara Falls, and if the cameras were turned around, one would see even more striking changes on the Canadian side of the gorge.

One obvious change with the American Falls is the accumulation of rocks at its base.  The 2005 photo shows a much shorter distance from the top to the rocks at the bottom, which were deposited by rock slides and erosion caused by the waterfall’s steady retreat upstream.  By the 1960’s, there was great concern that the American Falls would erode to the point where they would become a series of rapids rather than a true waterfall, so the water was diverted from it and the American side of the Falls was temporarily shut off.  Geologists secured and stabilized some of the most erosion-prone areas, but they determined that it would be too costly to remove the rocks that had already fallen.

Grand Central Terminal, New York

Grand Central Depot in 1871. Image courtesy of New York Public Library.

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The newly reconstructed Grand Central Station around 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The present-day Grand Central Terminal in 2019:

The three photos show the three different versions of the railroad station on 42nd Street.  Originally built in 1871 and named Grand Central Depot, it was a joint effort between three New York railroads, hence the term “grand central.”  It was extensively rebuilt from 1899 to 1900, as shown in the second photo, but it didn’t last for long.  Starting in 1903, it was demolished in stages and replaced with the current structure, which was completed in 1913.  This building itself was threatened in the 1960s – it was designed to be able to support the weight of a tower above it, and several proposals were considered, one of which would have kept the original structure, while stripping it of most of its historic significance. Ultimately, the city declared the building a landmark, thus preventing it from being altered or demolished.