life

View South from the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower, 1912

View South from the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower, 1912

In this hand-colored photograph, taken in 1912 by Irving Underhill, we see a very different Lower Manhattan Skyline than we would today. In fact, Underhill was taking the picture from the tallest building in the world, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower. The Woolworth Building, which would take the title in 1913, was not yet completed. It can be seen at the vanishing point of the horizon. To its right is the Singer Building, which is now 1 Liberty Plaza, and a little further right, merely a speck in the harbor, is the Statue of Liberty.

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Mulberry Street, 1905, looking north toward Canal Street

Mulberry Street, 1905, looking north toward Canal Street

Those who have read The Godfather or seen The Godfather II will recognize these as the environs of the young Vito Corleone. A hundred years ago, this part of the Lower East Side was Little Italy, teeming with Italian immigrants looking for a better life. Today the immigrants come from a bit further east than Italy -- China, Viet Nam, Thailand -- but it is still a vibrant home for brave souls seeking opportunity and freedom.

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Immigrants Awaiting Examination, Ellis Island, c. 1910

Immigrants Awaiting Examination, Ellis Island, c. 1910

This crowd of immigrants waits in line at Ellis Island to be examined before being admitted to the United States. Their clothing bespeaks their relative wealth, compared to many others who passed through this way-station. Regardless of their economic means, these were incredible people, willling to leave everything behind in search of a better life.

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Metropolitan Life Tower Under Construction, 1909

Metropolitan Life Tower Under Construction, 1909

In this black and white photograph from 1909, we see a group of men and ladies with parasols standing in Madison Square Park, observing the construction of the Metropolitan Life Tower. The main building had been constructed over a decade and half before.  The architectural firm of Napoleon LeBrun & Sons modeled the tower after the Campanile in Venice, Italy. It was the world's tallest building for three years, until 1913, when it was surpassed by the Woolworth Building.

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Christmas Dinner Line at the McAuley Mission, 1905

Christmas Dinner Line at the McAuley Mission, 1905

The McAuley Mission, now the New York City Rescue Mission, was founded in 1872 by Jerry and Maria McAuley. Survivors of New York City's hard-knock life of the middle Nineteenth Century, they opened the doors of their Water Street mission every night of the year to the city's poor and outcast. In this photo, we can see they were doing a booming business on Christmas in 1905.  Hundreds of men and boys lined up for a Christmas dinner.

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