Part two of this series will focus more on modern marvels that still polarize the city today. The nineteenth and early twentieth century was a period booming with construction and growth for New York. So let’s take a chronological dive into these buildings and landmarks that claim a great significance in the city’s evolution.
New York City Hall (City Hall Park, Manhattan)
New York’s City Hall is the oldest one in the United States that still performs its original government functions. Joseph Francois Mangin and John McComb Jr. designed and constructed the building with a French Renaissance inspiration for the exterior and an American-Georgian inspiration for the interior in 1812.
The area surrounding City Hall is known as the Civic Center and is primarily composed of government buildings and, more recently, upscale residential buildings. In 2008, City Hall began a facelift project, costing roughly $150 million and lasting over five years of construction.
In 1966, City Hall was deemed a landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. In 1993, the entire park, including City Hall, the African Burial Grounds and the Commons, was classified as a Historic District. There are reservation-based tours offered on weekdays for free, including non-reservation tours on Wednesdays at 12 PM.
New York City Hall Subway Station (City Hall Station, Manhattan)
The City Hall subway station, which opened with the first subway lines in 1904, has a polished look that still encapsulates the time period in which it was built. This station, which was underused due to ease of access issues, saw a relatively quick decline as other nearby stations had more convenient features without the disadvantages of the City Hall stop.
It was ultimately shut down in 1945 for these reasons, though its splendor can still be witnessed if you take the downtown-headed 6 train from the Brooklyn Bridge station, where it makes a turnaround at City Hall station. Be sure to lay low though, because this turnaround is after the subway’s last stop, and passengers are all supposed to leave by that point. Though if you are less of a daredevil, there are select dates to take a tour of the abandoned station, find out when here.
Trinity Church (75 Broadway, Lower Manhattan)
The Trinity Church that currently resides on Wall St is its third incarnation. The first church was burned down in the Great New York City Fire of 1776, and the second was demolished after severe snow and weather effects had compromised the building’s structural integrity between 1838 and 1839.
By the time the third Trinity Church had been built in 1846, there was a division in church-goers due to the expanding growth of the parish. This separate faction of parishioners founded the Grace Church on Broadway and 10th St, while the remainders attended the newly built Trinity Church.
The current version of the church was the tallest building in the United States from 1846 until 1869 when St. Michael’s Church in Chicago surpassed its height. It then remained New York’s tallest structure at 281 feet until 1883 when the Brooklyn Bridge’s stone towers took the mantle. It’s height and notable gothic spire marked the way for ships coming into New York Harbor.
Cleopatra’s Needle/Egyptian Obelisk (Central Park, Upper Manhattan)
Finding its third home in Central Park, the Egyptian Obelisk nicknamed Cleopatra’s Needle, is a 220-ton piece of granite that was initially erected in 1450 BC Egypt. It was built near the Nile River for a Pharaoh that wanted to immortalize his 30-year reign.
In 1880, during a time when Egypt was Turkish-ruled, the Egyptian Khedive wanted to modernize his country, therefore offering the obelisk to America for funds. The process of transporting this massive monument from the banks of the Hudson to its final resting place in Central Park took 112 days. It was finally turned upright in January 1881 and still stands as New York City’s oldest man-made object. You gotta peep this.
Brooklyn Bridge (Brooklyn)
After taking fourteen years to build, the Brooklyn Bridge was completed in 1883. It was the first steel-wire suspension bridge and serves as one of the oldest roadway bridges in the United States. Its civil engineering ingenuity has stood the test of time and serves as one of New York’s most beautiful landmarks.
While obviously a marvel of the modern world, the Brooklyn Bridge is also a testament to the human desire to connect. Originally titled the New York and Brooklyn Bridge, and the East River Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge received its final moniker in 1867 from a letter to the editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and was officially redubbed by the city government in 1915.
One of the bridge’s anchorages is built on a piece of land that housed the Samuel Osgood Mansion until it was demolished in 1856. What is notable about this mansion is that during the time New York was the nation’s capital, George Washington, along with his family and staff, took up residence from April 1789 to February 1790.
Carnegie Hall (881 7th Ave, Manhattan)
Carnegie Hall is one of the most famous venues in the world. Built in 1891 by Andrew Carnegie, this building is the home to over 250 annual performances and has over 3,600 seats throughout it’s three auditoriums: the Main Hall, with 2,804 seats, Zankel Hall with 599 seats, and Weill Recital Hall with 268 seats.
Its construction was notable because of being the largest building in New York built entirely of masonry, with no steel frame. It stayed this way until the turn of the 20th century, when steel framework was conjoined to existing parts of the infrastructure to add studio flights to the building. Carnegie Hall stands as a testament to the arts as well as a marvelous piece of architectural ingenuity. With an exterior made up of narrow Roman bricks, it’s designs and flourishes are formed with terracotta and brownstone.
In 1986, Carnegie Hall was greatly renovated and faced criticism due to complaints of the acoustics being diminished. Those involved in renovations denied any changes to the sound quality, but after nine years of objection, they discovered a slab of concrete under the stage that did, in fact, alter the sound. The slab was removed and all was restored in the universe.
69th Regiment Armory (68 Lexington Ave, Manhattan)