ChromaMetropolis: Colorized Glimpses of Early 1900s New York City

May 30, 2024

The Empire State Building Rises Out of the Great Depression, 1931

Take a trip through the streets of early 1900s New York City, where the iconic skyline was just beginning to take shape against the city's urban landscape. Picture the Empire State Building piercing the clouds, the Brooklyn Bridge spanning the East River, and the Statue of Liberty finding its home. But beyond the architectural wonders, the city teemed with life: the aroma of roasted peanuts wafting from street corners and the clang of the newly built subway cars. Here's a look at life in the early 1900s in New York City.

New York Public Library

The construction of the Empire State Building began in 1930 during the Great Depression. The idea for such a monumental structure emerged from a competition among architects to design the tallest building in the world, with the hope of boosting New York City's economy.

Once the plans were finalized, the job of actually erecting the skyscraper fell upon thousands of skilled and unskilled laborers. These workers, many of whom were immigrants or descendants of immigrants, worked tirelessly in harsh conditions and without the help of modern safety equipment. They faced extreme challenges, such as dizzying heights, strong winds, and tight deadlines. Despite these obstacles, their dedication and craftsmanship ensured the successful completion of the building in a remarkable 13 months.

A Part of the Statue of Liberty Displayed in New York City's Madison Square Park

Source: Pinterest

The journey of the Statue of Liberty from France to its current home in New York Harbor is a tale of friendship, collaboration, and symbolism. Designed by the French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the statue was a gift from the people of France to the United States, commemorating the centennial of American independence.

The statue's construction was a massive undertaking. Its copper exterior was formed using the "repoussé" technique while its internal framework, designed by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame, provided structural support. Once completed in France, the statue was dismantled into 350 individual pieces and packed into over 200 crates for transport to America.

Upon arrival in New York in 1885, the statue's components were reassembled on Bedloe's Island (now Liberty Island). However, before its final installation, select parts of the statue, including the torch-bearing arm and head, were displayed in Madison Square Park from 1876 to 1882. This pre-assembly display created a lot of excitement and anticipation among New Yorkers, long before it graced the New York skyline.