Iconic Buildings

An extensive collection of vintage pictures of some of New York’s (and the world’s) most iconic buildings including the Empire State, Chrysler, Woolworth and Flatiron buildings, the Times Tower, Grand Central and Pennsylvania Stations, the New York Public Library, and more.

Portrait of the Chrysler Building, 1930

Portrait of the Chrysler Building, 1930

At the time this black and white photograph was taken in 1930, the Chrysler Building was brand new and had the distinction of being the tallest building in the world. It took that crown from 40 Wall Street, which held if for only a few weeks, and yielded it less than a year later to the Empire State Building.

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Financial District Skyline from East River Pier, circa 1935

Financial District Skyline from East River Pier, circa 1935

In this black and white photo of the Lower Manhattan skyline, we can see the Financial District as it looked in the mid-1930s. In the center of the frame is 40 Wall Street, which was for most of May 1930 the tallest building in the world, losing its crown to the Chrysler Building.

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The New York Public Library, Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, 1911

The New York Public Library, Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, 1911

This view of the New York Public Library, taken in 1911 from the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, shows the entranceway of the newly constructed building before the famous lions were installed. Streetcars, horsecars, and numerous pedestrians can be seen in the foreground.

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Prow and the Shadow of the Flatiron Building, 1902

Prow and the Shadow of the Flatiron Building, 1902

This is a seldom seen view of one of New York City's most famous buildings, the Flatiron Building. In this black and white photograph taken in 1902, the Fuller Building (as it was then known) was still under construction. Here the photographer stands on an upper floor of the nearly complete building and aims his camera down. From above, you can see horsecarts, streetcars, and pedestrians, but precious few by contemporary standards.

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Seventh Avenue and West 31st Street, 1922

Seventh Avenue and West 31st Street, 1922

In this black and white photograph from 1922, we see Pennsylvania Station from the corner of 7th Avenue and W. 31st Street. Several cars and a street car are going past its columned facade. This monument to transportation, architected by the firm of McKim, Mead & White, would be torn down in 1963. At the time of this photo passenger volume had yet to reach its peak. The streets themselves look empty compared to today.

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Aerial Overview of Midtown Manhattan with B-17 Bombers, 1940

Aerial Overview of Midtown Manhattan with B-17 Bombers, 1940

In this amazing shot, taken in 1940, a squadron of B-17 bombers flies over Midtown Manhattan. One of the planes appears to be impaled on the spire of the Empire State Building. Also visible in the shot are the Chrysler Building and the original Pennsylvania Station, and beyond are the East River and Queens.

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Aerial Overview of the Woolworth Building, circa 1930

Aerial Overview of the Woolworth Building, circa 1930

The Woolworth Building was the tallest in the world from 1913 to 1930, around the time of this photo, when it was surpassed by 40 Wall Street. This photo makes its size apparent, as it towers over the surrounding neighborhood.  Also in the photo are City Hall and the Municipal Building.

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A Squadron of U.S. Navy Biplanes Flies of Madison Square Park, 1930

A Squadron of U.S. Navy Biplanes Flies of Madison Square Park, 1930

On this beautiful day in 1930, two squadrons of U.S. Navy planes can be seeing flying over Union Square and Madison Square Parks. The Metropolitan Life Tower lives up to its name, towering over the remainder of the skyline, including the not-so-tall Flatiron building, which cuts like the prow of a ship through the confluence of Fifth Avenue and Broadway.  Drivers of today should look on in envy at the traffic -- or lack thereof -- passing through the famed intersection.

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Museum of Natural History, 1913

Museum of Natural History, 1913

The photo, taken by the Irving Underhill Studios in 1913, shows the Museum of Natural History's 77th Street Facade.  This was the main entrance to the museum until 1936 when it was moved to the Central Park West side at 79th Street.  The view here is northeast from the Elevated Train platform.  The tracks can be seen in the foreground, running along Columbus Avenue.  The Ninth Avenue El closed in June 1940, when the City of New York purchased the IRT line.

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Fifth Avenue and East 65th Street, c. 1902

Fifth Avenue and East 65th Street, 1902

Looking North along Fifth Avenue from just south of East 65th Street, we see two horse carts pass in front of 840 Fifth Avenue, the Astor Mansion.  Designed in 1893 by architect Richard Morris Hunt to be the twin residences of John Jacob Astor and his family and his mother, Caroline Astor. After the elder Mrs. Astor died in 1907, John Jacob had the house renovated into single residence, making it one of the largest mansions in Gilded Age New York.

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