A Great Big City

The View From Above: Looking Down on Lower Manhattan Almost 100 Years Ago

New York. April 19, 1919. “St. Paul’s Church and St. Paul Building from Woolworth Building.” via Shorpy

This image from Shorpy shows St. Paul’s Church in Lower Manhattan on April 19, 1919.

Photographed looking south from the Woolworth Building, this is a peek into the daily life of New York City just after the turn of the last century. Streetcars run along tracks in the middle of Broadway (left side of the photo) and a train is moving down Church street, on the right side. The area looks downright bustling compared to today, when it’s mostly tourists looking for the World Trade Center and businesspeople shuffling along on their way to or from work.

In the bottom left of the image is the beginning of Park Row (where J&R electronics is today) and the building on the left is the St. Paul Building, built in 1898 and one of the earliest skyscrapers, but which was demolished in 1958 to make way for the Western Electric Building, 222 Broadway, which has since traded hands many times and is currently owned by Beacon Capital Partners.

Compare the 1919 photo with a similar angle from today, seen below in Google Earth with 3D renderings of the current buildings:

The same area today via Google Earth (click photo to enlarge)

Fast-forward almost 100 years and the area is much less architecturally interesting. Many of the smaller original buildings were demolished to make way for bland office buildings. The center of it, St. Paul’s Chapel, is still standing, and is the oldest church building in Manhattan, surviving since 1766. The top left of the image will eventually be the Fulton Street Transit Center, with its domed roof, and to the far right is the World Trade Center construction site.

To learn more, visit the page on Shorpy.com and be sure to read the comments section, where people discuss interesting facts about elements of the photo.

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