Construction

New York, it seems, is always under construction. As the industrial revolution enabled engineers to build taller buildings, longer bridges and expansive subway systems, New York had to have it all. The Empire State Building, which began construction in 1930 and took a little over a year to build, is still considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. It remained the tallest structure in the world until 1967. The Brooklyn Bridge, is not just an icon of the New York skyline, it’s also one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States. Our collection of vintage photos document world’s most famous constructions.

Erecting a Skyscraper, 1906

Erecting a Skyscraper, 1906

Ironworkers take a lunch break high above Lower Manhattan atop a partially constructed skyscraper. These brave men seem never to have even heard the word harness. Many of the ironworkers who built the skyscrapers of New York City were Native Americans, predominantly of the Mohawk tribe.

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The Empire State Building Under Construction, 1930

The Empire State Building Under Construction, 1930

At the time of this photo, the Empire State Building was just surpassing the Chrysler Building as the tallest in the world. Completed in 1931, the Empire State Building was for forty years the pinnacle of skyscraper architecture. The portion that is still being constructed in this photo is not the familiar antenna that we know today, but what was intended to be a mooring mast and dock for airships. The first few attempts proved the impracticality of this idea. Imagine being a passenger disembarking across a gangplank 102 stories above Fifth Avenue.

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Workman Erecting Steel on the Queensboro Bridge, 1907

Workman Erecting Steel on the Queensboro Bridge, 1907

A workman on the Queensboro Bridge plies his trade high above the East River in 1907. The view is northwest from Blackwell's Island, which was later renamed Roosevelt Island, toward Manhattan. In the background, on Manhattan Island, are the warehouses of the American Malting Company, which was forced to reorganize in 1906 as the American Malting Corporation.

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Queensboro Bridge Under Construction, 1907

Queensboro Bridge Under Construction, 1907

Looking east from Manhattan toward Blackwell's Island on March 8, 1907, you would have seen the partially completed Queensboro Bridge. Originally called the Blackwell's Island Bridge, the Queensboro was completed and opened to the public in 1909, about two years after this photo was taken. At the time it opened, it was the longest cantilever bridge in North America.

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Workers on the George Washington Bridge, 1930

Workers on the George Washington Bridge, 1930

Here's a view you don't often see. Nine men casually posing for a photo atop the cables of the incomplete George Washington Bridge. There's not one wearing a harness. The George Washington Bridge, initially named, the Hudson River Bridge was built between October, 1927 and October 1931. This photo, taken in 1930, shows the bridge pretty far along, although clearly the roadways are not there yet.

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Construction of Streetcar Tracks at Columbus Circle, 1897

Construction of Streetcar Tracks at Columbus Circle, 1897

In 1897, Columbus Circle was still the frontier. The monument to Columbus had been erected in 1892 to commemorate the four hundredth anniversary of Columbus's voyage, but construction of the circle was still underway until 1905. By 1920, in a traffic study commissioned by Special Deputy Commissioner in charge of Traffic, John A. Harriss, Columbus Circle was the business intersection in the world

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Brooklyn Bridge Under Construction, 1877

Brooklyn Bridge Under Construction, 1877

The Brooklyn Bridge is probably the most famous bridge in the United States, rivaled only by the Golden Gate.  Here we see it in 1877, seven years into its construction.  Visitors stand on a catwalk above the Brooklyn side, while the camera points west toward Manhattan.  When it opened in 1883, it would link two of the nations largest cities, paving the way for the creation of the City of Greater New York.

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Construction of the Times Tower, 1904

Construction of the Times Tower, 1904

A view south at Broadway and West 44th Street toward the construction of the Times Tower.  At the time of its construction it was the second tallest skyscraper in New York City.  When its new headquarters opened on January 1, 1905, the New York Times celebrated with a fireworks display at midnight.  The tradition of celebrating the New Year in Times Square continues to this day.

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Construction of Streetcar Tracks, 1900

Construction of Streetcar Tracks, 1900
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Ironworker Rides the Chains, 1912

Ironworker Rides the Chains, 1912

An ironworker, erecting a skyscraper, rides the chains, 800 feet above Broadway, 1912.

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